Storytelling on Zoom/YouTube, part 2

Now we’ve looked at the props that can be helpful, how do you set up and start doing online storytelling? Much of my approach is a similar ethos to Godly Play, and may be familiar to practitioners of it – however, a lot of what I do is adaptable for different styles of worship.

The Space

I’ve found my videos fall into two main categories – stories and discourses. For stories, you need a setting and characters and events. You’re basically creating a stage. For discourses (eg Matthew 25:31-46, the video for which can be seen here), you’re using images and symbols to illustrate words spoken by Jesus or a prophet. For these, you may just want a circle of fabric, and lay out different objects on it.

An example of a layout for a “discourse” text – the Beatitudes, for All Saints Day in Year A. Items are added one by one as the narrator goes through the reading.

I’ve used different spaces around my flat and garden for filming. During Ordinary Time, I used a green tray to show the colour of the season (the removable top of an IKEA tray table, available here) but at other times, I’ve tried to replicate a landscape more realistically. For parables involving plants, I’ve sometimes gone out to my garden.

The landscape I set up for the Easter story, with basic materials, early in the first lockdown.

On Zoom, the storytelling space needs to be near where you’re sitting for the session, and you’re generally using a webcam instead of a camera to capture it. For this, I’ve set up a shoebox next to me on the table, and covered it with a white cloth. I’ve placed plain cardboard behind the shoebox, and held the cardboard in place with rocks behind it – basically, creating a mini stage. I’ve then brought a table lamp over beside it. Then, at story time, I’ve turned the camera and manipulated the figures on this stage.

With Zoom, you also have to be aware of interruptions. Having a different “storytelling stage” and encouraging participants to switch to speaker view and mute themselves until wondering time, can help reinforce the “set apart” nature of storytelling time and help them enter more fully into the story.

If you don’t live alone, you have more options, as long as one of your household members is willing to play production assistant and/or camera operator.

The Structure

Consistency and familiarity are key here, for two reasons. One, children enjoy ritual and repetition, and it helps learning. Secondly, if I’m re-inventing the wheel every week, it’s more stressful for me.

I’ve structured my videos as follows:

  1. I begin every story video by lighting a candle and saying “we begin by lighting our candle, to remember God’s light is with us, wherever we are.”
  2. Then, if there’s any context needed for the story, I give it. This means reminding children where this story fits in the broader sweep of the Biblical narrative, or else introducing a new season of the church year and therefore a new focus of the stories. For example, the video from Advent 1)
  3. Then I tell the story. I try to keep it simple, but without sacrificing richness.
  4. We spend some time wondering about the story – this means the story can be interactive, even though it’s virtual, and children’s thoughts and reflections are valued.
  5. Finish by blowing out the candle.

Depending on your skills and preferences, you may want to include movement, or singing, or something else, as part of your structure. And of course you can tweak it as you go. But I’ve found keeping a fairly consistent format works well – people know what to expect, it feels like church, and I don’t have to start from scratch every week.

Timing

I try to keep the story to four or five minutes and the wondering questions to around two minutes, so the videos are 6 – 7 minutes total. Assuming people are pausing the video to respond to the wondering questions, this means the story and reflections will take 10 – 15 minutes. This is designed to fit well within a half-hour family service, or a full all-age Eucharist.

Do you have any top tips, or experiences to share? Let me know in the comments!

Storytelling on Zoom/YouTube

I’ve spent the last ten months making weekly storytelling videos for YouTube (you can find them all here) and so I’m thinking I’ll do a few blog posts about things I’ve learned.

A few caveats –

First of all, the videos I’ve made have been pre-recorded. I’ve done a bit of live storytelling over Zoom with children present, but not a huge amount. Making something pre-recorded is different from doing it live.

Secondly, I’m fairly comfortable with the writing/language part of it – sometimes I use a script (we have the Beulah Land and Godly Play scripts and I can send these to you if you’re in the Diocese), and sometimes I’ll use the text from a children’s Bible, but in general I’m happy reading a Bible passage, making a few notes, and then improvising turning the text into a story that’s accessible to children, trusting that I can make the language and the story arc work. If that’s something you struggle with, and you have big questions on “how do I even connect with children,” that’s a bigger post that I haven’t quite got planned yet.

