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This is our "main" topic for sharing your Sunday School lesson ideas, teaching resources, and content suggestions for online or at-home Sunday School during the pandemic. 

Be sure to see our Writing Team's

Easy & Engaging At-Home Sunday School lessons for families

The Team has created many new lessons and adapted some of our best Writing Team lessons for home use.

Some are open to everyone. Many are only available to our amazing Supporting Members because they make this site possible.

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Editor's Note: This topic is for offering content suggestions for online Sunday School and at-home Sunday School. It begins with some thoughts from Neil MacQueen, our resident webmaster, teacher, and media wrangler.



Thoughts on online and at-home Sunday School and Worship with Kids...

JesusComputerI took a wander through some churches' attempts in early March 2020 at providing "online content" for the kids and families. It was a mixed bag.  

I saw quite a few people fumbling with equipment and with what to say, Many had bad audio and poor lighting. Stiff talking heads. You get the idea. One of the things we’re learning is how unprepared and unskilled some church leaders are to meet this sudden need for outreach online and at-home. And yet, most Christian educators I know are quick learners once they combine their trials and errors with good advice and seeing what other people are doing. One thing is for sure, the need to reach our kids online is only going to grow in the years ahead. Consider this our wake up call.

If you only want to read this far HEAR THIS:  whatever you do, keep it short and do the SIMPLE things that make for a quality presentation (like good lighting and sound, making sure its visually interesting, and learning from your mistakes, not repeating them).

I've been creating and teaching with media for nearly three decades, both online and via software, and I've been working with churches nearly as long to improve their online presence, as well as their Sunday Schools through Rotation.org. Hope my advice helps.

Here's some advice for those going online or at-home with their Sunday School materials:

  1. Assume a shorter attention span. Think 10 minutes max for videos, even if your content is varied and energetic, and 20 minutes max for at-home lesson activities. You do NOT have a "captive" audience.

  2. Avoid using too much print media, or lessons with too many instructions for your online or at-home teaching. This is not Sunday School as usual. (Same problem in online worship. Church services need to adapt to being in an online medium if they want people to sit through it.)

  3. Be realistic. The odds of a parent or child printing your elaborate PDF are few and far between. Assume a parent is with the child, but maybe not onboard.

  4. Don't just throw stuff at them and hope something sticks. 

  5. If you're thinking of using a publishers "online" offerings, be careful. I haven't seem many that hold my attention or aren't "just another talking head" video.

  6. Avoid making "bump on a log" talking-head messages. This includes those of your boring pastor talking about the importance of a story or delivering a children's message. If you decide to create introductory videos, be energetic and do it with some basic m production values like good sound and lights, backdrops, movement, etc.)   

  7. Better to do one thing well, rather than several things mediocre (or worse).

  8. Get help from people who know good media and tech. This is NO time for you to be figuring out how to edit a video. Most churches have members who know how to do technical things, or know people who can help. 

  9. Where possible, get kids in the picture. Kids love seeing themselves on the screen. Use live streaming, or record kids doing the talking, not boring adults. 

  10. Don't waste people's initial wave of interest and intrigue on amateurish offerings. Most churches can’t afford to reinforce people’s opinion that church is a quaint dinosaur. 

  11. Your Advice Here (feel free to post it below!)

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With regard to Tip #1 Above... Finding Good Existing Content...

Check out this church's online Sunday School/Worship for Children video. They've edited into one video several things from other sources. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good!

LIFEKIDS children's ministry has a free "channel" on YouTube has lots of good stuff: https://www.youtube.com/channe...vV66gr1IItGbbBodqc7A  Do I recommend everything they put out? No. Like everything online, you need to be CHOOSY.

LIFEKIDS' video about God's Holy Spirit for EARLY CHILDHOOD is age-appropriate and cute: https://youtu.be/S_n8KzKLgOE   Notice how varied the presentation is. Even has a song video at the end for the little guys.


TIP: You can EXCERPT videos by choosing where in the video to start showing them to your people. Just click "Share" on the YouTube window and check the time signature box.

BTW: The animation of the Bible story in the embedded video above is from Saddleback Kids Ministry. Their free Bible videos are all over YouTube. We've linked to all of them here at Rotation.org. Just look up the Bible Story you want to teach in our Lesson Forums and go into the Video Workshop to find the Saddleback listing and MANY OTHER video "shorts" we've found and posted.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Speaking of Saddleback Kids Videos...

