Disruption is a word that some might use to describe the COVID-19 pandemic. Historians tell us past pandemics not only disrupted life but also caused change in health care, economics, socialization, and work environments. We find ourselves asking, “How will COVID-19 change the landscape of preschool and children’s ministry?” No one truly knows the outcome but it is time to consider adjustments and reevaluate current protocols and practices with the understanding that change is still occurring.
Churches canceled all gatherings as COVID-19 spread through the nation. After many weeks of closures churches began to slowly reopen as the virus started to plateau and local governments allowed groups to carefully regather. However, the initial regathering did not include preschool or children’s programming. In most churches, if children attended they accompanied their parents to worship services. The careful consideration of bringing children into the church building causes us to rethink all aspects of preschool and children’s ministry. This requires preschool and children’s leaders to look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local government, and national government for guidelines in gathering children.
Why are there concerns for regathering children? According to the CDC, it is believed that the virus spreads easily from person-to-person. This happens through respiratory droplets when the infected person talks, coughs, sneezes, spits or somehow passes these droplets from person to person. Also, like other illnesses, the infected people are not always aware they have COVID-19. Social distancing (staying at least six feet away from another person) is said to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus. Why the concern of gathering children? Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and children do not necessarily understand the importance of social distancing. The landscape has changed for preschool and children’s ministry. In order to regather in a safe way, many things will need to change. Among the many components of preschool and children’s ministry, three particularly disrupted areas are: modes of communication, protocols for health and safety, and the ways of building community through in-reach and outreach.