But the first thing – and the subject of this post – is, what do you need?

Spot the Production Assistant.

There are lots of Bible storytelling videos out there that use Lego, so if you have a lot of Lego, that’s a good starting point. But I found myself stuck at home last March, suddenly having to use only what I had to hand. Here are the things I’ve used over and over, which form a good basis for most stories. I store them all in a basket under my desk, so I can just get them all out at once and put them all back easily when I’m done.

  1. A fairly neutral olive wood Nativity set. I use one of the Kings for Jesus, the Mary figure is many female characters, the other Kings, shepherds, and Joseph take on other roles, and also “the crowd” as needed. If you have a second, smaller set (I happen to have one), it’s very useful for providing “children.” The sheep, cow, and donkey provide generic animals for stories and backgrounds. A more realistic Nativity would be recognisably, and specifically, those characters. A neutral wood or stone one provides more flexibility.
  2. Plain fabric for creating backgrounds and landscapes. White, blue, green, and brown. I use a blue shawl which is dip-dyed and therefore has shifting blue on it, which makes lovely water. The white can be ripped up to make tablecloths and, for the Lazarus/Easter story, gravebands. You can spread them across tables to create the ground or hang them from walls/over radiators to create sky. My living room was already painted blue, which was lucky, so I can use my wall as the sky.
  3. Wooden blocks. For building houses, walls, and tables.
  4. Play-doh or Plasticine. For making small versions of things like food.
  5. A small plant in a pot. Again, for landscapes – lots of stories have trees in them. Wrap fabric around the pot to blend it into the landscape.
  6. A collection of rocks and shells. It’s astonishing, when you start looking at it, how many stories have references to stones in them. They also create landscape detail, and you can use them to mark out roads and paths for your characters to travel – the Nativity story, the Prodigal Son, etc.
  7. A bird. I use a dove Christmas tree ornament. Useful for stories where the Spirit appears, but also as a symbol to add to a layout when Jesus is talking about peace.
  8. Generic-looking coins. Useful for a lot of parables.
  9. A candle. Again, useful for stories where the Spirit shows up as fire, but also to light and extinguish to mark the beginning and end of a story or session.
  10. A sense of humour. My cats have wandered into the shot sometimes and I’ve kept going, or they’ve started yowling and I say “I think he has something to say about the story!” I’ve knocked figures over, set fabric on fire, and made my phone shut down due to overheating by holding it over a candle while filming.
  11. A moveable light. Helpful for obvious reasons.
  12. A phone stand. I’ve been holding the phone with one hand and moving figures with the other for ten months, and it’s ridiculous. I’m going to buy one of these, which I should have done ages ago.

With this fairly basic set of props, you’ve got the building blocks of most stories. Yes, you’ll occasionally find yourself having to track down “something to symbolise ‘I was a prisoner and you set me free'” (I used keys), but this is the “capsule wardrobe” of your storytelling kit.

Dealing with hard stuff with children

This is a topic I got asked about a lot, even before coronavirus.

So many Bible stories touch on topics of illness and death, injustice, violence, and loss. How do we address these topics with children? And now, when illness and death, injustice, loss, disappointment, uncertainty, anxiety, and so much more have become more a part of our children’s daily lives than we wished, what do we do, as church leaders?

It feels false simply to cheerlead them through sessions about how happy we are because God loves us. In normal times, many children’s lives are not simple, straightforward, and happy, but now even the safest and most secure child is dealing with a world that may seem scary and chaotic. So we can’t just pretend everything is okay. But we don’t want to make things worse, or offer just doom and gloom. And of course it’s all harder in that much of this is happening over Zoom, instead of in person.

Here are a few tips from my own experiences. Please do add your own thoughts in the comments.

