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This topic features the announcements, topics, and reports from our 2021 Zoom Coffee Chats.

In 2021, each of our get-togethers focused on some aspect of "renewing and rebuilding" Sunday School as we come out of the pandemic.

Scroll down for highlights and summaries of the discussion.

= Newest/Latest posts in this topic are listed first =


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Recap of our "Meaningful Ways to Attract Families (back) to Your Church" November Zoom Coffee Chat

About two dozen Christian educators "gathered" online for an hour on November 16 to hear board member Beth Tobin share what Gloria Dei Lutheran has been doing to engage families in meaningful ways this fall. A transcript that includes some of Beth's slides illustrating her programming is attached. Breakout groups continued the conversation about encouraging church members to return to church programming and fellowship.  Highlights:

  • Beth shared how staff at Gloria Dei Lutheran has been programming to rebuild community, inspired by an Advent lectionary verse. Opportunities to gather are meaningful, tie in to faith practices, and are backed up by relationship building.  GloriaDeiProgramming
  • Beth said: “I encourage you to think about ministries that are important to your congregation, and how can you tie into them as a way of supporting the congregation and building community and highlighting what is important."
  • Beth outlined some of her creative, engaging programs. Additional programming ideas were shared by participants during the breakout session.
  • We had a good conversation about the importance of empowering parents; when we do that, we are adding spiritual value to their life and family. Intergenerational events and family Sunday school are ways to start that process.

What are your thoughts about meaningful family activities? Share your ideas and insights below.

Participants agreed that it is nice to share challenges and support with others at these events.

Get Notified of Our Next Zcoom Chat coming January 2022

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Our November  Coffee Chat...

Join our community for a time of colaboration and brainstorming on Terrific Tactics to Attract Families to Your Church [2)

...was held Tuesday, November 16 at noon Eastern on Zoom.

  • You heard and discussed a presentation from Christian educator Beth Tobin about how her church is working to attract families (back) to their church.
  • You had the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and join break-out groups.

Thank you for joining us! It is wonderful to be a part of such a loving and sharing creative community!
A summary of the Nov 16th Coffee Chat has been posted above.


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Last edited by Amy Crane's September 2021 Zoom Coffee Chat:

Preparing for Advent and Christmas

was held on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

This Zoom Coffee Chat focused on the impact of COVID on attendance and volunteers as we prepare to move into the Advent season.

See the summary of our Sept 2021 "Preparing for Advent" Zoom Coffee Chat in our Christmas and Advent forum.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Recap of our RENEW REBUILD part 2 Coffee Chat on August 23

More than two dozen Christian educators gathered on Zoom for an hour of prayer, brainstorming, and encouragement as we shared our challenges and ideas regarding the start of a new school year in the midst of a continuing pandemic. While the situation is different in each community, we found that we had much in common.

I know some people were unable to attend, and I also know that those who were there wanted a summary of all that we talked about on Monday. So here it is. (I have also attached a more detailed transcript of our discussion.)

The big ideas and challenges that seemed to run through our conversation:

  • Prayer is an important part of planning. Several in our group have discovered the benefit of involving members of the congregation as prayer partners for their ministry.
  • Many feel like their ministry is faced with inertia -- families have gotten out of the habit of attending weekly Sunday school (some have even dropped out of weekly worship). How do we get those people back into the habit of showing up (whether it is in-person or online)?
  • We talked about hybrid ministries and how to meet the needs of the community when some are in-person and some are online (or at-home).
  • Amy Frasier summarized many participants' feelings: "It is comforting to know we are all having similar issues and are not alone."

We will continue to explore these ideas and challenges here at This is a wonderfully creative and generous community and I thank you for your ideas and for your encouragement of one another! I look forward to gathering with you again next month, and until then, I encourage you to ask your questions in the Teachers' Help Lounge and to share your ideas at our site.

Blessings on your ministry,

Amy Crane Board President 


Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Our second Coffee Chat today (August 23) went well! Two dozen educators had a good conversation about prayer, challenges faced, technology, and plans for this fall and beyond. I hope to have a summary of our gathering ready to post here tomorrow.

Many thanks to all who joined us today!


