Pressure has been real to provide relevant ministry to children

By Elizabeth Franklin
Director of Children’s Ministry & Kindergarten
First Baptist Church, Laurens

Leading our Children’s Ministry at FBC Laurens during a global pandemic is not something I had on my bucket list. Anyone else feel the same? This season has been quite challenging in many ways, but the part that currently affects me the most is the summer scheduling for our children, ages birth through 5th grade. The pressure has been real to provide quality programming while social distancing or in fact, no in-person gatherings at all.

Summer camps were cancelled or moved to a virtual platform, Vacation Bible School happened on a new level — set displays created for videoing, instead of live, in-person fellowship and fun and finding new, creative ways to reach our children has become a new norm!

Our staff meets weekly to discuss how we can be creative and safe during COVID-19. It’s a conversation that has been exhausting for each of us on the ministerial staff at FBC Laurens as we navigate these new waters.

Since our children and families were suddenly thrown into a world of virtual learning in March, we wanted to be as mindful as possible that by early June, parents were overwhelmed and exhausted with computer based learning. Instead of leading our kids in a virtual Sunday School experience, we decided that providing a children’s devotional book for our babies and toddlers would be a great way to minister to our “little ones” that parents could read at bedtime or when it suits their schedule.

Our older preschoolers and elementary-aged children were provided an activity book filled with wonderful weekly assigned lessons that can be used independently while their parents meet virtually on Sunday mornings with their own Sunday School class. We felt this would be a welcomed changed to the virtual exhaustion that many felt as we entered into summer. We’ve offered an incentive to those children who complete each months lessons to encourage them to keep Sunday School a priority!

Our regular scheduled summer camps that our children participate in such as Camp McCall, PASSPORTkids!, VBS, and Fine Arts Institute took a tumble leaving the summer filled with a lot of extra time. We were able to host a “mini” virtual PASSPORTkids! experience thanks to the hard work of the PASSPORT summer staffers and we’re currently in the process of pre-recording our virtual VBS.

Just like many of you, I have been a part of VBS each and every summer since I was a young child, so not being able to meet in-person for VBS this summer is disappointing. However, we’re excited to offer it in a new, fun way that will allow the kids to enjoy this time together with a small group of friends in their own home if they feel comfortable or with their family!

Another great opportunity that our families at FBC Laurens have taken advantage of is a chance to sign up for a monthly “Taste & See Kit”, drive thru/pick up style. This kit has been designed around the verse “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalms 34:8” and includes a family devotion, a fun activity that can be enjoyed together, and games or an experiment that provides Christian education.

In June, we baked cookies. In July we made ’mores! In August, popsicles. We are definitely tasting and seeing that our Lord IS good even when life has changed drastically and seems overwhelmingly challenging at times.

Our children’s ministry has even managed to squeeze in a couple of safe, socially-distanced opportunities to enjoy homemade ice cream together made by the old-fashioned Front Porch Churn!

As many churches continue to wrap their minds around creative ways to worship and fellowship, the silver lining amongst it all has been the opportunity for families to spend more quality time together.

This has been the hidden blessing in this pandemic. Meals around the table. Families worshiping together in their den. Family game nights in the yard. Memories being made that will last a lifetime.

As a staff, we have put our heart and soul into making virtual worship the best experience it can be.

We understand that even after we begin to meet in-person, many families will still use this method as their preferred way to worship until they feel more comfortable joining in-person.

Providing a quality online worship experience remains top priority for our staff. In doing so, we feel that having a children’s sermon included most Sunday’s is important. We want our children to remain engaged and have a portion of the service just for them so that they can relate to the message that’s being delivered on any particular Sunday.