Written by Kerry Provost

Full disclosure—the decision to limit staff’s face-to-face interactions at Awana due to COVID-19 felt a bit like a punch in the gut, or a serious inconvenience at best. Socially, I am a hugger. I need a fairly constant dose of people around me, and I can easily feel isolated or lonely.

On top of that, my kids are at home, which can make it challenging to get things done. I am a creature of habit, and this situation forced me to consider these habits and re-evaluate them in light of all the change forced upon me.

Then I saw a letter from a church partner giving parents specific suggestions to engage their kids at home. Simultaneously several pastors posted alternative ways to conduct Sunday services; I heard reports about virtual services gaining higher attendance than ever before. Some neighbourhood friends began thinking creatively about how to get families through the weeks ahead. Suddenly I found myself on a chat board with six new friends, planning virtual dinner parties and game nights.

Opportunities abounded to be creative and demonstrate God’s love through my relationships and how I cared for community. I have been challenged to think about this situation not as an obstacle but rather as an opportunity. It is still possible to engage with families and build relationships. The key is to find an alternative that works for your ministry. 

Here are some ideas to consider. While I compiled them with COVID-19 in mind, they can be used in any time of crisis, or as a way of including someone who has difficulty accessing normal ministry operations.

1. Create a group FB page or group email to release weekly lessons and encourage kids and their families to engage with you through them. One caution is to remember child protection policies and Plan to Protect best practices. There should be no private messaging with kids and no private chat rooms; every piece of online communication must include parents and or other leaders.

2. Encourage family game time. Suggest families play their favourite board games. Or, for the more ambitious, why not try some Bible trivia or a mini quizzing tournament?

3. Suggest kids record themselves reciting Scripture.This couldfollow a set schedule, or you could simply encourage kids to share with you about what they are reading and what it means to them. This is a great time to encourage positive messaging on social media or through videos.

4. Ask kids to send messages to their leaders or other people in their churches. This could be a thank you note for all a leader has done or a note of encouragement to an elderly person at church.

5. Suggest creative ways kids can be involved in their community. Some suggestions might be to write letters to people who are chronically ill, elderly, or unable to leave home. Consider cleaning up garbage in your neighbourhood, baking cookies, or doing yard work for someone you know. Consider ways to support medical support workers through small acts of kindness like thank you notes or flowers.  

6. Host a virtual prayer night. This pandemic has impacted so many. Use a world map to travel across the globe, praying for healing, encouragement, provision during financial losses etc.

Even actions that seem small can impact lives in significant ways. In the end we may learn a lot from having to think creatively about ways to engage and disciple from a distance. Imagine families being encouraged by your leadership during a challenging time, parents learning to engage meaningfully with their children, and kids creatively caring for their communities.

There are opportunities, even in times like these. Ministries have a chance to lead by example and learn to be adaptable. 

For more ideas and resources, follow @awanacanada on Facebook.