As we look ahead to the future, congregations are planning for
when they will be in person again and how to build in inclusion for all ages. Many congregations will include ways to participate online to include those adults who cannot attend in person, but what about children and youth? Especially as younger youth and children can’t be vaccinated yet and it’s not clear when that will happen.
This recording below shares some framing from Congregational Life staff across the country to help your congregation begin or continue discernment about all ages inclusion as you move through this process. Below the video you'll find insights and aha moments from congregational leaders who participated in the All Ages Dual-Platform Future conversations in April 2021. (You might want to also review Dual Platform Future conversation from March 2021)
Conversation Highlights from Participants
“Who is most on your heart as you think about a return to in-person programming?”
- Families who could be left behind as we reopen
- Those not participating online due to technology or financial barriers
- Those allergic to the vaccines, those aren’t going to get vaccinated
- Immune compromised parents whose children aren’t vaccinated
- People not coming to Zoom services; often marginalized young adult 20-30’s.
- Many families with younger children not attending online
- Children who really want to be together in person
- Those who because of distance, or driving, or COVID, won’t be able to return
- Families with multiple traumas; divorce, death, cancer, etc.
- Shy youth, youth with mental health struggles, youth we haven’t seen
- Families attending from far away who may not be able to come in person
- Youth who didn’t get to finish Our Whole Lives
- Children are impacted: can seem ok one moment andhave big feelings the next
- Exhausted parents and caregivers
- Far flung members new and old
- Aging members with dementia may have a hard time returning
- Families who are just done with screens
- Youth, especially youth of color, in a time of racial violence and reckoning
- Children with health risks who can’t be vaccinated yet
"What do we need to consider in our planning (mission, needs, volunteer capacity, budget, messaging, etc.)?"
- Opening too soon without being intentional will fracture community
- We need to include all the voices
- People want in person worship, but don’t realize how much extra effort management of COVID and hybrid technology will be
- Vast majority of volunteers stepped back in the last year
- How to reconnect those families who have not be attending
- Not everyone will choose to be vaccinated
- When we don’t know who is vaccinated, how can we create a safe space for those who can’t be vaccinated yet?
- Building capacity for COVID procedures like contact tracing, limiting bathroom use, etc.
- Classroom space that can’t be made COVID safe (too small, no ventilation)
- How to find volunteers who aren’t the exhausted parents?
- Urban congregation doesn’t have outdoor space
- Need leap in technology to offer live streaming for in-person worship services
- Covenant and right relations are important as we lean into the discomfort of the conversations we need to have
- Youth often come for events with food, need to be able to do that safely?
- How to budget with our limited financial resources for needed technology and staff
- Updates to the building that consider not just technology, but how we might gather differently in person
- Expand and maintain interpretation and captions for deaf and hard of hearing participants
- Returning will increase staff work load
"What are some insights you have as you plan in-person ministry once it is safe?"
- Starting the message now that things will be very different: expectations may not be met.
- Focus on community and connection critical
- A “buffet” of small group in person offerings
- Help congregation accept we will be experimenting for awhile
- Start with something fun
- Thinking outside the box/screen
- We will need to re-learn social norms: we were used to hugging.
- Deliberate ceremony to celebrate our community and recognize loss, reunion, both online and in person
- Help people let go of the way church used to be
- Hold plans lightly
- Bring families back first, keep worship online to allow more space for children
- Figure out how trauma will influence how we come back together.
- Move events off Sundays
- Collaborate with other congregations
- Outdoor small service for families at another time
- Go slow and be flexible
- “Return to in person worship” sounds like “return to the way things were” need new language because it will be different
- Find ways to play with all ages
- Flexibility and ability to roll with change.
- We have a chance to rebuild everything we do.
- Conversation. Conversation, conversation.
- Imagining new ways of connection and community.