I hope you are giving yourself a pat on the back for how flexible and innovative and faithful you have been as you have sought to reinvent how we do ministry with children and their parents during this pandemic. Our challenges have been mighty, but our calling to bring the Good News of Christ’s love to our kids is bigger! Seeing how so many people from around the connection have risen to the occasion to serve their kids has inspired me.
By now, it has become clear that what we hoped might be a short-term reworking of our plans is really a long-term reality for most of our churches and communities. This summer we have examined what we feel is most important for our youngest disciples. Going forward, we are planning and organizing our work with families around these four principles.
Every ministry moment we plan does not have to meet all four of these criteria, but it is important for us to consistently touch all four of these anchors to help meet the needs of our children and continue speaking to them about Christ’s love.
As we looked to the fall, we mourned the fun Welcome Back Sundae event that has become a staple in our back to school milestone. In addition to the fun of eating ice cream before noon, that Sunday offers us the opportunity to bless kids and teachers, as they begin a new school year. Our families have loved bringing backpacks and receiving blessing tags for their bags. It is an event that hits several of our four anchors. Missing this event felt like a huge loss for our kids and for us as a connection point. We wanted the chance to speak words of hope and prayers for safety for the children of our church and community during this time when our hearts are so unsettled.
After grieving what was not possible, we set to work planning what would give us the opportunity to have a face to face encounter with kids that paid special attention to our need to honor the safety recommendations of our church and community leaders. We keep these ideas as our main focus.
- We knew it had to be a whole family event to help with distancing.
- It had to include masks for everyone’s safety.
- It had to be personal, allowing us to look into the eyes of our kids and reassure them that we were praying for them as they begin this new school year.
- Our answer to these requirements was a drive-thru parade.
Instead of backpack blessing tags, we pivoted and had kid masks printed with our church’s tagline “Hey Neighbor” on it. We decided that we had a unique opportunity to recast mask-wearing as a heroic act that cares for our neighbors instead of a thing to dread. From the mask give away, we decided to brand our drive through with a hero theme. We all wore costumes, encouraged families to wear costumes, and promised a prize for the best-decorated car, too. This idea also helped set the tone for all of us to wear masks and talks about how awesome mask-wearing superheroes are!
We instructed families to stay in their cars and drive through the giant balloon arch in our parking lot, stopping at stations where we had fun things to give away and folks associated with kids’ ministry to greet them. We gave every child a worship folder to teach kids about the components of worship and help bridge them to deeper engagement as we worship virtually. Our kids’ music team had a folder of songs, activities, and devotionals that they plan on using as they engage kids this fall, virtually or in-person (when safety allows). We gave kids Hey Neighbor masks and an ice pop, which were conveniently superhero colors and a welcome cool down on a hot August day. The parade concluded with our pastors greeting families and praying over the backpacks that were gingerly stretched outside the car so our kids could experience their pastors praying for an amazing school year.
- Each stop had a touchpoint for our kids to connect with people from our church who love them.
- Each stop gave us a moment to call that child by name and talk about how much we missed them.
- Each stop gave us a chance to tell these kids that God goes with them into this next great adventure.
- Each stop gave us a chance to look into our parents’ eyes and tell them that we’ve got their back.
These stops on our drive-thru gave us an opportunity for reconnection and casting a vision for the fall that would have been very hard to recreate virtually.
Ultimately, we had a chance to reframe this moment for our families, who are anxious, unsure and exhausted by the decisions and changing landscape of the school year. Reminding our kids and parents that God is by their side was a moment we just couldn’t miss. We had to pick our priorities and consider our limitations. Our hero drive-thru afforded us the opportunity to reimagine an important day while abiding by the safety protocol of distancing and masking that will hopefully hasten the day we can gather together in person again.
We are praying for our kids and yours as we start this new school year. Together, sharing our best ideas and being open to how the Holy Spirit will lead us into this new season of ministry, we will continue to plant the seeds of faith in our kids that will help them weather these uncertain days.
See photos from the event below!
AND don’t be freaked out by our Senior Pastor’s SPAM costume. It is a VBS joke that turned into a Super Spam Superhero costume. It is totally weird and our kids loved it.
Director of Children & Family Ministry
Trinity UMC, Homewood, AL