By Ali Thompson
I recently got to chat with an amazing BE BOLD leader, Wendy Poovey, from North Carolina. Despite the struggles of closed churches during the COVID-19 crisis, Wendy has embraced meeting digitally and has actually found that her group has grown during this time. In fact, at the time of writing this blog her group has nearly doubled, going from 6 regulars when they were meeting in person to 11 friends on Zoom! Not only that, Wendy anticipates these newcomers will continue in her group once the church re-opens.
I was so touched and inspired by what Wendy is doing, I wanted to get her advice and share it with all of you! She gave me some awesome encouragement and ideas for my group, and I’m praying her example helps all of you during these crazy times. Here’s what’s worked well for Wendy.
Get the Church Support
To be fair, Wendy did this well before COVID-19 was on the radar. Wendy noticed how much BE BOLD engages kids as part of the church, with Bold Action service projects that serve the church. Because of this engagement, she was able to get her church leadership and congregation on board with BE BOLD. Even those that weren’t part of the group saw it in action as so many Bold Action projects impacted the congregation. Plus, Wendy made some announcements about her group during the church service…and involved her kids in making those announcements.
Although you can’t do those exact steps right now with your church closed, find ways to stay on the church’s radar. Advertise your group on the church website or social media page. Ask your senior pastor to talk about it if he’s leading video messages. Help him cast a vision of keeping families involved even though you can’t meet in person.
Encourage Your Kids to Invite Friends
I asked Wendy how she would explain the growth she’s experienced in her group. She told me she was planning to send out an email to the church to spread the word that her group is still meeting over Zoom, but she ended up not doing that because the kids were spreading the word for her. In her small church, there were newer families who’d been attending the church but not sending their kids to the BE BOLD class. However, the kids who’ve been there the longest were making new friends each time a new family joined.
During this time of separation, the kids were missing their friends! So those two original kids started inviting all their church friends to join the Zoom call. Wendy doesn’t take much credit for the growth, giving God the glory: “Everybody says it’s just a God thing…it really has been.”
Do As Much of the Lesson As You Can
Wendy has been preparing weekly bags for families with the student book pages, Mystery Missions, and any supplies that might be hard for families to gather at home. She simply labels the bags with the week number and drops them off. (Although if her group grows much more, she’ll have to arrange a pick-up time instead!) That enables her to lead the lesson with very few changes! She’s had to make some alterations to the games, but kids are able to engage in Question of the Week and Bold Action time as if they were there in person!
Wendy admitted that when she first imagined converting BE BOLD to a Zoom call, she envisioned just leading the discussion portions of the lesson. But she asked the kids if they’d like to try to keep doing the games and crafts, and they said yes! Wendy, being an amazing and committed leader, took the steps to prepare the bags so that could happen.
She says the kids love the surprise of opening their bags every week to see what’s inside!
Let Kids Interact With Each Other
One of Wendy’s suggestions was to not mute kids’ microphones. Kids are stressed, they’re missing their friends, and they need to talk! It was important to Wendy to provide a place where kids can still have that connection with one another. She begins each Zoom session by letting kids just hangout virtually. She invites them to talk about real-life stuff—what they’re worried about, if they’re bored, what they’re doing to occupy their time. She turns off screen-sharing, turns on the waiting-room feature so people can only join as she admits them, and uses a password to keep her group safe…and then she just lets kids hang out. Then they pray together about what they’re struggling with.
Plus, BE BOLD is full of discussion, and she wants to keep that engagement. She’s found that some of the kids who were more quiet in person have been really speaking up more over Zoom! Kids are also more willing to pray aloud. She’s excited to see if this changes the culture of her BE BOLD group once everyone is back together in person. Plus, she’s seen how some of the older kids in her group are coaching younger ones through Bold Action projects by holding up theirs on the video as an example!
Wendy is also encouraging her kids to FaceTime or call each other throughout the week to keep the relationship going. What a great model of how “We’re all in this together!”
Wendy also sends out an email to parents letting them know what household supplies they’ll need for the coming lesson, and summarizing the week’s question, Bible verses, and Mystery Mission. Wendy has been intentional even before this crisis about involving the parents, and she’s found that the in-depth discussion about kids’ faith questions carries over into the home, as kids keep the conversations going with their parents!
Wendy has noticed that some basic classroom management can be a little more challenging over Zoom, so she’s encouraging parents to check in on their kids every 15 minutes or so, just to make sure they’re not out of control or arguing with siblings.
Keep Steady Volunteers
Because of the additional preparation of creating weekly bags, plus the logistics of distributing student materials, Wendy recommends having the same volunteer lead for a month at a time. If your teachers usually rotate through on a weekly basis, try switching up that rotation so there can be a consistent leader during each month you have to meet remotely.
Don’t Give Up
Overall, Wendy advises that it is well worth using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or whatever video platform you have to meet with the kids. “Just meet. Let the kids see each other,” Wendy says. She also encourages us all with this timely advice: “Don’t give up on it. How adults respond trickles down to the kids. Even though this is difficult…be positive with the children. Allow them to share what their concerns are and pray about it together.”