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How to Best Use Children’s Books in Pandemic Ministry

Simple innovations to include children in pandemic ministry
by Faith+Lead | March 3, 2021

Faith+Lead is grateful for this informative and resource-rich interview with children’s picture book Author Glenys Nellist.

Faith+Lead Tell us a bit about your career as a children’s picture book author: how many books have you published. How or why did you get started, and what gap in the market do you intend to fill?

Glenys Nellist Originally from England, my journey as a children’s author began when I came to live in the USA with my husband, who is a pastor. Serving alongside him in a small rural church as the children’s ministry director, I began to write my own curriculum. As I rewrote the Bible stories for my teachers to share in their lessons, I fell in love with what I found—that there is always a new way to tell the old, old stories. After discovering that, I started to research all the children’s Bibles and although there didn’t seem to be a gap in the market, I just felt one day that God whispered to me a new idea for writing Bible stories, which was to include a love letter, from God, that could be personally addressed to the child. Love Letters from God was my first book of Bible stories. That first title became a series, and since then I have published 24 more titles.

Faith+Lead Before the pandemic, what were your favorite ways of seeing your books used in congregational life?

Glenys Nellist It is always a thrill for me to see my titles being used by children’s ministers, pastors and Sunday school teachers. Prior to the pandemic, their most popular use was to be read for children’s time during Sunday worship or used in Sunday school lessons.

Faith+Lead The pandemic has forced us to innovate; we probably no longer gather the children up front in a sanctuary for a children’s messages that includes a book, for example. How do you suggest we use picture books in our ministries now?

Glenys Nellist Many authors are happy to grant permission for churches and ministers to read their books on YouTube or via Zoom. Speaking personally, I have also been able to visit many more churches virtually for author visits. Several churches have taken advantage of using my free downloadable activity packs (available for many of my titles) by printing them out and working through the activities together with families via Zoom, either after reading the story aloud themselves or listening to me read it. Examples of these Activity Packs include this one for Little Mole Finds Hope, or this one, to accompany Easter Love Letters from God, which is designed as a seven-day devotional for families to use during Holy Week.

Another innovative idea, which I’m really excited to offer this year, is an inter-generational Easter Story Walk, which is designed to accompany my newest picture book, Twas the Morning of Easter. An initiative started by libraries and designed to encourage literacy, participants are invited to walk through several different stations, each of which features one page from a book, which is displayed on a sign. The beauty of offering this event during a pandemic is that it is ideal to take place outdoors and one that can be open to the entire community. Many churches are offering this Story Walk during Holy Week, while others are using it on Easter Saturday. Zonderkidz can also provide high resolution images for churches who purchase a copy of the book. All the details can be found in this free download, which also contains a virtual Easter pageant.

Faith+Lead What are special considerations for church leaders who want to use a picture book in online services, either on Zoom or in a pre-recorded way, shared on social media? How do we double-check that we have the rights to share them?

Glenys Nellist The best way to check permission guidelines is to contact the author or publisher directly. Here are the guidelines from Zonderkidz and Beaming Books. For churches wishing to share the board book, for example, Good News! It’s Easter!, Our Daily Bread publishing simply requests that the recording be deleted after Easter.

Faith+Lead Are there online author events that we could point our congregation’s families with children to as bonus ministry events?

Glenys Nellist Many authors are offering virtual book launch events during this time. My virtual book launch party for Twas the Morning of Easter takes place on March 19th. I’d love to “meet” you there!

Your Turn

Who in your church could help to create an online children’s event or outdoor Story Walk during Lent? For more ideas, take a look at the article Lent with Kids by Arlene Flancher.

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