Our first thought when we think about doing ministry with children during COVID-19 is all the things that we will not be able to do.

The children can’t touch each other, so how are we going to play fun games? How are we going to get the children to keep 1.5m away from each other? How are we going to be able to get the children to keep their masks on? The challenges can make it seem impossible.

But, if we are serious about wanting to help children grow in our faith, maybe we should take a different approach. Rather than looking at what can’t be done, let us see what can be done.

We can still give the children challenges to do on their own.

We can still tell bible stories and use creative ideas to present them.

Children can still read their bibles and pray.

We can still ask the children questions and they can still answer.

We can still sing songs and children can still do the actions.

How can we do this?

In this article I will explain some solutions that I have found to overcome the physical issues and find ways to do ministry too.

Solutions for practicalities

Keeping children socially distant

To do this, the best solution I have found is to mark out the spaces where the children can sit. This can be done by placing chairs at 1m distance from each other, or if you don’t have chairs, you can use cones or mats to mark out the space where they should sit. For a large group make these marks in a grid, but if you have a group of under fifteen, they could be set out in a circle. As long as you clearly explain where the children can sit, then I have found that most of them are good at keeping to it during the programme.

Registering children quickly

Before the session, all children need to be registered, answer some questions and have their temperatures taken. If you have a large group, allocate several leaders to fill in the registers to speed the process up. This can still be done with just one thermometer, as the time consuming part is writing the details down. It is also wise to mark out spaces for the children to stand while waiting to come in, so that they keep their distance.

Occupying children outside the programme

Arrival and ending times can be problematic in a programme with social distancing. When the programme is running, they are engaged and so less likely to mess around, however if they arrive early or have to wait to get picked up, that is when problems may occur. The best solution is to have something simple that they can join in with while they are waiting, something that is not essential to the teaching for that day. This could be a worksheet they can do in their seats, an activity run from the front or songs which they can join in with as they arrive.

Solutions for ministry activities

I have found that we can still do most ministry activities with the children, by making small changes and taking a few precautions. Here are some practical ideas to help you with your ministry.

The main thing is to keep things flowing from one activity to the next.

This ensures that the children are not left sitting still for too long at a time. If your activities are engaging and involve them, they will be able to concentrate – even through an hour long programme. This means having lots of short activities and breaking up the talking sections with activities where the children can stand up and join in. These could include songs, games or saying the memory verse and prayers together. The more the children interact with the programme, the easier it will be to maintain the discipline.

Some of our activities like songs, talks and dramas, actually require little change, as we would have presented them up-front anyway. The same would be true of a group discussion or bible study, where the only difference is the distance between the children and wearing masks, which will require you all to speak a little louder, so everybody can hear. However, activities such as games and craft require more preparation and creativity, since they involve children touching equipment.

Teaching time

For your teaching time, interactivity is the key to helping children engage. The more involved they are, the less likely they are to get bored and mess around and so the easier it will be to maintain social distancing. There are many ways to do this. One way is to ask the children questions through the talk to get their opinions. Another way is to use drama or object lessons to grab the children’s attention. You can check out some object lessons on our YouTube page to get some ideas. A third way would be to have a worksheet that the children fill in as you go through the talk to help them connect and engage.

Memory verses

Children can sometimes get bored repeating memory verses over and over again. However, if you turn it into an fun activity or challenge, then it can actually help engage children and prevent them getting distracted. One way to do this is to have a puzzle they can solve to find the memory verse. Then you can give them a copy in their seats and they can solve it without moving. Another way is to have a competition to say the memory verse between different parts of your group. You can make it competitive by seeing which group can say the verse loudest or by writing the verse out in different colours and getting each group to say only the words from a different colour.

Games

In the case of games, you can’t have running around games that risk them bumping into each other. However, you can have challenges where volunteers compete against each other at the front to see who can win.

Another way of doing games is to think of games like Simon Says, Robot or Ice-cream where the children can take part without moving from their seats. If you have a lot of space and time, you can also adapt games slightly to make them suitable for use. For example you could add a new rule into the game to add to the challenge of the game. An example of this is socially distant Soccer.

Socially distant soccer

The game is played on a smaller pitch, with zones marked out using hoops or chalk for each child and spaced 1m apart. The children are not allowed to leave their hoops during the game. Then you drop the ball into play and they must pass it around and try to score. If the ball stops outside the reach of any player, then the closer player is allowed by the referee to fetch it. You can also have games where people have to throw balls at targets or into buckets and the first team to succeed wins.

Most games can be adapted in some way, if you have enough space and time to make them safe for children to play. The key is to sanitise the equipment and the children’s hands on a regular basis, so that the risk of infection being passed between them is reduced. If you are playing a long game with lots of equipment, one solution is to take regular sanitising breaks and then let the children touch the equipment again. This will reduce the risk of transmission.

Creative prayer

Having an engaging prayer time can be hard, with so many children wearing masks and the struggle to hear them praying when spread so far apart. One way to engage them is to get them to write a prayer on a specific topic on a piece of paper, while still seated. Another is to use a Response Prayer, where you say something and they all say a set response each time. i.e. Lord, help me to trust. A third way of helping them learn to pray in a socially distant world is to get them to repeat a prayer after you. Each of these things can be done from their own chairs while still remaining socially distant.

Worksheets and colouring

How do you do worksheets and colouring activities, when they can’t share crayons or pens? The best way I have found to overcome this problem is to place the worksheets under the children’s chairs at the start with a pen. Then they are able to pick them up and do them at the right time. Provide each child with two or three crayons that they can use to colour in with and tell them they cannot share them.

Quizzes

One extra activity that can work well from the children’s seats is to have a multiple choice quiz on the bible story from either last week or this week. The children can then put their hands up for the answer that they think is right and join in that way. You will see their excitement when you reveal the answer and they get one right.

Think outside the box

Hopefully, you will have seen that though there are challenges to doing children’s ministry, while still being fun at this time – it can be done. The key is to think outside the box and to involve the children as best as you can from where they are seated in every aspect of the programme. If you would like to develop your skills and be more creative in any of these areas please feel free to contact me for more advice or to find out about our regular online training events for people in children’s ministry.