The Unique Ministry Opportunity in the Coronavirus Tragedy
Thousands of people are suffering, sick, and dying. Many people are facing financial straits and dire situations. In no way should we overlook what a catastrophe the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes for countless people around the world.
I have been in youth ministry professionally for fifteen years and another five as a volunteer before that; in other words, for this whole, young century. I want to tell everyone who ministers to young people — youth pastor and parent alike — this is the ministry opportunity of this century.
Here is why.
(1) Kids actually have time and they are pretty hungry for connection.
The greatest (worldly) enemy of the youth pastor and of the family is the busyness of teenagers. In the abstract of, it says, “In today’s culture, youth ministry can’t compete with sports, test prep, and the myriad other activities in which young people participate.” Root is exactly right. As someone who fundraises for the Rooted Ministry, I have found it far easier to get on the calendar of business owners and entrepreneurs to ask them for money than it is to schedule ice cream or coffee with a teenager. They literally run nonstop from the time they wake up until they fall asleep on their homework at midnight and beyond. The pace of teens is far more intense now than even ten years ago.
Coronavirus hit the pause button on life for teenagers.
While in most areas, we cannot schedule face-to-face meetings (unless perhaps it’s a walk with a safe distance), kids do have time for a phone call or to join in a group teleconference call. My youth ministry is getting pretty old school this week: we are sitting down and calling every kid on the roll in order to talk on the phone. (Isn’t that so, 2005, right?) We have found early on, through Zoom calls with one grade of students, that they feel very disconnected and are welcoming opportunities for conversations.
Meanwhile, how often do parents get to sit down with their kids for some face-to-face conversations? The fields are ripe for family meals, walks with your child, playing cards, etc. While the anxieties and dangers of COVID-19 are real, simultaneously, a modern parent likely will never get this much time with their child ever again. Enjoy the blessing!
(2) Kids are not as numb as they normally are.
One of the most insidious side effects of the busyness and technology addiction among teens is how numb their hearts are. It is pretty hard to feel and process your emotions when you do not have a second to reflect or to explore your heart. Many teens are anxious, scared, and lonely, but they rarely express it or think about it because of their crazy lives. Like an addict, the compulsive busyness and technology distances them from their own hearts.
This pause will remove these numbing agents. Far more feelings will rise to the surface and kids will be better able to talk about how they are truly doing inside. They will actually have greater sensitivity to their need for God in their lives. Meaningful conversations will be more frequent, as will opportunities to talk about how Jesus meets them in the isolation and fears of life.
(3) Kids are going to ask bigger, deeper questions.
For many kids, the coronavirus is the crisis of their lifetime. They were not alive for 9/11 and probably don’t remember Katrina in 2005 or the financial collapse of 2008. In the news they are hearing of thousands of people across the globe dying. This raises all kinds of questions about the character of God, the presence of suffering, and the meaning of life.
Biblical Christianity is the only worldview with sufficient, helpful answers to these incredibly difficult questions. Frequent will be the opportunities for kids to express doubts and to lament. Often will be the chances to offer answers or to simply lament with a child (and leave the theology for another time). Parents and youth pastors have an opportunity to enter into these hard questions with teenagers and offer hopeful truths or to just wrestle along with them.
(4) Kids may actually think about death.
I know this is a morbid thought, but it is an important one. While the coronavirus appears to pose very little threat to the vitality of young people, kids still hear every day about deaths from the pandemic all over the world. Certainly, they harbor some fears (however improbable it may be) that their lives could be in danger. Here’s the cold hard truth: every person, no matter what their age, needs to come to terms with the reality that they are going to die one day. Everyone needs to come to a place of reconciliation and peace with God by his grace and mercy through Christ. I know this better than anyone. My three-year old son professed faith in Christ on November 10, 2013 and died in his sleep on November 11, 2013. Life is fragile; tomorrow never guaranteed.
Still, very few young people think they are actually ever going to die. Their mortality generally never crosses their minds. This global pandemic does cause them to consider their death and their standing before God. They may genuinely experience fear of death in these moments. Now is an opportunity to offer them the great comfort that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection means there is no fear in death for the believer.
As I said to start this article, we never want to think about the suffering and tragedy of others as an opportunity to capitalize on. What I do want to convey is that this challenging time offers a rich, unique, and temporary opportunity to minister to kids in a way that could change their lives forever.