After weeks of wishful thinking, it is becoming clear that fall is bringing more of the same youth ministry challenges we’ve been facing since we first heard news of COVID-19. Our minds may be spinning with plans A through Z, but we still have so many questions, and are staring at an empty calendar. There are no quick tips and tricks to “fix” this dilemma—this is hard. How do we plan for a season that is full of question marks?
The “when” and “where” of youth ministry may fluctuate, but the “who” and “what” remains the same. As you fill in the blanks of youth ministry for this fall, focus on what you know for sure: teens need Jesus. They are hungry to be known and loved, just as they are, no matter what. They long for a life that holds meaning and seek a purpose. They are pushing toward an independent future at breakneck speed but with reluctance and anxiety, all at the same time. Let the question marks of these hard days become defining moments in your work with students. Keep your “why” in check with these simple guidelines:
Establish a routine
No matter when and how you come together, keep it at the same time and place on the calendar. Students are looking for structure. This is your chance to make faith development a regular and habitual part of it.
Ask for student input
Teenagers are the masters of their schedules; they decide what deserves their time. Use a survey software like Google Forms or Survey Monkey to whip up a simple ask about what they want and need from the church community.
Aim for shared experiences
Give students a common topic by inviting them to participate in the same activity, whether on their own or socially distanced.
- Take a prayer walk around a lake
- View the same movie or online video
- Write a letter to a loved one
- Collect nature items to create an at-home altar
Be sure to allow for group reflection time to develop understanding and connection.
Unleash peer power
Build and boost faith relationships by allowing teens to lead each other. Give them plenty of opportunities to talk with and listen to one another in pairs and small groups.
When it starts to feel like everything is changing in youth ministry, focus on what does not change—God’s love for you and your teens is a constant, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can plan on that.