  1. Create space for conversation. Don’t fill the whole session with activities – allow room for discussion. Children will be bringing things to your session; experiences, questions, thoughts, and so on. Make room for that.
  2. Make the conversation open-ended and safe. Establish ground rules – “everyone’s ideas are okay.” This may mean you create a system for taking turns on Zoom (raising hands, reaction buttons) and you can make it routine that you mute yourself if you aren’t speaking. Use “I wonder …” questions. (“I wonder what your favourite part of the story was” / “I wonder what the most important part of the story was” / “I wonder what part of the story is for you” / “I wonder what Jesus’s friends felt when that happened” etc.)
  3. Use story. Often, people of all ages find it easier to talk about their own feelings if they have a story to talk about it through. Talking about how the characters feel, what the ending means, and so on, can help you talk about what’s going on in your own life, without revealing really personal stuff. A child who responds to the Baptism of Jesus story by saying “I liked when Jesus heard God’s voice, because maybe he’d been feeling really alone, but then he knew God was with him” may be saying something deeply personal, but because it’s done through the story, it’s easier to talk about. I’m making weekly story videos of the lectionary, which you can find here. If you’re dealing with a bereavement, I have a Pinterest board of children’s books about death, which can be found here.
  4. But also, allow children to process feelings in different ways. Some children will find it easier to express their emotions through drawing or making something. Some things I’ve done include, “make a Play-doh sculpture to show how the story made you feel,” “go find an object in your house that represents something that’s been sad or disappointing this year and we can pray about it,” and “draw what you’d like us to pray about.” Don’t force children to share their drawings/objects/etc if they don’t want to.
  5. Acknowledge emotions. We want to reassure children and make them feel safe, and this can sometimes lead us to dismiss what they’re feeling, if what they’re feeling is uncomfortable. If a child says “I feel like there’s no hope,” we want to instinctively say, “oh, I’m sure it isn’t that bad.” Unfortunately, that can lead the child to feel dismissed, and to trust us less. Acknowledging the feeling – “that sounds very hard. I’m so sorry you’re feeling that way. Thank you for telling us. Has anyone else in the group ever felt that way? What did you do that helped?” can acknowledge the emotion as real, while also pointing the child to look for coping mechanisms.
  6. Keep it small – that’s where the power is. “Can you think of one thing that made you smile this week, and say thank you to God for it?” “Can you think of three things you’re grateful for?” “What’s one thing you can do this week to help somebody else?” All of us, but children especially, feel better when we’re able to feel useful and helpful and like what we do matters. Giving children opportunities to reflect on gratitude and small blessings, and then to think of what they can do to make a difference, can be very helpful. This can be a way to close your prayer time.

Do you have any other thoughts on how to acknowledge difficult times and support children’s emotional wellbeing? Please share them in the comments!

All Hallows Eve on Zoom

You may want to have a party of some sort on All Hallows Eve with your families. You can send sweets to families for the parents and carers to give to their children, have an online pumpkin-carving competition, and more.

Here is a liturgy that you can do on Zoom as part of this. It takes about 20 minutes – 11 minutes of that is a film, a portion of Disney’s Fantasia that explores the journey from a scary night to the dawn of God’s light in the morning. It helps put All Hallows Eve in its context – yes, death and evil are real, and yes, the world can be a scary place. By dressing up as skeletons or ghosts or zombies, children take charge of those fears and, through play, achieve mastery of them. In the morning of All Saints Day, after we have confronted our fear of death through the symbols of All Hallows Eve, we are comforted by the reality that we do not become ghosts or zombies after death, but saints, given new life in God’s Kingdom by the one who has defeated death, and who invites us to follow him into new life with the saints who have come before us.

Once we’re in more normal times again, the liturgy can be easily adapted to be done in person, not over Zoom.

All Hallows Eve liturgy:

Approximately 20 minutes, on Zoom. Appropriate for ages 5 and up.

Leader: The night is far gone

All: the day is near.

Leader: Let us then lay aside the works of darkness

All: and put on the armour of light.

Leader: As the earth turns towards autumn, darkness and cold, and the year dies, we remember that all living things will die, and we face our fear of death. We may dress up as ghosts, or skeletons, or vampires, or zombies, in this dark autumn night. We play with spookiness, as we confront symbols of death and darkness. And we acknowledge that the world can be a scary place, and we need bravery and courage.

