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Sunday School After the Pandemic:
Changes, Trends, Ideas, Challenges,
How Will We Be Different?
Safe Sunday School practices,
Rotation Model after the Pandemic
Online Sunday School?
...and more

This topic is looking ahead at issues and needs
not only for the "reopening" of Sunday School and related programs,
but for post-pandemic Sunday School and children's ministry,
--what we have learned from the pandemic,
changes that need to be made,
and what the "new normal" may look like.


Kicking off the discussion in THIS topic is a list of safety recommendations to help reduce the spread of illness in Sunday School and congregations after the pandemic is over. You will also find an article about how the Workshop Rotation Model can help us answer many of the challenges ahead.

You are welcome to reply with your thoughtful questions and ideas about "Sunday School and Children's Ministry after the pandemic."

Please note that this forum will be converted and greatly expanded into a special forum for our Supporting Members late 2020. Become a Supporting Member now to access all our great content and support important discussions like these!

Related Links:

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

2 Timothy 1:7 - NLT

Safe Sunday School Now & After the Pandemic is Over

Recommendations from your friends at

The COVID pandemic has taught us that anywhere children and adults gather can become a "vector" for the spread of illness, including COVID and influenza which not only can make you very sick, they can be health and life-threatening to many. Moving forward, churches have learned that they can and SHOULD DO MORE to protect the health of members, visitors, and staff.

Many of the following recommendations are/were lessons learned during the COVID pandemic and should become part of our future "safe church" policies and practices. Heeding the following advice is not only the right thing to do, it will earn respect, spread good practices, keep more people healthy, and let us focus on teaching.

They have been suggested by healthcare professionals, the CDC, various children's ministry experts, and he members of, Consider them a starting point for discussion and implementation in your church.

Establish a "sick child" policy and educate parents.

Remind teachers to be on the look-out for ill children and adults, and have a plan to deal with such.

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

Prop open doors where possible so that people don't have to touch handles and knobs and so that the flow of fresh air is increased.

Place hand-sanitizing "volunteers" at your entrances to catch people coming AND going -or- begin classes by passing the sanitizer.

Learn to put "some" space between students in the classroom and during activities especially during "flu season." For example, add an extra table, sit in a larger circle, form lines at an arm's length. Teach kids good spacing habits.

Remove or adapt practices and points of physical contact in lessons and activities. This includes worship service practices such as "passing the peace," or passing an offering tray.

Review and improve church cleaning practices and schedules, particularly anything people put their hands on.

Place signage in bathrooms and hallways about washing hands and covering coughs.

Review and make necessary modifications to air handling systems. "Fresh is best"

Pay special attention to "super spreader" activities, such as singing, and be extra-vigilant about letting "sick" kids (coughing, sniffling) participate without wearing a mask and washing hands.

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

Train volunteers and nursery workers in safety policies and emergency practices.

Review and update your volunteer background checks.

Review unmonitored or unsafe areas in the building. Lock unused space. Install security.

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

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

And finally...  Have a plan to deliver at-home Sunday School and worship to those who cannot attend in-person, and reach out to children with illnesses and chronic issues.

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

Permission granted to share as needed.


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 Teach Compassion and Reach Out to those with Health Problems

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 sharing 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 now and in the future.

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Opening our eyes to healthy and safe buildings

  • Addressing the well-being of kids and adults who have mold and dust allergies.
  • "Safe" spaces, scary rooms, bad lighting, etc. (yes, some spaces are scary to kids)

In the "new normal" after the pandemic is over, we're going to need to do a number of things differently not only do things right, but to win families back.

Many years ago at a church where I had just started serving, I walked into a Sunday School room and my head started throb and my 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. The teachers told me it was like that EVERY summer and fall (and none of them wanted to be in that room). Fortunately, the problem was easily fixed by rerouting the downspouts which were dumping rainwater next to that below-grade classroom but it made me take a much closer look at ALL our teaching spaces, 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. This room became known as the Bible Skills and Games Workshop.

At about that same time, I was diagnosed with dust allergies and a modest sensitivity to mildew. I didn't grow up with allergies, rather, they “turned on” years later and it began turning 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 start to feel full and eyes start to itch. Worse, I believe people make subconscious decisions about places that makes them physically and psychologically uncomfortable. I know I didn't like going "downstairs" at our church, and when I brought it up to two trustees who ALSO had allergies, they saw to it that things got better because they personally understood the problem. (Installed AC with filters and adjusted the cleaning schedule).

And now here we are in 2020 becoming more aware of that our facilities and group interactions are a “vectors” for the spread of common and uncommon illnesses that can be dangerous -- especially to older members, and those with health issues.  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. The "new normal" must include a "safer-normal."

