Ideas for helping kids engage with online church
The good news is that church is not the centre of kids’ discipleship – the home is, and your kids are learning about God from you in the ordinary everyday bits of lockdown life. But church does bring something extra and special as we connect with the community of God’s people and hear different voices.
So how can we help kids engage well, without it turning into a battle?
Here are some simple ideas that might help. Have a look and pick and choose a couple of things you might want to try - and leave anything that doesn’t seem like a good fit for your family.
Work out why you want them to engage and focus on that
Take a moment to think about what it is about online church that you want for your kids. Is it so they stay connected to their community, or is it to learn about God, or is it to know you are worshipping and praying together with others even though you are physically separated?
Once you’ve worked that out, you can frame (or explain) that to them, and then focus on helping them engage with those bits and not worry about the rest. For example: I’d like you to stay in the room while the talk’s on but you can play quietly / join in for two songs and then it’s OK if you just want to cuddle / if you don’t want to watch the service now that’s OK but I’d like you to catch up later / OK, you can go now, but come back in 10 minutes so we can catch up with everyone over our Zoom coffee.
If you'd like to think about this a bit more, we’ve a whole post on this here.
Help everyone get their head in the game
One of the blessings of online church is that we don’t have the whole urgent rush rush rush to get us to church! But it can also mean that your kids are kind of catapulted into church and don’t have the journey time and the arrival chat to adjust and realise this is church. So give them signposts that it’s nearly time. Make sure they have everything they need – a comfy chair, their toys, pens, phone, colouring sheets, Bible, drink, instruments … whatever will help them – and you – engage well.
Frame for them so they understand what’s happening
When we frame, or explain, what’s happening it can help our kids engage. Some things that might work for you:
- Explain to them why you like online church or feel you ought to be there or how it helps you: for example, I love that we get to wave at everyone and connect with them / when I hear Pastor Joe speaking I’m reminded that God has big things to say to all of us / when I sing at home and see everyone else singing in their homes, it makes me feel happy to be part of a big family worshipping God.
- If it’s hard for your children to identify the different parts of the service, you can draw their attention to what’s going on on screen: look at how different people are worshipping / Jenny’s going to help everyone chat to God.
- If your church meets via video call (like Zoom), make use of the mute button to point out what's happening in the service and how people are engaging with it. If your church streams a live or pre-recorded video, feel free to pause the video to chat about something in more detail.
- If your child can read, help them to engage with the online comments. You could also read these out to them e.g. John has just typed something he caught from God, Jill really agrees with that or Sarah is asking that we pray for her sister. If appropriate, help them add their voice by typing in or clicking emojis to show when something really resonates with them.
Quick ideas for...
Helping kids engage with worship
- Don’t insist they sing: singing online can be a challenge! Frame for them that worship isn’t just singing, but is remembering who God is, keeping our eyes on him and saying thank you, which we can do in lots of ways.
- Explore with them other ways to worship: for example, dancing, flag waving, drawing, playing instruments
- Give them some options you are comfortable with: for example, lie still and connect with God / draw or write what these songs are saying / join in with your instruments / wave a flag or dance / sit close and cuddle me / close your eyes and just listen.
- You may find this simple illustration with a balloon a good way of helping them think through why they worship as a starting point for discussing ways they can do that (with thanks to Jennifer Fellows, Assistant Pastor at St Paul's, Cheltenham):
Helping kids engage with prayer
- If you’re able to stop the video, you could stop and pick up on what’s being prayed for and add your own family prayer for that bit before carrying on.
- Encourage your kids (and you) to chat to God themselves, either when you pause the video or later, about some of the things mentioned in the prayers and catch God’s replies.
- Ask them to listen and see which bits God highlights to them and write those down to pray about later
- Invite them to draw or write their own prayers
- Before the service begins, ask your kids to ask God to show them one or two people on the screen he’d like them to connect with or encourage this week
Helping kids engage with the Bible
- If you know what the story is in advance you could read it together first so it’s not new to your kids
- Ask them to listen out for any bits they don’t understand / have questions about / spark an idea in them so you can talk about them later
- Help them follow the reading on your phone / their bible
- Invite them to recreate the story as they listen: for example by drawing it / modelling it / recreating it with lego or their toys
Helping kids engage with online talks
- Don’t feel you have to make them sit through it if it’s not something they can understand. Give them some choices about what they can do instead: you can sit quietly with me / draw / play / watch tv / leave the room
- Ask them to listen out for key words / phrases
- Ask them to summarise the talk in two or three sentences
- Link the rest of your week to the theme of the talk: for example, if it was hope, look out for signs of hope on your walk, share stories of hope, pray that God brings hope to hopeless situations
These are just some suggestions that may help - but we know you've got more! Send us any ideas you've tried that have worked well for you, so we can add them to this post. And don't forget, whatever it looks like in your house remember that just by being there for online church you’re modelling for your kids that it’s important for you: anything else is a bonus!