Children’s Ministry and Social Distancing

By Kris Buckman

Attention: The church has left the building. Although our church doors may temporarily be closed (physically), the Church (uppercase C) remains very much open! Within one week, the way we conduct our ministries has drastically changed. Gone are the Sunday morning hugs and light conversation. Gone are the sounds of the person next to you clapping to the music during praise and worship. Gone are the after-service fellowships. Gone are the sounds of kids’ laughter up and down the hallways. The building is silent, but His people will never be.

Opportunities abound

In this unprecedented time of “shuttering” down, the Church has never had more of an opportunity to speak up! If Satan is trying to use this virus as a way of hushing God’s people, his plan has most definitely backfired! Leaders in our churches are quickly adapting to this world of technology. If you were hesitant to get your church or your ministry online in some way, now is the time.

This past Sunday, my family sat around the table enjoying breakfast together (for the first time in many, many years), and like many of you, we tuned into our pastor’s sermon online. Not only did I hear our pastor’s sermon, but I also got to be a part of two or three other churches’ services throughout the day as well. All from the comfort of my home! The numbers on the screen which informed me how many were watching these sermons were astounding. I have a friend who teaches Sunday school in a small rural church in Thurmont, Maryland. On an average Sunday, he might have four to six people in his class. Last Sunday, he led his online Sunday school with an audience of 100 online attendees! Wow!

I urge churches and their congregants everywhere to take advantage of this time and invite those on your “friend list” to church. It’s never been easier! The childhood friend you connected with on Facebook who lives in another state and is experiencing some hard times — invite him or her to your church! With the location barriers eliminated, inviting others to worship has never been easier.

Equipping and encouraging parents

Although this health crisis is devastating to those who have been, and continue to be, personally affected, I have never experienced an easier time to shine His light, invite our neighbors to church and encourage parents to step into their God-given roles!

So, what does this look like for our children’s ministries? What does our role as leaders look like? Children’s ministries thrive on connection and relationships. How do we keep those relationships going in the midst of digital chaos?

As we seek to answer these questions together, I want to urge those in children’s ministries to think through this very carefully. Children’s ministry leaders everywhere have constantly been asking, “How do we encourage and equip our parents to be the spiritual leaders they’re called to be”? Although there are many ways to do this, God is using our current situation to thrust families everywhere into their God-given role. Don’t take that opportunity away from them!

So many resources have exploded online for children’s ministry leaders to pipe into the homes of our churches’ kids. Some are incredibly well done and are available to anyone wanting to use them. My plea to you is to be mindful of our roles as children’s ministers. Let’s not forget the role of the parents. In this time of uncertainty, fear, and the unknown, let’s resource parents, NOT replace them. This is the time to offer resources for parents and families to pick up the torch of their kids’ spiritual formation and run with it! I was in a recent training where it was said that what we (children’s ministry leaders) do on Sunday mornings should be the “Amen!” to what’s happening at home during the week. With all of the busyness of schedules, sports, school activities, and more, it has been a struggle to get families to carve out time in the week to disciple their kids at home. Enter March 2020. Families have been given the precious gift of time in these past few weeks. Routines and schedules are on hold and families are spending time (lots of time) together. Now is the time to resource parents to take charge of their children’s spiritual growth.

Information overload

I’ve enjoyed seeing the wonderful videos that are being produced during this time. Some of them are worthy of their own channel on TV! I’ve loved hearing about all the creative ways children’s ministries are getting inside the homes of their kids. However, parents are inundated with information right now. I am myself a parent of two boys. Although they are older (a high school senior and a seventh-grader), I am consumed daily with information overload. News and resources are coming from every angle: the school system, constant news channels, and Facebook. Everyone seems to be offering tips for families — dinners to make, activities to do, things to bake, ways to keep your kids’ education on track, what to do with bored kids, how to make memories, how to provide healthy snacks, how to talk to kids about the Covid-19 situation — it’s overwhelming. It’s too much.

As a children’s ministry leader, I find myself having to take a step back, quiet all the noise, and remember my role and my main concern before all of this happened. How do we get parents to flourish in their God-given role as spiritual leaders in their homes? I urge you to keep the phrase “Resource, NOT replace.” handy. Write it on a sticky note and put it on your computer or somewhere you’ll see it many times a day. Know that this is a time to let our parents take the reins and to encourage them that they CAN do this!

Encourage them, encourage them often, and then encourage them some more.  Be the still, small voice that whispers to them that they are capable and that they’ve “got this.”

They have been called, for such a time as this.

Look for part two of this post, which will cite specific ways we can navigate these resources, pass them along to our families, and connect with our ministry kids!

Kris Buckman is the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s children’s ministry and VBS consultant