"Scary" and "Unsafe" Places

Years ago in a former church, a dad approached me to say his child was "afraid" to walk down to her classroom at the end of a lower level hallway at church. It was "too dark!" she said. And indeed, it was. It was the first time I started looking at our facilities as our KIDS experience them. It was a simple lighting fix, but it started a whole list of "emotional fixes" to our facility to make sure our kids FELT welcome and safe.

A few years back at a church I temporarily served, I was in charge of setting up a new Sunday School in a new "office building" the church had purchased. The number of spare rooms, out of the way closets, and exits was a problem waiting to happen. We asked for the spare spaces to be locked and security cameras to be installed, but were told it would be too expensive.   (More expensive than a lawsuit? No. But the "retired guys" on the Building committee were from a different era and didn't seem too worried. What that committee needed was some moms!)

Crisis has a funny way of making us re-evaluate what's right, what's no longer helpful, and what's no longer necessary. Crisis also helps us see things we should have been taking care of, but for whatever reason, didn't. Going back to doing things "the old way" and not worrying about their effect on people is not leadership.

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 think about and manage "safety" in our buildings and the ways we interact with each other.

I look forward to your thoughts.



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The future of Sunday School after the pandemic:
personal, but not always in-person


Many of our friends in Christian education are reporting exhaustion with all the changes and challenges 2020 has brought them. I feel your pain. We've been challenged at too.

Fair to say that (a) it ain't over yet, and (b) AFTER the pandemic we're going to have a "new normal" for Sunday School and most of Christian education -- and the "new normal" is going to be equally as challenging for a number of short and long term reasons:

  • It's going to take time for many people to fully return.
  • Some people probably won't come back.
  • Many congregations and programs were already fighting decline before COVID.
  • New financial strains may cause churches to cut of C.E. staff.
  • Surveys are reporting a lot of stress and exhaustion among church staff.
  • And "no church affiliation" is still the fastest growing denomination in the U.S.

    (I've put a couple of citations and "further reading" links for these statements and at the end of this article. )

The pandemic and its aftermath will accelerate many of the changes we have already been experiencing, and light a fire under those we need to make. Crisis has a way of doing that.

I am hopeful! Call it providence, but 2020 has been a year of some much-needed experimentation in Christian education:

  • It has taught us "how -to" and how-not-to reach out online and at a distance.
  • It has inspired at-home learning initiatives and materials, but also reminded us of the challenge of getting follow-through at home.
  • It's been a year of technical learning, trial and error.
  • We've learned that "new" can be exhausting, but also full of potential.
  • We've been forced out of our same-old-silos and comfort zones.
  • We've experienced the luxury of "doing without" things we thought were important and are finding out just how important they really were.
  • And we've all been reminded of the blessing of being together AND learning together (which is something many had taken for granted).

What does the future hold for Sunday School?

It's going to be wonderful to get back together, which is something many churches are doing right now in a limited way. But the need for more “online" and "at-home" outreach and learning is NOT going to go away with a vaccine. They were not temporary measures. They were the beginning of the future -- a future that doesn't sit in the church waiting for people to show up.

I've heard people say or write "people are tired of online!" -- And the funny thing is, you read those things in articles and posts online! But contrary to that kind of "nostalgic" wishful thinking, time spent online is growing and being woven into the fabric of our daily lives. The average American now spends 152 minutes a day on social media alone, and that doesn’t include other online activities such as Netflix, school, or work. More jobs have moved online, and there's been a growth in online schooling too. These trends already existed pre-COVID, and will continue whether you like them or not.

Naysayers are easy to be found when something new is emerging. Remember when those disciples were blown by the Spirit into the street on the day of Pentecost to speak in new ways? (I heard the naysayers when I started teaching with software, and began experimenting with the Workshop Rotation Model, and helped launch this website.)

I have no doubt we're going to see more "online" and at-home Sunday School materials from the publishers and creative teachers. But as helpful as these materials will be, they are not the revolution. The real revolution is personally REACHING OUT to our students and families via various online methods: connecting, pastoring, encouraging, and yes, teaching.

In other words:  our efforts will be personal, but not always in-person.

"Personal" is harder and more time-consuming, but it's also often more rewarding and effective.

This revolution won't replace in-person learning

This revolution won't replace in-person learning, worship, or fellowship, but it will supplement it AND encourage it, and give us new ways to reach more kids and families, rather than waiting around for them to walk through our door.

The inclusion of more "at-home" also holds the promise of something we've long sought: bringing parents back into the teaching equation.

