A pandemic is certainly not something you expected to experience over the past year, and you probably never even thought about the possibility of one during your lifetime. But COVID-19 came, and its lasting effects have changed just about everything that happens around you, including how you do Children’s Church. You are most likely leading your children’s ministry in one of two ways: virtually or in person with modification. Whichever way it is, it doesn’t look the same as it did at the beginning of 2020. We’ve all had to learn how to have children’s church in today’s time, and here are a few tips that may help you as you continue to do the tough work of ministry in this unprecedented time.
In Person Children’s Church with Modifications
Hopefully, your church is able to have in person services and your children’s ministry is still functioning. Most communities have guidelines that should be followed. These might be mask mandates or social distancing guidelines. You can set a good example for the kids and families in your church by obeying leadership and following whatever strategies your city, county, or state has in place.
Cleaning is key
You should have previously had some sort of sanitation routine for your children’s area, but in these times, those duties need to at least double. Clean, and clean often! Use approved sanitizers and cleaners to frequently disinfect hard surfaces and high traffic areas. You might even rope a new volunteer into keeping track of this process. The younger your children, the more toys are going to get touched. Be sure to sanitize these in between classes if your classrooms are housing multiple groups of kids for more than one service.
Wash your hands
It’s been preached over and over but proven to be one of the best ways to lessen the spread of germs. Make sure all leaders are washing their hands as they come into your space. Give kids a squirt of hand sanitizer or send them immediately to wash their hands as they enter the children’s area. Be sure to have multiple sources of hand sanitizer for parents and leaders around your ministry area so they can use when needed. Clean hands before eating, after going to the restroom, and whenever else you see needed. Let’s face it – kids are gross! They sneeze into their hands, pick their noses, and put their hands in places where germs are in full force. So, gently remind them to wash their hands often.
Social distancing is difficult with children, but it can be done
The best thing you can do is to keep groups small and keep the same groups of children (with the same leaders) together from week to week. If you’re in a large group setting, have groups space out so they are apart from each other. Designate each group’s area with a rug or tape on the ground. In small group settings, don’t bunch up in circles, rather allow kids to spread their arms out and sit socially distanced as much as possible. However, make this fun whenever possible by saying things like – “Alright, let’s stretch our arms out as far as we can! If you can touch a neighbor, then spread out a little more.” Basically, we don’t want kids to become terrified of being around friends or being close to people.
Limit the number of toys and activities you have in your space
If possible, do things that allow each child to have their own supplies. For example, when making a craft, pass out a box or pile of crayons to individual children instead of having one basket of supplies in the middle of the table for lots of hands to touch. With younger children, the non-sharing of toys is almost impossible. Be sure to sanitize often. Designate a tote for dirty toys for easy separation of objects that were put in mouths or sneezed on.
Virtual Children’s Church
If your church is opting for virtual rather than in person services, things look way different, but that doesn’t mean you cannot still have a successful online presence for your children’s ministry. First off, don’t assume that the adult worship service that is streaming on YouTube or Facebook Live is a replacement for the children in your ministry. It’s a great option for their parents, but kids need their own content.
Let people know you’re there to serve them
Your size and resources will play into how extravagant your production is, but whether grand or minimal, do something. People just need to know you’re there to serve and connect with them. This can be done simply. If you have the means, incorporate kids worship, but if you don’t, send some links to the worship songs they’re used to singing when they’re in person with you. Encourage families to use them as a praise time together.
Give them some content
What were you planning to teach this month? Adapt it to be an online lesson. Make a YouTube video, a Vimeo, or whatever your preference, and make it accessible to all of your families. Putting this info out at the same time each week will help families stay in routine and look forward to children’s church online. And while you always want to strive for excellence in all things, making the most of the resources you can be excellent. If all you have is your phone to record a lesson, then record the best phone video you can! Again, the important thing is making sure kids and families know that you are there for them, and they continue to hear about God’s love.
Be sure to give them extras
Your video lesson probably won’t take as long as an in person one. And unless you’re extremely animated, a child isn’t going to have the attention span to sit and watch you tell a Bible story for 30 minutes! So, it doesn’t need to be long. Teach with enthusiasm and speak as if you are right there in the room with them. Filming a skit is a great thing to incorporate. Give them some ideas of things to do at home. Suggest a game or activity they could do with their family that goes along with the lesson. Email a link of a printable coloring or activity page.
Even though it’s difficult and not ideal, virtual children’s church can still work and be successful. Think outside the box and you’ll still be able to deliver the same components of an in-person worship time for your kids.
The Hybrid Approach
Some of you may be having in person services for your adult congregation, but not for the youth. If this is your case, some of your families may find it a hard decision to attend due to noisy, restless children. If you’re a parent, you know the struggle. Make a proactive plan to partner with these parents by having resources available for kids during the services.
Put together bags or boxes that have kid friendly activities
Older children can certainly pay attention during the sermon but giving them a guideline will help focus them. What’s the sermon on? Create an activity page that goes along with it with the scripture reference, a place to doodle and take notes. Make a word search with key words from the week’s sermon topic. Include crayons and any other supplies they might need to complete the activities. Having a small snack like fruit snacks or a granola bar can help meet physical needs while they’re sitting in big church with their parents as well.
Know your families and their needs. Come up with age-appropriate things for the kids to do as they engage in worship as a family.
Communication Is Key
Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate! This is a weird time for everyone. As much as adults are struggling to understand the pandemic and everything that has come along with it, kids are processing, too. They may be confused, scared, or sad. Although it’s nothing anyone wants to face, times like these give the church the opportunity to care and serve even more.
You may not have normal children’s church. You may not have an after-school program or youth groups, but that cannot stop you serving your families. It just has to be done in a different way. Call, text, or do a drive by. And do these things often. Most families have had a halt put on many of the activities that keep them busy. They are home more and have the time to receive what you have to give them.
Check ins are important
Make a list of your families and be sure you’re reaching out. Short conversations or an encouraging text can mean a lot to a kid and their parents. Drive by their house, give a shout and a wave, and bring them a treat. It will make their day. As you talk to kids, listen to them as well. They have thoughts and opinions, so let them share with you.
Communication with parents is vital during this time
Routines at your church are not the same as what they were. Make sure families know what’s going on each week. Will their check in process for children’s church be different? Are there limitations on the number of kids that can come? Are you putting new resources online each week? Let moms and dads know this information. Engage with them so they feel like they are in the loop and can be prepared for how your ministry is handling things.
Whether you’re in person, virtual, or somewhere in between, make it a goal to continue doing ministry to and for the families in your church. Be safe, be clean, and be smart about it. Give families online options. And let them know you’re there to help.