Before March 13th, I had been on less than a dozen Zoom calls in my life. Since March 13th, that number has skyrocketed, like it has for so many people. It never crossed my mind that Zoom might be the way our ministry would connect best with our kids and families in 2020. As of the writing of this article, Zoom is the way we connect with the majority of our kids. We have nearly double the number of kids on Zoom calls as we do in person on Sundays and this Advent season, we are preparing an epic Zoom Christmas Party for families instead of doing an event in person.
For a while, the thought was kids and families were tired of screens in any or all formats. I must confess that this thought crossed my mind as well; until I was reading an excellent article by Carey Nieuwhof in which he stated something to the effect that “People aren’t tired of online content; they are tired of bad online content.” Which got me to thinking if this is true (and I think it is), how can I make sure our online experiences and zoom meetings not be considered “bad content.” With all that as the backdrop here are 6 ideas for creating a unique Zoom call experience with your kids.
#1-Make It Fun
Fill your calls with games, conversations, and other interactive items. Make them wish it was longer. You know you’ve done an excellent job if you have to click “end meeting for all” when your Zoom meeting is over because the kids won’t leave. We use Zoom polls as kids first enter; the kids love them, and it’s a great way to fill time as you wait for everyone to log on. A great resource is Kidzmatter.com. It has loads of games you can play on Zoom. Keep your Bible lesson creative. We’ve done dramas, video clips, told the story with cups and used virtual backgrounds to communicate the lesson of the day. When telling the Bible story on Zoom, don’t just “tell” the Bible story. Use your creativity to make it engaging.
#2-ReShape Your “Classroom” Experience
It takes a little bit of practice, but after a few weeks, I’ve found my groove in re-writing our purchased small group curriculum experiences so that they will work on Zoom. Recently I tweaked an activity that was your traditional classroom plan of reading a scenario and having kids move to one side of the room or the other depending on whether they thought the scenario was an easy or hard way to follow Jesus. Obviously, that is not possible in Zoom; so, I had the kids run off and get something hard and something soft from their house. When the leader reads the scenario, they hold up the hard item if they thought it was a challenging situation and then held up the soft item if they felt the scenario was easy. It is possible to take your traditional in-person curriculum and make a few changes to work effectively on zoom. (Disclaimer-there are some activities that obviously will not translate, but I know you know that!)
In our ministry, families must register their kids for the Zoom call. Part of the information we receive from families contains both an email address and a physical address. We use this information in creative ways to follow up with the kids before and after the call. For example, if your group is small enough and you have a fun activity you want to do on the call, but everyone needs a specific random object, why not mail it to them or drop it off on their porch? The kids will love getting something delivered, and you’ve connected with the family in a new way. We’ve also given out free lunches via door dash or dropped off Halloween buckets on porches, all thanks to gathering this registration information. Finally, we’ve treated these kids on the Zoom calls, just like in-person gatherings, with follow up postcards or notes thanking them for joining us and inviting them back.
Zoom has so many features that I wish I could use in person! How many of you have wished you had a mute button in your ministry? Be honest! Breakout rooms are an excellent way for kids to get a personal connection from a leader, especially when you have a larger zoom call. You can write activities for these smaller groups to do or utilize these rooms for creative games. In the Zoom call I facilitate we usually break into three rooms and I have the ability as the host to move from room to room to see how things are going. Plus, when the breakout time is over kids come right back to the main gathering AND no one is stopping to use the bathroom for the 3rd time that hour!
Three simple ways to keep your Zoom calls safe:
- Don’t post your Zoom call link and password anywhere publicly. We keep this information off of our Facebook page, IG feed, and our newsletter. The only people who receive the link are the ones that register in advance.
- Follow the two leader rule. We don’t let kids into the Zoom call until we have two leaders already on the call.
- When we breakout into smaller groups, we always have two leaders with the kids.
Obviously, there are more ways to keep this safe, but start with these two big ones.
Get your leaders involved leading Zoom rooms, playing games, leading scavenger hunts, monitoring the chats, and much more! We have high schoolers and grandmothers on our Zoom calls leading the way and connecting with kids. In the craziness that is 2020, kids need a place where they can feel loved and important. They need to know that God is still here, and as leaders of these Zoom calls, we have a unique way of sharing God’s love!
Like all of you, I’m thinking about what children's ministry will look like in the future. Right now, I believe a virtual/screen component is not going away. We are finding some great opportunities for hosting weekly Zoom calls for kids. Finally, think about this: in the future, if a Sunday morning is cold and snowy and families don’t feel like leaving their house, you have a zoom call option. If a family moves away, but their kids still want to connect with your ministry, you have a Zoom call. If someone from 500 miles away wants to engage in your church, you have a Zoom call. If someone is sick so can’t come to church, you have a Zoom call. You get the picture! If you haven't spent any time investing in this opportunity, I would invite you to give it a try and see what happens!
If you want to hit me on Zoom to talk about Zoom drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Director of Children’s Ministry
Church of the Resurrection