What I've Learned Over the Past Six Months

For months I have been receiving phone calls, emails, and texts from parents and youth inquiring about what our youth ministry might look like in the upcoming fall season. All are asking important questions about what we can do with the teens in our midst while still living within the reality of the pandemic. Perhaps you have been wondering about this as well.

Most students I talk to are hoping that we will return to the “old normal” very soon. In many ways, I wish for that too and yet, the landscape has changed. All indicators show that what was once normal will not be our reality ever again.

I had three weeks off in August, (yes, to welcome my new grandson into our family!) and had time to reflect on what could be my takeaway from this “unprecedented” time (okay, I just had to say that once!). The circumstances of 2020 have given me the opportunity to reflect, learn and apply some key takeaways for youth ministry moving forward. It’s time to pivot and shift from mourning to dancing. When I look at our ministry from a cup-half-full perspective, it feels like this forced distancing has given us a chance for a “do over” or mulligan if you golf (which I don’t!).

By no means am I saying we throw everything out. But I do want to share several observations.

Observation #1 – Pre-COVID, students were busy and although they miss being together with their friends and yes, going to school, they also like having more or maybe I should say “less scheduled” TIME. I heard this over and over in small group sharing. They valued hanging out with their family, playing games and watching TV. One student shared that they often would go from school, to sports practice, and then to a youth activity… grabbing dinner and doing homework on the fly. I have been looking at our traditional youth calendar and although I thought out, planned and had a purpose for each gathering, unintentionally I was adding to the busyness.

Observation #2 – Online small groups WORK! I don’t know if it is because of the distance or that students are craving to be together, but I have found that they share more openly and dive much deeper into scripture than they were doing during our in-person meetings. I can envision powerful small groups (mini youth churches) emerging where prayer and mutual accountability become the community-building norm.

Observation #3 – Our youth love to serve and for the time being at least, I need to think missional and local. I will continue to seek ways for our youth to be the hands and feet of Christ in our neighborhoods, modeling compassion and hospitality to our community. Faith in action will be a constant topic. Seeing our world through Jesus’s eyes.

I know this is a trying time for you but KNOW this… your kids think you are doing a great job and like, yes LIKE, being around you!

Know that I am praying for you and am available to chat on the phone or meet and socially distance walk!

Stacy
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