Why the Hiatus?

In late March, I produced a series of blogs to get resources into the hands of youth pastors and others who might need it. Though most of the ideas weren’t original, it was an opportunity to share what we were doing in our student ministry, with the hopes of helping others think creatively about reaching their students. For all of us in ministry, our strategies to engage teenagers and their families had to change in an incredibly short amount of time. My hope was to spark conversations to help us find ways to do exactly that.

A short time later, I stopped posting on the blog. Part of it was a desire to stay on top of those things most important- adjusting my own strategies for equipping families and reaching students. For our congregation, I wanted and needed the additional time to work together with the rest of the staff to reach out to members who are more at-risk. My priorities adjusted, as they often do in these “war-time” situations. In this case, the battle was against an enemy that is invisible, but still dangerous.

As my priorities adjusted, I began to reconsider my motivation behind writing. What was I trying to accomplish? When I originally started the blog, I wanted to give a place to formulate my thoughts. I wanted to spark conversations. I wanted to give people things to think about. As the weeks went on, I realized my desire to accomplish these things was still there. It continued to grow stronger. More than ever, I was given issues to think and write about.

Today, many of us aren’t able to physically meet with our students. Our gatherings look much different as we use the internet as a means to send content to families and interact with those in the ministry. In the midst of the difficulties of this season, we’re in a time of great opportunity. We can examine nearly every aspect of our ministries to think about what purpose they serve, and how they can help equip students and families to grow in their knowledge of and love for the Lord.

Starting this week, I’m going to be working on restoring the normal schedule to the site- a youth ministry post on Monday, articles I’ve been reading through the week on Wednesday, and a more personal post on Friday. Some of the posts may seem like they’re more applicable to “normal” times (if there even is such a thing). My hope is these posts would challenge us to reexamine every area of our lives. We have more time than ever to reevaluate and create a plan to adjust strategies for our lives, our families, and our ministry to others. Let’s make the most of it together. After all, we point to God as those who are saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ- a glorious redemption.

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 3: The Gathering

Last night, we had a successful test run of our YouTube Live event: Youth Night Live. As I evaluated our options for platforms on which we could reach our students, I felt like YouTube would be our best bet. Most of our kids aren’t yet on Instagram, despite its 1 billion users. Instead, you can find them on YouTube. For perspective, YouTube has twice the number of users that Instagram has, including a staggering 81% of 15-25 year olds in the United States.

At some point, most students have shared a YouTube video they enjoyed with me. And if they haven’t directly showed it to me on their device, they’ve spoken about one in our conversations. I knew YouTube would be our best bet to connect with them. Furthermore, hosting a YouTube Live event meant our video could easily be saved on our channel and shared at a later time (something Instagram live can’t do as easily, if at all). To help protect the chat section, I invited a couple adults to moderate our account while we streamed. They could take down any inappropriate comments, as needed. Thankfully, it all went well!

Having chosen our platform, I began to think about how we could best fulfill the purpose our normal Wednesday Night gathering served. Namely, we wanted to connect students and families around the Word of God. To do this, we had to be intentional with our approach. I recognize a shortened attention span is an obstacle we all face as we look at engaging students through screens. This is why we planned for different segments, each no longer than ten minutes.

I promoted as much as I could, through every medium available to us. I used an Instagram post and stories on our Student Ministry page, Facebook (both personal and the church account), sent emails to parents and volunteers, and used our church connection software: Realm.

It all started by showing a countdown video created by Download Youth Ministry. Then, we played a Bible Trivia game, encouraging everyone to comment their answer. Once we finished the game, we showed a funny video made by some hilarious volunteers to help lighten the mood, before ending our time with ten minutes together in the Word. The success of Youth Night Live can only be attributed to my incredible team of volunteers. They subscribed to the YouTube account I made and were ready to interact with students. It was a joy to see!

This is where I have to encourage you to invite as many people as possible in to help. With everyone being at home and so spread out, we need a team now more than ever. We need to find people to bounce around ideas, interact with students in the comments, and check in with families. Use the gifts of your adult leaders to help customize your times to their skill set!

I also want to encourage you to find ways to be as interactive as possible. I understand that we’re all working with different amounts of technology and ability, but I consider last night a success because I was able to interact with students as I was teaching. Maybe for you it looks more like prerecording a video or teaching session, then interacting in the comments once its uploaded. However you meet the need, don’t neglect to find ways to gather together and connect with one another.

So, I’m curious: what did your group do to meet together this week? Feel free to share with me below! I would love to hear more about what others are doing!

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 2: Resources

At this point, many of us have had a couple of days to think through how we’re going to adjust our normal gathering times. I know that Wednesdays are a popular time for student ministries. At my church, Wednesday night is our main worship gathering. As we are considering how to find new ways to accomplish the purposes of this gathering, I wanted to take some time today to compile some of the resources I’ve been looking at to help make decisions for my group.

If you don’t know where to start, I would encourage you to start here. Doug Fields and his team at Download Youth Ministry created this webpage last Friday, and they’ve been updating it with a steady stream of resources ever since. There are free interactive games, social media graphics to help you interact with students, and even lessons you can use in a pinch. You can also check out their blog post with great ideas here.

