Sunday school students at First Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg know that any month with a fifth Sunday means getting out of the classroom and getting into some extra fun.

January was such a month, when more than 50 people attended the church’s Winter Family Festival Jan. 29 in lieu of Sunday school.

Denise Hartnett, the church’s Christian Education director, said the response was so positive following the church’s intergenerational Fall Festival Oct. 30 that Sunday school teachers have decided to spend every fifth Sunday of the month hosting a festival of some sort.

This year’s included tossing beanbags into a snowman, playing a game called Snowman Bingo and, if the snow ever flies in East Iowa Presbytery, sledding.

Children also take home a craft item from the event ― in this case, a winter photo magnet to frame a memory from the Winter Family Festival.

The idea for holding a festival “is geared around families fellowshipping together,” Hartnett explained. “The youth help out with the games (for younger children). Grandparents enjoy watching their grandchildren. The main reason we do it is to see families come together in a church setting.”

That’s increasingly difficult for families with scheduling conflicts, even on Sunday mornings. While a sports tournament might keep a child out of Sunday school on a given Sunday, families at First Church make it a point to circle that fifth Sunday on their calendar, she said.


“This is a way to get families more involved — all generations, including parents and grandparents,” she said. “We received a lot of good feedback after our first one.”



Mike Ferguson is a member of United Presbyterian Church in Lone Tree, Iowa, and a reporter for The Muscatine Journal, the newspaper where Mark Twain got his start. He is a regular contributor to Presbyterian News Service.