For many in ministry, the coronavirus pandemic has brought more stress and work than ever before. It actually takes more energy just to recreate our normal.
There are still no definitive answers on what lies ahead with COVID-19. So how do we approach ministry this fall? Do we wait and hope all goes well or do we roll up our sleeves and get to work? It can feel like a no-win situation because of social media and the negative comments that will come from whatever we do. But if we live in fear, we will do nothing.
The story of Queen Esther is a good reminder when facing difficult decisions. She realized she was placed in her position “for such a time as this.” She waited on the Lord through prayer and fasting, but then she took bold action. We may not have all the answers, but we have a great opportunity to build stronger relationships with students in our youth ministries and communities.
Our youth are more isolated now than ever before. Many of them spend too much time in their bedrooms and online. Gaming and online activity have risen during COVID-19. Studies show that online activity changes how young people think, how they relate, and it affects their self-esteem. It also leads to an inactive lifestyle that isn’t healthy. During adolescence, their brains create new synapses based on repeated activity.
In “such a time as this” when the questions and issues youth face are deeper than ever, we must bring them back to the foundation of God’s Word.
What does this mean for youth ministry? Like Queen Esther, you have been placed in your position “for such a time as this.” Here are some suggested topics for engaging youth more deeply during these uncertain times.
Questions and doubts
From your conversations with the youth in your ministry, make a list of things they are thinking about, doubts they are facing, or questions they are having. Or ask them to text you their questions and doubts. From that list, plan short online training sessions to address their concerns. Sites such as gotquestions.org offer great resources for answering tough questions using God’s Word.
During conversations with youth, you may discover that they are facing issues and need help. For example, they may be spending too much time on video games. Do some research and conduct a training session on the long-term effects of too much gaming. A good source of information is the American Academy of Neurology. You can search this site for articles such as this one on gaming and adolescent brain development.
Youth could be facing other issues such as self-image, forgiveness, anxiety, depression or sexual battles. One resource that addresses these and other topics from a biblical point of view is the Quick-Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers by Tim Clinton, Chap Clark and Joshua Straub.
Whatever the issue is, be sure to do your research and be prepared to provide godly counsel.
As your youth interact with others online, encourage them to share their faith. Sites such as dare2share.org provide biblical resources to help youth share the gospel with their friends. One article focuses on how to unleash teens for Christ. Conduct training sessions with your youth to help motivate and prepare them to share their faith with others.
Many youth are heavily involved in music, TV and movies. Plan a few sessions to discuss current and popular songs, shows and movies. When discussing music, have your youth examine the lyrics to their favorite songs to see if they align with God’s Word. When reviewing TV shows or movies, have your youth look for references to God or spiritual concepts. Have them examine the underlying messages being delivered to see if they are pleasing to God. Help your youth to be aware of how exposure to unbiblical and ungodly messages without critical thinking can erode the truth and draw them away from God’s perspective.
It’s crucial to prepare youth to stand firm in their faith now and after they graduate. Over the years, it seems that a basic knowledge of God’s Word has taken a back seat to fun and games. Many youth are numb to the importance of biblical truth. But in “such a time as this” when the questions and issues youth face are deeper than ever, we must bring them back to the foundation of God’s Word.
Although normal in-person meetings may still be limited during this time, our interaction with our youth doesn’t have to be. With a little planning, you can connect with your youth on a deeper biblical level and help them to thrive during “such a time as this.”