Keeping kids engaged during a semester of online learning
ALEXANDER, Ark. - Navigating the territory of online children’s ministry has been an interesting experience for most. With many school-aged children dealing with online school, it has been easy to become overwhelmed with video calls and lessons.
Lindsey Harrison, Preschool and Children’s Ministries Director at New Life Baptist Church in Alexander, found unique ways to connect with the 90 families who are a part of their children’s ministry.
When COVID-19 first struck, she started posting life group lessons online on Saturday nights for parents to access when it was convenient for them. She didn’t communicate via Facetime or Zoom until later and only did that every other week. She focused on preschool kids one day while focusing on school-aged children another day each week.
She posted a questionnaire online with short “get-to-know-you” questions that kids could answer on video with their families then post online. Harrison said it was a way to connect all the families. Normally they’re broken up into two services and might not otherwise get to interact.
As time went on, Harrison got into a rhythm of posting daily content at 8 a.m. and at noon. The ‘Daily Thought’ was posted around 8 a.m. with a joke or activity to get the day started. It eventually moved toward serious things like reading scripture as a family. Around noon, she would post a ‘Lunch Break’ that included more jokes or random trivia. Their current lunch breaks are focused on prayer.
Harrison described herself as an extrovert and admitted that not being able to see her children has been really hard. “I’m the kind of person that does a lot in person too,” she said. However, she’s still found ways to connect with them and help parents keep them engaged.
She listed resources parents could use that included websites with articles and podcasts to listen to so they could be encouraged and feel more capable of being able to teach their children these things. Although all the things she posted might have seemed overwhelming, she assured parents she was only providing a variety of ideas to spark their creativity. They didn’t have to do everything posted. They could choose activities that appealed to their children’s learning styles and family dynamics.
“My Facebook, at least once or twice a week, has ‘thank you’ posts from parents,” she said. “The parents have been awesome through this.”
Some other things she did was post bingo cards full of words from their pastor’s sermon so kids could listen during the online service and pick out words. She did ‘Guess Where Mrs. Lindsey Is’ where she’d post a picture from somewhere around the Benton/Bryant area and have kids guess where she was. Harrison made a point to visit and keep in contact with all the kids and families, so they knew she cared and that she was available 24/7.
“I’ve had four or five parents tell me their kids are asking questions about salvation or baptism,” Harrison said. “I tell people all the time that if nothing else comes out of this time, the fact that I have kids asking questions about getting saved is the greatest thing that could come out of this.” She rejoiced that on Sunday (June 7) they had a 3rd grader saved.
While summer is going to look a little different for many churches across the country, New Life Baptist is doing the most they can to keep their children engaged. Their typical Wednesday night activities have moved to community involvement with their families. In accordance with social distancing rules, families will be encouraged to rake a neighbor’s lawn or repot an elderly neighbor’s flowers - outdoor activities that involve serving and building up their community.
Harrison said that they plan to have an in-person VBS, with an online option available, at the end of July. They also are hoping to hold a mini-sports camp, or something of that nature, on campus in July.
Emily Smith, who serves on the ABSC Evangelism+Church Health Team as Children’s Ministry Specialist, said “When COVID-19 hit, it became a new day for Kids Ministry—we were all forced to think outside of the box and outside our church walls. It’s been so encouraging to see Children’s Ministers, like Harrison, across our state coming up with new and innovative ideas to stay connected and engaged with their families. It’s so important that ministry continues in the midst of all that is happening around us although it may look different than what we had become accustomed to. We do not want to miss out on the opportunities God has provided for us to minister beyond our church walls.”
For additional ideas and resources provided by the Evangelism and Church Health team on Kids Ministry, visit www.absc.org/children. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas you’d like to add to the list please contact Emily Smith.