But we remember that death does not have the final word. The night of All Hallows Eve passes, and with it, the ghosts and skeletons and vampires and zombies. And the dawn breaks on the day of All Saints Day, when we can remember that after death, we become not ghosts or zombies, but saints. We remember that in the battle with death and darkness, we have on our side Jesus, who has fought death for us and won, and who invites us to follow him through death into new life that lasts forever in God’s Kingdom.

If you have a decorated pumpkin, you can light it now. Otherwise turn off all the lights except one, or turn off all the lights and light a candle.

SING:

On Zoom – participants mute themselves. Leader shares their screen and clicks the “share computer sound” box in the bottom left of the “share screen” popup. Everyone sings along at home.

He, Who Would Valiant Be.

OR

For All The Saints – missing a few verses.

Shorter version, but includes the “when the strife is fierce, the warfare long” verse that’s cut above, which may be pastorally needed this year.

Shorter version, with verses 1, 2, and 8 only.

WATCH:

Fantasia – Night on Bald Mountain / Ave Maria (11 minutes)

Wonder:

I wonder what your favourite part of that film was.

I wonder what the most important part of that film was.

I wonder where you are in that film.

I wonder where God is in that film.

I wonder how that music made you feel.

Turn on the lights again.

Leader: Let us remember the promises made at our baptism, or look forward to promises we may make when we are baptised.

Do you turn away from sin?

All: I do.

Leader: Do you reject evil?

All: I do.

Leader: Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

All: I do.

Leader: Do you trust in him as Lord?

All: I do.

Leader: With the help of the saints who have run the race of life before us, and who now rejoice in the new life of Christ, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

All: Amen!

Crib Service on Zoom

This was both a wonderfully joyful and creative, and heartbreaking thing to write. If you’re thinking of using it, you may feel the same.

If you want to skip straight to the downloads, which really contain all you need, go right to the end of this post.

If you want to ease yourself in with some information (most of which is repeated in the downloads), so you have some idea of what’s going on before you wade in, read on:

The service is designed to last about half an hour. There is an opening section with a brief prayer, and some text from John 1, followed by the Christmas story in three parts (Annunciation, Nativity, Shepherds), and then closing prayers which everyone participates in.

There are also Christmas carols. Notes are included on singing – you’ve probably done singing over Zoom already yourself. I’ve found the best way is to find a version of the hymn on YouTube, and have everyone mute themselves and sing along. With the voices on YouTube, you don’t feel like you’re the only one singing, as you would with an instrumental backing track. I’ve included links to YouTube videos of each hymn, but if you have a choir, you may wish to have them do recordings – just remember to add lyrics to the video so people can easily sing along.

Anyone who wants to is encouraged to draw along with the service and share their drawings (or Play-doh sculptures, or whatever) on the church’s social media page. You may want to have a specific album for them to share to – you can put the link to that in the chat.

Children are also encouraged to come to the service dressed as a character from the Nativity story – they will join in the prayers at the end based on what they’re dressed as – eg all the Maries read one bit, all the shepherds read another. If you have non-readers, you may want to do “repeat after me” with the prayers.

The stories are told using PowerPoint presentations – these are available to download in this post along with the order of service. In two of the PowerPoints, there’s something to discuss at the end, so people can join in and share their thoughts with each other.

Families can also be encouraged to create a “Prayer Space” by their computer – with a nativity set, or decorations, or anything they like. Everyone will need a candle (or an LED candle, or string of lights, or something like that). If you know a family doesn’t have one, and can’t access one, do find a way to provide one for them.

Here is everything you need for the service:

Here are the three stories you’ll need:

And here are the closing prayers that everyone joins in on:

War memorials

With Remembrance Day coming up, one activity children can do at home is to design a war memorial. They can use whatever materials they have at home – items from the recycling bin, play-doh, Lego – whatever you have. These can then be photographed and sent into church and collected in a Facebook album.

Encourage them to think about the following questions:

  1. How would you want people to feel as they look at your memorial?
  2. What shape do you want your memorial to be? Do you want there to be words? Pictures?
  3. Who do you think might visit this memorial? Soldiers who have been in wars? Families of people who have died? People who are praying for peace?
  4. Could there be an interactive element to your memorial? A place for people to leave names, or prayers, or draw or write something? Will your memorial have moving parts to it?
  5. Where is God in all this?

