Ask Rooted: What Will Your Ministry to Students Look Like This Summer As You Regather?

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In many of our communities, the warm weather and slowly relaxing guidelines surrounding COVID-19 will provide an opportunity to meet with students in small groups. We asked Rooted writers to share their developing plans for summer ministry with students. We hope you will find these responses helpful as you prayerfully plan for the summer ahead.

Join us by registering here for a Zoom webinar entitled “A Summer of Small Groups: Regathering Our Youth Ministries Following COVID-19” next Tuesday, June 23 at 12:00 CST. Hear from two of our prolific blog writers, Kendal Conner (also a Rooted Steering Committee member) and Skyler Flowers as they share considerations for gathering safely, teaching Scripture, and re-building community in person with our students. Time will be given for Q&A as well as for brainstorming ministry ideas together. 

Kerry Trunfio, Director of Youth Ministry & Local Outreach at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Topsfield, MA

Typically our summer ministry calendar is full with fellowship events, Bible studies, a mission trip, and camping at a Christian music festival. This year, many of those events will need to be rethought or canceled in light of COVID-19. As a ministry team we are still praying and talking through the specifics of what summer will look like. As of now, we are planning both online and in person events. At least throughout early summer, we will ask students to wear a mask when we meet in person. Initially, our events will be weather dependent, as we will plan to only meet outdoors in locations that allow for social distance guidelines to be followed. We recognize that some parents will not feel comfortable with their students attending in person events and we do not want these students to feel isolated from our youth ministry. We will continue with movie nights using Netflix Party, virtual game nights, and Bible studies on Zoom. As our students wrap up their school year in the next week and summer vacation officially begins, I also look forward to meeting with students in smaller groups or one on one. This season will look very different for us, but we are confident that the Lord will use this time to draw us closer to Him and to one another.

Kevin Yi, College and Young Adults Pastor at Church Everyday in Northridge, CA

Our community is pretty tense around regathering. We’re a larger church with a significant population of older and more vulnerable members. We have many teenagers who live with their grandparents, and we’re not at a level of comfort yet with regards to regathering. We were initially hoping to be able to have some kind of small group gatherings in July, but we recently had a close call with someone whose family member tested positive for COVID-19, which has made us think twice about our safety measures.

All that said, we’re hoping to be able to do some kind of small group gatherings first, rotating through the grades, and aiming to have that be a special program outside of our current online options. Regathering for our normal Sunday worship won’t be possible for us until the school year starts, so we’ll take a wait-and-see approach. Since we’ve had to postpone or cancel everything, we’re hoping that the desire to gather again will allow for some special moments together during the summer, however limited.

Greg Meyer, Assistant Pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis, MO

Overall, we have been abiding by the guidelines of our local government and trying to stay in sync with what were doing as a church when it comes to gatherings (we had our first in person worship service on June 7th). So we are meeting online only via our YouTube channel for the first two weeks. However, after that we plan to meet in home groups, which will be co-ed groups broken up by grade. At each family home, we plan to meet outside or in larger indoor gathering spaces. Several leaders (staff and volunteers) will direct each home group and teach the lesson. We will prepare the lesson collectively at our weekly leader meetings.

Meanwhile, we have started gathering students for outdoor fellowship activities by grades (either spread out on our church property or at local parks). As things open up across the metro area, we have plans to gather students for more of these types of events. Our staff has begun pursuing more one-on-one and small group times with students, though we have focused on meeting outdoors and maintaining proper social distancing. We have become more active on social media (primarily Instagram), have been writing more handwritten notes, and have been thinking of creative ways to visit students at their homes (i.e. taking them lunch, dropping by gifts, etc.).

Finally, since we are unable to meet for Sunday School for the foreseeable future, we have begun producing a series of short YouTube videos on how to read and study the Bible. Were calling it “The Ways of the Word: Making Sense of Scripture.” We have been releasing a video each week. Our goal is to help our students learn to how to better feed themselves spiritually while were all at a distance. We plan to use this series in the future as a ready-made resource that we can share with students to as they endeavor to grow in the Lord.

Rebecca Heck, Co-Director of Student Ministries at Intown Community Church in Atlanta, GA
This summer we’ll be focusing on what it means to be “with” one another. As gathering in a large group in person appears to be months away, we’re asking families to host backyard small groups every-other week. In keeping with our theme, we are going to use Skye Jethani’s book With to dig into what it means to be “with” God and “with” each other. We’ll also be providing each small group with a laptop so that students who can’t join for one reason or another won’t miss out on growing with their small groups over the summer. Our ministry will also be holding one Zoom call for Jr. High students and one for Sr. High students each month where we’ll watch a movie together or play games. We are still working on how to cultivate our community as a whole group and do not want to miss out on our usual summer fun! It will be a different summer for us, yet we are hopeful to still build a firmer foundation as we walk into the fall semester.

Mike McGarry, Youth Pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, MA

I serve in Massachusetts, where churches are now allowed to gather for worship under certain guidelines. Were three weeks into worshipping together (continuing a livestream for those who cant yet attend), but youth group is still on hiatus through the summer. In the meantime, small groups of students have begun to meet outside outside – with parental permission, facemasks, and social distancing protocols – for fellowship, to study the Bible, and pray together.

My team and I have brainstormed a few ways to host youth group events while practicing social distancing. One of the needs weve identified is to give families something positive to do together with their church family. Our first event will have families meeting at the church and rolling a die at every stop sign or traffic light to determine whether or not to go straight, turn left, or turn right. After a pre-determined amount of time each car will take a group picture and reset their odometer and drive back to church – the family to get farthest away (without cheating by taking the long way back to church) wins. We are also looking into photo scavenger hunts that families can do together and post online with a group-specific hashtag. This is a rapidly changing time for our ministrys programming. Perhaps the most important thing we do this summer is to recruit, equip, and deploy more youth workers to enable us to meet in smaller groups with more versatility in the fall.

Chris Li, Director of Student Ministry at Living Hope Community Church in Brea, CA

I can’t wait to see all our students face-to-face and I know they definitely want to see each other this summer. Since quarantine, we have been doing a reading plan together. When we asked students what they wanted to read for the summer, they said 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, Romans, and Proverbs. So on Wednesday nights we have been doing interactive devotionals using the acronym SOAP—Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer—to guide us. Some staff and students had an informal socially distanced picnic at the park. Others have gone hiking or biking with their families. Some have started doing family worship. As soon as our elders give us a green light for our youth to gather, we definitely will do so with these new safety measures. Recently we studied Mark 2:1-12, where some friends lowered a paralyzed man through the ceiling in order to get him in front of Jesus. Similarly, we are praying our faith leads us to creative and out-of-the-box ideas to innovate for the summer!

Register to join our Zoom webinar: “A Summer of Small Groups: Regathering Our Youth Ministries Following COVID-19” next Tuesday, June 23 at 12:00 CST.

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