The Year End Program
There are a number of ways to have an annual year end program. It is always beneficial to review some of the approaches in planning a program for the coming year. Let us consider features which have proven to be successful in the past.
We should first analyze the reason we want to have a program. We should determine the objectives we want to accomplish. What are the results which we really want to see when we have a program? It is important that we clearly understand our objectives so that we can properly lay our plans to gain the results desired.
The spread of the Gospel and the salvation of precious souls are, of course, the prime and great underlying purposes of a program. There are different ways to bring these about. Two major factors are involved. The first, naturally, is the children, and the second, the parents of the children. For the children we will want to further impress the Word of God upon their hearts. We will also want to reward them for achievement and attendance, and provide an incentive for the future. For the parents we want to bring the Word of God before them, show them what we teach their children, and create an atmosphere of welcome which will make them want to return for other year end programs.
The Program should, naturally, be at a time that assures the greatest interest and attendance. The closing week or so of the year is the period when the children and their parents have spiritual things brought to their attention more than at any other time.
This is when they are most receptive to the story of the Birth of Christ, and this is when many of them will not only come but will also listen. Many parents as a result of all they have seen in the papers, heard on the radio, and seen on television will come, some hoping perhaps to hear answers to questions which have been brought to mind. To gain further assurance of good attendance the program can be held on a Sunday evening in place of the regular Gospel meeting. There are other attractions or duties on the week nights during the holiday season, but on Sunday night there is very little interference of this nature. The program can be preceded by a buffet supper for the parents and refreshments for the children.
The program should be an assembly effort. While the children and the teachers play an important part in recitations and singing, the rest of the Christians should be present to help in serving the food, and to welcome the parents. This will display the warm interest of the Assembly, and create an environment which will encourage them to return.
The subject should definitely be about the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, but should also include His Life, His Atoning Death, and His Resurrection, or the complete Gospel story. There is no other theme which affords such an excellent opportunity to present the complete Gospel, not only to the children but also to their parents.
The subject can be built around a Scripture such as Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder: And His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Songs and recitations can be assembled and grouped in the orderly sequence of the Scripture. In addition there is much material available in the various Bible stories which can be used for the program. The important thing is to have a subject planned in logical scriptural order which can be easily followed by the listening audience, and which will make a lasting impression.
The program proper should be limited to approximately one hour. This is about the longest period of time the children will maintain any semblance of order and the parents will continue their interest. Anything longer than this may detract from the initial impact of the Gospel story, creating unrest and inattention.
Once the theme of approach has been established, a meeting should be held with the teachers and assignments of responsibility made on an orderly basis. This should include procurement of material, arrangement of the program, typing or printing work, seating arrangements, food and any other important things which must be handled. This meeting should be held to provide sufficient time for good preparation.
When the material has been secured, it should be assigned to the children, giving careful attention to the age of each and to his capacity and talents. The assignments should take place early in November to allow time for the children to properly memorize their recitations, and for rehearsal. The material can consist of poems, Scriptures, songs, acrostics, visual aid skits, or dialogues with appropriate objects to emphasize important truths. Care should be taken to avoid over dramatizing and thus detract from the message of the program.
The program should be planned to proceed orderly and smoothly from part to part without interruption. To announce titles and names for each part is to cause unnecessary interruptions and loss of time.
Rather than have separate announcements, program sheets can be printed in detail giving all this information, and supplied to the audience. The children should be prompted by the teachers when it is their turn to give their recitation so delays will be kept to a minimum.
Rehearsals should be held preceding the program. This gives the children a broad understanding of the entire program and helps them to firmly fix their own part in their minds. Scriptures or scriptural poems learned in this manner are often retained for many years. It also provides a smooth flow to the program so that, when given, the parents will be impressed with the message or theme rather than with any distractions or interruptions which could occur without rehearsal.
The use of the piano can help a great deal with the singing. Small children can be helped to the extent that all the words can be understood. Under other conditions the time can be lost because of some children being too fast or too slow or off tune. The net result of this is to cause the audience to laugh rather than understand the message in the words.
The use of a microphone even for small children makes it possible for everyone in the audience to clearly hear even those words spoken very softly. This, of course, requires the assistance of one person to handle the “mike” and another to handle the volume controls.
Another desirable feature is a “prompter.” This is a person seated unobtrusively and very close to the platform with a complete detail of every recitation. On the night of the program the child who hesitates will be given the next word quickly and quietly without delay so as to avoid embarrassment to the child and to the parents. This action will also help to eliminate any distraction from the message of the recitation and from the Word of God.
Singing is always effective, but when done in parts by a group of young people it often provides one of the most interesting items of the program. Audience singing is almost always well accepted by most of the parents, generally even those unsaved seem ready to participate heartily in the singing of Carols.
At the completion of the recitations by the children, one of the most unique opportunities is presented to bring the Gospel home personally to the parents and older children. A speaker gifted for this type of work can very briefly emphasize the message.
If yearly awards are made to the children at this time, they should be handed out directly after the program by the individual teachers. It should be announced to the parents that such awards have been earned by the children for attendance at the Sunday School during the past year, for Scripture memorization, and whatever other accomplishment may be involved.
Last, but most important, we must remind ourselves that the Lord Jesus said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” This program will be of no effect in gaining our objectives without the direction and blessing of the Lord. Moses said, “If Thy presence go not with us carry us not up hence.” This must be our feeling with regard to the program. It will be of no avail if the Lord is not in it. Therefore, every step must be taken prayerfully, and every consideration measured in the light of the Word of God.
The annual program can be a time of real blessing and witnessing for the Lord.