On the first weekend in October, our 1st through 4th grade children gathered in the Great Room for the first time since March. As all these young eyes stared up at me, with much of their faces hidden by masks, God’s Holy Spirit opened my eyes to this sacred moment. We were beginning again, and there was the potential for this to be uncertain and a little scary. There was also the potential that this could be good, and holy, and wonderful.
In that moment, we named together the things that had changed since we were last together. One child pointed out how “coronavirus” was now a part of our vocabulary. Others named change as wearing masks, keep social distance, online school, and being in the Great Room (we had been in the Life Center before). All had changed their grade in school since the last time we were together! In naming the things that were different, we brought to light all the fear and uncertainty that we were feeling and invited peace into our space instead.
After we named the changes, I invited our kids to name the things that are still the same. The first response was that our church is still our church. The building, and the people, and the name ECC are all things our kids know – and those have not changed. Other things that are still the same were people - kids we had been in class with before and teachers who had taught us, both in person last spring and online while we were away. Most powerful of all, we were able to name that our God has not changed. He is the same God who was with us in March, He has been with us in this whole season, and He is present with us now.
Much has changed, we are finding much to be the same, and we are moving into different experiences of children’s and youth ministry here at ECC this fall. On Sunday mornings during worship, our Toddler Nursery is open for the youngest in our community. We also have classes happening for children at 10:30am. Our preschool and kindergarten children have been meeting, and they are playing games, doing crafts, and learning God’s Word through song and story each week. Our 1st through 4th grade students are spending time learning about the Life of Jesus, hearing stories of how he cared for people and how he challenges us to live.
We made the decision to limit our Sunday morning classes to students up through 4th grade, so that we could re-imagine what ministry to our 5th and 6th grade students would be. Up until October, everyone was in worship together. We didn’t want to lose that experience with our youth, so we are encouraging students in grades 5 and older to join us in the Sanctuary for worship on Sunday mornings. Age-based experiences for these students will happen later on Sunday afternoons.
We are defining our middle school group as 5th-8th grades, and our high school group as 9th-12th grades. On November 8, our middle school will gather for games, Bible story, hang out time, and conversations. On November 15, our high school students will gather for fellowship and a deeper dive into topical studies, with in depth searching through God’s Word. We know there is a deep desire for community among our students, and we hope that we begin to meet this need this fall. Both middle school and high school will then meet on Sunday, December 6, for a Christmas party together. All these events will take place from 4:30-6:00. Starting January 10, each group will then begin meeting twice a month, on alternating Sundays.
We know that we still live in a world where Covid is a reality, so each time we gather in person, we are taking all the precautions we can. Masks, hand sanitizing, distancing, temperature taking, individual supplies, and disinfecting are all components of how we do ministry in this season. If your family is comfortable being out in the community, and you haven’t yet joined us, we invite you to visit our children’s and youth web pages for more information and registration procedures for these ministries.
We also know that many people are not comfortable returning to in-person ministry for the time being, and we are looking into various options to expand our online ministry to our children and youth. Currently, our preschool and kindergarten students can find the lesson video for each week on our ECC website. We’re directing our elementary students to the Parent Cue website for story videos each week. In the future, we hope to make our Sunday morning elementary classes available in an online format for those who can’t be with us in person. We’ve been testing out an online confirmation class, and we’re looking into the possibility of transitioning this class to an all-youth online Sunday School.
Pray with us as we navigate this new season. If God has put it on your heart to serve, we’d love to chat with you! If your family is struggling to stay connected in any way in this season, please let us know as well. There is space to grow into new and different ministry, and we want to grow in ways that are directed by God and inspired by the needs of our families.