Planning for Summer Student and Family Ministry During COVID-19

COVID-19 has drastically altered the way churches approach student and family ministry this summer. Camps and Vacation Bible Schools look much different than they ever have before. I led a discussion with student and family ministry leaders who offered ideas and practical solutions for churches as they look for ways to connect with their students, children, and parents this summer. The panelists included:



Student and Family Ministry Successes During COVID-19

  • Deepened relationships and connections with special needs families. 

  • Developed a stronger prayer life with others in student and family ministry by walking alongside them through common challenges.

  • COVID-19 forced many ministries to focus on things outside of their buildings and everyday checklist, such as reaching others in the community and sharing the gospel with those who would not have otherwise heard it.

  • Some student ministries have seen an increase in students who have developed a hunger for the word of God and they truly desire studying the Bible.

  • A collaboration of the capital ‘C’ church rather than competition. During COVID-19, ministry leaders are learning and gleaning ideas from each other as they seek creative ways to spread the love of Christ.

  • Ministry leaders are taking the time to make sure they're pushing the mission of student and family ministry even during these unprecedented times.

  • Examining what practices can be discontinued to make ministries healthy in the long run that we’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time to do. 

Common Ways to Strengthen Family Connections During COVID-19

  • Offering weekly Bible memory verses and read-a-longs via FaceTime and Zoom. This gets families together and focused on God.

  • Prioritizing personal connections by calling, texting, and praying for those in the ministry.

  • Finding fun ways to connect with kids while also maintaining social distancing. A few ideas include:

    • Hosting “Front Yard Parties” - Dropping treats off in kid’s yards or bringing pizza to group/family homes. This is a way to maintain relationships with kids in the ministry during COVID-19.

    • Drive-by celebrations - To celebrate birthdays, graduations, or other milestones, coordinate a drive-by caravan where people have signs, balloons, or other decorations to show love and support without getting out of your car.

    • Having worship nights that allow leaders to sing and play instruments outdoors in student's yards.

4 Unique Opportunities To Examine What Was and Wasn’t Working In Your Ministry

    1. Shifting the focus - During this time outside of normal operations, leaders are able to acknowledge and place an emphasis on what happens outside of their buildings. Looking for creative ways to connect with the community will help you understand what you can do moving forward to reach new people.

    2. Relationships over content - A great thing about operations being highly virtual is that ministries are able to produce and share vital content for their church community. However, it’s also allowing leaders to develop more relationships during this time. Leaders can begin to borrow content rather than creating something brand new and use the extra time to focus on relational equity for each ministry. Instead of producing materials for masses, focus on using time to connect with individuals and how you can help people on a one-on-one basis.

    3. Shepherding and caring for volunteers - The volunteer teams we lead shows up every week and pour into the students and families in our ministries. It’s vital for us as leaders to make it a priority to show up for them, pour into them, and make certain they are cared for as well. Ask your volunteers what you can do for them in this time. They might also have great ideas for connecting with students that you haven't considered.

    4. Effectively equipping our parents and the legal guardians - This is something that needs more attention in general, but especially as they lead their kids at home. The most efficient way leaders have been handling this is by putting more time, resources, and energy in discipling and equipping the primary disciple-maker (the parent/legal guardian of the students). Supplying them with resources and activities will allow them to connect with their child and Christ in a new and unique way.

Vacation Bible School and Pivoting for Summer Camps

  • It’s inevitable that Vacation Bible School will look different in the coming weeks for each church due to COVID-19. Here are a few ways leaders are shifting the way they do VBS this year:

    • Several leaders are looking into renaming their Vacation Bible School as they are reimagining Vacation Bible School as a virtual event.

    • Designing and employing a memorable and effective online experience. 

    • Creating an online curriculum with interactive lessons. 

    • Allowing families to pick up a packet with a t-shirt and other games/activities to maintain some level of tangible hands-on learning. 

    • Formulate Zoom groups to build online relationships and dig into what students are learning throughout Vacation Bible School.

    • Holding partial in-person VBS through small groups of 3 - 4 kids playing outdoor games without contact.

  • Summer camps - Many churches are pivoting in regards to their annual summer camps and others are choosing to delay it. Here are a few church's plans below:

    • Adding a different experience by holding a fall retreat instead of a summer camp. This would hopefully allow students to actually gather rather than have an experience that is solely online and more individualistic.

    • Partnering with other local churches to assist with what they are doing for the summer and plan to pick up with a summer camp next year rather than having something this year. 

    • Each state is different and has varying regulations in regard to gathering as a group. So, there are some states who are still planning to have an in-person camp with a few modifications such as social distancing measures, wearing face masks, and decreasing the number of students allowed in the space at a time.

  • Rather than camp being a weekly gathering and staying overnight, some ministries are shifting to a day-to-day gathering instead. 

  • Digital Youth Camp (DYC) - A great resource being used for group breakout sessions, lessons, and games that allow leaders to use it at their own facility and on their own time.

Simple Ways To Stay Engaged With Volunteers

  • Using phone calls, text messages, and home visits to stay engaged with volunteers.

  • Making sure volunteers have the opportunity to remain connected with students in the ministry. This will help foster the connection and community between volunteers and students. It also helps volunteers feel like they are still part of a team while reminding them of their purpose. 

  • Some volunteers have been making personal video messages they can send to the students in the ministry.

  • Being intentional about caring for volunteers by praying with them. It’s also helpful to give volunteers space as they retreat home before asking or demanding things from them about the student ministry. 

    • If volunteers are looking for ways to help, you can task them with looking up local organizations who do need help in this time. They can then share the information they find with anyone looking to help their community.

  • Finding ways for volunteers and leaders to serve locally together while maintaining social distancing regulations is a helpful way to stay engaged with volunteers through COVID-19. 

Activities and Tools for Ministries Struggling With Engagement

  • Find ways to connect with other student and family ministry leaders. Navigating through COVID-19 is tough for many leaders, so it’s vital to remember the importance of finding connections. God calls us to connection with his people, so why not connect with those who share your passion and mission.

  • Working down the leadership ladder - One church is providing a packet of ways to connect with people in their church community. This packet includes the contact information of volunteers and a list of some of their favorite items. This is a helpful way to connect with them and have a weekly touchpoint to check on them and connect with them. 

  • Another fun idea from one church is to send two postcards to each student in your ministry. One postcard is written from the leader to the child and the other one is left blank and would be used for the student to write a note back to their leader.

  • Finding ways for leaders to intentionally disciple other people. Even if it’s just one spiritually lost person to pray for and form an authentic connection with.

  • Establish ways to mobilize the next generation to reach their peers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is a helpful resource for student engagement and spiritual growth.

    • Who's Your One? - A 30 day devotional for students with the intentional engagement of being able to share the gospel with their peers.

Student and Family Ministry this summer is both exciting and challenging. Each church is faced with different hurdles to get over and different situations to navigate. However, the common message and mission remain the same, disciple and care for those Christ has entrusted leaders with effectively. While this may seem like a lofty thought, the ideas, practical strategies, and tools like the ones mentioned above are a great start as you continue planning for what will work best for your ministry. For more ideas, check out our blog on remote summer ministry.