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Ready, (Re)Set, Go!

By Rachel Pilcher | Posted In Ministry Tools

Ministry in 2020 meant slowing down, scaling back, and stepping up to do things in new ways. For children’s leaders, it was a year of unmet expectations and unused supplies. But just as kids are resilient, so are their pastors. We are ready to take 2021 by storm.

We are ready to plan the next Easter egg hunt, Vacation Bible School, and fall festival. Many of us missed out on those events in 2020, but 2021 is a year of reset.

However, we need to keep a few things in mind as we look ahead to a new year.

1. Equip Parents

Many parents already do a fantastic job of discipling their children. They see the local church as a supplement to their discipleship at home. Others rely more heavily on church leaders to provide Bible training.

However, the pandemic forced parents across the country to become schoolteachers and ministers overnight. Even if children’s pastors were making videos, offering online activities, and dropping off goodies at doors, parents took on most of the responsibility of spiritual formation.

As we enter 2021, we need to think about how to continue to equip parents as disciple makers.

When planning events for the year, ask these questions:

  • How are parents engaging in this event?
  • How can we help parents understand the significance of this event?
  • What can parents and children do together after the event?
  • How can families continue the conversation at home?
  • Can we provide a takeaway for families?

When planning in this way, equipping parents becomes intentional. It’s not an afterthought, but a strategic approach to involve the entire family at every step.

For example, my church hosts a family Christmas service every December. It includes skits, games, a telling of the Christmas story, giveaways, and lots of fun and silliness. We use this service to kick off our annual Christmas series.

We give something to every family to help them remember the message.

One year, we gave away Joy Jars — canning jars with slips of paper inside. We encouraged families to write down all the reminders of joy during the Christmas season and place them in the jars. On Christmas Eve, we had them open the jars and read through the month of joy moments.

It was a great way to help parents and kids remember that service. Without a takeaway, many would have remembered the fun and silliness, but not the point.

2. Train Leaders

Amid shutdowns, safety concerns, and social distancing guidelines, the past few months taught us all to rethink how we do things.

Last fall, our entire student ministries team was quarantined because of COVID-19 exposure. This meant postponing multiple activities. When we were planning these events, we never asked, “What happens if our leaders cannot be here?” Now that question is an important part of the process.

Even when the pandemic is over, emergencies can arise. An event’s success should never depend on a particular person’s availability. Training one or two alternates to step in and lead the event if needed helps ensure the continuation of ministry.

Having volunteers and staff members ready to pick up the baton and keep running will take your team’s preparedness to the next level.

Flexible planning helps ensure the experiences will be great even if they go online or require some modification.

3. Keep It Fresh

We’re ready to get back into a routine, but that doesn’t mean we should just resume where we left off last year.

I still have supplies and plans we were unable to use in 2020. It would be easy and convenient to make this a do-over year. However, I prefer to consider it an opportunity for a reset.

This is a time to reevaluate, consider new ideas, and seek God for fresh vision and anointing. This year, no one can say, “We have always done it that way.”

Give yourself and your teams the freedom to plan differently. Pray for fresh and creative ideas.

4. Stay Flexible

Technology played a vital role in ministry during 2020. Going forward, we should continue to leverage all the tools at our disposal.

When planning events, we now ask, “How can we take this online if we need to cancel the onsite plans at the last minute? How could we modify this to accommodate ever-changing rules and regulations for safety?”

Last spring, we had to rethink our Easter egg hunt at a moment’s notice because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we found a safe way to adapt the event.

We created kits that parents could pick up. These contained all the things families would need for a fun egg hunt at home, including plastic eggs, candy, bags for collecting, and crafts and activities. We heard from many parents who loved the idea.

As we fill up our calendar for 2021, we will create backup plans. In previous years, we always had a rain plan for outdoor events. In a post-COVID world, we are taking it a step further and creating a Plan B — and even a Plan C — for every event. I want a backup plan for my backup plan!

With contingency plans in place, we can move ahead with confidence and a flexible mindset. This allows us to enjoy the process of event planning again.

It’s fun to look forward to hosting quality events for our community. Flexible planning helps ensure the experiences will be great even if they go online or require some modification.

5. Celebrate Families

Families have been through a lot this year. They have lost precious moments, faced fears, and navigated new challenges.

We need to take the time to highlight the bright spots in their lives. Whether it’s new babies, salvations, family achievements, baptisms, or other milestones, let’s look for reasons to celebrate with families.

We provide gifts for special moments. When parents are expecting, they receive a parenting book with a note of congratulations. When the baby arrives, we deliver a onesie, another parenting book, and a restaurant gift card. At baby dedications, we present flowers, a children’s Bible, and a parenting book.

The celebration of milestones continues until the child graduates out of our kids’ ministry and heads to middle school.

Find a way to celebrate all the milestones of families in your ministry. Kids receive trophies and ribbons for sports and academic achievements. Shouldn’t the local church get in on celebrating as well? When we celebrate our families and their kids, we are showing them they are important to God and us.

We have such a cool opportunity this year to plan ahead with intentionality. Spend some time praying and fasting for a fresh reset. Ask God for creativity, intentionality and resourcefulness. Pray as you equip parents, celebrate families, and reimagine your events and ministry.

Get ready, reset, and go!

This article appears in the January–March 2021 edition of Influence magazine.