“It’s not babysitting, it’s leadership development.”
In VOUS Kids, this simple phrase distills our belief about what we do. Our kids department doesn’t exist so adults can sit in service. We exist to develop the next generation of leaders. We take what we do seriously and we do our best to steward the opportunity God has given us to invest in the lives of children in our church.
It goes without saying that 2020 challenged our approach to kids ministry. (It challenged our approach to just about everything.) The truth is, we were thrown into this unexpected season without a plan, vision, or strategy. As we stepped into the online space for the first time, we started to get our bearings by asking one simple question: What are kids already doing online? The search for that answer led us to where we are now.
The online world is new to us but it is not new to our kids. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we decided to learn from the people who were already being effective in engaging with kids online. As we became more familiar with what was already out there, we began to develop an understanding of how to approach VOUS Kids online.
Here are the three biggest lessons we learned about connecting with kids in the online world:
1. Connect with Their Parents
The COVID-19 pandemic moved the school into the home. For parents without previous homeschool experience, this change was likely a major shock to the system. Without signing up for the new role, parents have had to adapt their lives and schedules to include facilitating school for their kids. Studies have shown that students with engaged parents have fared better in school online than those who had to manage it on their own. In fact, some teachers have said that their biggest challenge with online education has been engaging parents.
The same lessons apply to online kids ministry. Before you can effectively engage the children, you have to engage their parents. All of a sudden, “kids church” doesn’t just mean dropping your kids off while you go into service. The change in our world has brought the need for a greater level of intentionality from parents. If we are going to keep our kids connected, we are going to need to partner with their parents in our efforts to do so. They are the ones who are going to open the laptop, pull up the lesson, type in the Zoom meeting ID. They are the ones who need to know the links and remember the times. It’s one of the many things that have always been true but have been highlighted in these changing times: parent participation is absolutely critical in the spiritual development of children.
2. Resource Their Parents
With parents stepping into the role of the teacher, they are in need of resources to fulfill that new responsibility. This is where this article gets really practical. It took us some time to build our system — and we have lots of room for improvement — but here is a breakdown of the resources we regularly provide for our parents:
- Video Lessons
- Written Lessons
- VOUS Parent Live
In the early days of COVID — you know, a few months ago — we started by filming our lessons on iPhones and working with our staff and servant leaders to have them edited and uploaded from home. As our church has adapted, invested in new equipment, and gone back to working together in person, we now have a makeshift studio at our disposal. But that is not required for getting started. Quality is important, but what matters most is creating meaningful content and engaging your kids with it.
Our current workflow goes a bit like this. We pre-record lessons in batches (2-4 weeks at a time). Each week, two lessons go up: Heroes (ages 2-4) and Legends (ages 5-11). Our Heroes lessons are 3-5 minutes long, while Legends can go 15-20 minutes. Our staff creates the content and we use our staff and servant leaders to present the content. After lessons are filmed, we work with our Creative Department to get the videos edited. This requires lots of back and forth, review, notes, edits, further review etc. Lessons premiere live on Sundays on YouTube and then live on our YouTube channel. We also provide written lessons that summarize the main points of the video lessons.
VOUS Parent Live is an online, interactive experience with our kids staff and servant leaders and parents that we conduct once a month. It’s a place where we provide important information, helpful content, and answer questions. We’ll share more about VOUS Parent Live in a future post!
3. Connect Them With One Another
While we’re grateful for the possibilities of living in a digital age, none of us got into kids ministry to post videos online. Our hearts’ desire is to invest in the lives of children and see them move forward in their spiritual and emotional development. It’s not enough for us to create content, post videos, and hope they are being effective. We need to create space for face-to-face interaction, connection, and reflection.
That’s why the most important part of our Sunday is our Kids Crews. At 12:00pm every Sunday, our Heroes and Legends have an opportunity to connect with our staff, servant leaders, and one another via Zoom. In our Kids Crews we get to worship, discuss the week’s lesson, and pray together. Without this step, we would just be another YouTube channel in a sea of millions. We don’t just want to put out content for kids online. We want to take time to get to know, encourage, and speak life into the kids in our community whom God has entrusted to our care. What a privilege it is!