Here's the direct link to their YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playli...7hXEKTV4qQnIeCe-p6Ws

Not all the videos are the same style or quality, but there are a lot of good ones to pick from.

TIP: When sharing a YouTube video online or by email, click the SHARE option on the video in YouTube and copy that specific URL. 

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Hi Neil - thank you for these suggestions - greatly appreciated. We're planning to connect w/ our families via Zoom, which seems to work well for us. I love Beth Tobin's approach, as well, and hope to incorporate several of her ideas. Very much hope that you and your family are well - thank you for all that you do - D

Great idea, Debbie. Kids are missing their friends (parents too!) so online face to face is a great idea.

Here's a thought:

  • Invite Zoom Families to watch a video or do an activity together BEFORE the Zoom get-together. Then use the Zoom Time for "show 'n tell." 

I've done a lot of Family Ministry and Young Adult ministry over the years and one of the things I heard over and over again was that parents were MORE LIKELY to do at-home learning when they knew their PEERS were doing it too, and when they knew we'd be talking about it in our get-togethers. 

Second thought:

  • Invite older members to peek in on your Zoom meetings. My wife and I have encountered several "live alone" senior adults in our condo complex who are struggling with the ISOLATION. One old fellow admitted to walking his dog a lot just to come across people to talk to!
Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Hi Neil - great ideas; thank you. Will incorporate your suggestions into
what Beth Tobin has done out in Washington state. I hope to write the
lesson today & then do a zoom tutorial so I know what I'm doing before we
go live on Sunday!
D

Regarding "how" are churches reaching and teaching kids during the Coronavirus crisis...

One of the things we can do is direct families to existing resources already available to them, such as Bible movies on Netflix and Amazon and Cable TV, and then put out some discussion suggestions and invite feedback or discussion via a Zoom meeting or Facebook postings. See the next post about hosting a Facebook "Watch Party."

Movies to Watch and Discuss for "At Home Sunday School" this Holy Week and Easter...

Jesus Christ Superstar movie

Jesus Christ Superstar (the movie)

I've watched it and taught with it MANY times with kids and youth. They love it. It's currently on NETFLIX and available for rent on Amazon as well.

Pose questions, then invite people to watch it at home and post their comments online at your church's Facebook page or have them text you their comments.

Supporting Members can see and print Rotation.org's exclusive scene by scene guide. It includes insights. A good tool for posing questions too.

SON OF GOD (the movie)

Son of God movieTerrific depiction of a friendly and compelling Jesus. We use scenes from it all the time in our lessons.

Watch and discuss. Share your comments with others at your church. Pose questions to viewers.

Currently available on Amazon Prime to rent (might be free when we get to Easter) 

an arrow  Now available! Supporting Members can download the Son of God At-Home Viewing Guide for Families and Small Groups (PDF).

The Prince of Egypt moviePrince of Egypt (the movie about the Exodus by Dreamworks)

Good animated movie for kids about Moses and the Exodus. Good music too.

Currently playing on Amazon Prime and Hulu (may have a rental fee).


See Rotation.org's Teaching with Secular Movies article and discussion. It has many suggestions.



Movies for youth and adults to watch anytime:

I Can Only Imagine

The true story about the origins of the most popular Christian song in modern history, "I Can Only Imagine" by the founder of Mercy Me.  (YouTube link to the song.) The movie is as uplifting as the song and it's a tear-jerker, Good production values. Includes Amy Grant who first introduced the songwriter to audiences and Dennis Quaid who plays the father about whom the song was written. Subject matter includes abusive father and redemption. Super movie with a great message, especially for sons and fathers. Look for it on Amazon Prime and Netflix. It was free when I watched it.

I Still Believe

This 2020 movie just released straight to online video when the theaters shut down, otherwise, I think it would have done well.  This is the true story of Christian contemporary mega-artist Jeremy Camp and his young wife's struggle with and death from cancer. It's a love story for sure, and includes the actor doing a number of "concert scenes" singing Jeremy Camp songs from his early days, and the terrific song "I Still Believe." (I actually liked the actor's voice and version more than Camp's.) It has a surprisingly good ending. Gary Sinise ("Lt Dan") plays the father, Shania Twain the mother. GREAT music and message.  Look for it on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Here's the trailer:

MESSIAH

The Netflix miniseries "MESSIAH" is a fascinating drama about a would-be messiah, the lives he changes, and the questions he raises about faith. In the first episode, he appears preaching during the Syrian war. Eventually, he comes to D.C.  Lots of discussion potential. Ten episodes.  Here are the wiki and episode guide.  Free on Netflix.

