Let’s face it: youth ministry as we knew it back in January and February is no more… at least for the time being. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic our programming, scheduling, and events will look radically different going forward.
Perhaps you have already been thinking through this or maybe your superiors have asked you to begin building a plan. Some of you may even have begun meeting again. But the question we need ask ourselves is this: is how we did ministry before going to continue? If the answer to that is no, we must creatively think through what we are going to do once fall arrives.
Families are looking to the church to make informed and timely decisions that put the physical and spiritual health of their people at the forefront of whatever happens. We bear the responsibility to keep our students, families, and volunteers safe going forward. I would like to share some key things to consider going forward in this new season of ministry.
Know what families desire.
An easy way to do this would be to send out a brief survey to gather insight and viewpoints about decisions going forward. Ask questions like:
- Would you prefer to have youth group meet online, in person, or in small groups?
- Will your students attend if they have to wear masks?
- What would make you feel safe and confident about your student returning?
- What requirements and safeguards would you like to see in place?
- What suggestions do you have for our ministry?
Know how your leaders will respond.
This is something we must take into consideration. Our leaders may be immunocompromised, they may work in a high risk area like nursing homes or hospitals, or they may live with people who are more at risk. Talking to your leaders and finding out how they feel about programming going forward will help you to plan effectively and care well for your leaders.
In doing this, you may even gain some insight on how to proactively move forward. Your leaders serve in a variety of capacities outside of your program, and they bring knowledge and creative thought that perhaps hasn’t yet been considered in your circles. So come to listen, share, and gain insight into how your leaders will engage going forward.
Make informed decisions.
If you are like me, you cannot wait to be back with your students. I have not met with my students in person since March, and we have only now begun to see them in smaller gatherings, such as grad parties, since our state allowed smaller groups to meet. Going forward though, we are most likely not having any programming until the fall. That is really difficult news for my team, my volunteers, and our students and families. But we have rooted our decisions in multiple facets.
Our church has health professionals advising us, we are looking to utilize sound science, we have held all of our decisions in the context of Scriptural truth, and we are approaching everything we do with a humble heart. I am not saying that our church and leadership has made every decision perfectly. We have tried hard, but like everyone else, we are only human.
What I am encouraging leaders to do is this: make timely, informed, and well thought-out decisions. Don’t simply launch into programming like before just because you can. Don’t dismiss other views because you don’t agree. Don’t make quick decisions in the moment. And don’t allow for what we consider to be our rights to keep us from caring for others as Jesus would want us to. Make decisions that reflect Jesus and put the health, well-being, and spiritual care of your people first. This may mean things will look different, but ultimately our goal is to point people to Christ, and even in these decisions we should be doing just that.
Consider your ministry’s priorities.
This last point is probably the hardest. In recent months, my team and I have evaluated what we believe to be the priorities in our ministry. These haven’t been easy conversations because we had to ask questions like these:
- Are games important?
- What if we can’t serve food?
- Will people come if they have to wear masks?
- Do we need to have large group teaching?
- Can we switch to a full-on small group model for ministry?
- Are we committed to meeting only on a certain night at a certain time each week?
These questions have forced us to wrestle deep within our own hearts. If I am honest, I do not want to stop large group teaching. I love it. I love being in front of my students and expositing God’s Word. But if I am being honest, I must admit that there is quite a bit of pride in that too. Pride in being the up-front person, and having that be a focal point of the program. So we have begun to take a hard look at the ministry and we have plans in place if we need to make changes.
Be willing to step back and take an honest assessment of your priorities and why they are priorities. Consider bringing in some trusted leaders to help in this process and to begin planning the future with them. This will not only help you, but will bring strength and buy-in to your ministry as well.