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Not the time to lose touch

Online or in person, churches are embracing new ways of ministering to children, says Margaret Pritchard Houston for Church Times

WE ARE on Zoom, about a dozen of us, in September — clergy, paid family workers, and volunteers. “They’re sick of Zoom,” one says, about children from her church. “But parents are beyond exhausted,” another adds, “and it’s hard enough coming to church with children normally, let alone now, with extra rules and behaviour expectations.”

“I’m just so scared of losing all those relationships,” another said. There was a sense that relationships with children and families were at risk. How can we worship and share our lives, when the two ways of being together — in person and online — are both uniquely difficult for families?

When I posed this question to people around the country, answers generally fell into three categories: keeping online church engaging, making in-person worship feel possible, and keeping in touch outside of worship.

MAKING online church work for children means including them. Six-year-old J. says: “I like talking to everyone on Zoom after the service.” A mother told me: “It’s good when someone asks them questions, and listens. They don’t like listening to adult conversations.”

Adding physical or sensory elements can help: something to make, do, touch, or smell. One mother of a three-year-old says that they “give him a chance to ‘celebrate the eucharist’ alongside the Vicar” with his own cup, plate, and bread.

The Revd Mo Baldwin, in the diocese of Blackburn, works to make Zoom as interactive as possible. “Children have tasks to do: treasure hunts, breakout-room challenges like artwork, or designing something. The families also record elements of the service.” One mother says that her children “like storytelling a lot, especially when people go out on location or use toys or props”. And “they like seeing other children taking part.”

Visit Church Times to read the full article.