During my vacation time, I found myself interspersing curriculum and volunteer recruiting books with my beach reads, tucked into my tote bag, and sneaking off to check emails with fingers crossed that the last few teachers have said a joyful “yes” to coming back this year to teach those rambunctious (yet lovable) third-grade boys. Sound familiar?
Let’s face it . . . if you are in children’s ministry, you’ve already got September and October on your mind.
Each summer seems to have the same check-off list of finding volunteers, ordering curriculum, organizing supplies, cleaning classrooms, and more. However, this year we have a pandemic to throw into the mix, and it certainly changes how we are going to approach our fall programming.
Where you live, the size of your congregation, and the number of children attending Sunday school and weekly Children’s Ministry programs are all factors that will determine how you are going to structure your fall programming – and perhaps even some of your Advent programming.
Will you be all virtual? Will you meet in-person? Will you offer a hybrid?
No matter what you and your church determine is best for your congregation, here are some things to consider for a successful fall in Children’s Ministry.
Pray, Then Plan
Set aside planning time for yourself and your children’s ministry team (whether it’s a staff team or volunteer team). Don’t jump automatically into doing and working until you’ve thought about what you really need to be doing and working on to meet the needs of your families in these unique times. Before you can do that, pray about it.
Jesus was purposeful when he chose the twelve disciples to serve with him. You, likewise, want to be purposeful when you are choosing people to work with children. Before you make a list of slots to fill (be it teachers, hosts, Sunday school secretaries, etc.), make a list of people you know who would be excellent role models, work well with children, love God, and love your church. Then pray about where they may serve. Consider asking them, who they could recommend in their circle of friends. Great people usually know other great people. Try not to beg or do a generic ask for volunteers in a bulletin or newsletter. This approach might not yield the best fit; not everyone is gifted in working with children. Pray for God to send you the right people for the right places to serve.
The disciples learned from Jesus how to share the Good News with others. Sunday school teachers also need to learn how to share that Good News with children. Be sure they have everything they need to be comfortable and successful. What is your church process for training and equipping teachers? Before the new Sunday school year kicks off, be sure that background checks for all teachers, volunteers, and staff working with children are completed, training is provided, and that everyone is familiar with the curriculum, knows the expectations and what the Children’s Ministries vision statement is. Going virtual? No worries; all of this, can be communicated in a Zoom training session. Materials and curriculum can be emailed or teacher notebooks can be prepared ahead of time for pick up. Be sure to throw in a special thank you treat for your teachers. Pinterest has tons of ideas!
Some churches call this Kick-Off Sunday or Move-Up Sunday. Whatever name you like to call it, choose a theme, and make it a big deal! This is the day children are officially “promoted up” to the next grade/class, perhaps a new classroom, new teacher(s), and maybe even new classmates. Make it special with individually-packaged refreshments, balloons, names on the door, get-to-know-you games, and more. Make them feel welcome. How can this be done virtually? Send something special in the mail ahead of time to be opened or to wear during a Zoom Promotion Sunday party! A party hat, funny sunglasses, a Hawaiian lei . . . get creative!
Fall is the perfect time to re-engage the parents. Even in this pandemic time, families are moving toward a back-to-school rhythm, so take advantage of that. Even if you do it via Zoom, offer opportunities for parents such as parent talks, book studies, parent Sunday school classes, Bible study, Mom’s groups, Dad’s groups, etc. Also, pray for your parents and your families. I work in a very large church with over 500 families and it has been extremely difficult to get to know all of them. This past year, I decided to intentionally reach out to 10 families/week and offer to pray for them and ask if they had any specific prayer needs. It has been such a blessing, to me and a wonderful way to get to know them.
Make a list of what your normal fall Children’s Ministry activities are. Perhaps they include activities such as Fall Kick-off/Promotion Sunday, Back to School Service/Blessing of the Backpacks, Third Grade Bible Recognition, Fall Carnival/Trunk-or-Treat, etc. Think individually about what each of these ministries means to your families. Which ones are the most important? How could these special ministries be held with a Plan B or even a Plan C if not held in person and yet still honor the intent of the ministry? Could the event date be changed to include everyone in-person? Could the event be held outside? Could the event be a special drive-up or home delivery? Let this be an opportunity to focus on the priorities of the ministries and what they mean to your families as well as an opportunity to get creative and think outside the box.