A few memorials for inspiration:

Does your church have a war memorial? Can you visit it?

The “Animals in War” memorial in Hyde Park, London

The Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC (includes a video about the design)

7 Unusual War Memorials (includes the street plaques in St Albans)

Another list from the same blog, of 9 more unusual memorials.

Faith at Home for Advent 2020

Last year, the “Faith at Home for Advent” resource, in association with Red Letter Christians, was extremely popular. This year, I’ve updated it so that the dates are accurate, added two activities in the final week (because Christmas is a Friday this year, not a Wednesday, so Advent is two days longer), added some prayers for coronavirus times, and changed a few things that referred to meeting up with other people.

Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″

The weekly themes, and most of the activities, are the same as last year. Many children love tradition and repetition, so this may not be a problem, even if you used the resource last year.

The four themes for the four weeks are:

Longing/expectation

Voices from the margins

Jesus as other

God with us

You can download the resource here:

Online Holiday Club – Stories of Justice

Our online holiday club plan, “Stories of Justice,” can be downloaded below.

There are five days’ worth of plans, including:

  • An opening story and wondering questions. There are two options for videos for each story – one shorter and one longer. Text versions of the stories are also available for families who don’t have internet.
  • Response activities. Families can do as few or as many of these as they like, on their own time. They include something to MAKE, things to TALK about, a physical activity or charitable action to DO, and a PRAYER activity.
  • Plans for a closing Zoom session. While families without internet can still dial in to this session, they would miss out on the visual aspects of this. It’s suggested therefore that families without internet take advantage of recent guidelines that allow two houses to meet up with social distancing, so they can share the Zoom session with another family.

Many of the activities suggest using “whatever you have around the house” for the MAKE activity, eg, the contents of your recycling bin, things you can find in the garden or the park, etc. However, you may also need to make sure families have access to the following materials:

  • Paper and pens
  • Candle and lighter (or LED candle)
  • Play-doh
  • Glue
  • Felt-tips/pastels
  • Plastic eggs that can be opened up (available online, including from Baker Ross)
  • Blu Tak
  • Cups
  • Kitchen roll
  • A large bowl
  • Flour
  • Sand or shredded paper
  • Coins
  • Sellotape
  • May also be helpful if families don’t have them: Lego or Playmobil figures, toilet and kitchen roll tubes, coloured card, shoeboxes, fabric in various colours.

Bags of these materials can be dropped off at the beginning of the week.

Download the plans here: Stories of Justice

The supplementary material – text versions of the stories, and some images used for the Zoom session on Day 4 – can be downloaded here: Stories of Justice – supplementary material

Running a Holiday Club Online – top tips from the Diocese of Bath and Wells

HUGE thanks to my colleagues in the Diocese of Bath & Wells for putting together some practical top tips for running a holiday club online. Here’s what they’ve written:

How To Run a Holiday Club Online

The aim of this guide is to help you think through the why/when/what and how of running a successful church holiday club online. It may be helpful to work through the headings below as a planning group, so that your vision for doing this is clear and shared by those involved. For many of you, you may have anticipated doing your Holiday Club as per normal, but the Covid-19 pandemic has forced you to rethink your plans. Lots of things around the ‘Why’ remain the same, but the ‘How’ will naturally differ significantly.

IMG_20190526_110355Holiday Clubs or Holiday Activity Days, whether done face to face or online can be a great way to connect with children but before you dive in, here are a few questions to think through:

  • Why do you want to run an online holiday club?
  • When will you run it and for how long? Online will need to be thought through carefully.
  • What kinds of things do you want to include in the programme?
  • Who will you need and how will you gather a team?
  • How much will the online holiday club cost to run?
  • How will you tell children and their families about the online holiday club, plus get any necessary resources to them?
  • How could you make sure the whole church feels involved?
  • When the online holiday club is over, what might be the next step?
  • What platform/s might you use to run the online holiday club?

Why do you want to run an online holiday club?

