April 9, 2020 — The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson
By the time Governor Reynolds issued a Declaration of State of Emergency for Iowa because of the COVID 19 Pandemic, Northeastern Iowa Youth and Family Ministers had already begun planning.
They had previously met by Zoom so they would be familiar with the platform and be able to use it when it was no longer possible to meet in person.
When Christa Jacobson, Family Minister at St. Paul, Postville, held a Zoom meeting with her junior high kids, she wasn’t sure if any would show up. She had 8 students. “We did an indoor scavenger hunt and the kids loved the competition of it while interacting with their friends! Something even more awesome, THEY decided they want to meet twice a week via zoom!”
Other Ways Youth and Family ministries are connecting:
Many churches are posting a daily online children’s story or bible story reading.
Caitlin Tauro, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at Zion St. John, Sheffield, reads a story every day on YouTube. An accompanying devotional is available to download.
Robin Souhrada, Director of Faith Formation at Bethlehem, Cedar Falls, is reading a story from Sparks Bible.
“Our children are loving Bible story time (some adults, too),”
“I take pictures of the graphics and my recorded voice plays while the pictures are shown. It’s not an actual video of me reading. The Spark Story Bible it too heavy to hold up for people to see and read at the same time.” notes Robin
Nicole Kiefer, Luther student, and EWALU camp counselor is reading a camp story a day for her campers from last summer.
Daily Activity Suggestions
Alison Pettit, Director of Faith Formation at Redeemer, Waverly, is posting simple daily activities for families on the church Facebook page:
“The daily themes are activities to keep us engaged as a church family and be the church even though we can’t be at church. I’m trying to keep them simple enough that they can use items they likely already have and are not a heavy burden on parents.”
On Tuesday, families were encouraged to “TP” their neighbors by leaving a spare roll of toilet paper on their porch.
“My kids LOVED TPing our neighbors yesterday. They made cards and spent a lot of time trying to be sneaky as they made deliveries. They’re not sneaky but they got a lot of laughs.”
Deb Bachman, Director of Faith Formation, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School, Waverly, started a Lego Challenge. Every day she posts a picture of something she built with Legos and a prompt like “something that floats” and encourages her kids to build a Lego with that theme and post a photo. Everyone who posts a photo is entered to win a prize.
Kelly Jacobson, Director of Youth and Family, St. John, Sumner, had a sidewalk art challenge where youth were encouraged to create sidewalk chalk art with an Easter theme and share it on their Facebook page.
Indoor scavenger hunts are a popular activity in zoom youth meetings.
Christin Fluke, Youth and Children’s Ministry Director at St. Peter, Greene, had a Holy Week themed indoor scavenger hunt via Zoom for her high schoolers. They searched for items like a branch or leaf, a silver coin, bread, wine glass, towel, hammer or nails, something purple, something empty, etc.
“They had fun finding the items and then they talked about how each one connects to the story.” She noted, “I plan to do it again with our 5th and 6th graders as well.”
St. Peter also sponsored a community Easter egg hunt, asking everyone to decorate an egg to put in their windows and then go out hunting for them. Everyone who submits a picture of their egg on the church Facebook page will be entered into a drawing to win one of a couple fun Easter baskets. (Great way to get engagement for your Facebook page!)
This is just a small sampling of what is going on around our synod to keep families connected with their church family. Our Youth and Family Network leaders are working hard to come up with new ideas. They are worried and tired like all of us but through prayer and the relationships sustained in community, they are holding on to the Resurrection Faith we look forward to celebrating together this Sunday, in spirit, if not in person.