If you work in a church, and particularly in children’s ministry, this has probably been your most challenging year ever. Just as schools pivoted to an online environment last spring, children’s ministry leaders sought different ways to continue ministry online, including hosting Sunday school on Zoom or posting online Bible lessons with videos for children to watch. Some gathered online to sing together or tell stories. And my personal favorite are the videos of Bible stories told with Legos and stop-motion animation. The immense commitment and creativity have been amazing to watch!
But now fall is approaching, and it’s a big unknown. How do we plan when we don’t know yet if ministries will be in person or online?
Much of a children’s ministry leader’s job is to organize and recruit leaders, purchase sound curriculum, and provide supplies and training so that the teaching is as effective as possible. But this fall, we might not need leaders in our classrooms. And the curriculum we usually use is structured for a classroom environment. As one ministry leader recently said to me, “How is this even going to work?”
I wonder if the challenges we are facing require children’s ministry leaders to make a shift—not a change in our goals for children’s discipleship, but an adjustment in our methods.
Typically, a children’s ministry leader’s job is 85-90% focused on in-person ministry with kids, with the other 10-15% focused on intergenerational activities within the church and a collaboration between church and home. But the pandemic is turning everything upside down.
This coming church year, instead of focusing on in-person ministries, what if children’s ministry leaders spend 85-90% of their focus on empowering parents with faith formational experiences?
What if our formational efforts became rooted in the home during the pandemic—not through dry or dull one-way family devotions, but in ways that are both intentional and fun? What if children’s ministry leaders used their amazing creativity to equip parents and caregivers to tend to the faith formation of the children they love in new ways?
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Invite families in your congregation to create 5-minute videos retelling different Bible stories, encouraging them to be as creative as they want in their storytelling. 5 Ways to Retell a Bible Story with Kids contains ideas that can be used with any Bible story. When done, gather all the videos and host an online movie premiere with your congregation.
Provide a list of Bible characters or stories that can be used for a game of charades, or create Bible-themed Pictionary cards for families to use. You could create a list that tells the grand biblical story from Genesis to Revelation, highlighting creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Or encourage family members to act out their favorite character and story, sharing why the story is meaningful to them.
Encourage families to create a comic strip together about a Bible parable. (You’ll find 16 parables to choose from in Luke 7-18.). Here are some comic templates you can use. Recently, a friend’s family created their own handwritten, hand-drawn version of the book of Mark, reading a portion of the gospel each day and then different family members wrote out the text, illustrating different parts of the story.
Movie nights are a fun intergenerational activity, and the right movie can spark some excellent faith discussions. Consider providing a list of family-friendly films along with several faith questions for the family to discuss together. Common Sense Media provides a wealth of resources including movie reviews, conversation starters, and more. While this organization doesn’t operate out of faith-based convictions, it’s a balanced and helpful resource.
The Family Faith Formation toolkit includes a list of family service project ideas. While some of them might not be possible in a socially-distanced world, there are plenty of activities that families can do together, sharing the love of Jesus with the world around them.
Looking for simple family faith practices to try? Everyday Family Faith is a pocket-sized resource for parents who want to weave faith into everyday family life in simple, natural ways. For each day of the week it provides fun, do-able ideas and activities for exploring small portions of Scripture, praying together, talking about God together, and living out faith. Bulk pricing is available if you’d like to purchase copies for the families in your congregation.
In all these activities, encourage families to be alert for teachable moments, to ask each other interesting questions, to look for signs of God at work around them, and to share their own faith journeys with each other.
What are some ways you are encouraging faith formation within families?
Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions or challenges about faith formation in children, welcoming children in worship, choosing curriculum, equipping volunteers, empowering parents, and more, contact Mimi at [email protected].