Children’s ministry is hard. From early Sunday morning drop-off to late Wednesday night pick up, the church nursery and children’s ministry classrooms are constantly teeming with children of all ages. When the church halls and sanctuary are filled with the sound of kids’ laughter and chattering, there are signs of life in church. In the midst of this pandemic, however, there has been a deep lacking of those joyful sounds in the building.
Oklahoma Baptist children’s ministers and directors across the state have been flexing their creative muscles in order to reach the children that would normally be down the hall. Since quarantine started, these church leaders have discovered new ways to connect with children over social media, the phone, in the car and more. Their reach goes to church members’ children and neighborhood kids, as well as unchurched families.
Jenks, First Associate Pastor of Children Keith Badgett drew a socially-distanced crowd with the church’s drive-thru Awana Ceremony in the church parking lot in May. Attendees would pre-register and then arrive to take part in the ceremony, honoring their children’s accomplishments in Awana scripture memorization. In-car activities included Chinese fire drills, honking their car horns, and waving out of the windows and sun rooves.
“It was actually a lot of fun!” Badgett said of the ceremony. “We called each child’s name, and they literally drove around for their awards.”
Many other churches have had to think outside the box when it comes to children’s ministry in the summer. For McAlester, First; Skiatook, First; and Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, thinking outside the box meant getting outside the church walls. Both Skiatook, First and McAlester, First decided to move their church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) to their towns’ parks to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.
Carrie Wood, McAlester, First’s director of childhood ministries, noted the change and what good came from having to be more dynamic and flexible as a ministry.
“The best thing about it was that we had some kids come to VBS that frequented the park,” Wood said. “I’m not sure they would have come if it was in our church building.”
The McAlester, First children managed to raise nearly $2,500 in offerings during VBS, a record collection for the church’s children’s ministry. The offering went to a local non-profit that provides meals at no cost for children in the community.
Oklahoma City, Quail Spring’s Children’s Pastor Mark Jones discovered a new way to reach kids outside the church walls as well. After assembling teams of children’s ministry volunteers and workers, Jones mapped out four parks in their church’s area. The teams then went into those communities to offer free ice cream as a means through which to connect to local families.
Along with these churches, many more children’s ministry directors and ministers went to great lengths to provide creative and meaningful ways to connect with children and their families. Idabel, First assembled “buckets full of fun” for children in their community. The buckets each contained items for crafts, Bible study, and a snack time. Bethany, Council Road created and posted kid-friendly devotionals on social media for parents to share with their children. Minister to Children Sarah Hagar and Minister to Preschool Dondra Lonsdale spearheaded Bethany, Council Road’s efforts in keeping the children connected and engaged online during quarantine.
Many children have been forced this year to face bigger-than-life issues such as death, isolation, confinement, sickness, social unrest and an overall sense of change and fear. The church is engaging with these little minds and hearts in ways that meet them where they are, providing a way for clarity, love and hope.
Charlie Gatton, childhood ministry partner for Oklahoma Baptists, has been encouraged and impressed with the childhood leaders across Oklahoma.
“In true servant fashion,” Gatton said, “children’s ministers put on their creative caps and made changes to everything. Nothing has looked like we planned it this year, but children in neighborhoods and communities have still heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ despite our plans being changed. I know that God has used what we had to offer to show His glory!”
To discover helpful resources for Oklahoma Baptists children’s ministry, visit oklahomabaptists.org/childhood.