At the start of the pandemic, children’s ministries everywhere were asking the same questions.
What does social distancing look like with kids?
How will we accommodate everyone’s safety preferences and opinions?
Is this even possible?
On top of these concerns, we’ve had to consider the feelings of parents. Some are eager to drop their children off, and others are strictly staying at home. Most parents live in the complicated middle, just like many of us in children’s ministry. We want to protect our children in any way possible, but we also want them to be involved in church community.
Frank Bealer, the CEO of Phase Family Centers, offers several tangible ways to create the safest environment for kids while nurturing relationships with families in this season of COVID-19.
Keep Clear Communication
Since the start of the pandemic, parents are being bombarded with communication about new health and safety protocols. While it might seem gruesome for your children’s ministry to add emails to their already-flooded inboxes, this communication is vital to maintaining trust with parents.
In your communication, be clear and cautious regarding your church’s guidelines. Frank Bealer details several tips on communicating your plan with parents in this interview. He suggests that you avoid saying phrases like “this is the safest place.” Instead, communicate that you’re doing all you can to create a safe environment. This is certainly not a time to over-promise, because parents want to see you doing exactly what you said you’d do—no more, no less. Your children’s ministry’s liability forms do not need any added words regarding COVID-19, but if the guidelines you communicate to parents aren’t followed, it could expose your ministry to some liability issues.
To help keep your space in-check with your health plan, it’s wise to have someone outside of the ministry inspect how protocols are being followed on a Sunday. Give them a checklist of what they should be seeing. Ask them if they see the right things being done and if they feel good about it. The more that parents see these guidelines followed, the more comfortable they’ll feel about coming back.
Create a Health Protocol Plan
Information on health and safety measures is coming from every which way. However, local schools and childcare facilities have already developed relevant strategies for safety when it comes to kids and adults coming together. You can turn to educational facilities that have opened near you to get inspiration for your plan.
For other helpful resources, download 9 Tips to Re-open Your Ministry Safely for practical considerations on re-opening. You can also use the CDC’s school and child care resources, which include guidelines for safe reopening of child care programs, visual posters of health protocol for kids, and decision-making tools for leaders. As you heed the advice of those leading this work, you can begin to create a plan that works for your ministry.
Just as important as establishing your children’s ministry’s guidelines is staying consistent in your protocol. Whether your protocol is strict or loose, keep the bar set for parents to get acquainted with the changes in this new season.
Partner with Parents of Different Perspectives
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of implementing health protocols in this pandemic is trying to accommodate parents with different opinions. Every parent is entitled to their opinion about the safety measures that the church is taking. And frankly, whatever decision a parent makes is the right decision for them. We never want to judge a parent for their perspective, but rather support these families in their concerns.
However, we’re not able to cater to every parent’s personal preference. It’s just not possible. Regardless of how diligent your protocols are, they won’t be enough for some, and they’ll be too much for others. No matter how much communication you send, some parents will still miss it and show up without a mask. Instead of insisting that they were sent an email, do whatever you can for that one conversation. Get their email again. Verify it in the system. Send them a test email so they’ll get the next one. Whatever it takes to get them to accept these new changes and embrace communication.
For the parents who come to you frustrated or angry about the policies you have in place, you can say, “This is what we’re going to do in this season.” The word season doesn’t lock us into days or weeks or months—it indicates that we’re constantly reflecting and will shift as needed.
As Frank Bealer says, our job as children’s ministry leaders is to do right by the families in our church. Our job is to compassionately invest in people. It’s to care for our families, build a relationship with them, and share our faith with them . . . and then pray. Pray that families feel our compassion and see our dedication to the whole audience each and every Sunday.