It's only ten 45-minute episodes. Invite your youth to "binge-watch it" with you over a week, post some questions to watch out for, and then organize a Zoom video conference party to discuss it. Have everyone bring their own snacks.

Invite youth and adults to suggest other movies that have religious or social significance and can be watched from home on a certain "watch party night." See notes about that in the next post!

The Two Popes

"The Two Popes"  ...award-winning movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce portraying how Pope Francis came to replace the retiring Pope Benedict, their interactions and clash of differences, backgrounds, and personalities. Even as a Protestant, I found this super interesting and relevant. Here's the wiki. Free on Netflix.

Invite your adults to watch this movie one evening at home, and then jump online to your Facebook page for discussion, or Zoom meeting for face to face.

Last edited by CreativeCarol
Neil MacQueen posted:

Great idea, Debbie. Kids are missing their friends (parents too!) so face to face is important.

Here's a thought:

  • Invite Zoom Families to watch a video or do an activity together BEFORE the Zoom get-together. Then use the Zoom Time for "show 'n tell." 

Movie night followed by a group Zoom meetup discussion  (or even one-on-one facetime conversation) is a great idea! Check out the easily available secular movies suggested here, and then add your own suggestions! Teaching with Secular Movies

And here is a helpful article with great discussion questions for families as part of a family movie night. 

Last edited by Amy Crane

We used Facebook Live as that is a format our church is familiar with and interaction was really, really important to us. However, the lag presented challenges for us and it meant we couldn't show kids or let kids lead the way we would in person. I repeated their comments and reacted when I saw the comment which the kids enjoyed. The pacing was just awkward. However, feedback from parents was excellent. I just want to consider ways to do it better.  Do you have suggestions for using Facebook Live videos in a way that incorporates comments but doesn't drag? 

Neil added his answer to Heather here rather than create a new post 


Hi Heather!

Facebook Live comments, for those who don't know, are the participant comments that scroll down the bottom part of the video screen. If people post a lot of them, the scroll moves fast and can become unreadable.  I mentioned over in my Online Worship experiences that adults were posting FB comments during the prayers and sermons! Very distracting. The bigger the group, the bigger the problem because it doesn't take many to clog the screen. See my suggestions below, especially the "CAT."

You said a lot when you wrote "we couldn't show kids or let kids lead the way we would in person."  Doing things online has many challenges to be figured out and man of our teaching habits aren't going to translate to certain mediums, like Facebook Live without being modified. To me, that's the silver lining of this current crisis -- it's forcing many to venture into a way of connecting that we will certainly be doing more of in the future.

  1. First thing I would do is simplify and shorten my lesson. Less moving parts means less material to be interrupted. You don't want to squash participation. Early on, we want to create good habits and expectations.

  2. Second thing is to recognize that the "interruptions" might be what some kids need right now. Many have been separated by their friends and are just glad to be together.

  3. Third thing I'd do is create some "rules," such as "When I post the photo of the Cat saying QUIET, stop typing responses until I post prompt some of you BY NAME to respond. In other words, "make them raise their virtual hand" and then call upon them.
    catcomments

  4. Fourth. look at Zoom or Microsoft Teams for video conferencing. The leader can control the action, audio, screens, etc. A bit more of a learning curve that FB Live, but it will solve the problem of control.  Different tools for different uses.



    Looking forward to hearing back how your experiments are going.

    Neil


 

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I also struggled last week finding a way to connect with my kids from church in a creative way and received some good ideas from others and some that did not quite match what my goal was. What I learned though, was that this is all very new and that there is a learning curve. Churches are all at different levels with their numbers, technology, staff, resources, finances, volunteers, and experiences. But the one thing they have, especially since they were compelled enough to try, is passion to keep their kids engaged in learning about Jesus. Yes, our first attempts are probably not going to be the best, and I am thankful for the resources in this platform that will help for the next attempt.

