CHURCHES are gearing up to reach thousands of children with exciting activities across the Thames Valley region this summer.

Around 7,500 children are expected to attend holiday clubs and activities run by more than 3,000 volunteers from churches across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire throughout the holidays. Sea creatures, superheroes and sports are just some of the themes for the clubs. Below is a list of some of them, arranged by county.

Update, 26 August: BBC Radio Oxford take an in-depth look at the benefits of church holiday clubs

Berkshire

Newbury
The sea-themed Oceans Rock holiday club at St George’s Wash Common in Newbury took place this week, with at least 100 children aged five to 11 and around 40 supporters aged 13 to 90.

Woosehill
Also, this week was the Woosehill Church superheroes and superheroines holiday club, where youngsters got to practice superhero skills, exploring the Bible’s superheroes and superheroines.

There are also Berkshire based holiday clubs at Arborfield, Twyford and Wokingham Without.

Reading
Reading’s new Make Lunch initiative isn’t technically a holiday club but is a joint church scheme to provide a nutritious meal for children who receive free school meals during term time. Many of their parents struggle to afford to feed their children during the long summer break. So far 35 volunteers have signed up to help. The aim so far is to feed 160 people over two sittings once a week over the holidays. Contact Matthew.Stone@salvationarmy.org.uk or Carol.g.atkins@gmail.com.

Buckinghamshire

Little Chalfont
Family craft days attract 25 to 30 children on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August. “They come with their carers, dog-walkers, grannies, child-minders and drop in for crafts and refreshments including homemade cakes,” says Ann Chapman, one of the organisers. “We have funding from Skipton Building society and Chiltern District Council which enables us to offer everything free of charge.” Voluntary donations give the organisers the chance to donate funds to the parish council, which allows them to use the Westwood Park during the holidays. The scheme is organised by the Chess Valley Churches Together – usually including volunteers from St George’s Anglican Church, Little Chalfont Methodist church and possibly from St. Aidan’s RC Church and Chenies Baptist church,

The craft days are on Wednesdays Aug 1st / 8th and 15th and Tuesdays Aug 7th / 14th / 21st  and 28th

“We decorate pots for plants, make friendship bracelets, shields and crowns, and many other activities,” says Ann. “It’s showing God’s love for our community and giving them something fun to do that doesn’t cost anything. It’s helped us to build a good relationship with our community. People come back year after year, and we have people who come from further afield.”

Lighthouse in Beaconsfield, Burnham, Cressex, Great Missenden, Hazlemere, High Wycombe, Cressex, Marlow and Princes Risborough.
Lighthouse began when three Christians from different churches in Great Missenden felt God calling them to work with children and young people. They began a joint summer holiday event using tents on the village green. Soon they had the problem of too many children attending and created a Lighthouse event in nearby Hazlemere. Now Lighthouse is attended by around 5,000 children and run by 3,000 volunteers of all ages, 2,000 of them teenagers in the Thames Valley and beyond. lighthousecentral.org

Oxfordshire

Bicester
Churches Together in Bicester run their holiday clubs across four venues, all following Scripture Union Groundbreakers activities. Volunteers from most of the town’s churches help at the holiday clubs that take place in Emmanuel Church, Kingsmere, Longfields School and the Methodist Church. Longfields School and Emmanuel Church host children who are dropped off by their parents or carers, to be picked up later. Kingsmere hosts a holiday club for children to attend with their parents. This event hosts children from 0 to 12 when they are invited to become young leaders. “This year we have around 75 people signed up and more people have been involved from St Edburg’s.

The event starts from 9.45am with dancing and bubble blowing before they start the teaching, games, crafts and break-out groups. These include Godly Play, Lego and other fun activities, along with sports.

“On Wednesday all four clubs meet in the evening. This year that’s on the Bure Park School Field, with bouncy castles,” says Mandy.

Charlbury
St Mary’s Church is holding an On Your Marks holiday club, on the theme of sport, inspired by the World Cup. This takes place Tuesday 31st July – Friday 3rd August. 10am – 12.30pm. St Mary’s Church. For children aged 4 – 11. Songs, craft, drama, and lots of fun. To book contact the Parish Office on 810230 or email parishoffice@stmaryscharlbury.co.uk

The photographs below are from Little Chalfont’s craft days.