Youth Ministers: COVID-19 is an Opportunity for Your Students
The increasing media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the interruptions this virus has caused have largely taken the world by surprise.
Whole sports seasons are being put on hold, entire school and college campuses are closing, and many people around the world find themselves largely “shut in” at home for the foreseeable future – all owing to the fact that COVID-19 is steadily saturating the world.
Thankfully, our Heavenly Father is not surprised by these recent global events. Scripture is clear that He is at work – and that He is offering to us and to our students a powerful opportunity in the midst of a global crisis.
The Sovereignty of God in the COVID-19 Pandemic
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” (Acts 17:24-26).
Although the Apostle Paul spoke these words to the residents of Athens nearly 2,000 years ago, the truths of Acts 17 have striking implications for us today. These verses remind us that God, in His sovereignty, has not only fearfully and wonderfully created every person on the planet, but that He has also ordained the places and the times which we inhabit. Applied to our contemporary situation, God Himself has ordained for us and for our students to be alive and to endure the realities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. And He has done so with a gracious and guiding intent:
“[That] they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” (Acts 17:27).
Sanctification through Suffering
I realize that the implications of Acts 17 can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for those who are most adversely affected by the spread of COVID-19. How can God be good if He draws people to seek him through disruption, suffering, and even death?
Scripture’s answer to that question is simple, yet profound. The foundation of God’s rescue mission to seek and save the lost has always hinged upon disruption, suffering, and death: not that which we ourselves endure, but rather that which Christ endured for us.
Consider the hope of our salvation. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, left heaven for earth to take on human skin and to live fully as one of us:
- Experiencing disruptions, as we now experience disruptions. The account of Lazarus in John 11 reminds us that Jesus had to re-arrange His personal travel itinerary as a result of His friend’s sickness and eventual death.
- Suffering, even as we now suffer. The stunning words of Isaiah 53:4-6 remind us that Jesus, God’s suffering servant, is well acquainted with both physical affliction and emotional turmoil. Our sorrows, our griefs, our infirmities, our afflictions: Jesus knows them all, for He carried them all for us.
- Dying, even as we face now death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and the gospel is good news because the death that we each deserve on account of our sinfulness was laid upon Jesus on the cross. Death no longer has a claim on those who are in Christ! The price of sin is fully paid! Not only that, but in Jesus’ resurrection we find hope of new life: a New Heaven and a New Earth in which sin is no more, in which we dwell in communion with God, and in which weeping, pain, and death are banished forever (Revelation 21:1-5).
Because of these gospel realities, Christians have great reason for hope in dark and uncertain days. Our present afflictions related to COVID-19 are a participation in the life-giving sufferings of our Savior (1 Peter 4:13). What’s more, our present afflictions are not disconnected from a beyond-all-comparison-reward that’s being laid up for us through these afflictions: namely God himself! (See 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Acts 17:27 reminds us that we don’t have to wait; we can begin to enjoy that reward here-and-now! Our Emmanuel-God is not far from any one of us. He is familiar with our sufferings; He is truly with us. He has decreed for us to live in these days of unprecedented uncertainty, in order that we might seek and find Him. And in seeking and finding, that we might understand more clearly the certainty of His presence, the limitlessness of His faithfulness, and marvels of His “All-Things-New” redemption that is coming (Revelation 21:5).
So, youth minister: You have a unique opportunity in this present crisis to share these truths with the students that you love. If you’re anything like me, you’ve often heard the following:
“I want to come to youth group, but my sports practice is at the same time.”
“I want to study the Bible; I just don’t have the time.”
“I want to be discipled, but I’m too busy to commit.”
For all of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our students find themselves with time like never before. Here are a few practical suggestions to begin inviting your students to seek the Lord amidst their disrupted routines:
- The Community Bible Reading Journal (CBR Journal) is a great way to get students reading Scripture through a gospel-centered hermeneutic – and to do so in community. Consider getting CBR Journals into the hands of your students, and then encourage them to text back and forth as they pray, read, and reflect.
- You can still check-in with students via phone calls and texts. Who knows? Perhaps the Lord will open up opportunities for you to mentor students that have heretofore been “too busy” to develop a relationship with you!
- Select a book to encourage your students to read and to reflect upon, together. You can find Rooted’s suggestions on our “Recommendations for Teens” tab.
- For other practical ideas on how to connect with students through web-based technologies, be sure to check out this video by Rooted’s own Kevin Yi.
Regardless of the tools you may choose to utilize, you have the opportunity to invite students into an incredible, God-ordained opportunity: the invitation to dwell with Him in the chaos of COVID-19. The invitation to seek Him, and to realize that He is near.