These changes are in keeping with something we have been saying in the church forever and 2020 has reminded us in a dramatic way: the church is not a building.

Lots more to say! Your thoughts welcome.

<>< Neil

More for leaders...

One of my favorite "church futurists" is Pastor Cary Nieuwhof. Not only is he leading a congregation, he is talking about the things churches need to be talking about.  I would encourage you to read his blog. Nearly every one of his posts is challenging and full of facts, such as some of the things I just quoted above and continue with below.

Read: "7 Weird Lies About Online Church that Pastors Need to Stop Believing"

Here are some conclusions from "7 Weird Lies About Online Church"

  • If you think people are "screened out," run your theory by TikTok or Instagram. Apparently, people aren’t nearly as done with screens as you think.

    (I would add Netflix and Facebook to the number of "screens" in our lives. )

  • If you think people "don’t like technology," and "church online is just a bridge to get us to reopening," then you're engaged in wishful thinking. "Almost all of the people you want to reach and connect with are online. It’s time for the church to embrace that."

  • He concludes:

    In the midst of an unprecedented amount of change, it’s natural to cling to the familiar. It’s also a terrible leadership strategy.

Citations and Further Reading:

Neil MacQueen is a Presbyterian minister specializing in creative approaches to Christian education. He helped create the Rotation Model and

Note: This "After the Pandemic" topic will be expanded into a special forum for Supporting Members later this year.


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The Workshop Rotation Model After the Pandemic

Using "Rotation" and "Workshop" concepts and planning strategies to create online and at-home outreach, resources, and teaching.

2020's COVID pandemic has disrupted everything in the church. Eventually, many of our families and children will return, but as the article and links above note, some will not return as much or at all -- and pre-COVID attendance trends in the U.S. will likely continue in the wrong direction. That makes me sad, but I'm also hopeful because I believe and have personally experienced how crisis really is the mother of invention.

For the last couple of years, I've been thinking a lot about "the future of the Workshop Rotation Model" in the face of daunting trends. And I've concluded that "the WoRM" is still THE BEST model for teaching kids in a classroom setting at church and will continue to be a blessing to those who embrace it.


  • Because the BRAIN SCIENCE still tells us that teaching one story through many creative approaches is the right way to teach. It's also better for memory formation -- more brain science!
  • Because the workshop concept is a fun way to teach and learn and design inviting spaces.
  • The Rotation Model is scalable up or down, and its design and schedule can flex during the year and over the years with attendance.
  •! No curriculum has a bigger creative resource base or a greater variety of lessons, creative ideas, and community support than we do.

But then COVID shut down our churches and classes, and it forced a lot of us to both scramble AND begin thinking about the post-pandemic future, the new normal.

I know there are many people who are exhausted and don't want to hear any of this now. They wish for a return to pre-COVID programming. But you and I and everyone reading this knows, the ground was beginning to shift underneath us long before we'd even heard of coronavirus.

This shutdown and our creative responses to it have REKINDLED a gut feeling that "in-class Christian education" is only PART of the teaching picture, and that we need to looking at adding other ways of connecting and teaching if we want to be part of the future instead of a relic of the past.

In fact, I don't know a serious Christian educator who doesn't ASPIRE to reach and teach kids and families BEYOND Sunday morning and their buildings.

"How" and "what" to change have always been the hard questions, not "if."

  • How to do it in a way that complements our in-class offerings, not cannibalize them.
  • How to do it in a sustainable way without killing ourselves or creating a competing program.
  • What teaching should look like outside the classroom and online.
  • And what methods, technologies, and creative content should we be using.

We've been here before... The Workshop Rotation itself was created to address long-standing problems and make room for new methods of teaching, and I believe can help us tackle these new problems and needs. The meaning behind the terms "Workshop" and "Rotation" are organization concepts that we can use to address our post-pandemic attendance challenges, at-home aspirations, and online opportunities.

Here's "how"...

The "ROTATION" part of the Model can address one of our biggest problems -- the trend toward irregular and less-frequent Sunday School attendance.

By teaching the same major story for weeks at a time,
the "Rotation" in Workshop Rotation Model makes sure irregular attenders are exposed to the MAJOR stories of the Bible, rather than having them show up for one of the less important or more obscure stories plucked from the Lectionary -- which is what happens when you change the story 52 times a year.

As it becomes harder to get more regular in-class attendance, the need to prioritize "teaching the majors instead of the minors" when the students ARE in-class sounds like a genius move -- but it's not enough. Just teaching the majors in-class would be the equivalent of burying the master's talent in the ground.

