Why not rush in where angels fear to tread? People are asking, so I’m addressing the topic “What will Sunday School be like post-COVID 19?” Although we can’t see the future with absolute clarity, we can take educated guesses and in most cases get pretty close. Based on conversations with pastors and Christian educators, group leaders, books I’m reading, and my 25+ years in church education/discipleship ministry, here are some things I believe could be part of our “new normal” in Sunday School:
- Classrooms will become Zoom rooms – Because of the success most groups have experienced during initial COVID-19 sequestering, the Zoom experience will transfer to on-campus classrooms. Teachers will use iPads, laptops, or smartphones to broadcast live via Zoom. This will allow absentee members and guests to continue meeting with a group when work, play, or illness takes them away on Sundays.
- New Zoom room roles will emerge – As groups go live through Zoom, new roles will emerge for group members. Traditional roles include class secretary, care group leader, fellowship leader, prayer leader, and others. But in our new Zoom rooms, groups will need a Zoom co-host to monitor the Chat feature, let people in when they assemble in the Waiting Room, and watch for hackers.
- Some teachers will be slow to return to the classroom – Older teachers who have pre-existing conditions may not be comfortable serving in more crowded pre-COVID conditions. Some will return slowly, and others won’t return until there is a vaccine. This means we’ll need to recruit and train new leaders.
- Physical distancing will mean adding groups and hours – If physical distancing guidelines keep us at 6 feet of physical distance, classrooms won’t be able to accommodate pre-COVID groups. Removing or blocking chairs will mean that only 1/3 to 1/2 of the members will have a seat – so we’ll have to create new groups, add an hour of Sunday School, or encourage groups to meet on a day and time other than Sunday morning.
- Some groups will remain online and not return to the campus – My groups is already asking the question, “Do we have to go back?” We have found meeting online to be convenient and effective. This isn’t all bad, because our empty room could be used to start a new group, or for another group to divide up and use it for some of their group members.
- Training will focus on digital competencies – The church was forced to move online quickly at the beginning of COVID-19 sequestering. Many Bible study leaders didn’t feel comfortable using Zoom technology (and still don’t). In the very near future, training will shift to help group leaders keep up with changing technology.
- Digital curriculum options may become more important to groups – Because of our experience during the early days of COVID-19 sequestering, and because many groups may not initially go back to the church campus until late summer, we’re all seeing the value in providing leaders and members with digital versions of their curriculum.
- Cleaning and sanitizing of rooms will be a priority – Your church members are being trained to expect greater levels of clean because of companies like Taco Bell and Wal-Mart. Employees of those companies wear masks, sanitize grocery carts, and hold card readers out the drive-through window so there is no hand contact. As your member’s expectations about cleaning and sanitizing rise, they will also rise in regards to how your church approaches this.
- Training will move online – Training has not been a strong suit in many churches, but now Zoom allows teachers to easily get together online for a time of training each month. One church I know in Richardson, TX., just recruited 20+ experts from around the country to be guests on successive weekly training meetings. So far teachers are attending at almost a 100% rate!
- Groups will be smaller – Because of people’s hesitancy to return to campus, social distancing rules, and new acclimation to online group meetings, on-campus groups have the potential to be smaller than pre-COVID attendance patterns. This isn’t all bad. If true, this will make room for new people in on-campus groups.
- Groups won’t feel compelled to meet on Sundays – During COVID-19 we have learned that Sunday School groups don’t necessarily have to meet on Sunday mornings. I love this. In most of our towns, 22-245 of people work on Sunday morning and cannot attend worship or Bible study. By meeting on Sunday evening or a night during the week (seniors could meet during the daytime) we could reach new people.
- D-Groups will find new life in online meetings – Because so many Bible study groups have moved online, smaller triads and quads of people now realize they, too, can meet online for a deeper level of accountability and Bible study. These closed groups no longer have to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop early before people go to work, or on a weeknight after the kids get to bed. Now these groups can meet online whenever it’s convenient.
These are just a few of the ways Sunday School may change as the church returns to the campus. What would you add to this list?