Have you ever signed up for something only to find out that what you signed up for was not exactly what you expected? It’s happened to me a few times and left me with a mix of disappointment, frustration and uncertainty.
Those of us leading in youth ministry could be excused for feeling any or all of these things right now as our leadership role has suddenly changed. We’ve become used to preparing programmes at which we can interact face to face with the young people. Now there is no weekly programme for us to gather at with our young people and we’re all feeling the loss.
Those who are in a paid role often have more time to come up with ways of still connecting with young people and caring for them, but often things are not so easy for those who are leading the youth ministry as a volunteer.
If that’s you, then the points below may be helpful. (In fact, they may even be helpful for those of you in a paid ministry position).
1. Look after yourself and your family
For many of you, the youth ministry is just one part of your life and the loss of not being able to meet together with the young people is eclipsed by concerns you’re having at this time over employment, family, bills etc. People are under stress and perhaps you are one of them. Given that, where does your responsibility to maintain the youth ministry fit?
My advice would be to put your needs first. Effective ministry occurs when we are whole and healthy so allow yourself the freedom to deal with your own stressors before trying to be all things to the young people in your youth ministry.
If you’re married and if you’re a parent these responsibilities are also a high priority. Talk with your church leaders about what you can realistically do and what you can’t. They will guide you in what expectations they have given your situation.
2. Pray for your young people
I know, you’ve been doing this already, but when you’re unable to meet face to face with young people at your weekly programme, prayer is a very practical and effective strategy in helping them grow. Remember that, even in lockdown, young people still have the Holy Spirit to minister to them. He’s in every bubble so pray that your young people would encounter Him in new more profound ways at this time.
3. Enlist young people’s help
Maybe the young people in your ministry have been “consumers” to this point. They show up once a week to experience what the leaders have prepared – and decide whether they like it or not. Now is a good time to switch things up. Ask them for their ideas around how you can still keep connecting. They may well understand the online world better than you and can suggest ways to meet together, study the Bible and play games. Encourage some to take the lead in making these things happen. Challenging times like this can sometimes bring those with different leadership gifts to the fore.
4. Offer Biblical Truth
Whether you are able to meet together online as a youth ministry or not, your role as a leader allows you to speak God’s truth into the current situation and provide encouragement and hope. You don’t need to say a lot and you don’t need to say it often, but a few thoughts on a Bible passage once a week or so, can have an important impact. Share on social media, email or text – whatever works best.
4. Prioritise pastoral care
You may be struggling to find the time and tech expertise to keep some form of programming running, but don’t lose sight of the importance of caring for your young people and being there for those who need a listening ear. Check in via a phone call, text message or even a written card to each of them. Doing so may mean more than you think. Again, prioritise your own well-being and that of your family and don’t allow young people to hijack large amounts of your time talking about their problems. Set good boundaries.
5. Learn from others
Remember, you’re not alone. As youth leaders, we’re all trying to figure out how to do this well. Make contact with others in your city to find out what they are doing. Online, there are plenty of youth leaders' facebook groups that contain plenty of good ideas. Or if you’re looking for more ideas, type something like “coronavirus youth ministry ideas” into Google and there’ll be plenty to sort through.
7. Look to Christ
Finally, and most importantly, don’t lose sight of the fact that Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18) and the leader of your youth ministry. Prayerfully reflect on what He’s saying as you read His Word and seek His direction as you think more about the above points.