The ideas that I found most helpful were ones including:

  • putting a bag of supplies together for parents to pick up that include a project for them to work on
  • using song videos with motions to songs they already know so they can dance to them
  • including a short YouTube video clip of the Bible Story
  • offering a craft to make or an interactive prayer station experience.

For my lesson time this week I am going to try filming myself telling the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof through doodles from the God’s Big Picture curriculum that the kids can draw at the same time.

I am thinking of then having them make a diorama of the scene and record themselves reenacting the story and send them to me or post them on our church’s Facebook page.

Finally, I am going to get them a map of the U.S for them to color a state each day and pray for those who are sick in that state for that day.

I do not prefer videos where people are just talking to the kids and the kids are only watching, but I also understand that this is a learning process. There are many small churches with limited means for high production and many churches that are staffed strictly with volunteers who are also involved in other jobs. As someone who spent 18 years as a mobile church with limited resources and volunteer staff, I am grateful for those who do what they can to teach our kids about Jesus and share His heart of love.

Lynda Miller, Bushkill, PA

Edited to consolidate posts. 

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Free Printable, Linkable Bible Story Booklets for Younger Children

A lot of churches are providing their families with both printed materials and links to PDFs both routinely and during the current crisis. Here at Rotation.org we've been posting and using Jill Kemp's free printable booklets in our lesson forums and lesson plans for quite some time. They use Richard Gunther's kid-friendly illustrations. Graciously, both Jill and Richard offer all these materials for free. Jill has a number of different formats (PDF, Publisher) and offers most in both color and b&w. The b&w versions can be colored. She also has some printable worksheet/kid games. Ages 3 to 7.

  • Print and deliver them (or put them in a storybag).
  • Post links on your Facebook or Website.
  • Email a link to a story. 
  • Use them for video storytelling.
  • Use them as slides. 

 NEW Testament storybooks:  http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/One...0Bible%20Stories.htm

 OLD Testament storybooks: http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/one..._old%20testament.htm



Direct links to some timely stories:

Jesus Rides a Donkey storybook: http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/One...ge%20story%20col.pdf

Washing Feet storybook: http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/One...ge%20story%20col.pdf

Last Supper storybook: http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/One...ge%20story%20col.pdf

On the Road to Emmaus storybook: http://www.lambsongs.co.nz/One...ge%20story%20col.pdf

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Related post: 10 Things You Can Do on Zoom to Reach and Teach Your Kids



The importance of social connecting during this time of social distancing

and ideas for how to connect using Group Video Chat

Miss-My-Friends

"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:

  1. As always, check with parents first.
  2. Send text message alerts about upcoming "live" events.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Tech Notes:

Some helpful links:

10 Things You Can Do on Zoom to Reach and Teach Your Kids

How to Group Video Chat on Facebook Messenger
Introducing Group Video Chat on Facebook Messenger
How to add someone to your Facebook Messenger contacts/group

Tips:

  • 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.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

During the weeks leading up Easter 2020, Andrew Lloyd Weber released for free his musicals Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar on YouTube.

Those musicals/movies can still be found online and streamed at home.

Search Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Our friends in ministry at Athens First United Methodist Church have shared these Holy Week ideas for families on their web page. You will find the Bible story for retelling, prayers and a family Easter scavenger hunt and references for their sources. Family Holy Week

Prayer is an important spiritual discipline during this unsettled time.

Our newest Writing Team lesson set on the Lord's Prayer is a great way to teach children how to pray and why they should pray. All seven lessons emphasize learning the Lord's Prayer and understanding the meaning of some of its key content.

And of special importance these days: most of the lessons have activities that would be wonderful experiences for families at home -- they use supplies most families have on hand or can pick up on their next grocery run and they have easy-to-follow teacher instructions that will work with small multi-age parent-led family groups.

