How does a church continue to do ministry with families with children and youth during a pandemic? Well, I’m not sure anyone really knows that because no one around me has ever done that before.
We at Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, joined the world of Zoom in mid-March when we were forced to go home. We continued the “normal” schedule of 8:30 & 11 a.m. worship services with traditional Sunday School (even though it was combined) at 9:30.
I made short videos during the week to encourage the kids and families and posted them to our YouTube channel and our Facebook kids’ page. We encouraged families to post positive things they were doing so that we could share ideas. We’d also have a time mid-week for kids to hop on Zoom for a time of “fellowship”, conversation and prayers. As the days, weeks, months went on, fewer and fewer people would sign-on. You know why…..zoom/screen fatigue!
By mid-summer, we knew that something had to change. After much prayer and discussion, our 923 Worship which begins at 9:23 a.m. on Sunday mornings was born. Luke 9:23 says Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” This worship service is 30 minutes in length and we encourage our families to “come” together. We encourage them (and provide them if needed) to set up a place, an altar, in their homes so they can focus on worship together. We say these words: we lay down a green cloth, have an open Bible, and light a candle to remind us that God is present. We also encourage them to draw a cross or add one to their holy space.
Each service consists of live and prerecorded components: Live introduction; the intro to the songs; 6-minute sermon followed by a 2 question reflection time and activity, prayer and Lord’s prayer, and sending forth. Each service has prerecorded music by the Justin Graves Band, and a call to worship, prayer before scripture, and scripture reading which are all done by kids.
Families seem to like the time and the brevity of the service. We have a landing page on our website (tumcaustin.church) where one can find suggested podcasts, playlist, and the longer sermon for the week. We are not sure if or how this will transfer into in-person worship, but we do know that we won’t be returning to Sunday School as “normal” for a while due to Covid-19. Come join us any give Sunday as we worship together at 9:23 a.m. You can find the zoom link at www.tumcaustin.church
J’Nevelyn (JJ) Lloyd
Director of Children & Family Ministries
Tarrytown United Methodist Church