It’s 2020, and ministry leaders are facing some new challenges in maintaining community during a season of scattered gatherings. And utilizing technology in kids ministry poses unique hurdles because we must always be extremely sensitive in how we interact with minors.
Most of us, as a result, find that any social media and technological strategy in our kids ministries must primarily be directed toward parents and caretakers, but don’t feel as if you are limited to only interacting with the adults in a child’s life. There are some great ways to interact with kids, as well as their parents and caregivers.
What are some of the tech tools at our disposal? Like in most circumstances, we want to choose the best tool for the job. We wouldn’t grab a hammer if we were trying to saw a board into pieces, right? So let’s begin by talking about the goal we want to achieve and looking at which tech tools will fit those goals.
A few notes before we open the “toolbox:”
- Always follow your church’s policies and guidelines when interacting with minors, even in a digital environment.
- Notify parents well in advance to share your plans and set proper expectations, even invite them to be part of the experience.
- Encourage parents to talk with their kids ahead of time about respect in a digital world. i.e. don’t roam around the house, respect others, listen when others are talking, etc.
- When interacting with kids online, remind them (maybe every time you meet) of good practices of digital interaction. i.e. don’t roam around the house, respect others, try not to talk when others are talking, try not to be distracted and leave the device unattended, etc.
- Be sensitive, but be creative. Try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else. We are all trying to figure out how to hold onto community during this unusual time.
- Be aware. Any meeting link you publicize openly is fully public. This may invite unwanted people to join your meeting who could cause major disruption.
- There are way too many tools to cover them all or even to go in-depth on several, but we’ll cover a few of the big ones.
- Remember how hard it is to keep kids attention in-person? It’s even harder in digital communication. Be prepared, be personal, be on point (concise).
Want to connect with all parents through written announcements or challenges (among other things)?
- Facebook group or page (facebook.com/groups)
- Pages are good for this type of communication; but groups are better for more private ministry information/interaction
- Email (mailchimp.com or whatever your church uses for communication)
- Your church may already have a way to do this. MailChimp has free accounts and you can create nice looking emails, and even embed video.
- Mass text (remind.com, groupme.com, textinchurch.com)
Want to host a daily challenge or photo scavenger hunt?
- Use church account if possible or set an account up for your kids ministry
- Facebook group or page
- Groups tend to be best if you are asking families to post pictures
Want to send out one-way teaching videos (non-interactive)?
- Facebook live (while facebook live has interaction, interacting through comments only can be a bit clunky)
- Youtube Premieres
- The premiere feature allows you to schedule a “watch party.”
Want to host an interactive small group?
- Zoom (more info below)
- Up to 100 people
- Up to 10 people
- Facebook live
- No people limit, but interaction is limited to comment interaction
- Google Hangout / Google Duo
- Up to 25 / Up to 8 people
- Set up a free account or sign in with facebook or google
- Works on desktop, laptops, and mobile devices
- Great for small or large groups within kids ministry
- Kids will feel valued with face-to-face time with you
- Initial setup can be very simple (or more complex if you want)
- In “My Account / Meetings
- Schedule a New Meeting
- Select time, duration, etc.
- Click “Save”
- Copy/paste the “Join URL” into an email, text, or facebook group.
- At the time of your meeting, click “Start Meeting”
- A few limitations:
- If you have more than 2 additional people in your meeting, the meeting time will be limited to 40 minutes.
- No more than 100 people in a meeting
- Connections are sometimes unstable
- Paid versions are also available
- Be aware: If you make a link public, it is public. This means anyone, even someone who might be profane or disruptive, can join. Reports have been circulating of people “hacking” into public zoom meetings being vulgar. Read more here about keeping your Zoom meetings safe.
- Create a closed group for parents
- Pages are good for announcements and fully public info; closed groups are best for posting pictures, videos, and more private community info.
- Free video call platform
- Available on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices
- Limited to 10 participants
- Often more stable connection than Zoom
Disclaimer: Lifeway and Lifeway Kids are not affiliated with the resources listed above. Please familiarize yourself with their terms of agreement statements before employing them in your ministry.