That's why in addition to harnessing the prioritizing power of "rotation," we also need to focus on NEW ways to reach and teach outside our classrooms and church buildings. Of course, I'm talking about online and at-home outreach, but like most good ideas, the devil is in the "how-to." And that's where another fundamental concept in the Rotation Model comes into play. "Workshops" are traditionally thought of as special media-centered classrooms in a church building. but what if every story rotation had one workshop that did NOT take place in the church building, and instead, focused on outreach and teaching the rotation's story online and at-home?

mceclip0What if we designated one Workshop in each Rotation as the "Online & At-Home" Outreach Workshop?

Traditionally, we defined "workshops" as in-class creative teaching techniques led by a teacher who LIKED that method of teaching and did so in a classroom space designed and decorated around that medium. (The Bible Games and Drama Workshops, for example.) But what if we designated one of our workshops in each rotation as the "ONLINE & AT-HOME" Outreach Workshop, resourced it with for sharing the Bible story through a variety of online and at-home techniques, and assigned a teacher(s) for this workshop who had online and outreach skills , and let them do their reaching and teaching outside the classroom throughout each rotation.

The "Online-At-Home" Outreach Workshop would complement the in-class offerings so that irregular attenders were getting the same stories online or at-home as the in-class attenders, and our resource teams and teachers could stay focused. This would also help when irregular attenders showed up in-class. If we had reached them with our "outreach" effort, they'd be familiar with the in-class story.

The "Outreach" Workshop could be many things and methods. It could be a "virtual class" over Zoom or YouTube. It could include ideas for families to do at home. It could include personal outreach with resources such as sharing a music-video clip, fun photos from church, and "mini-lessons." In other words, its content and its method of sharing would be varied and tailored to the needs and timing of the students.

The Lord will provide...
Like many of you, we here at have already been resourcing this idea -- thinking we were merely providing a temporary solution to the pandemic shutdown. At we developed 2020 At-Home resources, adaptations of Writing Team lesson sets for home use. and just launched our new Advent 2020 forum.  But all these resources could also be the kind of thing an "At-Home & Online" Outreach Workshop could continue to tap and expand on.

As well, our Bible lesson forums are already full of "small" ideas and socially shareable content, and capable of collecting much more.

Keep Rotating

Create an Outreach Workshop for each Rotation

My gears are turning, how about yours?


Note: This "After the Pandemic" topic will be expanded into a special forum for Supporting Members later this year.


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Regarding Neil's suggestion about adding an at-home online outreach workshop in his post above, I definitely agree that reaching out to children at home, especially to (but not only to) infrequent attenders, is a great idea to take away from the last seven months!  

I did not hear all of this On Point broadcast about rethinking education this morning,  but I imagine some of the discussion there can be applied to Christian education.  However, I did hear this very touching segment from a middle school teacher  who talked about how he took a day and made home visits to students who were not "showing up" (or arriving late) for online school. That personal connection makes a difference. His presence showed his students that he cared about them, not just about their schoolwork. Here it is: 

Our churches need to be having conversations about how best to build relationships with the children in our congregation as well as how to disciple children -- and help parents with their job of discipling their children by providing at-home resources. We need to show those children that we love them and care enough to be present for them. I think much was achieved in the creative ways that people were reaching out when we could not meet in person, and I agree that it should not stop once we (or some of us) begin gathering together in churches again.  See some outreach examples in this conversation, beginning with this post. 

Adding an "Outreach" component to each lesson set (whether we call it a workshop or not) is an excellent idea! This is the time to continue the experiment to see what works, and I imagine that what works will differ greatly from one community to the next.   Front porch meals, Zoom classes, letters mailed to children, and many more creative lesson enhancers and extenders in the home will strengthen a church's discipleship program. 

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Jesus took different approaches to different people -- tax collectors, zealots, prostitutes, fisherman, lepers, and priests,   

…at the very least,
we need to do the same with kids and teenagers.

This means that if you and I want to help God gather the next generation of the church, we have to choose to open our hearts and minds to methods that are built for a generation unlike any before it.

(Based on a quote from Pastor Carey Nieuwhof speaking about reaching Gen Z children and young adults born 1997-2012.)


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Ten things Sunday School can do
to adapt to post-pandemic attendance trends

The various clergy and church resources, futurists, bloggers, and number crunchers I follow* are predicting a very challenging post-pandemic future for churches. Most of them believe COVID has exposed, accelerated, and let loose changes that will be with us for years to come, if not permanently. Many of the changes were already "trends" before the pandemic -- membership and worship attendance decline, financial stress, declining numbers of children -- to name a few.

