The importance of social connecting during this time of social distancing
and ideas for how to connect using Group Video Chat
"I miss my friends!"
Perhaps you've already started to hear "I miss my..." from your kids. I know quite a few moms and dads who are missing normalcy too! Social isolation can be particularly difficult for young people whose lives have been surrounded by other kids at school and church, and who don't yet have all the social and psychological tools to handle this new reality. Helping them get through this time is a ministry unto itself and perhaps it is one of the best lessons we can teach them during this crisis: The Body of Christ is not a building and is only limited by our imagination.
Fortunately, we live in a time when technology can bridge the distance, and most of our kids and families use this tech regularly, so the following should be pretty easy to develop. (And in the future, shouldn't this be a regular way to do outreach? I think so!)
If you haven't yet done any "Group Video Chat" using Facebook Messenger or Facetime, get the app and prepare to be inspired by the possibilities. And as I always tell folks, if you need tech help, go find a 12 year old See the tech help links below.
There are MANY good software or "app" options that will allow you and your leaders to VISUALLY connect with kids and families over the internet. Below is my recommendation and a bunch of ideas about how you can use this tech to reach out in this time of crisis and beyond.
I recommend Facebook Messenger for small group video chat.
Why? Because Facebook Messenger a free app that works on all smartphones and tablets, either Apple or Android. This means no one will be left out. It doesn't require a Facebook account, whereas "Facetime" is an Apple-only app. Many teens will also have the "Snapchat" app which also allows for group video chats. See my links below to learn more about Facebook Messenger if you aren't familiar with it. It's super easy to use.
Keep in mind that the point is to get church kids and their families back in touch with each other, which is why I'm not recommending "Facebook Live" for this particular use. Facebook Live is when you stream your video from your phone over Facebook and others watch your video. That has its uses! But FB Messenger is the app to connect kids with kids, families with families. Depending on your church, you may have kids who don't know each other, and this could be a good way for them to interact because the lack of physical presence can remove the social awkwardness some kids feel in person.
You're going to want to have a "reason" for getting together, a plan for more than "hello." That's what my "live check-in" ideas are all about. A stated reason, a theme, an activity to intrigue and do some crowdbreaking. Just keep in mind that FB Messenger, like all these video chat apps, can only show X number of people onscreen at one time, so best to keep your groups small (4 to 6 is more manageable and feels more intimate anyway).
Group Video Chat "Live Check-in" Ideas
"Live Check in" ideas are about having your scheduled group video chats be "about something" to get the event started. After some preliminary "what's everybody been doing?" chat, focus on a fun crowdbreaker such as one of the following...
- Here's my favorite room at my house, ...what's yours?
- Show Us Your Pet!
- Here's my favorite home board game, ...what's yours?
- What's does the church look like with nobody is in it? (What is the church?)
- At-home projects we can use this time to accomplish.
- Facebook Live my favorite quiet spot (what's yours?)
- Facebook Live my visit to your house to drop off some books/activities!
- Visit a "special celebrity member" of your church on Facebook Live or Facetime.
- Share lunch with each other.
- Play games
- Teach using an object demonstration
- Sing a song together
- Set up a Facetime group chat with a child who is sick or homebound.
- You can include a favorite Bible verse (but don't get preachy) and definitely ask for prayer requests.
Some of these ideas are more suited to group video chat on FB Messenger, while others can be simply your own "Facebook Live" video on your church's FB page. Keep in mind that your primary goal is to bring kids together, not merely connect just to you.
Tips on Setting up and Conducting a Group Video Chat:
- Send out a text message ahead of time when you're ready to start "inviting" people to your group video chat.
- Plan on spending a minute or two adding people into the group. It would be great to have a helper do the adding while you lead the chat.
- If you're using a tablet or smartphone on your end, get a small tripod or stand for it so that you can have your hands free.
- As you can see in the screenshot above, FB Messenger has a fun "illustration" feature that kids can play with. Snapchat has the same silliness. Plan time during some of your chats to let kids decorate themselves as a character, then ask them to turn it off.
- Let people know how long the chat will last (keep it under 15 minutes), and what you'll be doing.
- Take screenshots! They make for good publicity.
- End with prayer requests.
Things to remember:
- As always, check with parents first.
- Send text message alerts about upcoming "live" events.
- Remember Facetime and FB Messenger do not preserve a recording of your chat. Whereas, the Facebook "Live" video feature does store the completed session on your Facebook page for later viewing. Choose the tech that best suits your objectives.
- There's a functional limit of how many people you want to appear in any one video chat. Smaller groups of 4 to 6 are ideal. Split larger groups.
Some helpful links:
- All participants will need to have the Facebook Messenger app on their tablet, phone or computer.
- You will need their phone number to "add" them ahead of time as a contact on your Facebook Messenger app.
- Do you have a family or kid without a device or in need of tech help? See who has an old tablet laying around or buy one to share. Get a teen to help.