  • Art: The scripture doodling activity is a perfect family Bible study method that is outlined in the Lord's Prayer art lesson and also in this article. Families can use shoeboxes or other small boxes for their "closets,"  but the church may want to consider buying the adhesive mirror paper and distributing it to families if this is a church-wide activity suggestion.
  • Bible Skills and Games: the inflection game will work well at home. And there is an alternate suggestion knot untieing activity for smaller families if the human knot game won't work.
  • Computer: The software is now available FREE for download for all of our Supporting Members (and can be given to your church's families at home); see information here. Added bonus: the recommended software can be used by families to learn other memory verses and study other Bible stories.
  • "Our Daily Pizza" Cooking: Family pizza party! Need we say more? Wait, there is more: a homeschool science demonstration that doubles as a prayer object lesson.  
  • Why and How We Pray: includes links to two free videos and some great discussion starters.
  • Video: a chance for families to make several fun videos that they can share with grandparents and friends! (This one will work better with families with four or more people.)

 

NOTE: The Bible Background and Lesson Summary page are open to all. The lesson plans are open to our amazing Supporting Members whose $45/year make our website and its resources possible.

Last edited by Amy Crane

Two birds, one stone.

Easy home science experiments that can also be Bible lessons.

These experiments can be emailed to families, or recreated in your own video with your own narrated points you want to make. It's helpful to email the videos too, but the idea is for kids to do these "hands on" at home.

Four Science Experiments that Demonstrate Biblical Ideas from ResourceUMC.org, including elephant's toothpaste and the soap-repelling-pepper (sin) demonstrations. I like the flowers in colored water "experiment" because it visually demonstrates how God's goodness and presence can change us. The links to the videos are in the article. 

The orange that floats, and the orange that sinks 
This a-peeling demonstration was originally about "the armor of God" that protects us (keeps us afloat), but I would suggest making it about "faith" being the peel that keeps us afloat in difficult times (like these). Here's the YouTube video of it. What else keeps us afloat? Prayer, worship, not being self-centered, making good use of our time and circumstances rather than worrying.

How things "fly" and how our faith and "spirits" can be lifted by God's Spirit
The Bernouli Effect is always fun to demonstrate. In this video, a ping pong ball and hair dryer are used. You can also use a leaf blower and try various balls. The science point is worth explaining because it explains how kites, bird wings, and airplanes work. The faith point is that we are to "live" in God's spirit (spirit = wind, breath, moving force). God's Spirit can also "lift our spirits." And we can lift up each other. 

Here is a great teaching technique that seems designed for a distanced group project: Selfie Bible Stories. 

Kids love taking pictures of themselves on the cellphone (or tablet). So it can become a fun way to tell a Bible story using cellphone camera's "selfie" setting.  It's very similar to "posing" or creating a Bible story "tableaux" --but it does it using the popular "selfie" mode on your camera and in doing so, emphasizes only the FACES and facial expressions of the students.

To turn it into an online/at-home lesson, have the families read the scripture passage and talk about it with questions you sent them, or have the discussion via Zoom or whatever technology you are using. Then assign each family a scene in the story and have them create a selfie using objects and makeshift costumes they have at home. (A time limit would make this quick and spontaneous rather than something that gets set aside until "later" and forgotten.) 

Have the families send you the photos and you can put them into a slideshow for sharing (or you can have each family share as part of the zoom time to wrap up the class and reflect). Make sure you share the slide show with the rest of the congregation, too, to keep them in touch with other families in a virtual way. 

magiSelfie

This technique can be used for any Bible story.

Here is an example of a lesson that uses this technique in the Writing Teams Magi lesson set (open to Supporting Members, a great resource for only $45/year; summarized here for all).

 

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Using Online "Worship Surfing" to Discuss "Worship" with Your Family

If you're like me, you've dabbled in a number of online worship experiences during the COVID quarantine. I've virtually attended my own, of course, but I've also looked in on "previous" churches I've been part of, and done some random surfing to see what other churches are doing. It sure helps that most everybody's "live" worship is being recorded, because I guarantee you I have skipped some pretty awful music and sermons. 

On several occasions I've had a member of my family worshipping with me as I surfed, and we've had some good discussion not only about WHAT was being said, but also about the virtual worship experience and our attitudes about "what makes worship feel like worship." In fact, in many ways, it has been a huge values clarification exercise for me and my family about what worship is, how we participate, what our expectations are, what OUR personal weaknesses are, and what adjustments we need to make in habits and attitudes when confronted with worship on a screen.   

To wit, any family can do the same.

