Youth Ministry is tough right now with every state, county, town with different ordinances, mandates, etc. You can kick COVID right in the teeth and experience a thriving ministry regardless of where your state and local county you reside in is experiencing. It’s not a secret, its what we should have been doing long ago but are forced to think through now. Here are 3 things you can start doing today that will move the needle with the families at your church.
1. Create Resources
The that we sometimes tell ourselves is that “if they don’t show up to whatever it is that we plan, implement and pour ourselves into, they aren’t going to grow in their faith”. The truth is there are parents doing a phenomenal job at discipling their kids and helping them know Jesus. We have the opportunity to create resources to help those who need some help. What would it look like to create resources for families to engage with on a weekly basis? Can you reimagine an event that was socially distanced that parents and their teenagers could do that is fun and engaging AND that sets them up to have a spiritual conversation? (Check out this Post for ideas) Can you leverage social media, YouTube, GroupMe or any other platform to push content to families so that they have what they need every week to have great conversations with their teenagers? Create a bible reading plan and host an online discussion at the end of the week to talk about what was learned, create a prayer walk that gives prompts and encourages students and families to pray, create serving opportunities that anyone can do from home to bless a neighbor of family member. There are things that you can do! Ask a parent what they need, then figure out how to bring it to them.
2. Create New Programs
Do not just hang on to what you have always done. It’s time to innovate and dream up what you can do thats new and still accomplish and pursue the vision God has given you with the ministry at your church. COVID proof your ministry by leveraging small groups of people that you can manage efficiently with the proper safety procedures in place. Provide Options for your students, in person (if possible), hybrid online/in person, or 100% online. This is your change to empower volunteers to shepherd and own the ministry to teenagers at your church. There has never been an easier time to cast vision. Teenagers need caring adults now more than ever. Do not just shoe horn what you used to do with what you should do now. Strip it all down and build it all back up to look different, feel different but accomplish more than you could before. If you need help… get a coach!
3. Create Care
Care is the easiest way to minister to people of any age group right now. It’s the easiest thing you can do but it takes the most time, which is why it gets done so poorly. How you care for teenagers in your ministry is a big deal right now. They have to know that they have value, that they have a purpose, that they are wanted around, that they matter to people. You accomplish this by calling them, writing them notes, checking in, knowing about them, empowering other adults to care about them as well, giving them significant things to own and do, believing in them, encouraging them, etc.
How you care for your volunteers in your ministry is a big deal right now. Do you know how they are doing personally? Do you know what their family life is like? Do you know their favorite things so you can bless them and encourage them? Caring for your volunteers means knowing them on a personal level. Do you have a system in place to follow up with and check in on your adult volunteers to care fo them well?
How you care for families is a big deal right now. How are the families in your church feeling right now? How can you help and care for them well? It takes getting on their level, talking to them, getting to know them, spend time with them, care enough to call and see how things are going.
This isn’t rocket science but I believe that if every youth ministry would care more about care than about the program there would be a great depth in ministry happening.
Here are some links for resources on Parents and Volunteers.
Do not be scared… CREATE. If it fails, who cares… evaluate and try again.
Youtube is here to stay! It is the #2 search engine behind google and is only increasing in its influence on all generations! For churches around the country, March 2020 changed everything and churches were flocking to youtube to go live, add content and try to connect with people since everyone was quarantined to their home. Literally everyone was begging for subscribers for that coveted custom url. Everyone is doing it, but not everyone is doing it well, consistently or with a strategy behind it.
Who is? Which church youth ministry department is killing it on youtube?
I have compiled some direct links to Student Ministry YouTube accounts that are doing a great job and that we all can learn from! This obviously isn't an exhaustive list but its somewhere to start!
1. Switch Youth - student ministry at Life.Church - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5ft8HAMIhEb6CJzNq2XY-Q
The Student ministry team at Life.church is on fire when it comes to engaging content for their students. They are mixing the fun and the challenging along with the inspirational. Check them out and take notes!
2. Elevation Youth - Elevation church- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp3E-f0tbYwNl7TFu6gVNtA
The trendy squad over at Elevation church is doing a masterful job at relevance with their youth. They are combining fun content and great thought provoking content. We can learn a lot from how they are going after this generation in a creative way and leveraging this medium to get the message of the Gospel out to middle school and high school students.
3. Fuse - Newspring church - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKQVprbjZZ4zFqWEi0v-N8w/videos
The team over at Newspring is doubling down on challenging, inspiring content with a lot of worship thrown in. Its really well done and they are intentionally going after helping their students know God’s word!
4. Parkview Students - Parkview Church - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvNAiFn5cwINn33em26Q6Zw/videos
The crew at Parkview, located in the Chicagoland area, are some awesome people and their channel is full of fun and creative ways to reach students. Their unscripted episodes get a lot of views from their students! They are doing a masterful job at engagement!