We can debate "why" attendance trends have been and will continue to be a serious issue — but not “if."  Various surveys and experts point to several reasons for the trends so I'm not going to rehash them. Instead of hand-wringing and finger-pointing, I'm going to look at ways my Sunday School can adapt.

The BIGGEST CHANGE COMING that will affect "Sunday School" is attendance and the "quality" of that attendance. Indeed, the change was already happening in most churches before the pandemic.


Coming out of the pandemic, many church statistics and experts are predicting a post-pandemic membership drop of about 20%. Concurrently, post-pandemic "regular" attendance will be increasingly defined as "less regular" than before (which is another trend that's been with us for years).

Based on societal trends and church stats pre-dating the pandemic, many experts believe these drops will be "permanent" for many if not most churches, forcing the closure of some and austere contraction of others. While some churches will grow, overall the numbers of "churched" is expected to continue its decades-long slide in the U.S.

Maybe your program's design and attendance is "big enough" to withstand a 20% drop, but what about your budget or your staffing? And what about churches and programs that were already at the tipping point? And even if your church is mildly successful at regaining or even growing its membership over the next five years, changing demographics point to fewer children among that growth. Moreover, what opportunities will be missed by congregations that "hang on" through the decline as if nothing needs to change?

You may be one of the lucky few if...

  • You are in a demographically "growing" area or neighborhood. You might not see a dramatic or permanent downturn (until the neighborhood ages).
  • Your church and teaching program were "healthy" going into the pandemic. You may not see a dramatic or permanent downturn and can just scale it back a bit.
  • Your church's worship was already appealing to families. You may not see a dramatic or permanent downturn, or can make a few adjustments. (But the research suggests that your success is cannibalizing nearby churches.)

But if you're like most churches, you already KNEW that you need to prepare for a different future -- a future that the pandemic has accelerated to our doorstep.

Ten Things Sunday School Leaders Can Do to Prepare for the Future

  1. Fear not. God is with us in the wilderness, and the wilderness has a way of clarifying and strengthening.
  2. Believe that "Sunday School" is a concept, not a day of the week. It's about the importance of teaching the Bible, and that can happen in many ways on any day.
  3. Reimagine how you teach based on the kids you WILL have, not the attendance you no longer have or wish you had --and do it now.  It's easier to adapt a program that's still breathing than one you let die.
  4. Look for alternate times and places to add Sunday School-like teaching. For example, if parents are gathering with adults in a home for a Bible study, the kids could be doing the same in the basement. In children's worship, use break-out groups for actual study and discussion instead of just a talking head delivering "a message." Add teaching opportunities to existing church events, such as your dinners and picnics.
  5. Equip and resource parents to do Bible teaching through their parenting. This long-standing goal is now more important than ever. (Note: Sending flyers and coloring sheets is not the answer.)
  6. Establish an outreach & teaching program for non & infrequent attenders. This will include online opportunities and the use of social media. Create something that works for them on their schedule and needs, instead of what used to work for the church's schedule.
  7. Train & Resource Your Church's Grandparents to be their grandchildren's Christian educators. This may be your "silver-haired" church's next great opportunity to reach & teach kids -- especially in congregations that don't have many kids in attendance but have loads of grandkids.
  8. Help your church make Bible study a priority and hallmark of your congregation. Parents who believe in their own Bible study will make it a priority for their children, and they will attract others to your church who also believe or want that as a priority in their lives.
  9. Be cautious about broadly grading your classes. Most older children resist being treated "like babies" and doing so can hasten their exit. Instead, when you have just one or two much older children in a broadly graded-group, turn them into leaders in the group, and mentor them in other ways.
  10. Use the concepts of "rotation" and "workshop" to improve your teaching and the student's attendance experience.  Rotation = focus on major stories for more than one lesson. Workshop = use a variety of creative teaching methods.
  11. What would you add here?

I'm hopeful because I believe and experienced that crisis is often the mother of invention. And Christian educators are some of the most creative people I know. I'm also hopeful because wilderness experiences are part of the DNA of our faith. They help us to clarify, discover, and hear the still small voice of God. Those who look back on Egypt, or try to live as if they are still in Egypt, will miss out on where and to whom God is leading us.

*Who do I read?

Here are a few of the "Church future" newsletters I subscribe to:


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Church fills empty pews with photos of parishioners during COVID-19 crisis - 6abc Philadelphia

Church growth guru Pastor Carey Nieuwhof has been posting challenging articles and predictions about what the "post-pandemic church" and attendance is going to look like." Below I've excerpted TWO of them.

While his comments are mostly directed at worship, they do apply to Sunday School as well. Nieuwhof is basing his predictions on surveys, research, and the work of other experts in the field of church growth and decline, such as Barna Research, Lifeway Research, and Pew (many of whom he interviews in his podcasts).

