The Cokesbury Kids blog is all about ministry!

Each week of 2020, our goal is to provide ideas to assist you as you minister to families and teach the gospel to the kids in your community.

Keeping the Weekly Bible Learning Going During the Pandemic

by Laurie Hembree -

Before March, had anyone ever heard of “take-out church” or a Zoom Bible Study? Our world has changed so fast that it is almost hard to remember what life was like in February.  Children’s Ministry teams across the country have kept up with the change, though, to continue engaging kids in God’s Word and staying connected to the church. Attending numerous online seminars from churches of all sizes, I have been impressed to see the creativity and resourcefulness of the Children’s Ministry world adapting and even growing during these past six months.

At Bay Harbour United Methodist in League City, Texas, we have had to change and adapt just like everyone else. Initially, I started on March 22 by doing a quick and impromptu video for our children to watch on our website since we had missed church the Sunday before. Little did I know I would still be recording messages for the next 6 months! As I wrote my own scripts, I added in science experiments, Bible stories, and even added EP-320, our puppet friend from To Mars and Beyond to assist with the lessons. The children loved seeing EP again, and EP-320 was instrumental in keeping the children engaged as time went on.

As the pandemic wore on, I realized that the kids needed something more interactive, so we resumed our Wednesday afternoon Bible Club over Zoom. This was interesting as the kids raced circles around me displaying pictures and chatting…I had never even used Zoom before and they seemed like professionals. My assistant began helping me with crowd control as I focused on teaching the lessons. We quickly learned that we needed to start off with a simple meet and greet, followed by an icebreaker or interactive game, and then dive into the Bible story. We had our children broken down into three age groups: preschool, younger elementary, and older elementary.


Here are a few lessons learned from our virtual, live Bible sessions:

  • Be sure to lay out a few ground rules at the beginning of your sessions: teach kids to be respectful and listen when others are talking, make sure everyone gets a turn to talk and let them know you will mute kids during the Bible story, songs, or videos.

  • Make eye contact and talk to each child as they join in the session.

  • Call each child by name to give them attention and ask them questions if they are shy or introverted to engage them more.

  • Keep the session short. One rule of thumb is that the attention span of a child is approximately double their age, i.e. a 6-year-old would have an attention span of around 12-15 minutes.

  • The leader must be overly enthusiastic to really get the kids enthused over Zoom.

  • Do not expect too much from the virtual sessions; your main goal is to let the children know you care and that you are there for them.

 

We got creative as time went on, using icebreakers and games to play over Zoom:

  • Conversation Starters (What is your favorite meal that your Mom or Dad cooks? If you could ask God one question what would it be? What do you want to be when you grow up?)

  • Gratitude moment: What is one thing you are thankful for today?

  • Story Fill-in (Have children choose nouns, verbs, and adjectives to complete a silly story.)

  • Would you rather…? (There are lots of online examples and ideas for this game.)

  • Charades

  • Tongue Twisters

  • Optical Illusions

  • Freeze Dance (Play music from your phone or computer and then stop it periodically.)

  • Name that Tune (Play Christmas music or any VBS songs and see if they can guess the song.)

  • Pictionary (One player can share their whiteboard as they draw the picture.)

  • Pictures of signs, locations, logos for kids to guess the names/places.

As we moved to the Bible Story part of the session, we learned several different approaches. We tried to not use videos since we were already doing a Sunday morning recording every week, and we knew the kids were watching a lot of TV already. We either read directly from the Bible (for older children, we often had them read) and showed the pictures (or slides) that illustrated the story, or we had an interactive session in which the kids would shout out a word or act out a movement when their part in the story happened. For example, during the story of Queen Esther, when a child was assigned the character, Esther, she would shout out “Bold” whenever she heard the name. Similarly, each child was assigned another character and a keyword. The kids loved this interaction as they would listen intently for their time to shout out “Wise person!” or “Your Majesty” for their characters. In addition, we always followed the story with some discussion questions or reviewed the story and lesson learned with the children. Another approach is to have the children answer questions throughout the story, especially with movements such as clapping once or twice for yes/no.

Apart from our prerecorded messages and live Zoom sessions, keeping safety and by following the COVID 19 rules of our city, we added various in-person events to create a hybrid approach to children’s ministry.

  • In April, we held an online scavenger hunt over Facebook; in August, we did a totally outdoor scavenger hunt.

  • In June, had a promotion celebration for our children with ice cream sundaes (all toppings in tiny containers!).

  • At the end of August, we did a drive-through back to school celebration, giving out backpack tags, praying over children, singing VBS songs, and handing out take-out church boxes, along with snow cones!

  • Our take-out church boxes included all sorts of activities for children to do at home over the next month, including a service project (Operation Nice Neighbor), small colorful candies prayer, conversation starters for at dinner time, Bible verse coloring sheets, and more. 

Whether you can do in-person events or will continue to do virtual lessons, the most important thing is to keep going! Sometimes it can be tiring and discouraging, but we are God’s messengers, bringing hope and joy to these kids during what can seem to them like a hopeless time. Never underestimate the power of a cold and tasty slush delivered on a hot afternoon to your crazy picture winner…you could have just made their day—or their summer, for that matter—with a delicious little treat and your personal attention to that child. Our purpose, whether in-person or virtual, is the same as it always has been: to share God’s amazing story and love with as many children as possible.

 

Laurie Hembree
Children’s Ministry
Bay Harbour United Methodist in League City, Texas

 

Upcoming Posts

- Virtual VBS Follow-Up
- Ways to Provide Special Occasions in Children’s Ministry
- Next Step for Fall Festivals

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