Some churches have already begun on-campus children’s activities, but others are still considering their options. Without my evaluating the questions or offering any responses, here are some of the questions pastors are telling me they’re considering:
- Should we follow the lead of local schools? That is, should we re-start children’s ministries only if/when the schools have students on campus again?
- Will we have enough vetted volunteers to restart the ministries? We’ll likely need fewer of them, but it might be tough to get all we need in some cases.
- Where do we start? If we can’t restart every children’s ministry, where do we begin? Most churches I know have started with some ministry that takes place during the Sunday morning worship service.
- What steps do we need to take to keep the facilities clean and sanitized? More specifically, the question relates to how we keep them sanitized as much as possible while children are present.
- Should teachers wear masks? Some local authorities are providing guidelines here, but other congregations have to make their own decisions.
- Must children wear masks? Like question #1, should we follow the direction of the schools? If children must wear masks, at what age should the requirement begin?
- Should we take temperatures of children and workers before they enter the building room? Some schools—and churches—are already taking this step.
- How do we practice social distancing among children? They naturally want to play together, and it will be tough to keep them apart for any length of time.
- If we’re practicing social distancing in space, is the reduced maximum number of children worth our restarting on campus – or should we only maximize our virtual offerings for children? At the risk of sounding impersonal, do we have a minimum number of children we want to see coming?
- Should we decrease the amount of time set apart for children’s groups? For example, should a one-hour children’s group prior to COVID now be no longer than 30-45 minutes?
- If more children will be in the worship service, how do we best incorporate them into the service? Too many churches (even before COVID) almost ignored children in the room during a worship service – so this question is a good one.
- What’s our plan if we learn of a volunteer or child who has tested positive for COVID? Waiting until the almost inevitable happens is not the best approach.
What questions would you add to this list?
Churches will also need to consider the latest research findings on the role of children in the transmission of COVID-19. These findings point to children playing a much larger role in the transmission of the virus than previously thought. Young children have been found to carry a viral load that is greater than adults hospitalized for COVID-19. A growing percentage of the new cases are school age children. A number of churches that relaunched their children’s ministries did so on the basis of outdated research and may need to reappraise their decision to relaunch. Some may have chosen to ignore what research was available at the time they relaunched their children’s ministries. They may have also bought into the mistaken idea that children are immune to COVID-19 or they experience only mild symptoms if they are infected with the virus. There is unfortunately a lot of inaccurate or false information on the internet and even groups spreading this misinformation for their own purposes. What churches need is reliable information from credible sources to help them in their decision-making.
How will we let the congregation and community know that we are taking this seriously?
With changing scholarship, statistics, and interpretation, there still needs to be criteria by which the church makes its decisions. Our members are comforted knowing leadership’s decisions and choices are not capricious.
With respect to the contagious nature of this virus, we may have to restrict our physical gathering together. Any changes are initiated in prayer, sought with godly wisdom, seeking the health and safety of all, we may change restrictions, locations, and times, but we will continue to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ.