COVID-19 is here at it has completely changed the way we are doing youth ministry, church and relationships in general. Do you have a plan? Have you taken time to be strategic with how you are going to stay in front of your students, to engage them spiritually, to help them have some human interaction. There are students who are going to feel more isolated than ever before and need someone to reach out and care about them. This is a time in our world that is going to change how we do things, I believe for the better! Let's be honest, this quarantine is not for the faint of heart. Let's get into it!!
Your communication has never been more important than right now! Do you have a newsletter, do you have an email list of families to communicate with, are you clear and concise with your information, have you asked for feedback on your communication to families? All of those questions are important. It's time to communicate better.
Does your ministry have a YouTube page, Facebook Group, Instagram, etc? Use it consistently but not to much. If you were used to meeting on Wednesday nights with your crew. Go LIVE on Wednesday nights. and engage with your students. My recommendation is to use Zoom. (www.zoom.us) It is a video conferencing tool that offers a free basic account that gives you a lot of great features to use to interact with a group of people.
Using Zoom, here is what your live service online could look like:
Play a Game - get creative (home hunt - contest to see who can bring the home item to their screen first)
Have a devotional to share, do a S.O.A.P. study with your group over a passage of scripture, show a video
Have some discussion questions ready about the devotional
Ask for Prayer requests
For an awesome tutorial on how to use Zoom and the Sidekick App from DYM (downloadyouthministry.com) check this out: https://blog.downloadyouthministry.com/how-to-use-zoom-and-sidekick-for-youth-group-online/
Be consistent with your LIVE events. Make sure you let your students and leaders know well in advance when and how they can access the event.
Think of fun ways you can engage your students in a fun way throughout the week. We are doing a quarantine challenge. Each week we have a different challenge for our students to record themselves doing.
Week 1 - The Impossible Shot - video record yourself making a trick shot at home
Week 2 - Epic Blanket Fort - video record yourself giving everyone a tour of your blanket fort
Week 3 - Chopped - video record yourself making a delicious gourmet meal, mandatory ingredient is hot dog
We will vote on the best one and then I will probably find a random object laying around, spray it gold, wear a hazmat suit and deliver it to the student who won!
You can have fun in so many different ways. Do not stop trying to help students have fun things to do to engage in your youth ministry. Middle school and high school students are bored, give them something fun to do!
Another thing we can do is set loose our students to do ministry to each other. Why not let your students lead out and give a devotional online? Have students record themselves with a devotional thought, a passage of scripture that has been teaching them something and what they are learning through it. When they send you the video, post it on your social media platforms you use for your social media. Don't stop there, put it out on your churches social media platforms and allow students to lead the way through this weird time. You can leverage students in a lot of different ways. Do not think it all has to be on you!
This gives you, the youth pastor, the opportunity to really minister to students. Phone calls, emails, group chats, zoom hangouts, live events and a myriad of other tools are in play and your students need you to care about them in a way they didn't even realize they needed. Just because you can't be physically in front of your students doesn't mean you can't be relational, care about them and minister to them effectively.
Use this time to kick your ministry up a notch. Pray a lot for our country, for your students and for God spirit to move powerfully in our world.
Lets cut straight to the chase, the one small shift that can make the greatest difference in your ministry is to give ministry away. I know, not profound, not cutting edge and its not the first time you have every heard this idea. The difference between this idea being a catalyst for your ministry or just another saying you say out loud but do nothing about is what you do next.
Giving ministry away was something I always said but was so difficult for me to actually pull off. In my pride I thought if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done right. My pride always holds me back from seeing what God can truly pull off. I am still really bad at it but I am trying harder than I ever have before in my 13 years of student ministry experience to pull others into the incredible chaos and allow their gifts to be championed and encouraged to have Kingdom impact.
Some practical tips:
Meet with your volunteers often - It will be difficult to know how to use people if you don't know them. Get with them, be a learner of their life.
Development Takes Time - This may mean that that the person you have delegated to doesn’t do it as well as you might. Thats ok, coach them, give them time and a chance, invest in them and see what it could look like.
Be Creative With What You Give Away - Do what only you can do and give away the rest. It could be an opportunity to develop new opportunities based on the strengths of your leaders and students.
Give Feedback - Help your team with productive constructive feedback. This type of feedback gives points to work on, clarity on what needs done next time so that they can implement the action steps.
Rinse and Repeat - Don’t stop once you’ve started. This is something that has to turn into a value for you in your ministry.
This includes students in your ministry. How can you unleash the potential in your adult volunteers and student leaders in your ministry? This isn’t something that doesn’t take any work and on the front end will take more effort and work on your part. However, giving ministry away is essential to your role as a Kingdom builder and to help people use their gifts in a powerful way.
Parents are often a source of frustration as a youth pastor. They either don't value your programming like they should or are highly critical of whats going on at the church. You have to get past the urge to not care about them. The truth is they care, and care a lot. They, more than likely, have no idea how to do your job and the nuances/pressure that goes with it. Instead of holding a grudge, being dismissive or writing them off, what if you started building bridges with the parents of the students at your church?
Here are a few things you can start doing right now to make parents a priority and communicate to them how important they are! (You can get all 21 ways to make parents a priority HERE!)
1. Tee It Up For Them
Most youth ministries do not think about parents when they plan events. You think about the students loving the event and what the student can get out of it. This mindset isn't necessarily a bad thing, obviously you want students to love the events you put on but I believe that there is a crucial piece missing.
What if you took your events and designed some of them for parents to have the winning conversation with their child. You are probably good at setting up a great environment for your students to learn or have an encounter with God. It’s probably easy for you to get up and craft an incredible message about the harmful affects of pornography, the importance of purity, identity in Christ etc. I would imagine you are used to having those serious conversations with students and challenging them in their faith when it comes to the issue at hand. Where there is a drop off is the follow up, accountability and follow through with commitments that are being made. Lets be honest, we get to see our students for a few hours a week tops. This is where I think youth ministry can take huge steps in designing meaningful experiences, include mom and dad and allow parents to be the primary disciple makers and provide accountability to their own kids.
When you set mom and dad up to have the winning conversation you communicate that you understand their God given role as a parent. Parents usually aren't great at carving out time to have the kind of talks they should be having with their kids. Take the guess work out of it and make space for them to enter into the dialogue.
What you can do today:
Think critically about some of the events you currently do or dream up a new one. Here are some ideas to get your brain moving in the right direction.
Mother Daughter Mud Run - Create a mud obstacle course and set up Moms to have a conversation about their daughters identity in Christ.
Father Son Event - Flag football and a chili cook-off to set up dads to have a conversation about pornography and sexual integrity with their son.
Father Daughter Ball - Host a formal event where everyone gets dressed up has a nice meal, maybe even have some dancing and set up dad to talk about sexual integrity with their daughter and how they will fight with them and for them when it comes to this matter.
Mother Son Adventure Race - The amazing race on TV has some incredibly compelling challenges and is fun to watch. You as a youth pastor can probably create something just as fun for moms and their sons to experience. Plan it all to set mom up to have a conversation about how to treat the opposite sex and what being a man of God looks like from their perspective.
These are just ideas, what could it look like for your student ministry at your church!
2. Options For Them
Most parents enjoy being a part of what their kids are a part of. Think about the community rec sports landscape. How many dads and moms volunteer to coach their kids soccer team or little league team and have really no business being the coach? They do it because they want their child to have an awesome experience playing that sport. I believe that they would do the same thing for your ministry if they realized there was a need and that there were different options for them to serve and be a part of your student ministry.
There are parents that would be rock star small group leaders, worship leaders, game inventors, set designers, curriculum developers, light programmers, cafe workers, etc. They are missing the personal ask or the option to use their gifts. Can you create enough options for every parent in your ministry to have a meaningful serving opportunity? That is more of a challenge than anything else. There are parents that honestly do not want to serve in the same place their kids attend but there are some that are waiting for you to ask them or show them options of how they could plug in.
What you can do today:
Start writing down different ways you could utilize parents in your ministry. Think outside the box and start dreaming about what could be. Create 3 new opportunities that currently aren't options in your ministry. Get ready to send out those opportunities and see what happens.
3. Plan For Them
Your ministry calendar usually revolves around the school schedules in your community. Do you think about families when you plan events or give families the space to spend time together? Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving are all holidays where you have to make a decision on when to have programming and when not to, or when to schedule an event and when not to. Consider that families are looking for chances to spend together in the midst of the busyness of life. Help your families out with your schedule, realize the need for family time and plan accordingly.
What you can do today:
Send out a survey to your parents and ask them about the holidays, when it would be good to have programming or an event and when it would be detrimental. Get good data before you make decisions. This will endear you to parents if they know you are thinking about them before you plan.
What are you doing to INCLUDE parents in youth ministry?