Many churches cut back on programming and educational offerings during the summer, so when it’s time to get back to normal routines, they celebrate with special activities to welcome everyone back. This is usually the first day of Christian Education offerings, a return to the regular worship time, and the return of the church choir. It’s traditionally been called Rally Day but might also be referred to as Welcome Back Sunday, Homecoming Sunday, or Kick Off Sunday. You can visit the Congregational Library & Archives website to read about the history of Rally Day.
Intergenerational activities that might take place on Rally Day include a special meal, such as breakfast before worship or a church picnic afterwards. There may also be ceremonies, often in the worship service, commissioning teachers and other Christian Education leaders, as well as promoting children to new grade levels. Some churches may also present third grade students with Bibles. The Presbyterian Church of Canada offers a litany for Commissioning Church Educators; there is also one for Commissioning Sunday School Teachers from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church offers Worship Resources for Promotion Sunday and Rally Day, as well as an Order for the Presentation of Bibles to Children.
Another idea for Rally Day which is growing in popularity and may be used for evangelistic outreach is blessing children’s backpacks. The Building Faith website includes an article called Blessing of the Backpacks: 6 Tips for Success which also includes links to prayers and liturgies.
There are plenty of online ideas for themes and activities for Rally Day, such as these from Kidology. You can also do a search on Pinterest using “Rally Day Sunday School Ideas” or something similar.
Rally Day this year may take a serious turn, as in many churches it will fall on September 11, 2016, and a remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001 may be part of the service. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, September 11 will be their dedicated day of service called “God’s work. Our hands. Sunday.”
Some are calling for a new kind of Rally Day, such as described in this post from a few years ago on Jan Edmiston’s A Church for Starving Artists blogsite. Jan states that “If we hope to be a 21st Century Church, let’s re-think Rally Day…” She suggests that Rally Day could be a community appreciation for First Responders, a community service event, or an opportunity to go out to meet with the community where they gather.
Don’t forget that Rally Day and Christian Education programs are not just for children and youth. Be sure to address the needs of your adults and offer a variety of studies. New studies for 2016 include a shorter version of the 33 session Disciple Bible Study called Disciple Fast Track, which has two separate 12 week components on the Old and New Testaments. Adam Hamilton, well known for his balanced and relevant DVD studies, has a new study out called Half Truths: “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say. A new resource from the United Church of Christ is Glory: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity by Emily C. Heath; a free downloadable Reading Group Guide is available for the book for either three or twelve sessions. The PC(USA) store of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently published Mike Slaughter’s The Christian Wallet: Spending, Giving, and Living with a Conscience. A free downloadable Stewardship Study Guide for the book is available. Church Publishing of the Episcopal Church has released Pilgrim: A Course for the Christian Journey , a teaching and discipleship series for inquirers and new Christians.