“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel” – I was out bowling with my youth group and fellow youth leaders when Boris Johnson made the announcement that we would have to stop all social gatherings. It was a difficult thing for us all to comprehend, and it’s a statement that has likely been haunting youth and children's pastors ever since it was made.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread, our youth gatherings have had to be postponed until further notice. Many of us youth workers aren’t very familiar with online youth ministry, so it’s probable, like with our group, that turning to youth or children’s work online was a strange idea to handle at first.
We had an online meeting to discuss how we would carry on meeting young people and decided to utilise the many different platforms for ministry. Now is the time we should be using them! As hard as it is, we should all try to embrace the technology at hand.
There are numerous ways out there. For example, we can go live on YouTube (this is a platform most young people and children are familiar with) or Instagram live. We have used both platforms to continue to grow and reach out to our youth group during our normal Monday evening slot. We decided on using video calling app Zoom to run our normal programme, including playing a game, interviewing a leader and breaking off for group discussion, which Zoom is capable of doing.
This week, we had our second Zoom youth session and we are still feeling very much new to the concept of meeting with our young people virtually. It’s a learning curve for all youth workers and churches, so we’ve tried out many techniques and considered the best options carefully. There’s still so much more for us to learn, but step by step, we will get there.
Why not try playing Kahoot (everyone loves a good quiz!) or virtual ‘bring me’ – where you ask players to race around their houses to find an item and show it to the camera before everyone else? Get your young people involved and active in online sessions.
Many young people don’t have much certainty in their lives and the Coronavirus is only adding to that, so it’s important we continue to reach out to them and spread hope. My friends and I have been using the phrase “Coro-no!” to describe a lot of what has been happening recently, but I think it speaks into what we should be doing as a Church too: remain strong, try not be fearful and continue to be the certainty in this uncertain world.
The continuity of you meeting online is vital for the spiritual (and emotional) development of your children and young people. Always ask if there is something you could be doing for them during the lockdown. I’ve asked my young people what they would like during this time of uncertainty and they have requested a Q&A on Instagram live, which we will be sorting out for them soon.
It’s about making yourself known among your young people! If it seems silly to you, remember, it's not for you! We are doing all of this to maintain connection and relationship with our young people.
Our youth and children need that consistent, safe group of people who care for them, and bringing your ministry online will continue to show them that you are there for them, even if you can’t be physically. We must keep championing young people, it’s still very much needed, even from home.
James Griffin is a youth ministry student at Regents Theological College and youth and children’s pastor at Hope City Church, Hereford. You can read more of James' story in the May edition of our magazine.