Start of School/Formation During COVID

Usually or normally, we would….  Doesn’t it seem that we start a lot of things that way these days?  We are faced with developing a new normal.  Once our children head back to school in the Fall, we give them a week (or two depending on the calendar) and then we would have our big “Rally Day/Start of Christian Formation/Christian Formation Kick off.”

Where once we would have a big barbecue after the Blessing of Backpacks (see blog for how we are doing this now) filled with games and talking, we are faced with children starting school online and the inability to safely gather large groups of people.  The following week (if not Labor Day), we would have balloons lining the hallways, gifts waiting for each student, and Christian Formation/Sunday School classrooms filled with excited volunteers and children.  How do we bring that excitement when we cannot gather?  After asking myself, “What is the mission behind these events?  What is it that makes them so valuable?”  The answer for our church is community, relationships, connection (or re-connection) and learning about God.

The challenge becomes how can we create the things that made these days special during COVID-19 spread?  To build community, I am introducing a church-wide game.  We are having a Lego-My-Bible LEGO Master Tournament.  Everyone will participate by either building or helping vote (see previous blog on how I am doing this).  To build relationships, I am creating a prayer and pen pal buddy.  Children sign up (so only those who truly want to do this).  I will match them by age/grade.  Children write letters, schedule facetime talks, and think of little gifts they can make for each other.  Most importantly, they pray for each other, which is formation and relationship building.  I will share prayers to help when they cannot find the words.  I, also, have started a letter writing campaign with the goal of writing a letter to each child by hand (that is over 150).  I am hoping to get some volunteers to write encouraging letters in October to all children if we are still in “Shelter-at-Home” status. Connection is a little bit harder.  It is hard to connect to something bigger when we are alone.  I plan to continue weekly formation and chapel on line each week, but am adding other ways that are not as organized.  Lunch with Deacon Lauren on Zoom is my plan.  With a small age appropriate topic, I plan to spend lunch hour once a week with children by age/grade.  The goal is to connect to each other as we “share” a meal together.  Learning about God will continue in partnership form.  I plan to post live-streams that can be watched throughout the week, Children’s worship twice weekly and the Family Bible/Devotions on my “For Families” page.

Translating this for your church, what is the reason/purpose you do the events for school and start of Christian Formation/Sunday School?  What are your goals?  How can you take those things and translate them to online?  If you are having trouble finding alternatives to your goals, please feel free to contact me and I will help think of ideas.

Have a blessed and safe start of the school/program year!

Virtual Summer Camp

Families are looking for something to fill their children’s time. This is a great time for church’s to offer them a chance to grow in faith.

If you are like us in North Carolina, most Vacation Bble Schools were canceled. Virtual VBS is still a possiblity, but many of the things that make a VBS fun and different are lost with the online version.

Offering a unique camp experience done on line, can draw families closer to God and with their church.

Creating the Camp

First, pick a popular movie for families. We chose Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but any movie will do.

Second, pick characters in the movie and come up with their moral tie-in. find Bible stories that deal with this tie-in. For Augustus Goop, I chose gluttony and then picked the Bible story of Esau giving away his inheritance (Genesis 25:29-34), Veronica Salt (self-indulgent) and chose Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke), Violet Beauregarde (rude) and chose Zechariah laughing at the angel, and so forth.

Third, find a craft kit, game, activity pages, musical videos, and on-line sources for each day.

Fourth , get youth and adults to film skits.

Fifth-order supplies, register families, and get ready for a week of fun!

Schedule of Camp

The week before, every family picks up their kit.

On the Sunday, families watch the movie together (we made sure it was on Netflix and Amazon Prime). We also included a chocolate bar with a golden ticket saying they have been chosen to join us for camp.

Monday – Friday: We start off each day with an introduction of the day. “Willy Wonka” tells us about the character, the Bible story, and a short lesson and prayer. There are links to videos to watch our youth telling or acting out the Bible story. There is a scheduled Zoom for a group game. Inside the kit is the days craft kit with instructions, links to music video, Bible cartoon of story, other activities. At 11:30 AM, we have a large group Zoom to review the morning, talk aobut the lesson, and play another game.

Outreach activities and snack activities can be included too. I, also, looked for little toys, pencils and other giveaways for each child for the story or lesson of the day.

For Later

We plan an outdoor get together for all the families that participated and will have an Eucharist when we are able to get back together safely.