You know that feeling you get when a child runs down a church hallway towards you for a great big hug? Or finding a half-wilted flower left on your desk with the note “I pickd this 4 u?” Or being shown the latest boo-boo, or an unrecognizable creation by a proud preschooler? What about seeing a picture drawn on a bulletin during worship, or a wide smile on the face of a child who hopes you’ll notice they’ve lost another tooth? These are some of the many Sunday morning interactions that I have missed over the past five months.
The church building is quiet, the children’s areas are dark with doors closed and lights off… and with each passing month, I find myself missing the laughter, the hugs, and the sweet precious faces more and more. I miss those short but sweet hallway connections.
The families and children are missing their connections to friends and to being in worship also. Having the technology to tune in on Sunday mornings to worship from home is a blessing for which we are all grateful. Yet, we long to be present in that sacred space - in community with one another. This would be the time of year when children’s ministry attendance is at its greatest as school has started, the new Sunday school year has kicked off, and fall programming is resuming. However, now we find ourselves challenged to explore new ways to reach out remotely and virtually.
How can we stay connected to our families and kids as this pandemic continues?
Communicate through Cards, Calls, Emails and Text Messages
Make it a practice to set aside time each day - even just 15-20 minutes - for sending cards or emails, calling or texting a few families to make contact and check in. Consider sending a “We Miss You” or “Good Luck with the New School Year” postcard with a picture collage of the Children’s Ministry Staff or Church staff to all the families.
By intentionally reaching out to a few families for a few minutes each day,
- your families will feel cared for,
- will know a connection is still there,
- and will be less lonely and isolated during this time.
I am finding Sunday mornings to be a good time to work on my plans for doing this throughout the week. Sunday mornings are when I would normally have been at church interacting with families and children for a long block of time, so this is a time that works for me. Put it on your daily calendar as an appointment for “Family Outreach” to help you develop it as a discipline. I think you’ll be surprised and uplifted by the responses you get, and you’ll find it’s worth the commitment.
Use Social Media
Use social media in all the ways you can to interact with your families. Although families may be feeling a bit of Zoom overload or Zoom fatigue, we are finding that parents are still checking their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Use your social media platforms to post ministry updates, parent tips, recommended resources, or ask a weekly question such as, “How can I pray for your family this week?” or “Where have you seen God this week?”
Offer Online Videos
Use online videos to communicate weekly messages from you and any other members of the Children’s Ministries team. Seeing your face will help the children feel connected to their church. Maybe make a short weekly video sharing a devotion, story, or songs. Be sure to tell the children you love them and miss them.
- Consider having other church leaders or members offer to read preschool stories, lead yoga for children, cooking classes, painting, crafts, or other activities. These can be pre-recorded or live, which is even more fun for children to know they have to watch at a certain time and participate while watching.
- Consider inviting families and children to send pictures and videos to you! What a great way to share with other families and the congregation.
- Consider having a virtual art show of children’s artwork they submit. Ask your children a question they could respond to about an upcoming sermon theme and show the video clip in worship.
At our church, we ended the Sunday school year with children making 10-second videos thanking our Sunday school teachers, which we turned into a lovely Teacher Appreciation Video. Try it! I think you’ll find that once you make one video, you’ll make a video for everything!
Connect Others to One Another
You are not the only ones missing the children. Encourage the pastors, Sunday school teachers, and small group leaders to reach out to the children also. Establish a Children’s Caring Cards Ministry where the Children’s Ministry partners with the Congregational Care Ministry. Children can be special friends with members who are in care facilities and not able to have visitors at this time, but whose day would be brightened by receiving a little card or picture from a child.
Offer Curbside or Outdoor Ministry Options
Depending on the size of your church, think of opportunities for you to visit with families safely curbside or outside, or ways they can come to you at the church curbside or outside. Keep in mind what your state’s protocols are regarding mask wearing and the number of people allowed to gather in a group at one time. Try a fun, themed drive-thru for pick-up of monthly Sunday school craft/activity kits (complete with music, costumes, signs and other decorations), Ice Pops and Prayers (families drive up for ice pops and receive a prayer for the day), Neighborhood Ice Cream Truck Visits, or a Church Lemonade Stand where families come to the church for a drive-thru cup of lemonade, and make a donation to local missions.
Remember, as we are moving through this difficult time, although we are not together, we are not alone. As the body of Christ, we are all connected. God is with us and the families and children we serve. God will get us through.
Amy Alspaugh Harriman
Myers Park UMC
- Virtual VBS Follow-Up
- Ways to Provide Special Occasions in Children’s Ministry
- How to Safely Offer Fall Celebrations
- Ways to Teach Bible Lessons During this Time