We are in full swing in the Christian Education programming year. At many churches, children’s ministry has returned to the structure and planning we knew before the pandemic, but it feels completely different. The kids do not know what it was like before the world shut down, and there is a lost continuity that makes it hard to feel settled in “how we did it before.” But this also makes room for some new ideas and changes.
The last time our church began with all children in-person in Sunday school classes was 2019. The world has shifted so much during the past three years. This fall feels like an odd combination of programming that looks the same but has been difficult to restart. Volunteers are scarcer after the past two years of online and hybrid gatherings. Families are out of the habit of attending worship and Sunday school every week. The schedule has been a learning process for our younger members who have never experienced “the way we used to do it.”
I am a pattern person. I like returning to the familiar ways of setting up classes, finding teachers and helpers, inviting children to join us, and happily welcoming them when they arrive. But the pattern has been broken and there is a step missing where families are not coming regularly and volunteers are not plentiful.
With all these changes in the past three years, this time of coming back together feels ripe for innovation. The prospect of finding great new ways to reach out into the community and invite new families to join us and share all we have to offer should be exciting, but we are a little worn out, a little worried, and a little unsure of where to head next.
As I reflect on all these things, I keep returning to the question, what do our church families, and the families in our community, need right now? We need to connect with one another as people struggling after two years of pandemic challenges. We need a place to feel welcome and nurtured in our burdens and in our hopes. We need a place that cherishes children and teaches them about God’s love and grace. In short, we need to keep on being the church, and it is good to know that even in this strange new “normal,” our lives are filled by the love of God and the power of the good news.