While a majority of U.S. pastors holds weekly services online in response to the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing guidelines, how are they ministering specifically to children and youth during this time?
Curious to know what church leaders are doing for their younger congregants, Barna reached out to Protestant pastors during a weekly national survey. The findings were broadcast live on the ChurchPulse Weekly podcast on Monday, April 6. (You can watch the most recent episode here or listen in wherever you get your podcasts on Thursday, April 9.) Overall, the data reveal that churches are presently looking to families and households as well as external resources as crucial partners in faith formation of the next generation.
Half of U.S. Churches Are Providing Resources for Families & Children to Use at Home
When asked how their children’s ministry has transitioned in light of the new realities presented by COVID-19, half of pastors (51%) share that their church is “providing digital resources for families and children to use at home on their own.” While just under a third (31%) says they “are not offering anything for children at this time,” another 28 percent say they “are offering / leading a specific online service for children (live or pre-recorded).” Thirteen percent say they “are including a time for children ministry during our regular service.”
In addition, when asked to indicate what practices their church was incorporating weekly into online services, 15 percent of pastors indicated children’s worship was included weekly.
“We are now shooting live teachings for kids, youth and students, and that’s available on our app—just give it a month or two and we’re all going to have an app,” Jud Wilhite, Senior Pastor of Central Church in Las Vegas, shared on the ChurchPulse Weekly podcast. “It’s all possible; it doesn’t have to be the greatest quality. We borrow some curriculum and then we create some of our own and shape it around that.”
Concludes Wilhite, “The good news is that there are some great organizations out there that have produced some amazing video teaching curriculum, and I know they’re going to do everything they can to serve churches in this moment. You don’t have to recreate the wheel. … Find some great stuff that will work and empower parents that are already home to have those conversations with their kids, because the parents, in a lot of ways, have become the pastors.”
Bianca Juarez Olthoff, co-pastor of The Father’s House Church in Southern California, best-selling author and the founder of In The Name of Love, adds, “We’re using a lot of Orange Curriculum as well, but we’re also supplementing it with some of our own personal videos. … Each one of our [kids ministry] volunteers is sending a recorded video personally to our kids. So [the kids] are getting personal touch points at least once a month from a youth leader and teacher.”
“Then on Sundays,” Bianca concludes, “we have a Dropbox that has Orange Curriculum, a pre-recorded kids ministry song that we did and they are familiar with as well as some craft ideas that parents can do with the kids.”
In an effort to help serve the Church during this time of unprecedented disruption and as a continued part of our research into the State of the Church 2020, Barna and Gloo have created the ChurchPulse Weekly Crisis Toolkit, a free resource that includes three ways to help pastors see clearly and lead effectively in this time of uncertainty. To learn more about the Crisis Toolkit, click here.
About the Research
Barna Group conducted this survey online among 195 Protestant senior pastors from April 2–6, 2020. Participants are all members of Barna Group’s Church Panel. Minimal weighting has been used to ensure the sample is representative based on denomination, region and church size.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2020