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This topic is looking ahead at what we are learning from this pandemic and church closings that should inform Sunday School AFTER the pandemic is over. 

Kicking off the discussion in THIS topic is a list of recommendations to help reduce the spread of illness in Sunday School and congregations. Your thoughtful replies and questions about "after the pandemic" are welcome. 

For more "HELP NOW" ideas and discussion, view the other topics in this COVID forum.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 - NLT


Sunday School after the Coronavirus

Recommendations from your friends at Rotation.org

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Anywhere children and adults gather together can become a "vector" for the spread of illness, including the coronavirus. Churches and Sunday Schools are no exception. Especially considering the number of older and "at risk" parishioners who share our facilities and come in direct contact with our children, moving forward, Sunday Schools and churches need to become more intentional and pro-active to protect the health of members, visitors and staff. When we finally get this crisis behind us, we need to apply its lessons to the future.

Many of the following recommendations are not only important to implement during the coronavirus pandemic, they should become part of your "safe church" policy and practice. Heeding the following advice is not only the right thing to do, it will earn respect, spread good practices, keep more people healthy, and teach important lessons.

 Prop open doors where possible so that people don't have to touch handles and knobs.

 Place hand-sanitizer volunteers at your entrances to catch people coming AND going. 

 Begin classes by passing the sanitizer and supervising how well children use it. If you're having trouble finding sanitizer, search the web for many good alternatives (soap and water works!).

 Put some space between students in the classroom and during activities. For example, add an extra table, sit in a larger circle, form lines at an arm's length. 

 Remove points of unnecessary physical contact in general and in worship services (such as "passing the peace"), Sunday School, and other types of activities (such as fellowship games and shared-supply art projects). This applies to greeting each other at doors and in fellowship. Use creative alternatives to handshakes, hugs, and the sharing of supplies.

 Review and promote policies regarding "sick child" and "sick adult." Discuss your "threshold" for canceling a gathering and have a plan for getting the word out.

 Review or create safe workplace policies that protect and promote the health of pastors, staff, and janitors.

 Post "how to cough" posters to remind kids and educate adults! (The kids will be used to it, but the practice will be new to many adults.)  Link to large "Cover Your Cough" poster.

 Have a supply of disposable masks for students and teachers who have symptoms.

 Remind teachers to be on the look-out for ill children and adults.

 Sanitize physical "points of contact" in the classroom and building after use (toys, linens, sinks, handles, toilets, door jambs, doorknobs, tabletops, chairs, etc).  This is especially important if your classrooms are used during the week by other groups. Do not share supplies with daycares. Insist that the daycare have cleaning protocols in place every Friday.

 Practice safe food handling by having gloved volunteers pouring drinks and distributing snacks. 

 Have volunteers on stand-by to fill in for teachers and leaders who do not come.

 Check on friends and fellow parishioners, especially those who are older and alone. (Children can make "get well" cards to be distributed.)

 Suggest "at-home" activities, movies, and games to parents and children to help pass the time and reduce stress.

 Suggest ways parents and teachers can talk to children about the Coronavirus. (There are a number of good parenting websites with this information.)  Relieve fears. 

 Check-in with working parents about their child-care needs, and on the financial and supply needs of those who become ill.

 Respect people's choices and their fears. Look for opportunities to relieve their stress.

 Remember that EVERY YEAR has a "flu season," and that even "the regular flu" can be dangerous to older adults and at-risk persons.

 Use this time as an opportunity to teach people about caring for others, and encourage on-going attention to the needs of at-risk persons.

 Don't be afraid to cancel or postpone. Nobody's salvation depends on a class or event. Practice and demonstrate the spiritual gift of discretion and patience.

 Be an example to others of hope, care, and patience. 

 And finally...  Have a plan to deliver at-home Sunday School. Even after the "stay at home" orders have been lifted, how do you plan on reaching those who cannot (or will be reticent to) return?   The current crisis should be the "mother of invention." What will we have learned? What do we need to get better at?

If you have something to add to this list, please post your reply.

Permission granted to share as needed.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Original Post

One way to help the elderly still feel a part of the community is to help them to get online so that they can live stream. Many have access to phones and computers but may need a little tutorial to help them with this.