This video is from a gaming perspective, I believe; however, the principles still apply. His explanation is clear, and the software he discusses is completely free. If you’re looking to start with YouTube streaming, watch this video! (As a side note, we’re looking at streaming on YouTube this evening, so I’ll share more about how it goes and why we chose this platform tomorrow.)

So, how does all of this play out on the most practical level? I’ve attached the link to our Covid-19 page on our church website. Here, we’re updating our people on the latest information regarding service times and posting resources for families to use in their homes. This page is going to be updated often, so feel free to check back from time to time to see how our strategy changes.

What about you? What resources have you found useful? Feel free to share them below! Remember, we’re in this together!

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 1: Communication

“We’re in uncharted waters,” many have said, describing our current situation. I think this phrase is an understatement in many ways. I’ve spent most of my day sending out emails and in meetings trying to figure out how to do ministry as the recommendations for the number of people who can gather together become less and less.

My heart behind this series is to try to create a few small resources to help my fellow youth workers as we walk through this together. Once again, this is not only a chance to streamline my thoughts into something more coherent, but to help give you things to consider as you seek to lead your student ministry through this crisis.

Which leads me to my first reminder: communicate! Our schedules are anything but normal right now. In fact, I just had two weeks worth of planning wiped away in the blink of an eye, but that’s okay! With new information coming out every hour, we need to be on top of our game as well. Find ways to communicate with parents and workers the changes ahead. Consider finding time each and every day to update everyone you work with. Give them a clear plan of what’s ahead and clear ways for them to participate. We may be separated, but that doesn’t mean our ministries are on hold. I’ll share more about how I’m adjusting my plan in the week ahead, but first- let me share my parent email from today. I hope this helps give you some ideas about what to consider when communicating with parents, and maybe even gives you some ideas for your ministry.

Hey Parents,

This week’s update looks a little different, considering everything that’s happening right now around the world. Before I get into the details of how we’ll be adjusting some things in the ministry, I just want to encourage you all with this truth: Jesus is still Lord of all. It’s incredible to me how I’ve been challenged to grow in my faith in the last week as all of this has started to unfold. If I’m honest, I’ve found myself living as if Jesus wasn’t Lord at different points in the last few days. However, this is an opportunity for me to be reminded of the truth I’ve been teaching in Colossians for the last two months: Jesus is Lord. No virus can challenge the authority and sovereignty of our risen King. As one of my favorite songs, In Christ Alone says: “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand; ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” And one more word of encouragement, this time from Martin Luther: “The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” 

What follows is some details regarding the plan of student ministry in the next couple of weeks:

What will student ministry look like going forward? All of our normal gatherings and activities are postponed for now. We won’t be meeting on Wednesday Nights or on Sunday Mornings for Bible Study. In its place, we’re going to be planning strategic times where we can come together for a time of teaching. Tomorrow night at 6:30pm, we’ll be hosting a YouTube Livestream called Youth Night Live. This Livestream will be on our church’s YouTube page. I want to encourage you to join your students and interact via the comment section. My hope is to still make this as interactive as possible, even though I’ll be sharing via video. 

What about youth events? As of right now, we are going to pause all youth events for the student ministry. Since the goal is to keep people at home as much as possible, we’re going to keep things down to a minimum. However, we will continue with summer camp as originally planned. LifeWay has said they will give communication to all youth leaders the moment any details regarding Fuge Camps changes. As soon as any adjustments need made to our summer plans, I will be sure to let you know.

What can we do as a family during this time? My heart for student ministry is to partner with parents in the discipleship of their students. In many ways, having this season where we cannot gather as we normally would reminds us of the importance of family discipleship. The formation of our teens comes down to parents discipling their kids. I want to do everything I can to help make this task as easy as possible. This is why I’m hosting Youth Night Live on Wednesday night, and it is also why I’ll be sending resources to help you encourage your students to spend time in the Word and in prayer. I’ll also be providing questions to go along with tomorrow night’s devotion. I understand how this task can be seen as daunting- but it is possible. I will be available to you for whatever you need. Let me encourage you to redeem this time! We can do this together! 

How can we stay in touch? Please feel free to text, call, or email me. In addition, I want to strongly encourage all of you to download our church communication app and make a profile, if you haven’t already. From the app, you can interact with my updates, communicate with me via chat, and it’s all streamlined in one place for your convenience. Let me know if you have any questions about setting it up!

This Week’s Top Three (March 3, 2020)

This week, the stories of Rhett and Link from the hit YouTube show Good Mythical Morning started to make their rounds in Christian circles. I’ve been watching their videos for a few years now, and while it’s nice to have some answers about the events from their past that they swept under the rug, it breaks my heart to see what’s happened. When people walk away from the faith, it can be hard to understand what’s going on. This article, by D. Michael Clary, helps shed some light on the situation and how to think through it.

Since I’m touching on the hot topic issues of the week, this article by Todd Wagner gives his take on how to think through the COVID-19 outbreak in the world. It’s hard to tell right now how much is media hype and how much of this is a real threat- only time will tell- but as Believers, we need to think through all of this with an eternal perspective. Wagner leads us to do exactly that.

Tim Challies wrote this article a few weeks back, so I wanted to share it with all of you. Challies is part of the inspiration behind this blog, so I think this article is a good chance for you to get an inside look behind why I started this side project. Even though I still have a ways to go in consistently posting and sharing new content, my hope is to inspire others to take the leap and start writing for themselves. Challies’ article shows a great place to start.