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Re-opening (?) Sunday School During the Pandemic: Options, Ideas, Recommendations, Resources

This topic is sharing ideas and advice related to "re-opening" in-church Sunday School and other children and youth ministries during the COVID-19 Pandemic (where permitted).

The question in this topic isn't "IF" we will return, but when and how, and how to get it right.

 Be sure to see the post below listing "Healthy Sunday School Practices" as kids and teachers return to the classroom.

 See our July-August SURVEY RESULTS about "Reopening Sunday School"

This topic continues to unfold. Newer posts are toward the bottom. The initial post continues to be updated and improved.

Re-Opening Sunday School: The Challenges and Issues

A list and comments from Neil

  • SAFETY: New policies and healthy practices need to be enacted and enforced for church-gatherings no matter when, where, or how big. "Opinions" about what to do vary among our members and churches. Getting everyone to follow policy will be a big challenge and some opinions may be coming from a more political ideology than medical one.

  • HESITANCY: Some parents will be hesitant to join in a return to group meetings and classes -- no matter where and how you organize them. Inspiring confidence and competence is one of our biggest challenges.  We will need to be prepared for a slow return to "normal."

  • EXPECTATIONS: Many parents and teachers will want to know what your plans for "social distancing" are, and how you will enforce expectations and rules. And we need to manage the expectations of "how long" it will take for people's return, and the new normal we will be returning to. 

  • TEACHER RETICENCE:  Some volunteers may be reluctant to come back until they feel it is "safe." This is especially true among our older volunteers. This may affect age-groupings, lesson planning, and room assignments.

  • LOW ATTENDANCE:  In churches that have already started to re-open it's already apparent that attendance will take time to return to pre-COVID levels. Low attendance needs to be accounted for in our planning, grade grouping, teaching and room assignments, and curriculum. 

  • MINISTERING TO THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO STAY HOME:  As our in-church programs re-open, some will continue to stay away. They will need "included" so as not to feel "excluded." 

  • RESTORING ATTENDANCE HABITS: Some families will need their attendance habits "rekindled" no matter when and how you plan to return. 

  • RESTRICTIONS: Some types of activities will need to be restricted (such as singing, see post below), and people will be naturally "skittish" about types of interactions they have grown used to avoiding (such as handshakes and sharing food).

  • WORKLOAD: We've got a lot of work to do to prepare for "the return." Managing priorities and laying some things aside for a time will require patience and explanation.  Some churches may be faced with staff cut-backs and loss of volunteer leaders.

  • VACCINATION: We may have issues with those who choose not to be vaccinated when one is available. Frankly, we should have had a policy about unvaccinated kids BEFORE the pandemic. Now we're going to have to grab that bull by the horns.

  • NOT FORGETTING WHAT WE LEARNED:   We've learned a lot about ourselves and our congregations during this "wilderness" period. Hopefully, it has changed us for the better. Let's be sure we are talking about "what we've learned" and let our experience make us better than before.

  • DEALING WITH THE FALLOUT: Church magazines and ministry blogs are abuzz with the controversy many congregations are dealing with as their new policies and practices meet with opposition from fearful and ill-informed members. Some churches report that the national turmoil has "infected" their church politics and decision making to the point that factions have formed and some members have left.  How can your Sunday School navigate this minefield and stay focused on kids and their safety?  

"Returning" is not just a challenge,
it's an opportunity to show competence and compassion,
and lift up the importance of why we gather together.

How are you planning to use this opportunity?

What message will be heard?

The story of Daniel, the Babylonian Exile, and the RETURN from Exile is instructive.

Daniel's story reminds us that being in Exile is full of challenges to our faith, and that being in Exile is a state of grace. The return to Jerusalem was not a return to the same-old, but a return to a "new and better normal." It's a story that teaches us that HOPE is not about returning to the past, but walking boldly into an unknown future.

They did not just "rebuild" what was once there. They built it back BETTER than before.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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