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Ministering With Children and Youth During the Pandemic

Posted: 11-1-20 at 2:00pm. Written by Glenn Maddox.

Whether your church is meeting virtually for the foreseeable future or has been meeting in person for weeks, there’s no question the way you minister with children and youth has changed. The hard truth is the existing model of on-site, in-person ministry has been showing signs of ineffectiveness. While we wrestle with how to lead virtual and in-person gatherings during a pandemic, there are important principles to consider.

Your ministry is part of a different puzzle than it used to be – and it fits differently.

Children and youth ministry has long felt like a competition with everything else on kids’ plates. School was the center of their social lives, sports took top extra-curricular billing, and church wrestled with everything else for their remaining time. But school in a pandemic is far less social, and participation in sports is much more limited, if it’s possible at all. Kids miss those opportunities to build community and grow–is it possible that we can create discipleship and mission opportunities for them that offer a chance to engage in their faith and thrive?

In person with lots of restrictions may not be better than virtual, both might be best.

The return to in-person discipleship and worship opportunities have left a lot of people unsure about what’s best. The push to get back together was in many cases a desire to get back to what used to be normal – not to re-gather under current necessary restrictions. We want to connect, but being together safely looks different now. We must accept that we’re not choosing between virtual ministry and 2019 ministry. There are new opportunities for engaging people in both – how can we refocus our ministry strategy to not only consider an hour or two per week and also engage the other 167 hours of the week?

People aren’t seeking less screen time, they’re seeking more engaging screen time.

Just like work for many adults, online learning and hybrid learning involve a lot of screen time.  Yet when we turn off the computer or get home, we’re not putting away screens.  Social media and streaming platforms are seeing more activity than ever.  We don’t hate looking at a screen, we hate feeling disconnected from what’s on the screen.  But online activity doesn’t equal relationship. Streaming services know people want to connect and are offering watch party capabilities to enhance that screen experience.  What would it look like to transform our virtual interactions with students from a pale substitute for in person gathering into something that helps them feel connected to one another?

Children and youth ministry have always been family ministry – that’s even truer now.

We’ve always known that ministry to children and youth is ministry to their families. Families spending more time together doesn’t automatically equal deeper connection. When we think about children and youth, parents need to be part of the equation. Since we don’t need to maintain distance between family members, family units may even replace age group units for a time. We can build stronger relationships within and between families – what will it take to engage families while we engage our children and youth?

The “why” behind children and youth ministry hasn’t changed, but COVID has given us a unique opportunity to change “how” the church does ministry. We are still about fostering relationships and helping people engage in their faith. It is important that we don’t waste the opportunity this crisis is offering us to adapt our methods to reach the next generation. The BGAV Online Annual Meeting will include two breakout sessions designed to help you minister in the new reality. Join Lora Gravatt November 10 for Igniting your Next Gen Ministries During the COVID-19 Pandemic. You’ll learn strategies and tools to help engage your children and youth in the ministries they’re longing for. If you’re ready to dive into new ways of doing ministry when everything is new, join us!