Children and church in 2021

This is a picture of my daughter playing in August 2021.

Some things are the same from a few years ago.  She still often wears a costume.  She still likes to play with chalk.  Her friends still come over to play.

Some things are different.  She no longer wears diapers.  She likes to ride her bike.  She is wearing a mask — with unicorns. Playdates may be different, but the unicorn love is still strong!

This year the church will have things that are the same and that are different too.  As the program year starts up for 2021-2022, I am praying for all the children ministries out there that are trying their best to navigate ministry to the unvaccinated children.  When in doubt, I suggest calling local pediatricians and schools for safety advice.

Yet, there is more to consider than just where to place the hand sanitizer and fresh masks or who will be on the cleaning committee to oversee that classrooms stay safe.  The spiritual formation of children is still a calling for churches.  It just may look different.

It has looked different for me!  The “Children and Worship” program that I teach to congregations is one example of a program that has undergone change. Finding the spirit of the curriculum and sharing that with families is my current calling.  This looks like video conferences instead of in-person trainings, kits to be sent home to families, shifting of worship spaces and more.  I serve in a consulting role to talk with churches about their individual challenges and joys in children’s ministry.  We figure out together what the vision can be for this year.  It is a journey we walk together and open ourselves to trial and error.   I wish I could say with all confidence that I have the answers, but I don’t.  I just encourage us all to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

How can your church stay open to the Holy Spirit in this season?  How can you personally?  Seeking a relationship with God is still a priority of church.  Helping children nourish their relationship with God is still a call of the church.  We still are the people of God.  Logistics and locations may be different, but the love of God is still strong!

Sarah Iliff McGill is a PC(USA) pastor and full-time mom.  She lives in Rochester, Illinois.