Churches are beginning to discuss their plans to resume corporate worship, small group Bible studies and children’s ministries. After several weeks of isolation and distance ministry, the question has shifted suddenly from when we will get back together, to how we will get back together. How and when may look quite different from state to state, city to city, and church to church. Your plan to reconvene needs to take into consideration the official federal, state, and local guidelines for gathering in your area.
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The implementation of these guidelines within kids ministry may be more specific and detailed than in other ministry areas. So where and when do you start? Begin by praying and gathering information to inform your own action plan for moving forward. We at Lifeway Kids have identified 6 key areas for kids ministry leaders to consider when making their plans for returning to church.
- Ministry Strategy — Think through how your overall approach to kids ministry fits into the overall plan of your church. Your church’s plan will influence the reopening of your kids programming. Think through the group sizes, meeting spaces, and social distancing practices that will be necessary in each of the reopening phases outlined in your local governing guidelines. For example, we may first be able to gather in smaller groups of 10, then 50, before we are able to meet without restriction. This will have a direct impact on how we relaunch our in-person kids programs. Realistically, your children’s ministry may lag behind adult gatherings. In the meantime, churches will need to decide how to continue to minister to those who choose to keep worshipping virtually as well as those who return in person. Examining your strategy for ministry will help focus your efforts and resources.
- Learning Environments — Many aspects of your learning environments will be impacted. Finding ways to maintain personal space during kids gatherings, and elevated cleanliness practices will be essential. You may need to have different plans for preschoolers than you do for older kids. You might initially need to limit the maximum number of children in each room, which could include asking families to pre-register their children each week to reserve their spaces. Reevaluate the size and layout of physical ministry spaces to determine how many children can be accommodated. The teacher/child ratio could potentially be altered as well. Assess the use of classroom tools to help manage kids’ behavior due to anxiety and stress, maximize space, and utilize supplies.
- Teaching Resources — Teaching the Bible to boys and girls is a priority; however, your curriculum needs may change. The size of classes (including children’s worship), number of classes, and number of teachers could be smaller at first, but, as your community progresses through the phases of reopening, your group sizes will continue to grow, and may change very quickly. It is important to make a resource plan for the largest group you anticipate before the end of the quarter, even if it takes a while to reach that larger group size. Take these factors into consideration when ordering curriculum. Additional factors include the age of children in the classes and whether your church uses print or digital curriculum. It may be important to continue to provide your own videos and other downloadable digital resources for families who continue to worship virtually.
- Policies and Procedures — Now is the time to review and update your policies and procedures. Some of your current policies and procedures will need to be elevated, others may need to be added, updated, or eliminated. Read through your current handbook and look for items that may need to be updated in light of new COVID-19 protocols. Make a list of new concerns around cleanliness and meeting spaces, and consider how you might incorporate them as revisions. Be sure to evaluate and address best practices around hygiene, wellness, and cleanliness. Also consider the number of classrooms that you might open at specific times and the arrangement of classroom spaces. It is wise to not do this in isolation. Consult with your church’s legal advisors and insurance providers so they can review your current and updated policies in light of new operational considerations.
- Volunteers and Leaders — Volunteers are essential to kids ministry. Start thinking now about how your team may look different when you return. Don’t assume that all of your volunteers will be able to continue to serve. Some leaders may be hesitant to serve due to health concerns. You will likely need to recruit and onboard additional volunteers. Now is a good time to start having conversations with your current team to ascertain who may or may not be back. Use this time of preparation to communicate and minister to teachers. Begin casting new vision now so you can formulate an action plan before you meet again. You can find excellent kids ministry training resources online at ministrygrid.com.
- Effective Communication — Clear and consistent communication will be an important part of the process of coming back together again. You will need to communicate with families and volunteers to let them know what to expect the first Sunday they return. Share the comprehensive plan and updated guidelines for engagement. Include key church leaders to ensure they are informed. Set predictable cadences and methods of communication so that everyone knows where and when to look for official updates and information. This may include updating or establishing your kids ministry communication lines through your church website, Facebook group, newsletter, email and/or text updates. Effective communication will make the transition as smooth as possible.
Kids, families, and volunteers will be excited to get back together soon. They will all be looking to church leadership for a reentry plan that is safe and sound. Now is the time to prayerfully design your plans around the key areas of strategy, environments, resources, policies, volunteers and communication. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and strength to meet the new and emerging challenges of ministry in this unprecedented time, and know that in the coming days, the Lifeway Kids team will provide tangible tools to help you navigate this unique time.