Maximizing Children’s Ministry in a Hybrid World

This guest post was written by The Orange Team.

Over the past year, churches have started leveraging digital platforms to inspire faith and engage kids. With all the change, a new model for children’s ministry has developed – virtual and hybrid children’s ministry. At least for the near future, virtual environments in children’s ministry are here to stay. This new territory has several advantages for better serving families and spreading the Gospel message to every child. 

However, after a season of leading both in-person and online, many of us kids’ ministry leaders are left asking similar questions:

  • How do we continue to lead in-person and online well?
  • How do we keep kids engaged?
  • How do we keep families coming back?

Let’s walk through some key points to consider as you implement digital discipleship in your children’s ministry.

Digital has no boundaries

Before going digital, churches had barriers set by time, space, and resources. But now, there are no boundaries! Digital discipleship allows us to meet kids exactly where they are, whether that means places beyond our church’s city limits, our typical resources, or our schedule.

Truthfully, if we only choose to do in-person ministry, we miss out on an entire group of people who are waiting to connect with God and others. What if by engaging in digital discipleship, you connect with someone who doesn’t live near you? What if it connects our kids with someone who doesn’t look like them? What if it connects families without a car to church? You see, digital discipleship breaks dozens of boundaries for community that would otherwise be missed with only in-person church.

Strive for connection over content

While the content you produce is important, it’s not what will keep people engaged month after month of virtual church. We don’t want to be another Netflix, endlessly creating content that results in screen discipleship—a place where families go to simply watch. The goal is to create meaningful connections that result in digital discipleship—a place where kids go to engage and interact in conversations about Jesus.

Some ways we can build connections are through engagement questions and virtual small groups. When we lead effective small groups, relationships form.

You can also build connections through parent Facebook groups or give parents the opportunity to watch the content with their children. After watching together, you can cue them with conversation points to have as a family at home.

Redefine your roles

Digital discipleship calls for us to redefine the typical in-person volunteer roles. For example, you may need virtual small group leaders, a digital content team, producers, camera people, hosts, storytellers, worship . . . the list goes on! Perhaps you need a care team with volunteers to check in with families, online tutoring, or other connections. Recruitment guides are perfect for recruiting leaders and putting them in the right spot.

You can even redefine the roles of parents by making a parent council or parent Facebook group, providing them with resources to help them disciple kids from home. As we redefine our roles, we build the capacity of the church to make digital discipleship work.

One of the biggest sinkers to recruiting ministry workers is not retaining the ones who God has sent. While instituting recruiting strategies in order to help get people in the door, the door will be constantly revolving if retaining strategies and techniques aren’t in place.

Embrace Virtual VBS

The call to embracing digital children’s ministry doesn’t stop with Sundays. Your church can keep families engaged at home this summer with virtual VBS! Now more than ever, digital families need to get in the mix with community and relationships. What better way to provide an experience this summer than through a virtual VBS?

Through virtual small groups on Zoom and digital recordings of worship, teaching, and activity segments, families can participate in VBS at home. To find everything you need to host a successful virtual VBS, head to this VBS training page.

Measure what matters

Rather than emphasizing the number of views on a series, the number of faces on a Zoom call, or attenders on a live stream, let’s measure what really matters—life change. We can measure this by analyzing our engagement.

To measure engagement, you can create a dashboard with several data points, including the number of kids consistently showing up for a group, the number of kids taking next steps, the number of volunteers signing up to serve, and the number of parents getting engaged.

You could also measure this engagement through surveys or forms that people fill out to share their engagement levels. Playlister has an incredible free tool in which leaders can send home an experience directly to any device. View times and other data measurements can be seen within the dashboard Playlister provides.

The bottom line is to focus more on the life change shown through engagement than the views.

Remember the Mission

As we venture into digital discipleship, one thing is for sure: Our mission has not changed.

We still want to partner with families to help their kids know and love God . . . the method to do that has simply evolved. Rather than kids coming to us, we get to come to them right where they are. May we all embrace the changes that digital discipleship has for our ministries and the kids inside them.

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