As you’re returning to in-person services, you may consider continuing your virtual lessons as part of your digital discipleship strategy. Use the tips below to make it the best possible experience for your kids and families (and you)!
- Make a plan. Just like you wouldn’t walk into a regular Sunday morning without a plan for the day, don’t try to do that with a video either! Make sure you and your team know the order and flow of the video, and be sure to set any props off-screen but within reach. You may also want to have links ready to share, like links to a folder on Google Drive of activity worksheets that go with the lesson, links to worship videos, links to a video lesson, and more! (Just make sure your curriculum & worship songs allow sharing the resources in this way). Spend the time prepping for this video just like you would for a typical Sunday (and don’t forget to communicate that plan to your families and volunteers).
- Have a teammate. If possible, ask another team member or a spouse to help you host the video (especially if you’re going live). Whether this teammate is on-screen with you or just handles things behind the scenes, an extra person around helps you focus on the kids rather than the technical side of things. This person can help with any technical difficulties, pass you props as you need them, be your tag-team partner to maintain engagement on-screen, monitor comments as they come in, and post any necessary links in the comments for families.
- Check Your Tech – Whether you’re using fancy equipment your church owns or setting up your laptop at the kitchen table, keep these things in mind:
- Framing – Set up the camera at eye level when possible; this may mean stacking some books underneath your computer or raising the tripod a few inches. Make sure you are centered in the middle of the frame and that you have enough space around you for anything you have planned (games, walking back and forth, crazy arms for the bible lesson, etc.). Your object lesson won’t be as effective if half of it is cut off, so part of making your plan should be to decide if you’ll be sitting or standing for your video so you can frame the video appropriately. Another tip: Do your best to look at the camera lens itself, not the screen (especially if you’re using a laptop)! It’s difficult and feels weird, but to the viewers, it makes it seem like you’re looking directly at them.
- Lighting – You want to be brighter than your background. So if you’re sitting in front of a window, make sure you’re looking out the window rather than having the window behind you. You may also need to move a desk lamp closer to your set-up or turn off lights behind you to help prevent you from looking like a dark silhouette. I use this simple and affordable ring light to brighten up the lighting for my videos. It clips right onto the computer and makes a huge difference!
- Sound – Do your best to minimize background noise in your space, and if you’re in a big room, pay attention to any echoing that may make it hard for kids and families to hear you. The further away you are from the camera, the higher the chances are that you’ll need a microphone.
- Check Your Delivery – Have you ever watched a kids show on tv or YouTube? The people on those shows all tend to over-emphasize their tone of voice and inflections, with dramatic pauses and facial expressions. Learn from them! Be just as energetic as you would if you were in front of a room full of kids. Will it feel awkward doing this in front of a camera? YES. But push through the awkwardness (you’ve got this!), and though you will feel weird, kids will just see the zany children’s pastor they know and love (and miss seeing in person)!
- Make it familiar & interactive. Follow your normal “schedule” as much as possible. Kids thrive on routine, and the familiarity of your church time will be a comforting relief from the craziness of the constantly changing world they’re experiencing right now. So begin with your usual activities, say the phrases they hear you say each week, and make it fun and interactive! Add games that encourage kids to complete actions (like Simon Says – just without anyone getting “out”), games that invite kids to answer questions in the comments, or screen-based interactive PPT games like these. Ask questions throughout the video that encourage kids to respond by sharing their answers with someone they’re watching the video with or by submitting answers in the comments. Do things to act out the Bible story or invite kids to make “sound effects” for the Bible story. Find ways to encourage interaction, even through digital platforms.
Looking for curriculum that was designed for virtual, online children’s ministry? Check out this one-off lesson about Waiting for God’s Promises or this 6-week preteen series on the Psalms, and explore all of our virtual curriculum here!