What is a family to do for fun in single-digit weather during a pandemic and still stay safe?
One idea comes from the Children’s Sabbath School leaders at Pioneer Memorial Church (PMC) on the campus of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, United States, that can be replicated in any community.
On Saturday (Sabbath), February 6, 2021, dozens of families with children between the ages of 4 and 12 lined up in the PMC parking lot, awaiting their turn to experience a drive-through scavenger hunt. As their time came, participants received their first clue via text.
But these weren't just any clues. These were stories — thoughtfully written by Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary student Nashonie Chang — that taught about the lives and work of several Adventist pioneers. All of these pioneers have a building named after them on the campus of Andrews University, names such as White, Bell, Horn, Griggs, and Sutherland. At the end of the clue story, participants drove to the building that bears the pioneer's name and read a brief life sketch of the person.
Upon arrival at the building, the Children’s Sabbath School leaders and other volunteers greeted the families. At each building, the families were given items relating to Sabbath School, including a craft, apples, Sabbath School magazines, the beloved smooth stones in exchange for memory verses, and a Nathan Greene postcard at the finish.
Participants were also able to take part in a little service activity at one of the stops. They were given a piece of paper with a person’s name and contact information on it and were asked to contact the person — right then and there — to show them some love and give them a sense of the community that they may be missing due to the pandemic.
To add to the fun of the adventure, there was a prize drawing at the end. Three lucky families received either an Adventist Book Center or a Your Story Hour gift card.
This adventure was organized by Glynis Bradfield, one of the PMC Sabbath School superintendents. Bradfield, along with Ben Martin, the Family and Discipleship pastor at PMC, explained that research shows that the number-one factor for church growth is how families are treated. The challenges during these times are clear, however.
“We’ve done a good job of getting our message out through online church services or prayer service on Zoom,” Martin acknowledged. “But as far as nurturing the family, this has been a challenge. For some families, the pandemic was a time to bond. But for some, this has been a nightmare. So, to shift focus and do something like this, where our families could connect, is healthy.”
Many photos of smiling families holding up all their treasures were shared on the PMC Children and Family Discipleship Facebook group page. And in many comments they shared the fun they had and the interesting things they learned. The Press family wrote, “We enjoyed learning so many new things about the history and heritage of this amazing Pioneer community we call home. We were especially inspired by the story of the Horn family’s faith.”
“It is also interesting that God guided ordinary people like you and me to find this lovely place, and now we are enjoying their dedication to God’s work,” the Mbaiwa family wrote. The Mello family shared, “We loved hearing all about the heroes of our faith that have come before us! We’re ready to be pioneers in 2021!” Summing it all up, the Maseko family stated, “We learned about friendship, adventure, joy, and honesty in all we do for Jesus. We too can share Jesus, no matter how small.”
As the activity leaders noted, churches and families don’t have to be on a university campus to enjoy a driving scavenger hunt. They can do this with the local church or school or any group. It only requires choosing some local landmarks, parks, or prominent buildings and guiding people to each one with clues that describe them. If the capability of texting the participants isn’t available, typing up the clues and emailing them out or giving them as handouts at the starting point are other options. Depending on the group’s size, it may be better to stagger start times or send people on different routes, so cars don’t get backed up at any one location. Providing an opportunity for participants to share photos adds to the sense of a shared experience. It provides a fun way to explore the local area in a unique way.