Creating online content for families

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3 Jun 2020
When lockdown began, lots of churches transferred online. For many of us, the question of how to keep families engaged and connected was something that we’ve wanted to explore.

Here are a few things to think about, which might help you find a good fit for your church. 

Remember, your church has a unique culture. The needs of the families and the way they like to interact will be different. It may not be appropriate for you or your church to produce any online content at all and that is totally fine. But if you do go down this route, take ideas and inspiration from others but don’t feel you need to look like them. I've shared some examples for you to take a nosy at, at the bottom.

1) What’s the aim?

Decide what it is, work towards it and state it often. There are loads of things that you can achieve with online content but don’t try to do them all.

For example, for my church, we decided we wanted to:

  • equip the parents to help the kids engage with the service (which follows immediately afterwards)
  • give them tools to use throughout the week and 
  • spark interesting conversations in families. 

We chose to create a short video and play it before the adult sermon.

A large church I know found that what people were missing most was the chance to connect and interact with each other. So their aim was to facilitate good relationship building. They’ve opted for Zoom and put people in breakout groups to share stories and pray for each other.

Another church has focused on reaching out to kids who don’t often come to church, and equipping those parents well. They focussed on making those parents feel welcome and avoiding confusing Christian jargon.

You may want to say this at the start of each video session. You could put it on your website or in the description and links for the video. You may need to remind your church leadership and the other people in your church what it is that you’re aiming for. Some people may default to thinking of children’s activities as entertainment or to keep them occupied. If this is not what you’re aiming for, make that clear!

2. Share key truths.

Use this as an opportunity to build confidence and encourage parents and carers. We know God has put them in the perfect position to disciple their children but many of them feel they lack the confidence or the tools to do this well. So spur them on with truth and teach them skills to help them as the video progresses. We have a whole post with ideas of key truths to share here.

3. Be like Ikea, not the dentist.

Many parents and carers are tired and guilt-laden that they’re not doing enough because they’re juggling a lot of different things. Let these times be something they look forward to! Inspire them - like an Ikea trip for an Ikea-lover! Avoid being something that they dread because they’ll feel bad they’re not doing better - like the dentist for a dentist-fearer. Give people options and let them know you are here to love, support and serve them, not tell them that they’re not doing enough. The Key Tools  give parents and carers something practical. They don't require preparation, craft resources or a theology degree to get going with.

4. Keep it simple.

I know you have three brilliant points and each one has a genius sub-point with an extra illustration. But, resist the urge to shove it all in! Be brutal in your editing. A win is, keeping something so simple that a parent remembers it and can use the tool again during the week, not that you used every Bible verse you thought of. A quick ask around you wise people suggests 15 or 20 minutes is probably the maximum you want to aim for if you're making a video like this.

5. Facilitate encounter.

It’s God that helps, transforms and renews people - not us! Give them options and time and space to meet with God (this could be within the time you have together or a suggestion for later). We have more on inviting people into encounter here.

6. Don’t worry if you’re not the world’s best singer/dancer/video maker with a million sound effects and animations.

Sure if you’re tone deaf, don’t sing, but people value authenticity over spangliness and kids love to see people that they know. By being real and being you, you are already creating a window for them. If you want to include all-singing, all-dancing content, feel free to link to it in the description but don’t make that the main focus of what you’re doing. Also, don’t overthink it. Just because you can, there’s a temptation to do multiple takes and keep trying to do better edits. Focus on the purpose and make sure it doesn’t zap your time and energy either. I do one take and leave all the messy bits in, and you know what, those are often the bits people like most!

 

Examples

St Paul's Church, Cheltenham

Jennifer and her husband Simon have been making midweek challenge and Sunday family slot videos

Here's an example of her creating a window into how she connects with God, framing it for the families watching and equipping them to do it themselves by leading them in chat and catch.

St Luke's, Kentish Town

This is Natalie, leading her families in chat and catch.

Cirencester Baptist Church

Naomi explaining why we chat and catch and helping her families engage with it.

Family Church Online, Thame

Sian creating space for families to share stories and frame for their children.

Christchurch, St Albans

Becki shares

In my sessions, I get the kids to ask their grown ups a question that relates to the theme so ‘when have you known God was with you?’ ‘When have you experienced the Holy Spirit?’ etc. It’s a very subtle way of creating windows but I haven’t explained that - I just get them to ask the question.

Lifespring Church

Laura has been making weekly short video specifically to equip parents and carers. He's one on encouraging parents to get their kids chatting to God.

Church on Berryfields, Aylesbury

Gemma incorporates an activity from earlier where she was helping parents to frame the role of the Holy Spirit into their chat and catch time. She also made bite-sized videos for her families to introduce them to the key tools.

New Life Church, Milton Keynes

Here's an example from my church, where we're equipping parents to spot and unwind wrong views of God (something which we'd started them thinking about the previous week).

I've also written out the pattern that we follow each week, in case that's helpful:

  • Welcome and explain what we’re here to do. (2 mins)
  • Song - keep it short and simple. Use as an opportunity to model different ways to engage with worship. You don’t always need to choose kids’ songs. (2 mins)
  • Opening idea or illustration. Make your point or introduce the tool you’re using with a memorable illustration or relatable idea. When they forget the other bits or they all blur together this is often the bit that people can hang onto. I like to aim for both an ‘aha’ lightbulb moment for the parents but also that it will pop back into their brain when they’re rushing around in normal life. (2 mins)
  • Bible story/passage. Because we are trying to help those families who want to engage with the rest of the story. I found the easiest way to get around both copyright, time and looking-at-the-camera issues was to tell people where the Bible story from memory. Give people the reference so they can look it up and check what you're saying. Be creative. Use lego, soft toys or whatever you have in your house, but don’t feel you have to spend hours creating an accurate model of Goliath. (3 mins)
  • Response (often song/reflection). Open up space for God-connection and give people options how to engage with it. Try to make this something they can replicate in everyday life. (2 mins)
  • Give them a next step - we’ve been leaving them with a challenge to do during the service which follows. We know some will wander off and do their own thing, which is fine. But, it offers an opportunity for side-by-side connection with God where parents can frame other parts of the service for their kids. We also give links to videos for the songs and Bible passages, so families can find them again. There is also often link to a post, article or podcast from Parenting for Faith to help them take it further. We also give two or three ideas to spark a conversation. These are often opening up opportunities for creating windows and framing e.g. ‘Share a story of a time where…’ (3 mins).

If you’re using Parenting for Faith in your online content, send us a link. We’d love to share more examples of how you’re using it or tips based on your experience.

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