As Quaker meetings and churches throughout North America continue their discernment around holding worship online for the foreseeable future or offering in-person worship with social distancing measures in place (or even a combination of both), Friends may also be considering how to resume or proceed with religious education programming for children and youth.
Alongside careful planning for safety, and the flexibility to shift our plans, we have an opportunity in this disrupted time to imagine something new that might reach more people and connect us as all-age spiritual communities.
Are there opportunities to collaborate across local meetings to provide online programming to a wider community?
How can we reach into the home, where spiritual formation begins and "lives," to provide support and resources for families in the meeting and stay connected to them in this time?
Is there an opportunity to connect topics for adults and children and build meeting-wide spiritual formation?
How can online worship spaces create an invitation to all-ages worship?
You may also want to consider which children/families with children have not been attending Meeting for Worship during the pandemic, and reach out to them to learn more about how they’re doing and how the meeting can support their participation. This is an opportunity for committees of the meeting to partner in support of families; a pastoral care committee might share this outreach with a religious education committee.
Since this situation is rapidly evolving, and your Quaker community may need to revisit the topic over the course of multiple conversations, here are a few things to consider* as you make plans for children's religious education programming:
- What combination is possible for our program - at home and online, physically together? Blended online and in-person program? Meeting outdoors? Is it possible to do a combination?
- Shall we continue/start offering Zoom meetings for children, and also arrange another time to meet outdoors for fellowship and community?
- Is there a space big enough for a physically-distanced children/youth program?
- What practices do we need to put into place to meet safety requirements for our meeting and families?
- How do we include children who are unable to join in person? What resources can we offer families at home?
*Adapted from Britain Yearly Meeting's 9 Steps to Re-opening Quaker Meeting Houses and Worship Spaces Safely, Version 4.2.
Resources to Help Your Meeting Plan Religious Education Programming for Children:
- Fall Religious Education Planning: Connection and New Directions (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)
- Conversation Circle, RE Program Planning: Finding Direction in Uncertain Times (Quaker Religious Education Collaborative)
- Valiant Together: Facebook Group for Quaker Religious Education During COVID-19