By Ali Thompson and Adam Bohlmeyer
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” —Albert Einstein
At this point, most churches have had to temporarily close their doors, and more and more ministries are turning to digital alternatives to meeting in person as the threat of COVID-19 looms around the world.
As you consider or continue meeting online with your group, here are a few “best practices” that might help you navigate this unexpected and unique season.
As we’ve both discovered, there is still plenty of opportunity to help grow faith and experience Jesus during this current difficulty.
Try a Video Conferencing Platform or Live Streaming
There are plenty of easy-to-use tools available to connect with your group, including Zoom, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Facebook, and YouTube. Each will help keep your group connected.
Of course, you’ll need parents’ permission, and you’ll want to make sure they’re the ones you’re communicating with about setting up a video feed. But hosting lessons over a video-chat platform gives your kids the ability to still actively engage in discussions with one another while continuing to experience weekly teaching.
TIP: If using a video conference platform, make sure you check and double-check your meeting settings ahead of time. If possible, set a required password to enter a video conference. Or enable a “waiting room,” which will require you to manually admit users before they can join the live meeting.
Keep Things Consistent
Whether it’s on a Sunday morning or a weeknight, try to hold your online meetings at a time similar to your regular in-person meetings. Consistency isn’t a bad thing, and this will make the transition back to in-person meetings easier. However, depending on your typical weekly length, consider shortening your online meetings if needed. We recommend no more than 30 minutes.
TIP: Communicate what materials (if any) kids will need ahead of time. Even if it’s just a Bible, paper, and something to write with, getting the word out early will save valuable time during the live meeting.
Embrace Discussion and Keep It Experiential
Just because you’re not meeting in person doesn’t mean your class has to change to lecture and discussion only. More than ever, it’s important for kids to interact, not just sit and listen. As you’re preparing lessons, intentionally include opportunities for kids to share and process how they are feeling and how God is helping them during this time.
We recognize that posing a question to a large group becomes challenging over online video calls. However, some video conferencing tools offer the ability to break into smaller groups. Pose your question to the large group, break into smaller groups using a tool like Breakout Groups from Zoom, and then come back together as a whole.
Which reminds me…invite the parents to join you! You have a unique opportunity in this season to give parents a sneak peek of what happens in your class. That’s a great way to equip them in processing and growing with their kids during this tough time.
Expect a Little Chaos and Stay Flexible
I mean, you’re used to teaching Sunday school…so this goes without saying, right? Video conference calls might add an extra dose of chaos, whether it’s dogs trying to participate (this actually happened), microphones or cameras cutting out, younger siblings being loud, or other distractions. That’s okay. If you’re mentally prepared for these extra challenges, you can take them in stride and laugh along with kids at the silliness.