How to Reopen Your Children’s Ministry after COVID

You have to start with the understanding that this situation is unlike any we have faced as a church and as a nation. Never in the history of the Church has there been 6-8 weeks where the church has not gathered. How do we go from online services to meeting in person again?

How you come back will depend on your state regulations, your church policies, and your leadership team. What I am suggesting here are steps our church is planning on implementing in the coming days.

We stopped church quickly but we have to have a plan to come back slowly.

Phase 1 – Families worshiping together.

This phase is a good way to ease families back to church. For most churches, you will need to find out how many kids will return and how many volunteers are planning on coming back. For us, this phase will be one to four weeks.

Phase 2 – Families sing together

This phase is how we can deal with more kids coming back and restarting kid’s ministry even with a smaller volunteer base.

How phase 2 will work in our church. We will dismiss kids after we sing songs. In a large room, we will show our Kids TV show. Videos we have made that follow the theme of the lesson. We will keep producing these as well at least through the end of the year for families who can not or will not come to church. This allows us to have kids learn together in an age-appropriate way with a smaller group of volunteers.

Phase 3 – Combine classes and set room limits.

This phase will account for a greater amount of kids coming and more volunteers coming but limiting the number of kids in a room to keep social distancing standards for kids. I know that politicians are asking three-year-olds to wear masks but I am pretty sure most politicians don’t have three-year-old because that isn’t going to happen. Three-year-olds are beautiful little tornados.

Questions you might have.

How do I enforce social distancing with kids?
I don’t know that you can. For us, we are going to try and do it through limiting class sizes but I don’t know if you can and I’m not sure the long term ramifications of drilling social distancing into kids is good for them or society in the long term. You can see in your own kids that they are struggling with isolation and you can read about it online.

When a person is socially isolated, as it is a basic human need, the body will perceive the situation as a threat. During the time of the active stress response, the brain will release multiple stress hormones to protect the body from danger. The release of these hormones is needed for the person to react towards the current stress factor, and resist the possible harm. However, the body cannot release these stress hormones and protect the body from stressful situations for unlimited time. Having an active stress response over an extended period has been proven to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, elevated blood pressure, infectious illness, cognitive deterioration, and mortality. These are physiological consequences of being prone to stress over time, and they are typically experienced in adulthood.

NoIsolation.com

What can we do to help kids that come to church?
Love them. Clean surfaces before they come and after they leave. Give them normality in a world of stress-filled chaos. Kids need to know that there is life after COVID, Zoom isn’t forever. Kids need a place that is safe but they also need hope and they need the church to do what the church has done for 1800 years, run to the hurting. We want to make sure we do everything to take this seriously but as we reopen we must ask ourselves what is the price that kids are paying? A generation of kids growing up with more anxiety than ever. How can the church serve kids? We can point them to Jesus. We can remind them what scripture teaches and what the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully states.

Q: What is our only comfort in life and death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. 5He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

We can teach them to cast their cares on Him because he cares for them. This isn’t an oversimplification of a complex issue. It’s the heart of the Christian faith. In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat was facing certain death. The Bible says he was afraid.

“Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord….O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 12

The greatest gift we can give our kids in the middle of a crisis like nothing we have seen in over 100 years is the gift of prayerful dependence on God. We must whatever we do teach our kids that it’s ok to be afraid. We must show our kids where we turn when we are afraid. Finally when all else fails when we reach the end of our good ideas and what we can do, and admit we don’t know what to do and confess to God that our eyes are on Him.

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Who is Responsible to Disciple my Kids?

Is it the church or me?

Discipleship is something parents and pastors need to take seriously and engage in together. When I first started in kids ministry over twenty years ago, the primary discipleship of children was the responsibility of the church. Over the past ten years or so the pendulum has swung from the church being primary to the church pushing parents to be primary in the discipleship of their kids and the church cheering them on. The result has been in my opinion less discipleship.

The answer to the discipleship of the next generation is not either or but both and. How can the church be intentional about discipline kids and how can parents make church an important aspect of their kids lives because of that. At the same time, how can parents disciple their kids more intentionally and how can the church resource and encourage that?

Why church discipleship is necessary

If you crush whatever initiative you set up for parents to do at home, you will only get at best 25% to 30% participation leaving 70% without the benefit of your discipleship resource. If we only view discipleship as parent driven and avoid things like VBS and other church driven initiatives many kids will miss out. Another issue we need to address is some kids come to church with grandparents or friends, and their parents will never be the primary disciplers of their kids. As kids grow, their friends will have more influence on them than their parents. As a community of faith, we need to provide a place where kids can grow in their faith even if it isn’t a value at home.