SOAP AND WATER IS BETTER THAN HAND SANITIZER AND SHOULD BE USED WHENEVER POSSIBLE.

Soap disrupts the formation of the lipids (fats) in the virus coat, preventing the successful formation of new virus particles (this happens at the nano level and is fairly new research that explains the reason for the correlation between soap and virus reduction that the medical community has known about for years).  Hand sanitizer is not as effective and should only be used where washing of hands with soap and water is not possible or not practical.  We should be teaching our kids to wash their hands frequently, regardless of other opportunities for hand sanitization (we are instituting a "before and after" policy for hand washing and Sunday school, but are fortunate in having washrooms connected to our Sunday school space).

I encourage everyone to be aware of policies and suggestions made by their local government officials and their national/regional church bodies.  The hygiene teaching is always a good idea, but this particular virus is impacting different regions in very different ways, so it is important to remember that the appropriate response will differ from region to region and church to church.

Update: see an expanded version of this post <here>



Regarding "distance learning" and live-streaming Sunday School and worship...

 Totally easy and free and you have several options.

Facebook Live lets you broadcast on your Facebook page using your cellphone or tablet. Your broadcast can only be viewed by other Facebook users. FB Live also saves your broadcast so people can view it after the fact.  Just open your Facebook app and click the "LIVE" link prominently featured on your newsfeed. 

YouTube also lets you broadcast live over your cellphone or tablet and saves your broadcast so people can view it later. One advantage of YouTube is that it doesn't require an account to view their videos like Facebook does. You just go to their site on your phone or computer and watch the video (live or saved), The broadcaster does have to have an account (which are free). 

My choice for general audiences would be YouTube because you don't need an account to watch live videos on it, just a cellphone or computer.

As with all cellphone and internet usage involving children and youth, adult supervision is required.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Instead of having volunteers on stand-by (suggested above to cover for teachers who do not come), have a ”just in case” plan ready to combine several age groups.  (If adults aren’t coming, number of kids present is probably also smaller)

Something to share with families that explains coronavirus to kids from a Christian point of view:

From the publisher of Go! Curriculum.

Last edited by Amy Crane

As it happens, we have been learning the story of Jesus calming the sea as our rotation. On Sunday, our pastor changed her already prepared sermon to preach on this text and spoke about love casting out fear.  We are trying to figure out and share ways for families to show love that casts out fear to the world by:

  • Purchasing bags of food for an emergency food bank for kids in our area who depend on school breakfasts and lunches
  • Asking children at home make cards for people who are isolated in assisted living or elsewhere
  • Opening a room of books we have to stock Little Free Libraries to families who want to pick up reading material (because our libraries are closed), by offering to run errands for those at risk.

I'd love to learn how others are supporting families at home in these unprecedented times. This seems like a whole culture shift, and we need to share ideas for navigating these waters.

Last edited by Amy Crane

Thanks, Cindy! Those are wonderful suggestions. Outreach is always important.

There is another conversation started here where we hope to collect ideas for lessons that parents and children can do at home, either online or sent some other way. 

#sharingCommunity  

Beyond Coronavirus... Opening our eyes to healthy church buildings and practices

Many years ago at a church where I had just started, I walked into a Sunday School room that made my head throb and throat start to close. One of the classroom walls was glistening with seeping slimy groundwater. It was my first encounter with a "sick building" and how they can make our children and teachers feel sick. Fortunately, the problem was easily fixed by rerouting the downspouts but it started me down the road of taking a much closer look at our teaching space, a journey which not so coincidentally led to the creation of the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School

Here's a picture of that room with the "Temple" mural painted over that once-slimy wall after the room was fixed.

At about that same time, I was diagnosed with dust allergies and a modest sensitivity to mildew. Never had them as a child, but whatever “turned on” in my adult immune system also turned on my awareness of how even mildly 'sick' rooms can make a child or adult feel uneasy and irritated. It's hard to learn when your sinuses are closing down and eyes start to itch. Worse, I believe people make subconscious decisions about places that makes them physically and psychologically uncomfortable.

