Footsteps at a distance

We cancelled our Footsteps event for children and families a few days before the government decision to close the schools and about a week before we went into lockdown.

As Footsteps is a monthly event there wasn't the same pressure to provide resources as there is for weekly groups. This gave me time to think about what I wanted to offer.

Most of the families don't go to church and so wouldn't be receiving anything from local churches.

There is a core group who come regularly but several families dip in and out depending on commitments. It's always been open to anyone who wants to come and I wanted to keep this ethos. I decided to keep contact through the email group and the dedicated Facebook group but also to advertise it in the community Facebook groups in the same way that I usually advertise Footsteps events.

I also decided to increase the input from once a month to weekly. Time in self isolation seems longer than ordinary time (to me anyway!) There is a lack of external structure and routines. A month between Footsteps events has worked well in ordinary times but I felt this needed more.

Many people have produced great materials for children during these times but it felt wrong to use them for Footsteps. It seemed important that they still felt part of the Footsteps community.

I felt this was especially true now that their school community no longer existed in the same way. This meant I would need to tell the stories myself so that they kept some contact with a known and trusted adult.

Originally, I considered supplementing what I did with other materials and links but I felt it would be easy for families to become completely overwhelmed. In our local community groups people are posting links to PE sessions, timetables that work for them, online zoo visits, art galleries, concert performances... People are being incredibly creative but just reading them can be tiring, especially for less well organised families who often feel guilty anyway. Schools are sending home work which varies from "enjoy yourselves and make memories" to work and activities for every subject, even for the youngest children.

I hadn't come across Zoom at this stage so decided to film the storytelling and upload it to YouTube. At Footsteps we use a mix of experiential drama, Godly Play, storytelling with objects and symbols, prayer stations and pictures but many of these would not work on film.

I decided to use reflective storytelling and tell the story of Jesus and the children with wooden figures and coloured underlays. My husband was persuaded to do the filming.

I also gave ideas for different activities including free response and offered an opportunity for prayer. I wanted some way of keeping the community together so I suggested that they could take and share photos of their creation or of the children creating (back and side views only) - but only if everyone involved was happy with this.

How well did it work?

The first problem was finding somewhere in the house to do the filming, as most of the walls were too cluttered with furniture to make a good backdrop. In the end I threw a length of material over a bookcase; I thought about using purple for Lent but decided it might be a bit dazzling and chose dark green.

The filming was not easy and took several goes. I had no idea how much I moved my hands during the reflective parts of the story and what a distraction this was.

One particularly good attempt was spoilt when a pleasant smiling welcome was followed by a look of horror before I began the story! Once filmed we uploaded it to YouTube, which turned out to be relatively simple.

I'm not sure how many families have used it so far. I sent this out during the first week of school closure, but I suspect most families were too busy adjusting to a completely different lifestyle. Good weather and the novelty of being in lockdown has probably made this week easier than it may be in the future. I'm not bothered about this; even if the families haven't used it in the first week they may later on. We are in a long term situation. A couple of the families have taken part in the craft and sent photos which I have shared.

I know friends who have used Zoom, so I'm starting to wonder about this, perhaps starting with a couple of families and seeing how it goes.


March 2020

Footsteps at a distance resources

Jesus and the children: "Let the children come to me..." story and ideas for craft and activities.

Palm Sunday: Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Story, craft ideas and activities for Palm Sunday.

Good Friday to Easter Day: Stories, craft ideas and activities for Good Friday to Easter Day.

Thoughts on Zoom: Reflecting on using Zoom with children and families for community, storytelling and response.