Last Wednesday, with COVID cases and hospitalizations on the rise, we pivoted from having outdoor and online Children and Family Ministry to online only. Our online Family Faith Time attendance remained steady, families were engaged, more advent kits were ordered, and everyone had their Zoom link. I believe this is as smooth a pivot as possible. Here are the decisions we made over the last few months that enabled us to move quickly back to online only:
Creating a content management system that is private to parents. We use Mighty Networks to organize videos, printables, and links for all of our classes and our 3rd grade milestone. We use the Topics tool to curate faith resources for parents. Because membership is limited to our church families it is a safer way to share Zoom links for our online chapel and gatherings.
We have been intentional about making this the “one stop shop” for all things Children and Family Ministry as well as teaching people how to use it. As a result, our engagement has grown steadily through the fall. During Advent, when we will likely be online only, we will introduce groups and other features that foster connection.
Smaller Church Option: Use a shared Google doc to manage your content. In it you can share links to videos, printables, or other online materials.
Having a Designated Zoom Monitor: We have a college student working remotely as the host of our Sunday morning Zoom. We use one Zoom link for all classes so it is easier for parents to keep track of. Once children and families arrive in the waiting room, the Zoom monitor takes attendance and assigns them to the appropriate breakout room. The Zoom monitor also ensures our settings are set for safety (no private chatting or screen sharing). Our volunteer teachers know that they can message the Zoom monitor for tech help. We currently have 1 zoom chapel at 9 a.m. and 3 Sunday school classes at 11 a.m. Each group has 10-15 people and 2 teachers in it.
Kits: In this high tech world it is important to have high touch options. Families purchased a faith kit for their 10 week fall class. Godly Play Family Chapel kits contained wooden people and a felt desert, the Celebrate Wonder Bible, playdough, a blank book, and crayons. Third graders received a Deep Blue Bible, tape flags, memory cards, their milestone passport and a small dry erase board. The dry erase boards are a fun way to share their ideas and answers either in person or online.
For Advent we designed one kit for all four weeks. We have had a great response as families look for ways to bring familiar traditions into a very different season than we imagined.
A course catalog: Shifting from age levels to interest areas is a big move for a Sunday school program. Our course catalog provided the information everyone needed to make a choice about what would work best for their family this fall. Having choices in this socially distant world feels good. With online, outdoor, and asynchronous options many families were able to find an option that worked for them.
Many blessings as you move into Advent. Stay well.