  "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,
just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11


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On August 23, 2021 we held another Zoom "Coffee Chat" on the subject of "Renewing and Rebuilding" in light of the new COVID variant that caused a spike in infections, change in mask mandates, and a change of "return" plans for many churches.

See the highlights above.


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I received some useful guides (free) from Lifeway - 6 Considerations for Reopening Children's Ministry and 10 Attributes of an Unshakeable Kid's Ministry.

Here are some highlights that reinforce and expand on our discussion this week:

6ConsiderationsConsiderations for reopening:

  • When and how to reopen will vary from community to community. You will want to consider health agency and local government recommendations. Discuss with church leadership how children's needs may be different from adults (especially since younger children cannot be vaccinated yet).
  • Consider phasing in in-person programming. And phasing out digital and other offsite offerings.
  • Take this opportunity to evaluate what you have been doing (both before and during the pandemic). What was working? What is worth keeping? How can it be improved? This is the perfect opportunity to do some visioning!
  • Make sure your classroom is clean and welcoming. Be prepared for children who are not used to being in groups after such a long break. Make sure you have sufficient personal space for each child; consider requiring pre-registration.
  • Communicate with past volunteers and potential volunteers about plans and changes in expectations. Pray with and for them as you decide how to proceed. Build relationships.

10attributesAttributes of a great children's ministry as you evaluate what you have been doing and plan for the future:

  • Design a ministry that is family focused. Equip parents to have spiritual conversations with their children. Provide resources, encourage them with text messages, pray for them. Develop relationships.
  • Make sure everything you do reflects your ministry's mission. Clearly define the "why" of your ministry. Communicate that mission to your volunteers and participants.
  • Think outside the box (or the church). Your ministry does not have to be confined to one physical space. "Church from anywhere."
  • Discipleship happens through authentic relationships between leaders, kids, and families. As leaders we model a personal relationship with Jesus by our actions.
  • Volunteers should be trained and equipped. And take time regularly to encourage your volunteers.


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Thank you for this uplifting message and support. I pray for patience, grace and flexibility for all of us throughout this journey of change and discovery. Love to ALL.


PS The Zoom Chat was wonderful and I thank everyone for sharing and especially the team that made is so. So grateful.

I have been thinking a lot about the "return from exile" as part of my leadership role at my own church. Neil makes some very good points here--and I wanted to add a few of my own.

As we come back together again, things will probably not look or be exactly the same again. The  older exiles, who had seen the glory of the former temple, wept with sadness when they saw the foundations of the new temple—which seemed “as nothing”.  Things will look different post-pandemic—in positive and negative ways.  It is okay to mourn what has disappeared--both in terms of people and ministry. But also look forward to the new--and perhaps better--ways of ministering to people.

The prophets had to push the people to re-order their priorities and get back to work on the temple after things stalled for 14 years. We all, in our own churches and ministries, need to determine our core priorities and put our energy and creativity there.  We may not have the staff and volunteers and finances to do everything that we had done in the past.

The leaders--Ezra and Nehemiah--give us some pretty good examples to follow. Ezra reminds us of the importance of keeping the focus on God's Word, and Nehemiah is a great example of using prayer as a first (and not last) resort AND combining prayer with action.

Thanks to everyone who attended the "Return" Zoom Chat.

After our hour together I felt like we had just begun. About a dozen of us stayed for another 40 minutes and even after that extended time I still felt like the conversation was just getting started.

Thinking and reading about all we said, one subject that did NOT come up was our expectations. So let me ask that question...

What are our expectations?

To answer that question, I turn to some biblical perspective...

When the Jews began their return in 538 B.C. after 70 years in Babylonian Exile, they found Jerusalem impoverished, its walls in disrepair, and the Temple still destroyed. Here's a good historical overview of that "return."

Their "return" and rebuilding happened in four waves and took over 92 years.    

As much as Ezra and Nehemiah want us to think they were "re-establishing" the past, we know from history that the Exiles brought back a new Judaism. Exile had changed them. To borrow a phrase, they returned to "build back better." Their "return" was not a return to the past because the past had changed them. Word.