I have to admit that "Online Worship-Surfing" is not a great way to worship, but it is better than no worship at all. One sure outcome: I will appreciate "in-person" worship all the more when this pandemic is over!  I also hope every preacher is doing some online-worship-surfing. They could learn a lot about how preachers get and lose the worshipper's attention (i.e. how not to be so dull).

Tips:

It really helps if you can pull up these online services on your big screen TV's browser or have more than one small computer screen to look at in your group.

If you are watching a Facebook Live worship (either live or recorded) don't forget to leave them a response thanking them).

One Sunday we simply used the Easter worship video put together by our denomination. Check your denomination's website for some links to their recommended services.

I'd also recommend you add a "drive-in" worship service to your mix. Doesn't matter so much which church it is, just call the church ahead of time to get details, put the family in the car and GO (remember to bring snacks). The one we went to felt "unusual" simply because we were in a car! But that too was fodder for discussion.



How to Do It:

You can't watch three or four ENTIRE worship services, but you can watch parts of three or four if you turn it into a creative experience.

You will need to pre-determine which services you want to watch so collect their web addresses in advanceKeep in mind that most online worship services are RECORDED (even the Facebook Live ones), so you don't have to watch them at a specified time. Instead, you will listen to parts of three different songs, three different sermons, and three different prayers -- and skip whatever else you like. 

Invite family members to join your "experiment" and if needed, have some fresh breads and fruit as a reward for staying with you.

PAUSE the worship playback when one of your family members has something to say. Don't make them wait. 

To help keep interruptions to a minimum, give each "watcher" 3 pieces of paper: red, yellow, and green. Have them put the color on top which indicates how they are feeling about what they're watching at that moment. That way they can express themselves without disrupting the listening/viewing of others in the room. When everyone in the room has their RED card on top, ask if they want to fast-forward. (We didn't do this and found ourselves "telling" others in the room how we felt by shifting and sighing -- which I don't recommend. )

When fast-forwarding to a new point in the service, give yourself a minute to "get into it" before you decided to skip it. (Wait... skip part of a worship service?  Yes, mentally parishoners do it all the time. So what gets and holds our attention? I can tell you that a speaker who doesn't move and a singer who wails got us to fast forward a lot. Is that fair? Is that worship? I dunno, but it was GREAT discussion!)

Here are some questions you can ask during and after your online worship journey:

Which service did you like best? least?  why?

Which one would you choose to attend in person and why?

Even the "dull parts" are questions waiting to be asked:

  • What made it "dull" to you?    Was it you or the content or the fact that it was online, or because you didn't know the people?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Would it have helped if you knew the people? (familiarity, "family" is a big part of feeling part of worship)  But what does it say that you didn't know the person and yet could worship with them? Do you know everyone at our church? How important is it for you to know the pastor or people around you? Is that a good or bad thing?

How easy was it to focus on the message while you watched it on TV?  Would you like to worship more like this or not ever again?

When the person prayed, did it feel like a prayer to you?  (When a prayer is on TV we tend to watch rather than pray.) How could we have gotten into a more prayerful mood?

How helpful were the "actions" of the speakers to you in helping you listen?

What could the speaker have done to help you pay attention? Visuals?

What did you learn about OUR (your) church worship service?  (appreciated, like, would like to see done better)

What did you learn about yourself as a worshipper?  Do you need more help?  Less distractions? More...?

In talking with my family members, these questions were usually shared as statements:  "I wish that speaker would move!"  "I liked that prayer because it wasn't rushed. The other guy was rushed."

Final Word:

This exercise reminds me of the Confirmation classes I've led over the year where we'd visit other church worship services. The discussion AFTERWARD was always great, and quite a few of our teens gained a new appreciation for our own church's familiar service.

However, you do this journey, thank God for the lemons as well as the lemonade.

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Idea for teaching about the Armor of God:

Armor of God Drama Lesson from Jenks Church of Christ

a drama lesson where families can make commercials about the different parts of the armor of God.  Parents can lead the discussion part of the lesson at home (and families can send the videos to the church to be shared with all) or the discussion part of the lesson can take place on Zoom and then the families are given time to create the commercials. 

I have been enjoying music and dance compilation videos that churches and other organizations have been putting together lately. Here is one of the Hallelujah Chorus that I find particularly uplifting and encouraging as well as fun:

The Hallelujah Chorus-2020 from Most Sacred Heart on Vimeo.