Article 1 is titled:


but could have just as easily been titled


1. The Leaders Bet Everything On A Physical Return To Church

2. Success Is Still Measured By The Number Of People Who Attend Physical Locations

3. Online Ministry Is Still Seen As An Afterthought Or Lesser Form

4. All Feedback Comes From Their Echo Chamber

5. They Quickly Went Back To Their (Same Old) Format

Article 2 is titled:


Read it! Below are Nieuwhof's 5 Ways and some of my comments.

  1. In-Person Doesn’t Necessarily Mean In Your Facility

    • This is similar to #3 but speaks more to the idea of alternative gathering spaces instead of viewing the church building as a "life center." The article mentions why this "shift" fits younger generations. One corollary is, "Sunday School doesn't have to be on Sunday or run like it meets in a school building."

  2. In Person Attendance In The Building Will Be A Percentage Of Your Real Church

    • Lots of ways to go with this observation, but the implication here is that we need to change our "measures of success" when it comes to groups. It then begs the question, "What is our "real" Sunday School?"

  3. You’ll Use The Building To Reach People Online, (instead of using) Online To Get People In The Building

    • Using online to get people inside the building is old thinking. The new thinking is that online IS a place to learn and meet, and call people to meet/serve in locations outside of the church building. How can our Sunday Schools reach and teach kids outside our buildings?  Where can Sunday School "go" instead of always meeting in the building?
  4. In-Person Church Attendance Will Probably Become More In-Frequent Church Attendance

    • See my notes on "infrequent" in the post previous to this one. Does spending a lot of money on graded curriculum that changes the story every week sound like a good idea if half your regular attenders will miss HALF of the curriculum you're paying for? Nope.

  5. Digital Church Will Be More Of A Front Door And A Side Door Than A Back Door

    • This is similar to other observations based on research that I've read. A church's online presence is the new front door and sign along the road.  Younger adults are much more likely to "look you up" before they walk through your door.

These predictions are scary and depressing to some people, particularly those in charge who lack skills and experience in these areas. It's going to be a lot of hardwork, trial, error, and dealing with naysayers.  What I'm keeping my eye on are THE FORERUNNERS -- those who are already succeeding in these areas and can teach us. That's how the Workshop Rotation Model spread in the 1990's -- people watched what and how we were doing Sunday School. We also took it upon ourselves to share our "how to" via 

Find those who are doing what you'd like to do or haven't yet thought of and learn from them.

Then become a teacher so that others can learn from your experience.


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What Has the Pandemic Taught Us About Our Ministries?

Church pastor and author Karl Vaters posted this gem about the "12 Bad Habits (Some) Pastors Dropped During the Pandemic That We Shouldn’t Pick Back Up" at   All "12 Bad Habits" apply to Christian education too! --including Sunday School, Youth Ministry, you name it.

Try substituting the phrase "Sunday School" or "youth group" for the word "church" or "ministry" as you read the article.

My Highlights from the Article:

It wasn’t a lost year. One of the positives is that it forced us to define what is and isn’t essential in ministry.

Our buildings are not as essential as we’ve made them out to be.

Focus on doing ministry from the building, not just in the building.

This year we learned to hold loosely to our plans. Churches with adaptability built into their strategy fared better than those with strict plans.

In the coming months, there will be many temptations to jump back into sprint mode. Don’t do it! Ministry is a marathon. Pace yourself for it.

During this challenging time, many of us have leaned on the help of our church members more than we’ve been used to. Keep fostering that spirit.

Don’t allow yourself to slip back into the mode of business-as-usual again. Change is relentless. Our ability to adapt to it is essential. There will never be an easier time to simplify your church’s ministries than now. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s not to take the most simple joys of life, family, and faith for granted.

This excellent article is reprinted from the author's blog with permission. Thanks Karl!

To read it for Christian education...
  • Wherever you read "pastors" substitute the word "Christian Educators" or "Teachers."
  • Wherever you read "church" or "worship," substitute the word "Sunday School" or whatever ministry you are involved in.

12 Bad Habits Pastors Dropped During The Pandemic That We Shouldn’t Pick Back Up

Did 2020 feel like a lost year to you?

If so, you’re definitely not alone.

But it wasn’t a lost year. Not if we don’t let it be.

One of the positives is that it forced us to define what is and isn’t essential in ministry. Most of the pastors I know dropped old habits that no longer work like they used to. If life during lockdown forced you to drop some bad habits, don’t pick them back up after the pandemic is over.

