Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lessened, your minister has given you the green light to start up children’s programming at church again! As exciting as this news is, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. It’s been SO LONG since you’ve heard little voices singing and playing in the Sunday School rooms. It’s one thing to dust off the children’s church curriculum, but how are you going to best minister to kids whose world has been so different for the past year?
Children are so resilient–much more resilient than we often give them credit for. But even with that understanding, it will be a big adjustment for them to begin gathering together again in larger groups. Many children are likely to feel very uncertain about reentering larger environments and reengaging with activities that have been off limits for so many months. There are some things you and your ministry staff and volunteers can do to help them ease back into these activities.
Remember that every child will come with a completely different experience. Some children have been at home with little social interaction. They’ve completed their schooling virtually, or Mom may have begun homeschooling during this time. Some children may have headed back to their school building, but it all looked so different filled with masked faces, social distancing, plastic partitions, and strict sanitation rules. Some children may have witnessed a sick family member or listened to nightly news stories about the virus. Other children may have had very little disruption to their life, other than wearing a mask when out shopping. It’s important to remember that all families will be coming from a different place. You can think of this as a child’s “Covid story.” And because each person has had such unique experiences, each person will reengage with the world a little differently.
It is important to affirm each child’s “Covid story”
As kids begin to have opportunities to reengage in social situations, you may see all sorts of behaviors—everything from hesitation to the overenthusiasm. You may see children with some anxieties and fears that seem atypical (concerns with “safety” or “germs”). You may have children struggle with transitions or schedules. And you may observe some children who are rusty with their social skills. It will take some time and encouragement for these kids to become comfortable and confident in their world again, so a lot of love and patience is needed.
Affirmation of feelings and gentle words of reassurance will be helpful. Lots of smiles and high-fives are fantastic ways to help little hearts feel safe and loved. Allowing children to take their time and not feel pressured to fully participate right away will offer reassurance. As mentioned before, kids are so resilient, and before you know it, you will have a rockin’ house of kids worship again!
Use this moment to teach children about a very faithful God
In light of the tumultuous past year, we can help children understand the unchanging and steady character of God and help them to see all that God provides us with each day. We can help kids grow in God’s peace as we teach them that God doesn’t want us to live in worry or fear. And what an amazing time to talk about Jesus, his compassion, and the amazing gift of salvation!
No matter how unsettling things are, the end of the story will not change
Through Jesus, we will be safe with God forever one day, and what a great day that will be! Conversations about God’s care and trustworthiness can offer an amazing opportunity for true, personal relationship building with Christ as children not only focus on God’s blessings but begin to rely on God’s promises as well.
What about the parents and caregivers of the children we minister to? It’s so important that we work to help parents reengage in corporate worship and ministry too! Parents have been through the wringer during this pandemic. Wanting to protect their families and having to adapt to a new way of life for a time has certainly been a heavy weight on their shoulders. Many parents have had to figure out how to work from home. Some have lost jobs. Many have felt frustrated, scared, and alone. Parents may need to hear some of the same messages mentioned above. They may need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and may be struggling with feeling God’s peace.
Offering words of encouragement is a great place to start. Help parents feel comfortable and understood by listening to their stories and respecting their personal “Covid story.” Remind them of biblical truths. Pray with them and for them. Help them feel the love of their Father through your loving and welcoming words. Consider offering family nights this summer to help parents reengage in the church as well. Coming together for a family game night or church-wide picnic in the park will help build relationships and offer support among parents too!
Don’t forget the opportunity to build upon a faithful relationship with God
Romans 8:28–39 reminds us that this life will be filled with struggles, but God never loses control and will work all things according to his purpose. Friends, this pandemic is an opportunity to help children and families grow in their faith, be reminded of God’s promises, and go deeper in relationship with Jesus. Take that knowledge with you as you reopen your doors and know that God is working!
May God bless your ministry abundantly!
Hearts Alive provides liturgical congregations a high quality, three-year children’s curriculum that combines captivating content, lectionary alignment, and gospel focus for students ages 3-12. Join our Hearts Alive Community to learn more about the curriculum and connect with others using it in their congregations.
Photo by Megan Flick / Lightstock
This article was originally posted on Bible Study Media’s blog.