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.
Holiday 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?
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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’.
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.
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/