Here are 12 to watch out for:

Bad Habit 1: A Focus on the Church Building

This is one of the main differences between churches that have adapted well during the pandemic and those that have not. Churches and pastors that consider their church building as essential to worship and faith have been devastated by not being able to meet in it. Many have had to close for good.

On the other hand, the congregations that have not just survived, but thrived during this season have recognized that our buildings are not as essential as we’ve made them out to be.

The congregations that have not just survived, but thrived during this season have recognized that our buildings are not as essential as we’ve made them out to be.

When this is over and we’re allowed to go back into our church buildings, don’t fall back into the habit of relying on them for all our ministry.

Let’s focus on doing ministry from the building, not just in the building.

Bad Habit 2: An Obsession with Attendance and Numerical Increase

Most churches saw losses in attendance and offerings in the past year. It was unavoidable.

But that was never the best measure of church health and strength, anyway.

Thriving churches learned to see health and growth by what the church (as in the people) did, not just how many people gathered.

Let’s not go back to obsessing about butts in the seats ever again.

Bad Habit 3: Thinking We Have a Clue About What’s Coming Next

Those “2020 Vision” sermons didn’t age well, did they?

I’m not against planning, organizing or casting a vision for the future. But this year we learned to hold loosely to our plans.

Churches with adaptability built into their strategy fared better than those with strict plans. This is a reality that will be even more true going forward.

Let’s keep praying, planning and strategizing. But adaptability needs to remain a high priority.

Bad Habit 4: Not Paying Attention to What’s Coming Next

This is the flip-side of the previous point. While we can’t predict what’s coming, we mustn’t make the mistake of throwing our hands in the air in hopelessness, either.

While we can’t predict what’s coming, we mustn't make the mistake of throwing our hands in the air in hopelessness, either.

In 2020, we had to pay more attention than usual to the changes that are happening all around us. And so many churches did such a great job at adapting so quickly!

If the pandemic and lockdowns shook you and your congregation up, don’t be in a hurry to go back to being too comfortable with the way things are. We’ve learned to watch, listen, and adapt. Keep at it.

Bad Habit 5: Not Pacing Ourselves

Change happened so quickly at the start of the pandemic. From in-person services one week to online-only the next, then back inside, then outside, then…

In the first weeks and months, most of us jumped into sprint mode as we tried to keep up with all the changes. Then, as time went on and we realized this was no longer a matter of weeks, but months and probably years, we had to switch into a slower, steadier marathon mode of leadership and adaptability.

In the coming months there will be many temptations to jump back into sprint mode. Don’t do it!

Ministry is a marathon. Pace yourself for it.

Bad Habit 6: Ignoring Our Health, Families and Souls

This is one of the main reasons to pace yourself in ministry. When we stay at a sprint pace it always costs us something. And those who pay the price are usually our health, our family, and/or our souls.

When we stay at a sprint pace it always costs us something. And those who pay the price are usually our health, our family, and/or our souls.

The pandemic shutdown forced many of us to spend more time with our families and ourselves. Sometimes with bad results. But if these changes have allowed you to pay more attention to the principles that keep you and your family healthy, build on that.

Bad Habit 7: Not Equipping the Church

Maybe the biggest mistake I’ve seen my fellow small-church pastors make in this season has been an extension of our biggest overall ministry mistake – not following the Pastoral Prime Mandate of “equipping God’s people for works of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

During this challenging time, many of us have leaned on the help of our church members more than we’ve been used to. Keep fostering that spirit.

Don’t go back to doing all the ministry yourself. Build on the foundation of increased volunteerism by training, mentoring and equipping church members in continued ministry.

Bad Habit 8: Expecting Anything to be Business-as-Usual

This pandemic hasn’t brought change to the church. It’s just accelerated the pace of change and made it more obvious than ever before.

Don’t allow yourself to slip back into the mode of business-as-usual again. Change is relentless. Our ability to adapt to it is essential.

Bad Habit 9: Hanging on to Dead Programs

You know those church programs you used to do, but you had to stop because of the pandemic? Don’t be in a hurry to restart them.

  • First ask “is anyone really missing them?”
  • Then ask “would it be a real loss if we didn’t restart some of them?”

There will never be an easier time to simplify your church’s ministries than now. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

There will never be an easier time to simplify your church’s ministries than now. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Bad Habit 10: A Longing for the Past

There’s no “back to normal” any more.

Even if the past you’re longing for is how things were just last year, you’re still looking in the wrong direction.

Resist the habit of looking in the rear-view mirror.

Bad Habit 11: An Obsession with Being Trendy

This is the flip side of habits 8 through 10.

