The news is filled with stories of coronavirus as churches, schools, the NBA, and families reschedule, cancel and adjust plans in an evolving situation. For those of us who lead organizations who serve kids and families, we immediately think about how we can support them and stay connected, especially if we won’t be with them physically. As I’ve worked with teams in my church community while leading our kids and student teams, here are our goals as we minister to volunteers and families:
- Care Like a Shepherd: In the midst of COVID-19, we must continue to care for our kids, families, and volunteers. The Bible has a phrase for this where we compare leading to being a shepherd of a flock of sheep. Jesus uses this analogy because a good shepherd is always on the lookout for how to protect, care, and provide for his sheep in ever-changing circumstances (weather, predators, food availability, and more.) Obviously, we want to help keep them safe, which is leading to many changes in schedules, and we want to spiritually and emotionally care for them. Caring for our people must remain our number one priority. There is fear and uncertainty. The news changes by the minute. We have an opportunity to share a hope that is not dependent on the physical or emotional health of our country. A hope that extends far beyond earth. As we evaluate cleaning procedures and the best way to remain in contact with our families, we must keep shepherding our flock, the people God has entrusted to us, as our main focus.
- Empower volunteers: Share ideas on how they can stay in touch with the kids and families they’re typically with every week. Suggest they reach out to parents online and check on their kids. Give them stationary and encourage them to write notes to kids (yes, kids still love snail mail). To respect families’ privacy who may not want their home address shared, have volunteers drop notes off at church for you to address and add postage stamps. While they can’t be physically present with the kids, there are many ways to continue to support them. Empathize: Listen. Hear them. People don’t need us to tell them their fears are not justified, or they’ll all be fine. Let them process their fears. Point back to Jesus. Pray.
- Make a plan: With information continually changing, it may feel right to make decisions day-to-day. However, when possible, work with your pastor and leadership team to make longer-term plans. This enables you to then focus on connecting with and supporting your families. If you’re making the call to cancel services and groups on a daily basis, more time is spent on that than caring for your community.
- Use social media: If you don’t already have a presence on social media—do it now. Share articles and info from your church community. Don’t just post stuff about the coronavirus—instead use this as an opportunity to equip parents to lead their kids. Point to your favorite resources. Parent Cue is one of our favorites with lots of great articles and resources for families. Fight isolation by creating a private Facebook group for parents to encourage one another and share ideas.
- Create an online family experience: Find a great kids’ Bible story video then create a short introduction with ideas on how to process the video as a family—a couple of questions and/or an activity. Here is a great library of all kinds of videos to share. There is even a playlist on bravery and courage HERE. Ministry to Children has a library of free coloring pages, activities, and other great resources. If you aren’t able to do this, no worries. Our first priority is to care for our people. Parents are being bombarded with all kinds of activities and videos while their biggest need is personal interaction and care.
- Personally contact volunteers and parents: In Kids’ Club, where I serve, we say lice (yes, lice—remember when that was one of our big concerns on the weekend?) brings amazing opportunities to connect and make this big place feel small. When we’re notified of lice, we personally contact every parent who had a kid in that room. We are often blown away by parents’ responses. They love the personal call, text or email. The lice conversation often leads to much more than lice—how much their kid loves Kids’ Club or current struggles they are having.
- Help families be generous: What are the needs in your community? With school closings, some kids may be hungry, with families unable to pay for the extra and unexpected meals. Work with community leaders on how your families can help. Encourage your families to share items with each other that are in low supply. Sharing a roll of toilet paper may start a new friendship and build community. Focusing on others helps increase our resilience and brings hope to others as well as to ourselves.
- Celebrate: Keeping in mind CDC precautions, look for ways to bless people around you creatively. If you haven’t celebrated birthdays before, start now. Give volunteers lists of upcoming kids and teammate’s birthdays. Have them send a quick video, voicemail, or text greeting. Look for ways to bring joy. Drop off a helium balloon at a kid’s house with a note.
- Pray: Keep a list of families and volunteers and pray for them, then send them a text, DM, or note to let them know you’re praying for them to encourage them. When interacting with them over the phone or through email or text, end every conversation with, “how can I pray for you?” When we ask “how are you,” we often get “OK” or “fine.” But when we ask how we can pray for them often, the conversation deepens, allowing us to personally care for them as we get more insight into their real needs.
In my life, I’ve seen God take really hard circumstances and things that did not play out as I had hoped and use them for good, just like he promises. We live in a fallen world and bad things happen. In the midst of these things, we can hold on to the truth that God is still at work. For those who believe, and love Him, he will use these things for good. It’s a promise.
We bless you in your work. You are planting seeds and sharing hope in a world that needs hope. Do not give up. In the midst of this pandemic is the opportunity to try new things and use the technology we’ve been blessed with to care for our kids, families, and volunteers.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8:28
Kim leads the kids and student ministries at Crossroads, a church with sites in Ohio and Kentucky.