5. Mariners Church Youth - Mariners Church, Junior high ministry and high school ministry - JHM & HSM
This is quite the staff! You have some seasoned vets in the youth ministry game with Doug Fields, Josh Griffin and Matty McGill. They are obviously developing humorous, fun and engaging content and their youth night live shows are a crowd pleaser. Check out all the content and get some ideas on how you can create for the students in your sphere of influence.
6. Saddleback Student Ministry - Saddleback Church, junior high ministry and high school ministry
HSM - https://www.youtube.com/user/HighSchoolMinistry/videos
JHM - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsYoKX_JKYxpX1UV4aQxzWw/videos
This may be the most authentic group of people I have ever met and been around. They all love Jesus so much and have the biggest heart to reach students with the gospel. They are doing a great job of providing students a great experience online!
7. Gateway Church Students - Gateway Church - https://www.youtube.com/user/theMORyouth/videos
This is just a fun page to look through. These guys are posting their services and not much else. This is one way to go, it lives forever and you never know when students need to hear any of those messages! Great work Gateway Students team!
8. Northview Students - Northview church, Indiana- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKobQIp7vUSeG-rFmEhpyew
Mixing in fun, painful, inspiring and challenging messages are exactly what this channel is trying to get after for students. They have a great schedule and flow to their weekly posts and are doing whatever they can to engage middle school and high school students. Give it a look and learn whatever you can!
Other Churches to Check out:
Church of the Highlands Students - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0N-BVU1kHMngin6ycr9Jkg
Sandals Church Youth - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnklO4l6HduzlKOh_Me8tdg
Willow Students - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1yKPtZ7HOzThgAGFfJd4dg/videos
LCBC Student Ministry - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4v-ZLOBhe7b7MnvkwhUaTA/videos
Cornerstone AZ Youth - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSrgQDElZwdvOFVkBlWhbFg/videos
Are there other Churches doing a great job on YouTube? Share the link so we can all learn together!
If you work with middle school or high school students for any length of time, you have probably had “that” conversation. You know what I’m talking about. The conversation usually happens at a time that wouldn’t normally make sense to talk and starts like this… “Hey can I talk to you about something”. You immediately say, “yeah sure.” They respond with, “Can we go somewhere not around anyone else?” At that moment you know they are about to unleash the aftermath of brokenness on your heart. It doesn’t matter how long you have been in youth ministry, that conversation is never fun. If you truly care about the students you shepherd, this conversation will break your heart. Each conversation is handled in a slightly different manor and there is no cookie cutter response that you can regurgitate. Each conversation has different responses and sometimes there is no response and its just listening and caring. Most of the time, it means following up with that student consistently for the next number of weeks and months to check in and encourage.
So what do you do when a student tells you too much? Where the line between being the caring youth pastor that is just there as a listening ear, there to encourage, there to hold them accountable and being the discerning adult that gets mom and dad involved, getting the authorities involved, getting professional help involved? What happens when the student tells you that they don’t want anyone to get in trouble or that they are adamant about not telling their parents or involving the proper authorities?
These are the situations that have to be handled correctly for the student’s sake and sometimes even when they are against the action step that needs to happen. As that students youth pastor, you have to make the best decision possible for the student. You have a responsibility to make the decision that keeps that student safe. You have a responsibility to make the decision that honors the parents. You have a responsibility to help them see the bigger picture and how God is walking right next to them through whatever comes next. All of these responsibilities are easy to write down or say but often times much harder to put into practice. There are emotions involved, there are hurt people involved and there is the relationship you have with that student that you are desperately trying to maintain and protect.
It may be helpful to remember 3 things when you are talking to a student who is sharing too much:
1. When it comes to self-harm, abuse, or anything that may put your student in harms way you MUST say something to someone. This goes without saying, but needs to be said. Your response to harm is always compassion towards the student. Let the proper authorities know immediately and help them get the help they need even if they don’t seem to want it at the time. Make sure you are aware of your states guidelines for mandatory reporting.
2. You are their pastor not their friend. You are not out to seek the approval of your students but to shepherd them towards a perfect father, a risen savior and ultimately the one who will give them what they need when they need it. You are the adult in every situation, especially situations like these. Do the right thing no matter what that student may say about you or to you.
3. Have a plan (be prepared for situations that land outside of said plan). Think through possible scenarios and situations before they happen so you can’t be blindsided and be unsure of what to do. With that said, its impossible to know and think through every possible circumstance. Handle each instance with grace, compassion and intentionality. Your plan should be making your overseeing supervisor/elders/lead pastor in your church aware of what’s going on so you have people in your corner that you can go to for advice and wisdom.
There are so many other nuances about these conversations and what to do/what not to do but those 3 things will get you started in the right direction.
Lets be honest, this part of ministry is not fun. Often times it means seeing families at their worst, students at their lowest point and looking this cruel world right in the eyes. It would be easy to wallow in the gloom that is left by these conversations with student you care about. However, God is using you as someone they trust to bring light into the darkest place in their lives. You are playing a pivotal role in their spiritual formation. Be there to walk them through it, point them to their Savior in the midst of it and celebrate with them when they are on the other side of it.
2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.