This post was written by Leann Woelk, a member of the INCM Blog team.
One thing I believe we can all agree on in children’s ministry in 2020 is the importance of connecting online with kids and families in your church when we can’t gather together.
In 2021, we learned that even when we do gather at church there is still a need to continue to connect with kids and families online for whatever reason they are not in our church building. But let’s be honest, it can be really hard to keep the kids (and adults) engaged on the screen.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve learned a few things about engaging with kids online. Here are some of the ways that have been successful.
1. Be enthusiastic
The sound of your voice and the look on your face is all the kids see when they come to your online session. Speak clearly and look in the camera when you are speaking to the kids and let the joy of the Lord show in your eyes and smile.
2. Have a moderator
Moderators have the important job of connecting with your families in the chat who may not want to share their video or audio in the call. They can upload links to access documents, resources, or a song and answer questions while you keep your focus on the kids.
3. Know your lesson
If you’re reading your lesson, you won’t be able to see the kids and how they are reacting to what you are saying. Try putting notecards with keywords taped to your screen next to your camera so you can glance over when you get stuck but know your lesson so well that it is truly coming from the overflow of your heart!
4. Use kids names
Connection happens when we use names. Kids know they are noticed and have found a place to belong for the next half hour. Have your moderator request adults to change the username to the child’s name for the session. It will make it more personal for the kids.
5. Give short instructions
When doing an activity with online kids, make sure to give short, step-by-step instructions and demonstrate what that looks like for them. Ask your moderator to follow your instructions along with the kids so they know exactly what to do. A fun activity to play online to get them moving is “I spy” and have them run and find something in the color you chose and hold it up to the screen.
6. Care about them
Consider a “connection time” at the beginning of every session so you can know how their week went. Here is one I came up with: “1,2… Let’s Talk About You! 1 thing that was great! 2 emotions you felt.” Truly listen to what they are telling you and have the moderator jot down some notes so you can follow up with families in the following days on how their child is doing.
7. Expect delays
Your patience can be tested as you work with not only the internet glitches, frozen screens, and simply waiting for kids to come back to the computer after “taking a break.” Take a breath and wait. You can’t lose focus even when others do. Learn to pause after you speak a sentence or two and try not to talk over one another.
8. Use props
Using unusual props to capture the attention of the kids is always a fun way to get them to engage. Even more fun is to have families at home gather everyday items to use themselves in their homes during the sessions. From sunglasses to playdough, having the child use the item in the way you demonstrate it on the screen will make your point of the lesson stick.
9. Be authentic
It’s ok to tell the kids you had a hard week. We don’t have to give them details, but if kids never hear that we struggle with things how will they know it is a safe place for them to share about what is happening in their lives? Do make sure you share without a lot of details and always conclude with how God met you in the hard situation and that He never leaves us alone.
10. Stay connected
Set up a social media app to connect during the week for check-in time. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy but it does need to be monitored and used by someone on your team who you trust completely, really likes to post fun things related to what you are doing in Kids Ministry, and checks their phone regularly. This will ensure families know they are important to you between Sundays.
For whatever reason families choose to be online, as Children’s Ministry Leaders, we can ask the Holy Spirit for ways to be creative and connect with families. There are many families who may never come physically to your church, but you’ll be able to grow disciples of Christ reaching your community in ways you have never had the opportunity to do before.
As a wife, mother, and leader in the ministry of children, Leann has been serving churches, camps and conferences with enthusiasm for over 30 years with whimsical creativity and thrifty practicality. Her desire is to care for the hearts of those who are on the front lines of ministry. She partners with Children’s Ministry Specialists and their churches to provide training, support and care for them and their ministry.