Helping our children connect with online church

Whether your church is now meeting back in a building, or still online, church children’s work has had to change. Maybe there’s nothing for them in the main service now, or perhaps you’re watching from home and the children don’t want to join in. What do we do?

Think about your goals

Why does this matter? Our goal in this season as parents is to:

  1. Help our children build their own relationship with God
  2. Help maintain the warmth of their connection to the church

We won’t always be able to achieve both of these goals every week, but there are always things we can do at home that will influence and strengthen their faith. If your children really can’t engage with church at present, focus on developing their relationship with God and keep the connection to church light and sociable for now. The warmth of that relationship to the church will be a good foundation once we’re through this strange season.

Top tips

These tips are focused on online church, but many will still be relevant if you’re meeting in person as a church but your children are struggling with it.

The heart of the church – help them understand why meeting matters:

  • The Church is Jesus’ great idea. We are connected to this wider body to bring the Gospel in word and action to the world. Staying connected to our local church family helps us stay focused on this mission.
  • We gain support and encouragement from discovering faith together, and we encourage others when we are present at church too.

Be real:

  • Online church isn’t perfect – share your own struggles, but also share how it’s helping you stay connected.
  • Ask them what they like and dislike about online church and work together to find a solution that works for you as a family.

Be intentional:

  • Look at what’s available and decide as a family what you will watch or engage with. Don’t feel pressure to attend the whole service.
  • Rather than feeling they have to sit and look at the screen the whole time, some children will find it easier to listen to church while they play. Be ready with crafts, activities, a favourite toy or snack to help aid concentration. You might want to keep the very noisy toys out of reach, so that you can all still hear!
  • Review things every few weeks and adapt things when needed.

Manage expectations:

  • Help them understand the online programme, what part you would like them to engage with, and how long that will be for.
  • Find lots more ideas from Parenting for Faith on how to engage them with worship, prayer and Bible reading online.
  • Let them know when it’s OK for them to leave and do something else.
  • Give them a time to come back together at the end of the meeting.

Create a positive ending:

  • Regardless of what each of you have been able to watch or engage with, come back together at the end of the church service and say a quick prayer for the day. Share one thing you learned as a parent from the message and ask them if they want to share something.
  • Use positive language – even if you found it challenging yourself, find one thing that you can speak positively about each week. E.g. It was so good to see so-and-so this week / I really love singing that worship song / I’m excited to hear what we’ll be doing in a few weeks’ time etc.

Working it out in real life

We chatted to one family to find out what they’d tried and learned in recent months. Here’s what they had to share.

  • We agree in advance which bits of the service we’re going to join together. We’ve found it really important to come offline when they need to, otherwise it’s just an ‘adult’ thing. Sometimes we just go on for the beginning bit, then come off and do our own song or Bible story, or we just do something totally different together.
  • Sometimes we have one of us with the older kids in one room with the screen on, and the other adult in another room with the toddler with just the audio on.
  • In our church there is an opportunity for the children to say hi and say how their week’s going. We talked to our church leader to say that during prayers our kids might not want to pray, but they would often love to show the picture they’ve been colouring or the Lego thing they’ve made – so they sometimes hold things up for others to see.
  • Don’t feel like you have to do it every week. We want them to understand that church online is as much for others as it is for them, and that part of why we do it is to encourage one another. But sometimes we’ve gone for a walk or a bike ride instead, and just been intentional with our conversations during that time. One week our daughter taught us how to draw a racing car, and we each did our own drawing. It might not sound like church but the content of the conversations was much deeper than when they’re trying to watch church on-screen! It’s tricky but we are trying to teach them that it’s not just what you get out if it but also what you bring to it, without that being a massive burden – or making Sundays miserable.
  • It’s been a good opportunity to explore what corporate worship is ‘for’, what’s important and what’s not. Even the conversation, ‘Would Jesus do Zoom church?’ has been interesting to discuss with them!
  • Every week is a new try. We’re learning all the time. You don’t have to have found THE way to engage your kids with online church. We’ve had to be OK with trying something one week and doing it a different way next time. The kids can be in totally different moods one week to the next, and this seems to impact how they deal with online church much more than it would if we were all just getting out and going to church.
  • We have found over the last couple of weeks that we’ve come to the end of our tether with it a bit, so we discussed with our church on Sunday that we’ll do one week on, one week off Zoom, and on the ‘off’ week, we’ll visit another church member in their garden and share fellowship that way.

Finding alternatives

Of course we want our children to enjoy church, but what if they just won’t engage? Fortunately there are other aspects to our walk with God.

  • Find other ways of bringing God into the everyday moments – share what God is doing in your life, or ask them what they would like you to pray for them, for example.
  • Keep praying for them! Search online for ‘how to pray for your children’ for fresh ideas to inspire you in how to pray, or why not meet online with a couple of friends to pray for each other’s children.
  • Video calls aren’t always easy for children, as they will be more used to chatting to their friends while they play together. Ask them if they want to meet up with some church friends to play, instead. This will help keep their relationship to the church family warm. Or where permitted, why not arrange a walk with another family or other adults from church.
  • Perhaps they could join you in encouraging someone else in church, whether through drawing a card together or baking something for them, for example. As we bring other people to mind, it builds those connections with our church family.
  • Is there someone from church who you could ask to encourage your child? Maybe a children’s worker or another adult in the congregation could send your child a card or message saying that they miss them and they are looking forward to seeing them again in the future.
  • Another local church (or not so local!) might provide online content that your child would find it easier to engage with. The positive side of accessing church online is that there are no geographical limits to where we can attend church. Perhaps this is a season to broaden your horizons and dip into other ways of ‘doing church’.
  • Or if ‘online’ just doesn’t work for your child, maybe during this time you even occasionally visit another local church which is meeting in person?
  • Help them find other ways that they can discover more about God, maybe through an activity book, Bible app, online video series or through talking with you and asking you questions.
  • Think beyond the Sunday morning service. Depending on your child’s age and interests, there are lots of ways of connecting with God during the week:
    • A younger child (or an older one!) might enjoy dancing around the kitchen and singing together with you to a kids’ worship tape for five minutes.
    • You could play Guardians of Ancora together and chat about what you discover.
    • If your child is more into lively activities than sitting and listening, find some active faith adventures to do together! See Andy Frost’s ‘home adventures’ on the Kitchen Table Project YouTube channel.

Every family will have found this season challenging – don’t feel guilty if you haven’t found a rhythm that works. Try to think of each week as a new opportunity to try something.

 

 

 

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