When the COVID crisis first hit, it felt surreal and like an awful dream. We realized that in a moment, everything can change. The question for us is, how will we respond, and what are we willing to change?
In my previous post, I share things we need to avoid as family ministry leaders during the COVID crisis. This post is aimed to evaluate the things we should adopt in our kids and youth ministries.
When this hit, I had several conversations with our team. I told them we need to be equipping parents, providing content, and making our interactions as personal as possible.
Start by empowering and equipping parents.
During this crisis, we have an opportunity to evaluate what really matters. We have the time and are forced by law and nature to rethink how the church is done. The past two decades of the church have looked different than the church has looked historically. Events have been the driving force of the church. I have heard many church leaders refer to Sunday as the “Superbowl.” I understand what they mean, but I’m not sure attendance to events is the most significant driver of discipleship in adults and certainly not for kids.
In this season, every parent is effectively homeschooling their own kids. They have a lot on their plates and are out of their comfort zone. I have heard lots of people say, “We should not give parents more things to do. I understand what they are saying; I just disagree with the approach. Parents don’t need a pass on the spiritual formation of their kids; they need a plan.
For our church, we believe that family worship is the best way for parents to disciple their kids. Our plan is this: Read one chapter of the Bible and explain it to the best of your ability, Sign one Hymn, and Pray. This should only take ten minutes. Below is a link to download a family worship guide that we create for our parents.
I had a conversation with my friend Jenny Funderburk Smith a fellow blogger and kids pastor. I wanted to see how other church tackles these three crucial components to reaching kids in general but are so vital during mass quarantine. I asked her what do you empower parents to lead their kids at home in a time when families are literally stuck at home.
She responded by saying that she asked the question, “What would I do differently if I could go back before the COVID crisis began?” She said that she realized that we had not done a good job of preparing our parents to lead worship from home. We talk about it a lot, but we haven’t been doing it.
She challenges her parents, saying, “It is not an accident that you have all this time, sports, school, and church are all gone. It’s not an accident that God has given us this time lets really use it to build a habit of family worship.”
I couldn’t agree more. All our excesses have been forcibly removed, we must invest the time we have to grow deeper with our kids create new habits and rhythms we are going to need going forward. Our family does this with in conjunction with our Pastor’s Bible reading plan and the help of Joel Beeke’s Family Worship Bible Guide. Jenny uses her pastor’s sermons as the basis for the content for their church’s family worship. How you do family worship isn’t as important as actually doing it.
Next: Provide Content
In our right desire to cheer on parents as the primary disciplers of their kids, we must not only cheer. We must disciple kids as well. In cheering parents on, we must not forget that on our best day, we will only get 20%-30% of parents involved. So for the sake of the 70% and the kids whose parents don’t come to church, we must have a plan to disciple the kids who come to our church.
With so much content out there, why do I need to create more content? You creating content in an age that is filled with so many options is not about content creation as it is about content curation. We need to distill for our kids and their parents the most important information that their kids need to know. Because of that, we buy a curriculum that matches our goal for our kids, and then we supplement the curriculum we buy with content we produce ourselves.
Everyone has an iPhone; it is easy to produce short videos to teach and connect with kids and families. Here is an example of what our church has done to provide content for our kids; much of it shot on iPhones.
My friend Jenny said that their most effective tool as a church to disciple kids is their midweek service. It in this service where they focus on scripture memory and application in the context of relationship. This something they have been able to maintain in our current crisis through Zoom sessions with leaders and the kids they lead. “For parents who aren’t going to do family worship at home. In this midweek service, kids are still memorizing scripture and going to a daily devotion online. They can be disciples even if parents can’t or won’t disciple their kids.” This discipleship program for her church is connected to the pastor’s sermon, so their approach is cohesive and reinforcing what parents are hearing on Sunday morning.
Lastly: Make every interaction as personal as possible.
Here is where the church can be the church. We can’t just expect parents to disciple their kids; we can’t just push out information and content we have to show up. We need to be as personal as is safe and is allowed.
People feel more isolated than they ever have in life. We have to show up in ways they don’t expect. We need to use technology, innovation, and old school methods to reach out to families and connect them together.
When this crisis hit, I had a meeting with all our volunteers telling them that we need them to still be volunteers, but how they volunteer would need to look different. I said to them they need help share things on social media, and secondly, we need them to call their kids or send them cards the week they are supposed to serve in kids’ ministry. In our youth ministry, we are live streaming service and then doing small groups via zoom.
Here is a couple of things we have done recently to connect with families in our church and to connect families in our church to each other.
- Zoom family Kahoot! Night.
- Family Scavenger hunt night.
- Video Egg hunt.
- FaceTime calls from one of our puppets.
The last question I asked Jenny was, how do we make digital personal? Most digital is inherently impersonal, how do we change that? She said, “One of the first tensions she faced was that most of our production capacity was going to Sunday morning service. So I had do decide that if I am going to go digital, it’s probably not going to be fancy. I quickly realized that that was ok because what our people were craving was a personal connection. They were just as cool with a five minute Facebook live devo as something big and well produced.” Another way Jenny’s church achieved this personal connection was through calls, cards, and by doing breakout groups on Zoom. It was in these breakout calls where kids got to share with their small group leaders the ordinary and mundane things in life that matter more than we realize.
Leading in the middle of a situation like we have never been in requires us to change our strategies but not our principles. We need parents to disciple their kids, we need to lead well, we need to personally connect to kids and families. The goal of our kids ministry and youth ministry doesn’t change because of our situation. Strategies are never divorced from principles but are the by-product of what we believe to be true. We still need to strive to make our homes like a little church and our church like a big family. What we do must be informed and governed by who we are.