The Learning Cliff: 5 Grounding Lessons We Learned This Year

Mar 9, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by Tera Michelson

This time last year, we had no idea what was ahead. Now, we’ve weathered one full year of pandemic conditions. Ironically, the March 2020 blog I wrote was all about allowing “breathing space” in your youth ministry—ha! At this benchmark we never imagined, we are weary and grieving. We suffer from Zoom fatigue and chronic stress. Youth workers have made plans, changed them, then pivoted to change them some more. This year’s learning curve often felt like a cliff.

What has one full year of pandemic taught us? Here are five grounding lessons youth leaders learned the hard way this year:

1. We can’t fix it.

We may not be able to make the pandemic go away, be we can abide together, even while we are physically apart. It’s the Christian version of shiva—we dwell in God’s word and accompany one another through the worst of times.

2. Knowing our “why” has never been more important.

While the delivery of youth ministry continues to shift to accommodate today’s conditions, the roots of a call from God to love, shepherd, and advocate for youth hold firm. Resting in our purpose centers us and answers the when, what, and how questions that arise during this season.

3. Rhythms and rest are necessary.

We require sabbath. Our minds, bodies, and souls are not designed to maintain a rigorous routine without a break. To function at our best, we must build rest into our life rhythms, no matter how chaotic and demanding the calendar gets.

4. We are the church.

The church extends way beyond the confines of any room or building. As the church, it is our responsibility to align our actions to respond to God’s powerful love in the world. God’s love and forgiveness are constant. While God doesn’t change, the church has to continuously adjust.

5. We need Jesus.

When all of the regularly scheduled programs are stripped away, we are reminded that youth ministry is all about relationships. The role model of Jesus as a friend inspires listening, empathy, vulnerability, and unconditional love. Our students need Jesus’ model of care more than ever.

The most important lesson of this year? You’ve got this! What we lack in knowledge, we make up for with deep care and perseverance. Move over, coronavirus—God has work for us to do.

Topics: COVID-19, Coronavirus

Tera Michelson

Written by Tera Michelson

Tera Michelson is a silver-haired youth leader, serving the church since 1994. She loves Jesus and teens. She is a pastor’s spouse, mother of three, and writes at the world’s loudest house on a hilly street in Ohio.


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