I'm not a germ-a-phobe. Rather, I simply became aware of how unseen airborne irritants can make some of us feel awful. And now we’re becoming more aware of that our facilities and group interactions are a “vector” for the spread of common and uncommon illnesses that are dangerous to older people and those with compromised immune systems and other medical conditions.  For decades, we've coughed and touched and fevered our way through schools, churches, workplaces, and restaurants without thinking about how our "tolerable" illnesses can threaten someone's grandparent or friend who has heart disease. I pray that those days of "blissful" ignorance are over -- that healthier practices and facilities are one of the silver linings of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

So here are my questions: 

When the Coronavirus has run its course or been conquered, will we go back to the same-old practices that facilitate the spread of other illnesses at our gatherings? 

Will we look the other way at the cleanliness of our facilities and health of our members and staff the way we used to?

And just to give one example or "things that should be different" --- who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea to have the pastor shake everyone's hand on the way out of church?  ...and greeters on the way in? ...and no hand-sanitizers in classrooms?

I truly believe that crisis is the mother of invention. Moving forward, what we in children's ministry and the church need to do is "re-invent" how we manage our buildings and the ways we interact with each other.

The list at the top of this topic is a great start on some of that reinvention.  To that list I would like to add: teacher training and thorough cleaning (and dusting) of all spaces where children regularly gather in our churches.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Neil

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Here is an encouraging blog: Helping our Kids be Brave

It suggests five ways that we (focuses on parents, but these ideas work for children's ministry leaders too) can help kids process what’s going on and hopefully choose to be brave, and includes a few games and projects.

"We don’t need to pretend like nothing is going on, but we can talk to our kids about Who we can turn to with our fears."

Our community, schools and churches are closed.  We are thinking about using Google Classroom and posting activities to have elements of Rotation Sunday school at home.  Pondering how we can adapt lessons after Easter.

Jeanie and Heidi, Noel UMC in Shreveport LA

Hi @Jean Middleton@Heidi Weber, and the rest of our community!

We are working to collect ideas for creative and adaptive teaching during this time when churches are not meeting face-to-face. In addition to the discussion you see above, please also check out this discussion: Ideas for online Sunday school. I just passed along there a great deal of information from Beth Tobin about using Zoom

Make sure you check out what we have so far in this topic and the online Sunday school topic, be watching our Facebook page as well as our e-newsletter for updates --- check your profile to make sure we have the correct e-mail address for you and make sure that your spam blocker is not blocking e-mails from our website host's new name: alerts@crowdstack.com. And don't forget to come back here and share your great ideas and tips as well as ask questions! We are a #sharingCommunity.

Last edited by Amy Crane

As we work to plan ways to keep our ministries going,  here is a blog providing perspective and helpful insight: Letter to fellow ministry leaders from Christina Embree

It says, in part, 

Friends, parents in America are overwhelmed. In a few short days, they have been handed the responsibility of teaching their children at home while continuing to work their job (from home or in person) all while being thrown copious amounts of information about COVID-19 from every possible direction… and then there is us.

With the best of intentions, we have joined the cacophony of voices that are offering advice, resources, videos, experiences, links, songs, lessons, books, devotionals, etc.  And that is not a bad thing; in fact, the majority of responses I’ve seen posted publicly are those of gratitude and thankfulness.

She makes some good points, and most importantly encourages us to pray for the families we serve and to reach out personally and encourage them in this journey.  

And please know that we at rotation.org continue to pray for you and your ministry and your well-being.  Take care of yourself, stay in touch, and wash your hands!

I'm actually enjoying being able to bring ideas into our Sunday School home "classrooms" that are simply impractical in our standard format. 

We are doing a "shut-in Sunday school" where we send out both a lesson plan and some resources (e.g. reproducibles from books we own). 

The lessons are specifically designed to have many different pieces and take lots of time, so caregivers have ideas to keep the kids busy for the whole day (and include active aspects to get kids moving). 

As part of this we include "long-term crafts/activities" --these are things that either will take longer than one day (like growing a seed) or can be structured to be ongoing (add something each day or week). 

