the shape of leadership

The Case for Continuing Online Children’s Ministry

Five reasons to keep reaching kids wherever they are, even after churches reopen

Mark Entzminger on May 14, 2020

It was only several weeks ago, but it seems like a lifetime. We were getting ready for a normal Sunday morning, 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 across 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 this “church at home” season of ministry.

The quality of production was quite varied, but the heart and passion were consistent. The message to 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 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 reasons to continue to maintain an online presence 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 a pocket or purse.

Children’s ministry leaders can find creative solutions to reach children who cannot show up at church.

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 ever visit.

4. Online is repeatable. Not only can the content you release be shared with others on social media, but now when parents ask their children, “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 schedules. 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 am not suggesting online ministry is the only way a children’s ministry should proceed in the future. However, I’m 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 to become more effective for the future.

I’m sure there are some who are thinking about the quality they are able to produce and wondering what others will put online that may cause families to disengage. That could happen. However, 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.

Higher quality production will always be there, but relationship is the key to capturing people’s hearts and motivating 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 move into the future.

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