This is a really good place to start, as although we might all agree this is a great fun way of connecting with children and their families, it’s important you agree on some aims in your own context. Reasons for running an online holiday club could include:

  • It creates an opportunity to reach out to local children and their families who are not usually connected with church.
  • Provision of fun activities for children during the long school holidays after a particularly challenging time for families, where they have spent an extended time at home.
  • It provides a low-cost activity for families to be involved with at home.
  • You have few children involved in your church but would love that to change.
  • You have a good link with your local Primary School and this could be a positive thing to offer them, as they break up for the summer after a hugely challenging 4 months.
  • You have a thriving children’s group and church parents, who have continued to engage online throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and who are keen for something extra in school holidays, that they can encourage their friends to join in with.
  • You have engaged with new children and families throughout the pandemic and would like to offer them the opportunity to explore faith further.

Having discussed your primary reasons for running an online holiday club, now turn these into your aims. We suggest 3 or 4 main aims that reflect the missional and practical elements of what you hope to do. They can also include who the club is aimed at (i.e. is it aimed at children from church families who you already know or at those you have yet to connect with, or both).

 When will you run it and for how long?

Children

Photo from Dreamstime stock photography, https://www.dreamstime.com/ .

Many church holiday clubs have traditionally been run over 5 morning or afternoon sessions plus included an all-age Sunday service that the whole family are invited to. However, when doing this online, there are a number of new considerations:

  • How long can we reasonably expect children to sit in front of a screen?
  • Do you have enough people on team to cover the length of time you want to run the club (going online doesn’t mean that less team are needed – more on that below)?
  • Do you have people with the IT experience and skills to put something together?

Think about what will work best for the families you hope to include. It would be worth asking some parents if they’re not already represented in your team. Much will also depend on the team you have available.

Ways to transfer your holiday club online

  1. Signpost your children and families to other organisations who are producing Online Holiday Clubs, free of charge for churches to use and access.

You may look through this guide and conclude that in the current circumstances, you simply don’t have the resources and experience to be able to run a Holiday Club this year. Please don’t be dismayed, these are challenging times. There are, however, experienced organisations who often tour the country leading holiday clubs for churches. With those organisations being unable to do that this year, they are putting together full virtual Holiday clubs for churches to use. These include:

  • Pulse Ministries – Orbiters Online from 20th -24th July: https://www.orbitersonline.co.uk/
  • 4 Front Theatre, All Stars Kids Club, St Peter’s Baptist Church and All Churches Trust are joining together to do a virtual Holiday Club on YouTube from 3rd – 7th August
  1. Move your Holiday Club onto a conferencing platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or other

Many of us knew very little about these platforms a few months ago, but they have now become part of our everyday. Each platform has its pros and cons, so decide which one works for you. We would strongly encourage you to practice with your team well in advance, so that everyone knows what they are doing.

Safeguarding must still continue to be top of your agenda, with consent still needed and correct ratios etc being adhered to:

  • Safeguarding online is the same as for a physical holiday club
  • The recruiting of team, safer recruitment is the same as for a physical club
  • Parents permission still needs to be sought
  • Invites should be sent to parents
  • Records of attendance and concerns should still be logged
  1. Pre-record Holiday Club and Songs and put them on a site such as YouTube or Vimeo

Be very aware of copyright. Scripture Union, for example, allow you to use their videos, but they must not be used and shared on a public YouTube channel (they can be shared on a hidden channel). Similarly, you will need to ensure you have the correct copyright permissions for using any songs or video clips.

  1. Use a combination of the above e.g. conferencing platform, paired with pre-recorded sessions

For this option you may choose to have some pre-recorded sessions that are premiered online, which children watch prior to joining a conferencing platform for small group sessions and conversations.

What does a good Online Holiday Club look like?

