Sustaining Your Youth Ministry During a Global Pandemic

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As of Sunday night, March 15th, the CDC is recommending that gatherings of 50 or more people be prohibited nationwide. Many of us in ministry have been scrambling over the last few days to prepare for something that we couldn’t have even imagined a month ago — which is meeting remotely and having to stop in-person gatherings altogether. Different states, cities, and even churches have different policies, but we at Rooted wanted to provide some guidance and encouragement as we think about the new normal for the next few days, and then the next few weeks, and for however long we find ourselves in these rapidly evolving circumstances.

First, let’s remember that we live in a Romans 8:28 world.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

What is your only hope in life and death?
That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

That said, we also live in an amazing time in human history when the compromises for in-person gatherings are actually pretty good:

Facebook Live
Skype
Zoom
Instagram Live
Streaming live feeds

We have options. Likely, your church at large has already figured this out. But it’s also important to keep the rhythms of our youth communities going even through this disruption. For one, we want to help our students to maintain consistency so that when we’re able to gather again, they won’t miss a beat. But most importantly, we want to continue to point them to Jesus through every minute of this uncertainty.

Our church in Los Angeles hosted a live service as well as pre-recorded online worship experiences for each of the departments within our church (including the youth ministry). Though not ideal, one of the unexpected upsides to this arrangement meant that families were worshiping together through multiple shorter experiences. This is actually something that we’ve been praying for at our church, and the in-person prohibitions have been an unexpected answer to prayer as our families this Sunday truly gathered together, intergenerationally for worship.

If you’re looking to do smaller community groups with your students, I recommend signing up for a free Zoom Meeting account or WebEx account. These are both highly reliable video conference applications, and because of the current conditions, Zoom has lifted the 40-minute limit for free accounts. This means that you can host video conferences with your students.

We did this yesterday in our youth group — we had them all watch a pre-recorded online video worship experience and then we coordinated with our small group leaders to gather online via google hangouts or Zoom meetings, and the feedback was unanimously fantastic. The students were more focused and able to concentrate and more than a few of our leaders talked about how they had better video conference conversations than they have typically had in person. Not that we want to do this permanently, but it’s been our experience that changing the environment so far has even been helpful for our students.

If you’re looking to do more fun types of gatherings online, there are actually great classic games that you can play with your students via phone apps — like the UNO card game app and even light competitions like connect 4. Playing multiplayer video games with your students can also be a way to fellowship without meeting in a physical space, but again, as the medium is the message, we always want to be careful about this.

Sending out little vlog videos to your students via TikTok or Instagram stories can also help students engage with you and your leaders. They’re going to be spending a lot more time on their devices, so we should aim to be where they are in this regard. You can also help your students put together media watch lists and music playlists. Perhaps there are shows that you recommend to your students that could help foster really good conversations with them, or specific music that you think could be helpful to them during this anxious time. Call them, text them, message them. Remind them where their hope comes from.

Over the next few days and weeks, we’ll be offering more tips and encouragement on the Rooted blog as you boldly continue to minister to your teenagers from afar. Lastly, don’t feel the need to do everything or fee discouraged by your lack of experience in this arena. We are all new at this! Remember that at the end of the day, you have been commissioned by the Lord to reach the students at your church with the gospel, and your personal communication with the students is what matters most. If you have questions or thoughts about how we can serve you better, leave your comments, and we’ll try to get resources to you guys. God bless everyone.

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