The Gauteng Hub recently ran a 4-week training series for children’s ministry leaders and parents with young children. We caught up with Helga Schneider, God First Parks, who was part of the organizing team.
Helga, who was the training aimed at?
In 2019, we had our first children’s ministry conference for the Gauteng hub. This arose out of a need expressed in the fraternal relationship we have with the kids leaders in the Gauteng hub – most of whom work full time and do not have the capacity to train and equip their leaders.
This year, we were planning another children’s ministry conference, but had to rethink how we were going to do it during lockdown. Most churches have driven children’s ministry home this year, as we do church online, and this gave the impetus to extend the scope of the conference to include parents and ministry leaders.
Was the audience local or did you get some people tuning in from further afield?
The benefit of the online offering was that a broader “audience” was reached – we had people from other provinces in South Africa and people from other countries watching. Even in a normal year most churches do not have the finances to send their kids leaders to a kids conference (and who is going to run children’s ministry on the Sunday!?!).
Was each week divided into a theme, or was there a broader separation of topics?
Our overall theme for this year’s conference was Empowered – building onto that of the Africa conference (which was cancelled due to lockdown). As we re-tooled our speaker line-up for the online platform, four themes emerged: Worship, the Bible, Prayer and the Holy Spirit. These themes spoke into discipleship both in church and at home.
Did any of the content stand out as particularly timely for our churches?
The sessions on how to talk to your kids about racism, and fatherlessness, speak into problems and issues experienced worldwide. Bringing the Gospel into these areas of contention and struggle are timely for our churches, as is being intentional about having these conversations with our children.
Your team had to pivot because of lockdown and move online, what worked and what would you do differently next time?
Breaking the conference into 4 sessions worked, as the Saturday sessions were an hour each (rather than a whole day in front of a screen). It also meant that one could watch every session (as opposed to an in person conference, where one would have to choose between sessions). Viewers then had time to digest the content between weeks.
Some churches had team Zoom meetings after each Saturday session, where they connected as a team and talked through how to apply the content to their particular context. This was a great team building opportunity.
If we had to do an online conference again, we would have more interactive sessions. Conferences are actually about building relationships, and we felt the loss of that. This can be addressed somewhat by having webinars, and Q&A sessions, where there is some level of interaction. Having said that, the Holy Spirit brought unity and teaching into what could have been a series of disparate talks. We feel that He delivered on His promise of empowerment!
As our themes each week ended up being around spiritual disciplines: Prayer, Worship, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, the content of the conference actually has wider application that just for children.