A decision was made by our church leadership to pause gathering in-person, on-campus for a period of time to allow the spike in COVID positives to subside. It was also the very week almost a dozen new Bible studies and small groups were to begin. I had made the decision early on to partner with a young mom to lead a small group in-person on Thursday mornings specifically focused on our preschool families. I had also made the commitment to co-lead the same study by ZOOM on Wednesday evenings so not to be away from home another night of the week. Sunday morning took a pause and these small groups did not begin, so I had some new-found margin.

I do not want our families to grow accustomed to doing life without the local church, so I asked, “What’s in my hand?” and “How can we love on our families?” easily, regularly, and energetically? Our county schools are not meeting in-person, nor online on Wednesdays mornings. We have a bus with our name on it. We have a great story: Jesus. We have popcorn, rocks, a wireless speaker, and Spotify.

We invited families to host a Pop In by registering online on Wednesdays 1:30pm (give our preschool families time to get home), or at 3pm (give our other-county students time to get home). Hosts promote the Pop In in their neighborhood and among their kid’s friends (kids have been playing with other kids in their own neighborhoods since forever), collect registration forms (you never know who doesn’t have a church home), and a snack (freeze pops). We take care of the rest!

We arrive 30 minutes early and start the music – McEachern Kids Pop In Spotify playlist which we share before and after to the emails shared on the registration forms/social media.
Hula Hoops – offers safe social distancing and arrival physical fun.
Welcome – Intro me ( name and “I love Jesus), the driver (name and “He loves Jesus), and sometimes a guest (name and “She loves Jesus.”) Then ask, “Do you know our Jesus?” leaving room for answers.
Intro the Bible – ask, “Who has a Bible?” “This is my Bible and in it…..”
Read 1 Corinthians 14:1 “Go after a life of love.” Ask, “What do you GO AFTER?” (Mom, spaghetti, video games, fishing) “A life of love is when we help other people know they are loved.”
Activity – Decorate a rock (pencil first, then paint markers, on a paper mat/work space) to “leave for someone to know they are loved, as they go wherever they go.” Enlist the help of the adults in attendance to hand out stuff so each child hears multiple voices of helpfulness from their own neighborhood peeps and my church bus driver.
Closing – Read “Wherever You Go, I Want You To Know” by Melissa Kruger, illustrated by Isobel Lundie.
We bless their painted rock (lay hands on) with a repeat-after-me prayer teaching that when we bless something we are setting it apart for a sacred and Godly purpose. I tell the story of my grands leaving painted rocks all over their new town in Oregon to share the love of Jesus. Their parents moved there to help start a church and in this way even the children could serve their new community in ministry.
Take-aways – Students get a folder with multiple at-home family SHARE THE LOVE activities related to their own hometown (we have three hometowns we focus on); a bag of popcorn with “Thanks for poppin’ in!” with our social media contact info.
Holy habits taught and caught: Bible reading, generosity, prayer, service, play.

We learned:
• Going out is easier than staying in; and the Lord gave us the best weather every. single. Wednesday. we went out.
• We used the church bus because it’s a big statement, but I could’ve used my car and ordered a big magnet for the doors. A church bus is ‘what was in my hand.’
• Kids and parents need a break, even if just for 20 minutes.
• Families stay to chat, so we have to honor the time commitment of our host and leave no later than 10 minutes after we finish. Our meet & greet time is as they arrive. Our hosts take care of the back-end hospitality.
• The host gets face-to-face time with everyone in their neighborhood when they collect the registration form info.
• ALL KIDS like to paint, hear a story read to them, eat popcorn/freeze pops, even 4th grade boys.
• We extended Pop Ins through all of February since some families wanted to host more than once (equipping the saints).
• Three different bus drivers who have three different seats at leadership tables now share how they were able to love kids to Jesus when the church took a Sunday pause (equipping the saints.)

What’s in your hand? How can you invite your families to offer the spaces to tell the greatest story ever told?

“The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11