While some churches have learned to make necessary changes, others learned that nothing will ever replace the essential need that people have to meet together, sing in worship, receive communion and other perennial aspects of being the body of Christ.

Chasing trends feels wasteful and nonsensical during a pandemic. It will be just as wasteful and nonsensical after it’s over.

Bad Habit 12: Taking Anything for Granted

I never thought we’d have to go for weeks without opening the church building for worship. Or go for weeks without being able to offer nursery care even after we opened the building up. Or not be able to gather family for the holidays even though they live in the same city.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s not to take the most simple joys of life, family and faith for granted.

When life does settle down again, let’s never settle for that.


Here are some challenging quotes from Craig Groeschel, the Sr. Pastor of Life.Church, known for their embrace of technology and online worship long before churches "had to."   I've excerpted these quotes from his 2021 podcast with Cary Nieuwhof where they discussed the POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH and digital engagement.

I'm quoting him with Sunday School and Christian education in mind.


In the post-pandemic church, your most engaged people may not be in the room.

Crisis leadership is not as hard as you think. There are some basics: You have to communicate over and over again. You have to bring the why behind everything that you're doing.

Some pastors will try to fill auditoriums while others focus on fulfilling the mission. Full auditoriums do not guarantee a fulfilled mission.

My identity was wrapped up in the number of people in the room And then when I was preaching to nobody, I just realized... that was super emotionally and spiritually disorienting to me. And I was like, "how real is it without the people there." So I had to adjust kind of my emotional barometer to that.

(On the quality of online engagement/views...)
So the quality of engagement is in question. The number of people, how long they're on is in question, where they're coming from, all that kind of stuff, what they actually do with it? Can they process it? Can they pay attention?  I'm incredibly concerned that we have to work way, way, way, way harder to retain them, to connect them relationally, to give them an experience that engages them with other people. I believe that church is not just absorbing content. That's TV ministry, that's podcast, that's YouTube, and those are all really important. We should celebrate it, applaud it, and a lot of people should do it. But if we're pastors and if we value the church gathering, then we may still stream our content but our strategy of how we engage people needs to be different, needs to be intentional, we just need to be clear about it.

Be what you are --without being against what you're not.


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7 Trends to Expect in 2021 Children’s Ministry, an article from Group, has some interesting thoughts for ministry as the pandemic continues as well as into the future.

The author points out the urgent need for children's ministry, to help kids deal with stress and isolation and depression that have come out of the changes necessitated by the pandemic.

In many parts of the country, schools are back in-person, and churches that can provide in-person ministry will attract families from churches that have not been able to get restarted.

But here is the idea that most attracted my notice (bold emphasis my own):

"The COVID quarantine mentality has elevated the desire and need for human interaction, fellowship, and participation. Passively sitting and watching others has lost its patina. And wedging into a crowd to passively watch the person at the microphone has really lost favor during these contagious times. Plus, kids today want to be noticed, named, and known, according to research. If you’re primarily a spectator show, expect steady decline. Churches and children’s ministries that rely on stage performances will weaken. Hands-on, participatory experiences will reign, along with breaking crowds into smaller relational groups. Even children’s ministries that continue to offer online sessions will need to incorporate active, participatory, relational, hands-on elements."

It sounds like large group/small group programming as well as the large glitzy entertainment-driven worship-type children's ministry programs may become less popular. And relational, experiential Workshop Rotation Model may fit the needs of children to have hands-on participatory experiences perfectly!



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More food for thought about Hope and Doing New Things: Look! I’m Doing a New Thing. from GenOn Ministries.  In part:

"... we should think about “how we are moving forward” rather than “getting back to normal.” Meaning our 2021 normal is going to be a little (or a lot) different than our 2019 normal. But better than 2020.

Followers of Jesus Christ live by hope. And through that hope in Christ, we have confidence that God is doing a new thing. That God is right there with us in our “coming along.” Our moving forward."

The pandemic is (Providentially?) providing us with opportunities to experiment and try new things, even if just for a season.

What are you going to try?

Here is a thoughtful approach to post-pandemic planning from Chuck Peters of Lifeway Kids: Assess Your Ministry After a Year of Pivoting.

He discusses the importance of assessing the situation accurately, and encourages a collaborative process using a variety of points of view and reassessing on a regular basis. Chuck also shares some scripture that points out the importance of using the resources that you have in your hand (as God had Moses use his staff and Jesus used a few loaves and fish) -- God can do the impossible with what may seem to be limited resources to us! And don't miss the  Scripture and articles in "Return of the Exiles" ~ Teaching and Preaching Scriptures and Reading for Leading Post-Pandemic Change to help you pray and work through the reopening process.


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