Statistics show that most children ages 8-12 have personal electronic devices.
As parents, schools and society introduce more electronic applications into the lives and activities of young people, the debate over whether to use technology in the church may be a moot point. While each church must monitor its own needs and concerns, there are ways to use technology safely in kids’ ministry.
First things first
Digital tools can make children’s ministry easier, and online communication can encourage kids and their leaders to be more involved in one another’s lives outside of Sunday morning.
Churches should take important steps before establishing any digital interactions with a minor.
- Web ministry requires special privacy and permissions. Obtain parental permission for any contact with your students. Clearly state the platform to use, the date and time to initiate contact, who will have access to the group and how the student will be able to join.
- Make sure that you protect personal information and that groups are private. Ensure that only those with invitations can attend.
- Teach students about online safety and digital etiquette. Establish rules and make sure that all participants follow them.
- Continuously monitor the group. Never leave an in-person or online classroom of students unattended.
Digital check in/check out and registration
Drop-off and pick-up times can be chaotic, and ensuring that every child leaves with the proper custodian is vital. Gone are the days when visual identification was enough, especially in large churches where every teacher may not recognize every child’s guardian.
Parental check-in/check-out solutions are essential to prevent predators, errors regarding custodial disputes and other mistakes that can take place during the process.
Systems can be web-based or software-based. Depending on the program, churches can require a photo ID, a predetermined code/barcode or even a fingerprint ID for pick-up.
Costs vary depending on whether you add an element to a preexisting laptop or computer or purchase a touch-screen kiosk.
In addition to monitoring who is dropping off and picking up students, most systems will help you keep track of food allergies, health concerns and contact information. Do some research to find the best option for your church.
In addition to programs specifically designed for checking in and out, churches can use digital forms and databases to obtain and keep track of registration information. Online forms help churches save time, money and the environment. In addition, the data can be more easily updated and shared between parents, administrators and teachers and is less likely to get misplaced.
Media groups for parents and students
Almost everyone is on social media these days, and that includes children. According to a 2021 poll, between 30% and 50% of children ages 7 to 12 use some form of social media. Although churches should concentrate on in-person gatherings as their primary outreach, digital groups can have their place.
First, find out which students have phones. The number might surprise you. According to a 2021 report, 40% of parents give their children cellphones around the age of 10.
One of the easiest ways to stay in contact with your students between sessions is to text them as part of a group text. You can send encouraging messages or Bible verses, initiate spiritual discussions and check in to see how they are doing. Forming group texts with other children is another great way to encourage communication between classmates. With a little creativity, you can find ways to use cellphones as a tool in your student ministry.
Facebook groups offer a great way for parents to share concerns and stay tuned in to what their children are learning. Sunday school or small-group teachers can organize groups and invite parents to join. The leaders can update the parents on weekly lessons and include links to resources for use at home.
To connect with students between group meetings, church leaders can take a cue from the educational community and create digital small groups for their students. Meeting online can be accomplished through Facetime, Zoom, Edmodo or a similar alternative video format. Teachers can host a monthly digital game night or a weekly bedtime Bible story.
Kid-friendly Bible tools
The internet can be a dangerous place, but it’s also a place where resources abound. If children will be on the web anyway, guide them to sites that will help them learn and grow mentally and spiritually.
Spend time researching the best Bible apps for kids and then send a list to parents. If you come across an age-appropriate YouTube video that teaches biblical concepts in a fun way, send the link to your parents. Give parents a list of age-appropriate Bible study tools and encourage them to explore the sites with their children.
The internet is not going anywhere, and children spend more time online than ever. Instead of swimming against the stream, use technology to your advantage and to help your students develop wise internet habits.
Tricia K. Brown is a Christian author and inspirational speaker. She shares stories of life, loss and laughter to encourage women to grow in their relationships with the Lord and each other. Her recent fiction release, “Seen, Heard, Beloved,” can be purchased on Amazon. For more information about her ministry and books, visit The Girls Get Together.