In addition to rebuilding their destroyed Temple, the exiles also brought back from exile a new system of prayer services held in local venues known as "synagogues." This new way and place of doing things would be where Jesus prayed and taught. And this "new" idea would eventually give birth to the first churches.

Most of the former leaders died in exile and new leaders had emerged. Some came from Babylon and had never seen Jerusalem. Some of those who had remained in Jerusalem were undoubtedly unprepared for what and "who" was about to happen. And as scripture reveals, some opposed the changes that were coming. (Sound familiar?) 

Nehemiah 2 and 3 are especially worth reading right now. Nehemiah describes his call to lead, and lists all the FAMILIES he organized to restore the gates and walls of the city. He also names his naysayers, people like Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite.

To be sure, many of the returned exiles brought bad habits and practices back with them --ways of thinking and doing things that were a little too "Babylonian."  Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah call it out and it makes me wonder what our "babylonian-ishness" is.  

One of the most important things the Exiles did during exile was collect and edit the works that form the core of the Old Testament. Genesis and Exodus to Kings and Psalms and all the books in between, plus the collected works known as Isaiah and many other prophets. In other words, they returned with the scriptures in their hands.  ...and that sure sounds a lot like Sunday School.

It's going to take time.

It's going to take some new leaders and families to step up.

Not everyone is going to come back.

There will be naysayers.

Some "Babylonian habits" will need to be addressed.

More personal gatherings and a recommitment to scripture will be important.

We may be only part of the "first wave."



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Recap of our Renew, Rebuild - back to school Coffee Chat Zoom gathering

Many thanks to the thirty-some people who attended our first-ever community gathering on Zoom earlier this week! It was good to finally meet some of you "face-to-face" (sort of, in a virtual way).   This is a wonderfully creative and generous community and I thank you for your ideas and for your encouragement of one another.

I know some people were unable to attend, and I also know that those who were there wanted a summary of all that we talked about on Monday. So here it is. (I have also attached a more detailed transcript of our discussion.)

The big ideas and themes that seemed to run through our conversation:

  • Family ministry 
    • A great way to rebuild relationships between families to renew one of the big reasons families come to church.
    • Involving/equipping parents in their children's Christian education is a goal for many.
    • Parents modeling to parents how to nurture their children in the faith.
    • Churches are finding it to be a way to solve the volunteer problem (you need fewer volunteers if parents are in the room working as helpers with their children).
    • It is a way to honor our baptism vows to help parents raise their children in the faith.
  • Relationship development - most churches spent more time reaching out to their families during the shutdown and spent time developing relationships, and many participants indicated that "personal outreach" is a habit they want to carry into their future plans.
  • We need to consider the present time to be an Era of Experimentation: try something new and if it doesn't work, tweak it or try something else. Renewal will not happen fast, and it isn't just about numbers.
  • All of us are facing similar challenges, and it is good to talk, brainstorm and to encourage one another.

The biggest question that came up regularly in our conversation was about hybrid ministries, serving the needs of those attending in-person and those still at-home.  See the detailed transcript for discussion by some of our participants about what they are trying now. Reply below with what you have tried and problems and suggestions that you have.

I invite you to join the conversation by replying to this topic (or by posting questions in our Teachers Lounge or in other topics at this site).

  • What was your biggest takeaway from our conversation Monday?
  • Are you doing hybrid Sunday school? Have you tried it? What is and is not working?
  • Tell us about your plans for fall to re-attract and renew.
  • What would you like to talk about at our next Coffee Chat?

We would love to hear your questions and see your ideas and resources!

Below is a screenshot from our chat. (We couldn't fit everyone in one screen.) I look forward to "seeing" you all again soon, both in conversation here at the site and in our next Coffee Chat. Stay tuned for details!

Blessings on your ministry,

Amy Crane Board President 



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Report from Our July 19th Zoom Coffee Chat

"Renewing and Rebuilding Sunday School after the Pandemic"

Three dozen Christian Educators from across North America met on Zoom July 19th for conversation, sharing, and encouragement on the subject of "returning to in-church Sunday School." Some had already restarted their in-person Sunday School and some were getting ready for a relaunch this fall. A summary of their conversation is posted above.

Last edited by Amy Crane

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