  • Safe recruitment
    • All helpers must be DBS checked, including anyone you use in video clips or in hosting breakout rooms. Whether online or for a physical holiday club, all those working with children should have undertaken Basic Safeguarding Training (C1) and those leading children’s activities should have completed Leadership Safeguarding Training (C2). In addition, it may be helpful to lead a short session on good and safe practice with children as part of your team preparation.
  • Safe practice
    • Provide guidelines for team e.g. to dress appropriately on screen, both for pre-recorded and live activity, also they must be in an appropriate room/space in their home for any pre-recorded videos or live sessions.
    • Provide guidelines for parents e.g. children and anyone who maybe seen on screen, must dress appropriately for any video conferencing sessions. They must be in an appropriate room/space in their home, parents should be present or able to hear what is happening on screen throughout.
    • If you use break out rooms or similar, you must always have 2 DBS checked, unrelated adults present in each room.
    • Consent must be sought as per a physical holiday club. If you ask children to send in shout-outs or photos, you must have permission to share on the online platforms
    • Permission is needed for anything other than looking at a video online
    • Ratios of adults to children are still the same online as they would be for a physical holiday club – the recommended staffing ratio for children 4-8 years is 1 adult to 6 children and for children 9-12 years is 1 adult to 8 children. If young people are part of your team, remember to count these in the number of children present if they are under 18.
  • Risk Assessments are still essential for online holiday clubs.
  • The Holiday Club needs to be short/keep each item short – we suggest 30 minutes maximum, possibly with a live video conferencing session via Zoom or similar added on. This will mean it is necessary to miss things out that you may have historically done in your Holiday Clubs.
  • Include variety in what you do, so choose wisely.
  • Think about the essential elements and be sure to include them (Bible, prayer, fun)
  • Plan it carefully and decide who is doing what and share it out, ensuring it plays to people’s gifts
  • Script it and stick to it, to be sure you keep to time.
  • If possible (and with relevant permissions), invite children to send in their contributions and include them.
  • Create a resource pack to go with the online programme – it’s usually best to assume that families have none of the things needed, so make sure you include EVERYTHING they might need in the pack e.g. pens, a pair of scissors, paper. It is also worth noting, that it’s being suggested that if you have concerns about packages entering your home and carrying the virus, it is best to leave them untouched for 72 hours, so the virus can die. With this in mind, make sure you deliver the packs well in advance of the club.
  • Make sure you have the correct licenses for songs, video clips etc, otherwise your videos maybe pulled down from platforms such as YouTube.

What kinds of things do you want to include in the programme?

Putting together a programme for a holiday club can seem like an impossible job, but there are a number of organisations who produce holiday club resources which you can adapt for an online context. Scripture Union and John Hardwick are well known for their ‘ready-to-use’ Bible- based programmes. Resources like these are usually aimed at 5-11 year olds (Primary School age), but as indicated above, you will need to be wise in selecting which parts to include for an online club.

 How much will the holiday club cost to run?

Costs will have to be considered at some stage. It may be that the church has already set aside funds for a project like this. If not, you will need to consider a funding strategy. A decision will also need to be made about whether to charge families for the online club or not, and if so how much and how will you collect that money?

 How will you tell children and their families about the holiday club?

Advertising the online holiday club will need to be thought about carefully and will be different for every context.

Note about registration: As with a physical Holiday Club, no child can be admitted to a holiday club without a consent form signed by a parent or adult with parental responsibility. Asking parents to pre-register for the club helps make sure this isn’t an issue on the day and also identifies numbers.

How could you make sure the whole church feels involved?

As your team prepares for the club make sure you give regular updates to the wider church family, so they’re aware of what’s going on. Suggest ways they could be involved such as:

  • Having enough invites so that church members can invite neighbours who have children.
  • Inviting individuals to support the club with a financial gift.
  • Involving church members in preparing the resource packs
  • Sending out a ‘Prayer Email’ so that all church members can pray specifically for the club.

When the holiday club is over what might be the next step?

As you plan the event it is worth thinking through what a follow on to the club might be. In the present pandemic, that maybe through the form of a monthly video being shared with families or a follow up online gathering or a celebration in the church building when government guidance tells us that it is possible to do so.

N.B. Lots of the content in this guide has been taken from Scripture Union’s Online Training event ‘Running a Virtual Holiday Club’.

Safeguarding Note:

For all safeguarding queries and issues in your parish, you must speak with your Parish Safeguarding Officer in the first instance and then the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers, whose contact information can be found here.

Useful links:

Scripture Union resources https://content.scriptureunion.org.uk/holiday-clubs-0

John Hardwick resources https://www.johnhardwick.org/holiday-clubs

Diocese of York online holiday club resources: https://dioceseofyork.org.uk/schools-and-youth/children-young-people-churches/holiday-club-home-hope-club-2020/