by Mark Entzminger/ April 20, 2020
It was only a few weeks ago, but it seems like a lifetime! We were getting ready for a normal Sunday morning, anticipating call-outs, prepping supplies, and rehearsing the Bible lesson for the morning. Then everything changed! Children’s ministry leaders around the globe were suddenly faced with the question: How can we present Bible teaching to children if they can't show up?
It’s a question that has been asked for several years, but many children’s leaders have felt powerless to solve it. And no one blamed them for not having a solution. It’s quite difficult to present teaching to children if someone does not bring them to church. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No—and children’s ministry leaders proved it.
In what seems like an overnight turnaround, leaders from around the nation rallied, shared ideas, and began putting hope-filled content online to partner with parents and caregivers to ensure the youngest in our churches were not overlooked in the “church at home” season of ministry.
The quality of production was quite varied, but the heart and passion were consistent! The cry heard in the homes of churchgoers was loud and clear: We can support your efforts throughout the week even if you cannot attend church.
What does this mean when people can gather together again in the future? Do we fold up the lighting tripods, delete all the footage of our online content, and retreat to what we have become so accustomed to? Or is there something more? Did God use this pandemic called COVID–19 to get our attention for a reason? If we forget everything we just put into practice, have we missed what God is trying to show us?
Here are five insights that may help you see why an online presence should be considered once we gather together again.
1. Online is portable: Traveling sports teams, children who are in homes with shared custody, or those who simply don’t show up on a weekly basis can all benefit from content that arrives on devices most people carry in their pocket or purse.
2. Online can be sustainable: This “church-at-home” season has required a significant investment of time. Everything new always does. But there are simple ways a children’s ministry can continue producing online content. Rally with some creative people—the solutions are out there.
3. Online is shareable: It’s not difficult to train the parents in your church to make it a regular practice to share your children’s ministry content with others in their circles. This helps others become familiar with your church ministry before they fill out their child information card.
4. Online is repeatable: Not only can the content you release be shared with others on social media, but now when a parent asks a child, “What did you learn today?” they can pull up online content and experience it again.
5. Online is not confined by time: Presenting content in an online fashion allows people to engage the lesson when it fits their schedule. It can be split into different segments released each day, or they can watch a portion of the session at one time, and come back later for the rest.
I’m not suggesting online ministry is the only way a children’s ministry should proceed to the future. However, I am hopeful that enough children’s ministry leaders will continue in the direction they have begun to help reach children with the Good News even if they cannot show up at church every week.
Make no mistake—providing online options is not a replacement for pastoral care and knowing the children in your ministry. Taking a position in front of a camera and never making personal contact with families is not what the online future is about. It’s about learning from our present realities in order to help us become more effective for the future.
I’m sure there are some who are thinking about the quality they are able to produce and the fear of what others will put online that may cause families to disengage. That could happen. Just because some churches might have what appears to be a more polished presentation doesn't mean they have the heart of a shepherd for the children in your church and community.
The truth is, higher quality production will always be there; but relationship is the key to capturing people's hearts, and causing them to stick with you. When a children’s ministry leader loves and cares in a pastoral way, it makes all the difference.
When it’s all said and done, I think we can agree that a microscopic virus has taught us a gigantic lesson. Children’s ministry leaders can find creative solutions to reach children who cannot show up at church. We’ve done it before, we are doing it today, and my prayer is we will continue with the same intensity as we more into the future.