I don't know about you, but my mind has been overloaded with new questions recently. How long will my supply of toilet paper last? Where am I going to buy soap? How many people will be queuing outside the supermarket? But there's also been much deeper questions. When will this end? What are some of the things about myself I've been hiding from? What does my life look like beyond this?
Some of us have the strength and gift of adaptability. I on the other hand - a person who loves change, growth, challenges, problems to solve - find myself confused when trying to cope with a problem so large that it messes with my rhythms and plans. My innate need for routine can't be fulfilled, my creativity slows, productivity is knocked and my mind is in over-drive.
So, how do we help, disciple and pastor young people who are facing all the same stuff but worse because they still don’t know who they fully are and are trying to figure that out amongst this chaos?
I think we need to ask some better questions. For me, it's these four in particular: what are young people facing in this? What does God want to do in and through young people in this season? What do young people have to offer at this time? What are we taking into the next season so that we never go back to this?
What are young people facing in all this?
Yes, all the same stuff we are but on steroids. Loneliness at whole new levels. Lack of hope for the future. Future that isn’t visible.
Gen Z are known as the loneliest generations. They know how to do physical social distance and their world is built on social media closeness, but with so many masks and walls before you get to the real person at times. Young people are now trapped in a world where they are looking for authenticity and struggling to find it.
They are looking for hope and light in a dark place, so how can we bring it to them? Not just through a great Insta Live every week or texts and calls but peer-to-peer.
They are also seeing their parents and grandparents, the ones they still blame for global warming and climate change, pressing into a stronger 'individualistic society mentality' - me and mine - than ever! Not all parents, obviously, but they are seeing it in society and those generations. How do we empower young people to lead the way in the home so that generosity and community are at the centre of the home?
What does God want to do in and through young people in this season?
Bring hope to the hopeless. Bring community to the lonely. Bring faith to overcome fear.
How do we empower a generation to do just that? How do we do discipleship well in the digital realm?
What we see in this generation is the men and women of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), those who understand the times and know what to do. We need to be those people as leaders in this Corona challenge BUT young people are those people in the digital! They understand the digital age we live in and they definitely know what to do and where to go.
How do we empower this generation to be the ’new ways’ generation? I love what it says in Ezekiel 37, that God is in the business of creating new rivers in the desert. What if God is using this generation to make new ways of doing church events and youth ministry?
What do Gen Z have to offer the rest of the world in this season?
Young people are going to pioneer what the world looks like going forward in this season. They can also help the world be better connected. They know what it looks like to be unified and authentic online. They know how to operate and live digitally! They are an experience based, decision making generation.
How do we empower them to take ancient truths and apply them in these times? What do we do to empower them to shape society going forward? Or do we just need to get out of the way and keep bringing them back to the truths of scripture?
What are we taking into the next season and what do we never go back to after this season?
We will come out of this time different. What are we seeing fruit in now, that we need to keep doing post-COVID-19?
Four years ago, myself and three colleagues from our church headed over to our old building, we had moved one year prior. I remember walking into the old offices and seeing things that were there gathering dust and things we had forgotten we had. My friend said: "If we haven’t needed it in the last 12 months then we don’t need it." We were in a new building and it was a new season.
There are things we have been doing in youth ministry that we should have chucked out a while ago but now COVID-19 has made us drop them. We've had to pick up new tools or enhance existing ones, and we'll have to decide whether continue these when this is all over.
We're talking methodology not theology here - how we disciple, not discipleship, where we do mission projects not mission projects, small group Bible study in homes not small group bible study.
So, do ask yourself if you've got enough toilet paper for this week, but let's also ask some questions that are faith-filled, realistically-looking and future-focused so that young people are reached and discipled. Young people encountering Jesus can happen anywhere, anytime and on any platform.
Dan Randall is youth director at Hope Together and youth pastor at Life Church Lancashire.