This week, Amy Fenton, Orange Specialist and Executive Director of Orange VBS, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss key questions and ideas for churches to consider as Covid-19 restrictions begin lifting.
Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, Amy Fenton, Orange Specialist and Executive Director of Orange VBS, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss key questions and ideas for churches to consider as Covid-19 restrictions begin lifting.
Usually, we come to you live from the Orange offices in Georgia. This week, just like the rest of the world, we’re live from Georgia, Tennessee and California via the digital glow of a Zoom call.
If anyone’s counting, Kellen’s on Zoom call number three by 10:30 a.m.
- Gina confesses a love from video calls. Please FaceTime her so she can see the whites of your eyes.
- Mike prefers handling life via regular call instead of 49 text messages.
- Kellen requests carrier pigeon.
We’ve recruited Amy to join us this week as she works closely with thousands of churches across the country on strategy and ministry. And right now, we’re all in need of a new strategy.
Covid has changed our world, including the local church. It’s changed us as leaders.
As a local church, we can double down on what we’ve done, or see it as opportunity to pivot.
Before Covid, online church experiences for kids were nearly non-existent. Seven weeks ago, everyone was forced into it.
We are proverbially building the bridge as we walk on it.
1. In this new scenario, how do you define success?
Gina: What should this look like? How do you define if you are winning? It’s hard to know if families and kids are engaged.
Kellen: Content is being made and put out. But I can’t know how many people are checking in today. How do you follow up with new guests? How do you know if there are new guests?
Amy: Everybody is doing it a little different. They’re looking at their context. I spoke recently with three churches: One doesn’t have the bandwidth to personalize their experience, so they are sharing Orange’s at-home curriculum. One is using this content but personalizing. One is recreating the whole experience live with their own people.
Mike: True engagement and true discipleship is not just about showing up to the service. The same thing is true online.
In the last seven weeks, we’ve had nearly one million clicks on Orange curriculum. That’s great, but we don’t know how to interpret those numbers.
Gina: There are multiple concepts clashing. A kid sitting with a small group leader was the starting point to foster a relationship so a kid could get to know somebody who knows God. We always have to remind SGLs to remember people who have been missing from their circle for several weeks. Now we don’t know how to assess that. We have a disconnection problem.
I love that this has forced a situation in which we have to figure out how to provide an experience online. There needs to be a next step, and it has to move beyond providing content to creating a system of connecting with families.
Kellen: When families and kids went to service, we had circles and SGLs. Then Parent Cue would connect to home. Now we have to do a blend. Now your new SGLs are your parents.
It’s the church’s job right now to think of parents as small group leaders. The kids’ perpetual small group right now is the home.
Mike: Right now parents are doing everything. Some churches are seeing engagement with parents on the decline.
Amy: Churches winning the most right now are ones that had intentional small groups set up. They say, “you reach out to your few, your eight, and let us know what we can do to empower you.” They are seeing more engagement.
It’s not too late to figure out how to do it.
Gina: I talked with a leader this week who said, “The shut down has increased engagement. The SGLs are wanting to connect more, and parents too.” He already had a system in place.
Mike: The ones not getting engagement are trying to do everything themselves.
Content v. Connection
Covid has exposed the priority that churches have made on small groups and intentional voices in the lives of kids.
It’s still not too late to do something different about it.
Gina: The heart is consistent with every ministry leader. They desperately want to support families. They know parents feel overwhelmed. They don’t want to give them more to do. I love that this tension is felt. Some leaders are resourcing in practical ways like resources to deal with anxiety and how to work from home while homeschooling kids.
Here’s a shift that’s a game changer. Take a resource like a conversation guide: when it comes from you as a ministry leader or the web site, it feels different than when it comes from the SGL, who has the personal connection.
Mike: The corporate emails right now feel like just one more thing. You can cut across all that noise with a small group leader.
ATL United called all season ticket holders individually. They could have sent an email, but they took the time to divide up and call over several weeks.
Gina: Personal touch changes everything.
2. When we do start meeting together again, what does it look like?
Mike: Churches are listed as businesses that can open as early as May, depending on the state. This will leave it up to individual churches. We obviously want to do it responsibility with the proper precautions.
How soon is too soon? What does we need to take into consideration?
Kellen: As a church plant, we meet at a school. We have to go by when the schools open and when they are comfortable with outside organizations coming in.
We’re going to have to continue our online and virtual strategy, no matter when we reopen church doors.
Gina: Online should continue.
Amy: There are so many things to ask. Just because we can meet doesn’t necessarily mean we should meet.
- What is the new emergency plan?
- How do we screen volunteers and parents?
- How do we handle it if someone finds out later they were in our ministry while positive for corona virus?
Many churches are leaning into local health departments and/or daycares that have stayed open to see what they are doing.
Andre Jones has put together a focus group to ask parents what will make them comfortable coming back. Do we need to do family worship for the next year?
It’s personal to your church and community.
Gina: The passion around this question for each church is going to be tied to how much that community has been affected by Covid.
This changes the way we see the world. It changes how a parent will see your building. They see infected, not clean. How do we lead with information to give them security?
Mike: We’ve discussed the importance of environment. This is true more than ever. We have to communicate what we are doing, why we are doing it, and the guidelines that we are using.
Gina: What does a church risk by opening up too early?
Amy: We have to think about protecting volunteers, parents, and kids.
Volunteers are at greatest risk. There is so much unknown about the virus. We can screen, but a kid may never show they have it and possibly still be a carrier. What if a volunteer gets sick and blames your church? Is there liability?
Ask those questions. You don’t want the church to be the thing that spikes cases in communities.
Mike: People will view this by how Covid has impacted their community. Follow the lead of your local government and schools.
If your current strategy is working, don’t feel like you have to rush back to your old way. One misstep can be a big black eye for your church.
Ask these key questions this week:
- What has the shut down shown about the priority we place on small groups and small group leaders? How can we increase priority on connection through small groups moving forward?
- What practical steps will we need to take for families to be comfortable in returning to church (and children’s ministry) once restrictions are lifted?