We're including songs that are sung to familiar tunes (and have actions where possible), prayers that involve action (like sign language prayers) and items that are specifically designed to be shared with the rest of our community via our minister, who is doing online worship each Sunday and daily Facebook posts  (photos of their artwork, extra verses to songs or prayers that they have written, etc.). 

For the older kids there are "research questions" where the expectation is that they will have to do research to answer the question (e.g. what things have been developed to help people who are blind in our modern society? (for healing of the man born blind). 

For the first time ever I can teach both holy week and Easter morning lessons in one year, as we do not have Sunday school for our Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, so even before we started using the rotational model you couldn't focus on both.  If I get enough ahead, I will also send out "keep them busy" suggestions that don't have anything to do with Sunday school but are just a way to minister to parents with "cabin fever" kids. 

A rotation moderator bolded key text.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Sunday School Social Distancing and Group Sizes

Wormy-maskI'm stealing this topic from one of our Board members whose pastor was asking about how they were going to respond to their STATE rules about number of occupants and group sizes. 

Eventually, this will not be a continuing issue (we hope). But as of late April 2020, many states are making plans to lift the bans on gatherings with some restrictions and practices that we will have to follow for some time. Check with your state.

 Please add your thoughts to this preliminary list...

Things we need to be prepared to do:

1. Take every kid and teacher's temperature. That practice will be the norm across our country in many public gathering places for the foreseeable future. Buy your thermometers now because they are scarce. Ask members if they have one to loan the church.

2. Set up hand-washing stations. Sanitize each kid as they arrive. Since "Purell" is very hard to come by, search your locality for isopropyl alcohol which can be spritzed onto paper towel.  If you've been in a cruise in the last few years, take a hint from their playbook and have volunteers AT THE DOOR ready to squirt hands.

3. Encourage parents to send their kids with facemasks for the near term. Make or have prepared "facemasks" until your state authorities give you the "all clear" sign on wearing facemasks in public. 

4. Identify teachers who may have health issues that put them at risk. Invite healthy adults to "step into the breach" on behalf of the teacher.

5. Don't overload the classroom space. If needed, remove unnecessary items to give you one less point of contact or thing to clean.

6. Examine each action and activity in the lesson plan, and before and after the lesson, that may be a point of contact we want to reduce.

7. Have a cleaning plan, supplies, and volunteers ready to clean classrooms, especially the nursery and toddler rooms. Post "cleaned by" notices to assure parents and visitors.

Remember: While the kids may not get sick, they can carry the virus and infect older adults who may have health issues.


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Regarding "Sunday School Social Distancing and Group Sizes" above: Neil makes some very good points!

Here is a link to CDC guidance for child care, some of which may be a higher standard than most churches can manage on a Sunday morning with volunteers and different children attending from week to week. 

The CDC currently recommends temperature screening for child care; the process to do that safely that is described at the link is quite cumbersome. I wonder if by the time churches restart their children's activities if that guideline will still be in place? I know that Louisiana is currently requiring masks but not temperature taking for early opening activities (stores and offices and takeout restaurants), and I am seeing online discussion that many are thinking that since the most worrisome problem is asymptomatic carriers of the virus, taking temperatures will not stop them from infecting all they come in contact with. 

The CDC also recommends that we intensify cleaning and disinfection efforts, much of which is discussed above as things we probably really should have been doing all along..... 

Another thing to think about:  new requirements related to social distancing.  The Large Group/Small Group Sunday school model may be OUT?  I see in Facebook groups that large churches are really scrambling and struggling (especially in Texas that is starting to open this week). Rotation workshops with separate rooms for separate groups may be better suited to social distancing. Although some workshops that require working closely together -- cooking, computer, Lego -- may be more challenging and require more creative solutions?  More individual serving recipes for cooking, with enough borrowed cooking utensils so that sharing is not necessary? Lego workshops where scenes are made by individuals rather than collaboratively (again possibly required borrowed supplies brought from homes)?

We also need to consider whether volunteers are willing/able to return as soon as we might want to restart ministry.  That is, there will be a smaller volunteer pool, or a need to recruit new, inexperienced volunteers. So we will also need to consider extra time this summer for recruiting and training. 

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