This post was written by Matt Morgan, a member of the INCM Blog team.
In the uncertainty of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we can be certain of one thing—the season we are in will change the season to come. All of us are already accepting “new normals” that we couldn’t have foreseen. Whether it’s individuals wearing masks or companies adapting in order to survive, all of this will leave behind a different world.
As Children’s Ministry leaders, we also need to be preparing for the ways this pandemic will change the ministries we lead. The shock of coronavirus on every individual’s sense of safety will likely lead to different expectations from the families who we engage in our ministries.
Here are four ways you can prepare for children’s ministry in a post-pandemic context:
Thoroughly review all policies and procedures—especially those related to cleanliness
One of the lessons learned from this pandemic is that preparedness is key. Many states found that the impact of the virus was lessened by how effectively and quickly they responded. The policies and procedures of your ministry are the best preparedness to prevent the worst from happening or to respond quickly and appropriately should the worst ever happen.
In light of COVID-19, it might be wise to review your policies on classroom ratios and wellness. It may also be a good idea to review procedures related to medical and weather emergencies. If possible, ask for the input of a medical professional, a first responder, or even your church’s insurance to get their feedback on your preparedness.
When Jesus invited the children to come to Him, He was first and foremost inviting them to a place of safety. As we return to ministry in the coming months, we have the opportunity and responsibility to ask, “Are we inviting kids into a place of safety?” Our policies and procedures should be written and implemented so that kids are always as safe as possible.
Prepare for higher expectations from parents regarding safety and security
First and foremost, we need to review our policies and procedures because children are worth it, but also because parents will expect it. As communities return to a sense of normalcy, it will be natural for parents to be even more vigilant about where and with whom they entrust their children. Our ministries need to prepare for the expectations of parents regarding our safety and security to be higher than ever as they return to church.
The key to preparing for these post-pandemic expectations is communication. Now is the time to overly communicate with volunteers and parents all that you’re doing to keep kids safe.
In our ministry, we’ve always taken pride in how we maintain a clean environment for preschoolers. But in light of coronavirus, we need to reevaluate the toys and furniture we have in each preschool classroom. Our normal cleaning procedures involve deep cleaning each week between ministry events, but we recognize parents’ expectations will now be for us to deep clean everything in the room between services. To do so will require us to limit the toys and reduce the amount of furniture, but it’s a necessary change to show that we value the safety of kids as much as their parents.
If you’ve learned a way to increase your safety or security measures in light of coronavirus, it is OK to share that with parents. They will appreciate that you are learning and growing.
Search for opportunities to resource parents for the task of protecting their family
Along with higher expectations, many parents will have heightened fears and anxiety. These fears—if left unaddressed—can become a barrier to the message of the gospel. One of the ways we can minister to families in the season to come is by providing resources that help them feel educated and equipped to protect their families.
Consider partnering with other churches to host a night of learning. Invite presenters from the fields of medicine, information technology, or law enforcement to speak on various ways to keep the family safe. An equally important but lesser thought of resource is mental health professionals. Do some research on the licensed counselors in your area who work with kids. Ask for their permission to share the practice contact information with parents or to make referrals to their practice when needed.
Reassure fearful parents with the hope and peace that comes only from Jesus Christ
One of the most important things to remember as we return to ministry in a post-COVID context is that parents need—now more than ever—to be reassured of the hope and peace that comes only from Jesus Christ!
In his work, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We have no power to remove the suffering of families who lost a loved one to coronavirus. We cannot fix the problems caused by a father who has lost his job. We can’t even relieve the stress caused by hours upon hours of sheltering at home. However, we can remind parents of God’s love and power in this uncertain time.
We can remind them of the countless promises He has made to us and how all of His promises are Yes and Amen in Jesus! Parents need to be encouraged to model trust in Jesus throughout the uncertainty so that their watching kids can see how true peace and hope come only from Him!
It’s impossible to know all the ways the coronavirus might change our world. As ministry leaders, we need to prepare as best we can for the days ahead and do all we can to provide the safest environment for kids. Our prayers are with you as prepare for these changes and may you be strengthened by the God who never changes!
Matt Morgan is passionate about seeing kids of all ages understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us! His love for children’s ministry comes from watching his parents faithfully volunteer in ministry for more than 30 years. Matt felt the call to work in ministry at the age of 16 and has been serving in some capacity ever since. He now serves as Kids Pastor in central Arkansas. He lives there with his wife and best friend, Dana. They’re doing their best to raise and disciple two daughters, Maggie & Macy. They all love spending time outdoors, playing with cute animals, and eating s’mores!