the very first fridea (& still one of the best for summertime)

I’ve edited this (hopefully that means I’m a better writer than I was three years ago), but my weekly “College Ministry Frideas” started with this fun one… and it’s one I’ve personally done. And it’s one of the more surprising ways you can love on students!

Here’s a bouncy idea for loving on college students who are away for the summer!

Did you know that you can mail a lot more than just boxes through the Post Office? It’s true!

Hopefully, you’re already planning to send your “away students” something while they’re spending the summer at home, serving on mission trips, diving into summer projects, or serving at camps. And they wouldn’t just be excited to hear from you, but also from any friends who are still “local” for the summer, too.

So holding a “care package construction day” or “postcard writing day” within your summer ministry could go a long way toward encouraging and impacting students who don’t get to see your faces on a regular basis.

BUT, why not step up your game even more? You can send some BIG love, thanks to the US Postal Service.

Ingredients (which can be located at any Super Wal-Mart):

  • Several dark-colored Sharpie markers (regular-sized or extra-thick)
  • One humongous, light-colored bouncy ball. Look for the ones about three feet in diameter. If you can’t find ‘em at Wal-Mart, they’re bound to be somewhere. Maybe even order several cheap online.

Here’s the deal: You’re going to have local students (and others!) write notes all over the ball. Then, the ball will be sent as is to the student – no box.

Like I said, I’ve done this before… In fact, one student loved this so much she made a point of saving the ball all summer, including taking the ball as her airplane carry-on, on her lap, all the way home. (Did you know big, bouncy balls deflate when they take an airplane ride?)

Just think about students’ reaction on the receiving end! You think their camp buddies or mission trip buddies won’t be jealous?

Steps to take:

  • Before writing notes, draw a large (12-inch by 6-inch) box on the ball.
  • In one half of the box you’ve drawn, write the NAME and SUMMER MAILING ADDRESS of the recipient of the “package.” DO NOT fill the entire space, because you’ll need the room for a postage label (these can be big labels sometimes).
  • Then, get notes the easy way! Just take the ball(s) to your weekly meeting (assuming you have one during the summer) or to church. (People will notice if you’re carrying a big ball around at church, so that helps.)
  • With a little extra leg-work, you can also get some really unexpected notes for your ball. The student’s parents (if they’re local) will be glad to add a note. So will church leaders at their church. But think big here – what about a professor they love? The school’s president? The mayor? A local celeb? Plenty of people would be happy to write a quick note of support – or even a signature – for a college student doing volunteer work over the summer.

Finally, it’s time to send your creation(s).

As far as I know, it’s still very legal to send just about anything through the mail (so if you’d rather send a banana or a pillow, feel free!). However, you probably want to find a friendly and experienced postal employee to help. They don’t get these requests every day, and you want somebody who realizes it’s legal – without getting mad that you’re trying to send a big ball in the mail…

WORST CASE SCENARIO: If your local USPS people absolutely refuse, you can always just put your item in a box. That’s certainly less fun on the receiving end, but it’s still pretty great. Or, if you know your USPS staff won’t cooperate with your ball-sending endeavor, you could just let everybody sign a big box in the first place.

As always, this “Fridea” can be useful as-is, or it may even be more useful for springboarding you to your own creative endeavor! (If you’ve got a similar idea, let us all know in the comments!)

Of course, you always want to make sure whatever you send really is legal. No “Animal Fighting Accessories,” for instance. Here’s the official USPS list of “Other Restricted and Nonmailable Matter.” It’s both informative and rather entertaining at points.


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  1. Pingback: a quick smattering of summer frideas « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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