Sam and the team share some tips for how to involve children and young people better in what we’re doing online.

There is a high chance that your online service will have children and young people joining in – whether you realise or not. They are likely to be lurking, watching alongside their parents or listening in the background whilst scrolling on their phones! It’s important we keep that in mind whilst planning; so we don’t exclude them because we didn’t realise they were there. I will add that if you try to be more inclusive of children, parents are more likely to encourage them to sit with them as they watch. So even if you have no children watching now, that can change!

At risk of sounding like we’re “mystery shoppers”, here are five ideas we have seen working well in church services around our Diocese and beyond as we snuck our way into various YouTube and Facebook services online:

1. Tell stories

Well told stories naturally draw in people of all ages. Make sure you are choosing the readings well to try and have a story whenever you can. Using a few props as visual aids will really help too. We’ve seen knitted bible characters staring in a few church videos but something as simple as a few good hats can go a long way.

Here are some more tips on storytelling from Katie:

2. Ask good questions

Rather than try and draw a point out of the story that works for everyone good questions will stimulate great conversations. These might happen in breakout rooms, in the chat or in families. Remember to use open ended questions about meaning rather than closed questions about facts.

Here are some tips on asking good questions from Alex:

3. Give out roles to children, families and young people

We have heard from quite a few churches that they have found it easier asking young people to take part in an online service than in person. Remember to offer the chance to send you a recording in rather than do it ‘live’. This will take a lot of pressure off and make the whole experience more enjoyable for them.

Zoe shares one idea for how children and youth can contribute to church services:

4. Puppets…

I know the room splits, the moment puppets are mentioned. However, we have seen a few vicars using a soft toy as ‘silent sidekick’ just whispering in their ear for comedic effect. It’s not difficult to do and can be really effective at brightening up a section of the service you want to be more fun. If you’ve ever used one in an assembly, why not dig it out for Sunday? Adults often enjoy puppets just as much as children.

Here’s a video from Sam with a special guest about how to use puppets:

5. Keep it short!

One of the keys to doing anything all-age well is making sure you have short sections and the whole service is also kept short. Try and make sure no sections are longer than five minutes. I joined a service recently where there was a one-minute intro, then two songs, then a thirty-five-minute sermon! Reader, I switched it off after five minutes and I have a feeling you might have too.