Kids Ministry in the Reopening Phase: Roundtable with Christine Kreisher, Suzi Soares, Heather Celaya & Aanna Smalley
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Kids ministry has always cultivated some of the most innovative church leaders. And kids ministry is a growth engine behind the fastest growing churches today. To reopen your church without a kids ministry, I would contest, is not actually reopening the church.
Listen in today as I’ve gathered four kids ministry experts from across the country to gives us a peek into their reopening plans.
- Heather Celaya, Executive Pastor of Ministries – NorthRock Church, Texas. // This season has allowed the staff to add new levels of creativity and parent engagement to the programming. Pre-school and elementary services are available online and KidzRock increased its engagement on social media. These changes have proved a great success and will continue as parents now see KidzRock as more of a ministry than a childcare option. Plus parents have become more active participants in their children’s faith journey. As NorthRock has reopened, initially kids sat with their parents during the services to help them feel comfortable attending church. The following weekend the kids ministry fully reopened. When entering, children’s temperatures are checked, and their parents are asked if their kids have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms in the last seven days. Traffic in the halls is limited by allowing only one parent at a time to check in their child with a QR code for a touchless experience. Classes are kept small and parents are required to reserve a spot for their children so staff know how much space is needed. Start by assessing your volunteers’ readiness to come back. Keep class ratios small at the beginning and establish plans for cleaning and safety.
- Christine Kreisher, Executive Director of Ministries – GT Church, Pennsylvania // At GT Church they are looking to do a soft-launch approach where attendees come back and get acclimated before reopening kids ministry environments. In the meantime the staff has worked hard to enable parents to have church at home by providing resources from Orange. Every couple of weeks the kids team is making phone calls to check in with every family, to pray with them, and to make sure they know how to access all the church’s resources. Families are engaged and the church has seen a shift where parents are recognizing that they are the number one influence in their kids’ spiritual lives. During this time parents are developing intentional rhythms at home and the church is looking to partner with them even more by making resources easily accessible online moving forward as well as engaging more on social media. It’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of reopening and forget about your staff and volunteers; take a step back and check on their emotional health. Create a solid mental health plan so that the staff and volunteers can talk with a counselor to help them care for their souls and the souls of the people around them. Prioritize people over programming.
- Aanna Smalley, NextGen Pastor – StoneBridge Church, Nebraska // Use this time to get creative about dealing with the COVID challenge. Although social media has been a great way for the team at StoneBridge to connect with parents, it needs to be done in moderation. This is already a really overwhelming time for parents and rather than being encouraged, parents can feel like they are being weighed down with a list of things they haven’t done. Ask parents what resources are most helpful and plan activities with easy-to-find and inexpensive supplies. Refine what is shared so it’s the very best and attainable for families. Have multiple contingency plans in place to move forward as things continue to change. Think about what has been successful as well as what has been failing so that you can polish or replace those systems. Keep in mind what serves families best.
- Suzi Soares, Kids and Special Needs Pastor – Liquid Church, New Jersey // At the start of quarantine, everything was moved online and the LiquidKids team began sending out a parent prompt each day. They broke up small group teachings to allow parents to do activities with their kids at home. Additionally they created midweek calls on Zoom so that kids could hang out for an hour at lunch time with each other and team members. Parents also needed a chance to talk, pray, and relax together so eventually a Zoom call was created for them too. In July and August LiquidKids is creating online small groups for all age groups, including toddlers as well as sending daily devotionals and boredom busters to parents via texts. Previously Liquid Church focused so much on getting families to come through their doors that the building had become a crutch. They never thought about how to reach families who might never walk through their doors. But now they are working on plans to maintain their digital presence so families can engage online and the building won’t be a barrier. Think carefully about what it communicates to your kids if your church reopens without including kids ministry options. What is the story that kids will one day be telling about these days we are living in? What message is it sending if they can’t be included in a gathering? Help parents and kids process this time through a lens of faith.
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