Re-Opening Sunday School "AFTER" the Pandemic:
The Challenges and Issues
A starter list with comments from Neil MacQueen and others @rotation.org
- SAFETY: New policies and healthy practices need to be enacted and enforced for church-gatherings and children's ministries no matter when, where, or how big. Getting everyone to follow policy will be a big challenge, and as we've learned, some opinions may be more about political ideology than medical one. Read this topic on "Safer Sunday Schools."
- HESITANCY: Some parents will be hesitant to join in a return to group meetings and classes "during" and even "after" the pandemic -- 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 "safety and 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 experiences 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?