According to a recent study by LifeWay Research, only 12% of Protestant churches currently are holding small groups for children. While some churches are planning to start back in September, 57% of pastors surveyed said they are undecided when to resume children’s programs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The topic was the focus of a recent webinar, “Preschool and Children’s Ministry in Challenging Times,” hosted by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“We certainly need God’s wisdom in this time, and we want to offer some encouragement and suggestions and a few resources,” said Patty Burns, Vacation Bible School strategist in the SBOM office of Sunday School and discipleship.
Burns used an acrostic, “SIMPLE,” as a guide for preschool and children’s ministry leaders as they consider their next steps.
S — Say what you mean and mean what you say. “We need to be clear in our communication,” Burns said.
I — Information overload. “Some of our people are scared and some are tired, so we must be sure we’ve thought through every situation and our policies are clear.”
M — Move forward. “We can’t be stagnant,” she said. “What worked before? Maybe that’s what we need to do while altering a bit for this virus.”
P — Pray and plan with purpose. “Prayer is the foundation of all we do, so the first thing we must do is pray,” Burns said. “Colossians 3:23 tells us to do our work ‘heartily’ to the Lord, so we need His direction … Planning means to keep leaders fully involved as we move toward reopening.”
L — Love people and lead well. “This is always in order, but especially so in this time of uncertainty.”
E — Engage families. “Parents should be involved in their children’s spiritual education,” she said. “And there are a number of resources available to help them.”
In addition to resuming small groups for children, leaders are looking for creative ways to help children who may be staying in worship services for the first time — and their parents. Belinda Stroud, who provides leadership for childhood discipleship and Bible Drill for the SBOM, recommended several tips and resources.
To help children engage in worship, Stroud said bags of crayons for small children can be a good idea.
“You can ask them to draw a picture of the worship service or Bible lesson, and give it to the pastor after the service,” she said. “Then they could be displayed the next Sunday. A small snack in the bag might be appropriate.”
Burns said she has used “kid’s kits” for years.
“The children’s worksheets can be more worship-related, such as ‘Who had the opening prayer?’ or ‘What was the sermon about?’” she said.
“Sometimes children wiggle and squirm a bit in worship, but often this isn’t so noticeable.
“Adults can wiggle and squirm too!” she said with a laugh.
Stroud recommended the book “Parenting in the Pew.”
“Churches can purchase copies and provide them for their parents,” she said.
Another helpful resource is “Mr. Mark’s Classroom” on the web and on Facebook, Stroud said.
Stroud also cited a free ebook from LifeWay, “6 Considerations for Reopening Your Kids Ministry,” and noted LifeWay has downloadable safety posters for children’s areas.
To access these and other LifeWay resources, visit lifeway.com/en/special-emphasis/coronavirus-resources.
View upcoming SBOM training events at pinnaclealabama.org/events.