Producing a video like this is a safe way to enjoy music and be socially distant.

This music video reminded me of a writing team lesson that would work for a lesson incorporating music from a safe distance in the classroom, or that can be easily adapted into a Zoom family lesson with video clips sent from homes.  And, bonus points, it is the story of the exile Esther! Here is a video from board member Donna Grabert's church (Turning Pointe UMC):

The Writing Team's lesson is for a Music~Worship~Drama "Do Something" workshop. This special workshop features the wonderful music video of Matthew West's song, "Do Something," and instructions for how to make your own version of the video as a live performance in a worship setting or for classroom viewing.  (Consider having families at home read Esther's story in advance and start the online group lesson with a quick review of the story.) 

{The lesson plan is only open to Supporting Members who make this site and resources like this possible. Why not become a Supporting Member today? The lesson summary is open to all.}

Last edited by Luanne Payne

  NEW from Our Writing Team!! 

Looking for at-home Bible lessons that are easy to teach and fun for families?  Take a look at these easy-to-do Sunday School lessons drawn from our forums and modified for at-home use.  They don't require unusual supplies. They aren't "too young." And they aren't complicated or long.

They're perfect for families struggling to continue their children's Christian education during this time of pandemic.

 Take a look at the summary here: At-Home Sunday School Lessons for Families

 Two of the lessons are open to everyone. The rest are open to our Supporting Members. Join today! 

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Fun Ways to Use A Cellphone At Home
to Learn Bible Stories and Verses

Over the past couple of years, we here at Rotation.org have posted lots of ideas, lesson plans, and video clips about using our cellphones in our teaching. This post shares links to some of those resources and has a couple of lesson ideas you can turn into "plans" to share with your families.

Kids LOVE taking photos and making videos with cellphones. The use of a cellphone makes the lesson an easy "sell" and gets some creative interaction and memorable sharing going at home on almost any subject you want.



Make a Time-Lapse Video of a Bible Story Using Your Cellphone 

The idea here is to introduce the story and do a little discussion before whipping out your camera to do a creative version of what you've just learned.

  • Create time-lapse dramas of stories by acting them out, or moving props like LEGOS while recording in time-lapse mode.
  • Draw a Bible story or key scene while being time-lapse recorded.
  • Illustrate a Bible scene or verse


In this video example
from a lesson here at Rotation.org, LEGOS were moved around to recreate the Parable of the Sower: https://youtu.be/so-pjKeaoZo

In this next one, two sisters have been recorded illustrating a verse.
The title says "time lapse" but it looks more like "fast playback" to me. (A song was added to the video prior to uploading to YouTube as you can't add audio in time-lapse).
There are free cellphone apps that let you record normally and then playback fast or slow.

 Key Tech Tip:  It takes about three minutes of recording to produce a 20 second time-lapse video. Do a test run on your cellphone to check your timing and whether or not your phone limits the length of time-lapse recording. (Get a free app for more controls/options.)

Learn more about cellphone recording techniques and different ways to tell the story on video in our LEGO-Storytelling Forum.  This topic also has some tech tips about time lapse.

Related Resource: View and Print/Share "18 Ways Teachers Can Use Their Cellphones in Sunday School."  It has a number of ideas that will spur your thinking.



"Share My Blessings" Cellphone Scavenger Hunt

Give each member of your family a cellphone and 20 minutes to go get snapshots of the following "blessings." Depending on your situation, you may go as a family or in pairs to find and take the photographs. Review everyone's photos and ask them to explain why they chose it. Use this as an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about each other, lift each other up, and remind each other of the small and daily blessings.

(See the next post about a follow up Bible study about blessings.)

  1. My favorite toy or clothing item
  2. Something that makes me feel happy
  3. Something that when I see it reminds me of some great memories
  4. Something that when I see it makes me a little sad
  5. Something that reminds me of the beauty of the world
  6. Something that we have that some other family could really use right now
  7. Something that reminds me of God
  8. A member of my family that I want to say something nice about

TIP: If you have a lot of family members or not a lot of time, write these eight items on slips of paper (duplicating some of the more introspective ones so that two people will do them) and have everyone draw 3 or four slips from a hat to go hunt for.

See the next post below for a "Beatitudes Blessings" Bible Study to use (at another time) following your Blessings Scavenger Hunt 

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