Leading children’s ministry in strange times

These are strange days. Here in Chicago, we’ve been “sheltering in place” for a couple of weeks. Just like you, we’re alone in our homes, church isn’t meeting and this could be our new normal for a while. It also means our children’s ministry is being stretched in new ways.

We know we want to stay in touch with our families,loving them and keeping the Gospel shining in their lives.

We know we want to take this opportunity to grow parents’ confidence that they can be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in their children’s lives, ever pointing them to Christ. They can be the greatest human influence in their children coming to trust Christ eternally.

We have scratched our heads about what to offer our families in these times.

I look at what we’re doing as flying at different altitudes. Let’s fly together:

Low altitude, skimming the houses: Sending individual postcards to each child and each Sunday School leader. I love that this creates time for personal communication in a way that stretches us. We want each postcard to pick up on what makes each person unique, to bless them with a Bible verse. This is taxing on those hand muscles!

200 feet, seeing the community: Group phone calls using Zoom or other platforms. Some age groups do this better than others! But kids love to see their beloved teachers. We’re don’t have big goals. We’re encouraging our leaders to sing a familiar Bible song, share a favourite brief Bible story or verse, pray together, or just chat and laugh. Keep it short so they leave wanting more.

500 feet, seeing the village: Making videos of our team leaders reading Bible stories and singing Bible songs. We want to personalize this with familiar voices from our church (knowing we can’t compete with the professional cartoon Bible stories). We want to focus on the Bible in a time when many other good ideas are being thrown at families. Our videos might not be perfect but our families will see those they love saying words of truth and reassurance to them. Our music pastor and his team are creating a set of family Bible times for Holy Week. I love that some of our ministries are starting to learn how to collaborate more when they have previously been in glorious isolation. Oh, the irony!

1000 feet, seeing the whole town: Emailing groups of leaders or parents with Scripture and to check in. I know many don’t take time to read emails, but I’m praying that some will, and be encouraged. I want to make sure everyone is at least contacted and given the chance to reply. Some churches are setting special Facebook pages or WhatsApp groups for the families in the church to post their pictures, their stories, their encouragements and scenes from their normal chaos. This is not the time to set the bar high.

We are also wanting to do outreach. We’ve printed brightly coloured signs to put up in windows with a simple Bible verse (Psalm 56:3) for families to order online and we will deliver them ourselves (The photo at the top). I want our neighbours to see where our hope lies.

5000 feet, look out across the country: My team is taking this time to evaluate and work on bigger projects, such as assessing and re-writing curricula, creating a baptism/confirmation class for children, and thinking about children in the worship service.

All that said, we may have a plan, and we’re a bigger church so we can do more, but we can only ever plant seeds. It is God who gives the growth. This could be seen as a time of drought or great flourishing. It is so out of our hands, which puts us more deeply into a trusting walk with Him! Praise Him for doing that, as hard as it can be.

What I am not doing is comparing myself and my ministry to other churches. It can be hard not to—there are great things happening. I feel like I have a great team, though, and the Holy Spirit is guiding us each day. Everything takes longer. I feel mostly baffled. However, I don’t want to waste the gift of what God has given us in having to look at things in a new way.

So let’s keep sharing ideas as the Holy Spirit guides us. Do what you can. Do what feels wise for your church. And God will bless your efforts in your communities.

This is a guest post by Cheryce Berg
Director of Children’s Ministries at College Church, Wheaton, Chicago, USA