Cincinnati Virtual Children’s Ministry Proves Vital
By Stefanie Leiter
Churches across North America have seen firsthand the need for providing online alternatives for their congregations during the COVID-19 crisis. Dayspring Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, has gone one step farther by offering virtual educational opportunities for children.
Virtual children’s ministry is new to many Church of God congregations across the United States at the capacity needed for long-term closures. Children’s Pastor Lia Yost has found Dayspring Church stepping up to the challenge for maintaining community with kids. Yost describes Dayspring as a diverse congregation with different ethnicities and demographics. Zoom and Facebook have helped sustain small groups and Bible studies including virtual gatherings like playing games and drinking coffee with members. “It is not the same as being in person, but it has helped to keep us all connected,” added Yost.
Worship pastor Rebecca Palmatier has been able to utilize Facebook live and video for Sunday services along with a Bible study because of technology. Senior pastor Tim Kufeldt not only uses technology for preaching on Sundays to the Dayspring congregation, but it has allowed friends and missionaries afar to connect online. Each week Yost, along with student pastor Andy Hoover, make announcements and segments for children up to high school.
“I love kids but also because Dayspring is such a diverse congregation that places a high value on our children and youth,” said Yost.
Apart from Sunday service for children through platforms like the children’s ministry Facebook page, Yost has added activities weekly for children and their families. Lunch with Pastor Lia on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been a time for stories, games, prayer, and singing, or dancing. For parents, Yost created content on parental advice while the Orange curriculum provides a weekend “Family Experience” with activities, videos, daily tips, and lessons for parents to incorporate at home.
“Kids need to know they are remembered and loved,” said Yost. “They need to see your face and hear your voice. They need you to continue to teach them about faith and a relationship with Jesus and how that frames our lives.”
For Easter service, Yost asked families to record their kids reading the Easter story to compile in a video for the congregation. Easter bags were delivered to children since Easter Egg hunts were canceled. With schools moving to online learning, graduation gift bags and teacher gift bags were collected to send to graduates. Now a Camp Kit for virtual summer camp is in the process of being created.
“I even baptized one of my students by utilizing her grandparents’ hot tub. What a great experience,” recalls Yost.
Yost notes Church Marketing University has been a great help in engaging members in a virtual service. But it doesn’t stop at asking online how a member is doing. The pastoral staff has collectively been contacting every member of the church weekly through email, texts, and phone calls. “We want to check-in with family to make sure they are doing well, have all that they need, and to just stay connected with them,” said Yost.
For the greater community, Agape Children’s Center has been a pandemic center and one of the first in the greater Cincinnati area. Remaining open during the pandemic, seventy-eight children have been enrolled at the center with normal enrollment starting back on June 1. Dayspring Church food pantry also remained open serving the community.
On June 7, Dayspring Church reopened for in-person service, but they will not offer classes or nursery for kids at least through June as they navigate the changes.
Yost’s advice to other congregations is simple: “Keep meeting. Keep teaching. Keep partnering with parents. There is no need to get overwhelmed; you can keep it simple. Even if resources are limited, you can use your phone to record yourself and email that to everyone. Even if you connect just once a week it will make a difference in the lives of the kids and their parents.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Stefanie Leiter graduated from Anderson University with a B.A. in mass communications and a specialization in public relations. In 2016, she graduated with her master of science in communication from Purdue University and received a graduate certificate in strategic communications in 2015. She is currently an assistant professor of public relations at Anderson University and is earning her PhD in communication from Regent University. Stefanie has been married to David since 2005 and they have two children: Ava and Jackson. The family attends Madison Park Church of God.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.