Why home discipleship is necessary

The modern America family is more transient than ever. People move to different states, different churches, different denominations like never before in history. We may never have them long enough to develop their kids and nurture their faith so we need resources they can take with them on the journey. Particularly early in life parents have more influence than anyone else on who their kids are becoming. Parents need encouragement and help.

Here are some things we try to do at our church to disciple kids.

  1. New City Catechism each week from preschool to college.
  2. Story-Based Discipleship class for Jr. High Kids.
  3. Small Groups
  4. Internship
  5. Worldview/Theology Immersion Week
  6. VBS

Here are some things you can try at home to disciple your kids.

  1. Family WorshipWe use this book at our house.
  2. New City Catechism Why Catechism? 
  3. Reading Classic Works with your kids – Leland Ryken has some great books to help you navigate the classics – Also Karen Swallow Prior’s new book would be helpful
  4. Spirit led conversations
  5. Student Discipleship Guide

The goal of discipleship is not what we do to be acceptable to God but rather how is our conformity into the image of God affecting our life and practice. How are we intentionally forming the loves of our kid’s hearts? James K. A. Smith says it this way

“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.”

This happens on purpose, not on accident. Not overnight but over time. May we as pastors and parents be curators of hearts rather than only informers of intellects.

How the Catechism keeps us from bad theology

Zacharias_Ursinus

Kevin DeYoung in his fantastic devotional exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism explains the threefold outline of the Catechism in such a concise and profound way.

Question one of the Catechism shapes our whole existence. The first thing we need to know as a Christian is that we belong to Jesus and not to ourselves. But it doesn’t help much to know all about comfort and joy if we don’t know what is required to live and die in this comfort and joy. Belonging to Jesus and not ourselves means knowing three things: guilt, grace, and gratitude. The rest of the Catechism will follow this threefold outline.

First, we understand our sin. Then we understand salvation. And finally we understand how we are sanctified to serve. All three things are necessary. If we don’t know about our sin – which brings a true sense of guilt – we will be too confident in our abilities to do right and make the world a better place. We will ignore our most fundamental problem, which is not lack of education, or lack of opportunity, or lack of resources but sin and its attendant misery. But if we don’t know how we are set free from this sin and misery – which comes through God’s grace – we will try to fix ourselves in futility or give up altogether in despair. And if we don’t know how to thank God, showing gratitude for such deliverance, we will live in a self-centered, self-referential bubble, which is not why God saved us from our sin and misery in the first place. If Christians would hold all “three things” and not just one or two, we would be saved from a lot of poor theology and bad ideas. – Kevin DeYoung

As I am walking our own children through the Catechism I find myself convicted and moved to worship and the beauty and majesty of the truths it holds. If you are a parent looking for a great devotional check out “The Good News We Almost Forgot.” It is written to be read as a weekly devotional but can be read as frequently as you desire I read it all as quick as I could. Such a great book. Highly recommend it. If you are a fan of the Catechism this book will deepen your love for it. If you are skeptical or new to the Catechism it’s worth checking out.

North Star Catechism

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One of the amazing things about the internet is it allows you to meet people you would never meet anywhere else. One of those people I am grateful to have met a couple of ash Wednesdays ago was Jared Kennedy. I love Jared’s passion for the gospel and the application of the gospel for families. Every time I have a conversation with Jared I always learn something and come away with a greater passion for Christ. During one of those conversations he told me of an idea they were working on that is now a reality.

How to memorize better.

CATECHISM

I did a few posts on Catechism and the importance it’s role has in the church and in the family. I thought I would pass on some of the tips Tim Keller includes in his introduction to his New City Catechism.

MEMORIZATION TIPS

There are a variety of ways to commit texts to memory and some techniques suit certain learning styles better than others. A few examples include:

  • Read the question and answer out loud, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Read the question and answer out loud, try to repeat them without looking. Repeat.
  • Read aloud through all Part 1 questions and answers (then 2, then 3) while moving about. The combination of movement and speech strengthens a person’s ability to recall text.
  • Record yourself saying all Part 1 questions and answers (then 2, then 3) and listen to them during everyday activities e.g. work-outs, chores, etc.
  • Write the questions and answers on cards and tape them in a conspicuous area. Read them aloud every time you see them.
  • Make flashcards with the question on one side and the answer on the other, and test yourself. Children can color these in and draw pictures on them.
  • Review the question and answer at night and in the morning. For children spend a few minutes at bedtime helping them remember the answer, then repeat at breakfast the next morning.
  • Write out the question and answer. Repeat. The process of writing also helps a person’s ability to recall text.
  • Drill the questions and answers with another person as often as possible.

Super helpful and super practical. Hope they help you make catechism a practice and tradition in your family’s home.