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17 Nov 2020

Jessica Sanchez: Why Celebrate Advent in 2020?

By |2021-05-18T14:19:16-07:00November 17th, 2020|Help Me With..., Leadership, online youth group, Small Groups, Uncategorized|5 Comments

I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t raised in a faith tradition that observed Advent. I heard about Advent, yet never learned what a Christian is to do during Advent or what this season actually represents for followers of Christ.

But a few years ago, I was introduced to the rich history of the Church calendar. A friend shared with me that the focal point of Advent was waiting. I had been in a long season of waiting that year and Advent sounded interesting and mysterious. I decided to jump in and see what taking part in Advent would mean for me. 

Many of you may already be familiar with Advent, but for those of us who aren’t, Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in the Church as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. It’s a time set aside where we remember both God’s faithfulness in sending us His son, while at the same time leaning into the hopeful expectation of our reality as followers of Christ: we still await the return of our Messiah; the world is yearning for Him.

The season of Advent lasts for 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. It begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. Advent 2020 begins on Sunday, November 29th, and ends on Thursday, December 24.

For more information regarding the history of Advent, I found this article super helpful: https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html

So…why observe Advent this year?

I won’t go into all of the reasons why this year has been hard; it just has been. Personally, the hard parts of this year have exposed the frayed and underdeveloped parts of my character. I notice this in my response to last minute changes, small annoyances, and, what feels like, unending tension in the world.

Corporately, we’re all exhausted. It feels as though we have spent the entire year waiting. Waiting for local restrictions to be lifted, waiting for permission to re-gather as a Church, waiting for good news to come regarding Covid numbers, waiting for resolution after a tumultuous election cycle, waiting for a sense of normal to return to our lives…waiting.

Advent invites us to lean into the waiting. It beckons us to remember that the Israelites waited, too. They held onto the words of prophets like Isaiah who assured them that the Messiah would indeed come. We stand in a very similar place today; we are waiting for Jesus to return and make all things new. 

This is what we do in Advent – we remember, but we also wait with hope-filled expectation. 

There is so much that God does in the waiting.

How am I observing Advent with my students in 2020?  

I’ve decided that rather than only practicing Advent with my own family this year, I’d also introduce my small group of high school girls to it. There is deep value in learning what it means to wait on and with Jesus, and I can’t think of a better year to guide them through what that looks like.

If it’s helpful to share specifics with you, my plan is to download and print The Stories of Advent resource from the Download Youth Ministry store. This social media-ready devotional is making it super easy for me to have a ready-made resource to hand to my small group. I’ll give them the printed read-along devotional and walk them through the meaning and significance of Advent at small group the week before Advent kicks off (our group meets on Wednesday nights, so we’ll do this the day before Thanksgiving). From there, my plan is to assign each girl in my group a day of the week where they will film themselves (selfie-style) reading the devotional for that day. They will be responsible to text our group the video of the devotional on their assigned day (with a few reminders from me, I’m sure). 

My hope is that this will keep the girls engaged all month and if they miss reading the devotional on their own, they have a friend reading it to them in the video (which they can easily play while getting ready or doing their chores). Every week at small group my plan is to start our time together by having them share any insights, questions, or thoughts from the devotional. It’s okay if they skip a day or “get behind”, the goal is to simply help them open to God and see what He has for them in a season of waiting. I’ll also use the social media graphics included in the resource to post on my Instagram account (which all of my small group girls follow) to serve as an encouragement for them throughout the month. If a devotional is out of sight, it’s out of mind, so my goal is to sprinkle reminders of Advent for them via text, on social media, and at small group.

In light of the year we’ve faced, I’m choosing to enter into this holiday season with hope-filled expectation. I encourage you to take part in Advent this year and receive the gifts that God has for you, and your students, in the waiting.

Check out Stories of Advent on DYM!

Searching for Youth Group Games? Discover thousands of turn-key resources at Download Youth Ministry.

11 Sep 2020

Youth Night Live! Season 2, Episode 9 & 10 | “Help me with” Series Finale

By |2020-09-11T09:49:26-07:00September 11th, 2020|livestream, Mariners Youth Ministry, online youth group|0 Comments

Last week you met Cooptaur and wondered if he would ever return… do not fret, HE’S BACK! Also we have tortillas, a look back at 2020, AND a great message from The Bible. We can’t wait to hang out!

Are you enjoying your history class? Because Alexander Hamilton is BACK on Youth Night Live, we’re playing with some bubble wrap… and things may get a little fishy.

9 Aug 2020

Youth Night Live! Season 2, Episode 4 | Help Me with My Words

By |2020-08-09T22:27:30-07:00August 9th, 2020|livestream, Mariners Youth Ministry, online youth group|0 Comments

This week we’re getting a little history from nonother than George Washington himself, some incredible competitions and prizes, and get this… SOME KARAOKE, you heard that right. Then we will be diving into God’s Word and continuing the series “Help Me With ____” MY LANGUAGE. Don’t miss it, tune in at 7:30pm!

27 Jul 2020

Online Services Won’t Keep Students Engaged

By |2020-07-26T20:24:55-07:00July 27th, 2020|Leadership, livestream, online youth group|0 Comments

When we switched to all online I feel like our team was able to pivot really hard to make sure we provided a really good service online. I would say for the first 8 weeks we busted our butts, long editing hours, me kind of being a crazy person making sure all things were turned in on time for editing (just ask my team, a few apology texts went out in the beginning) all to make sure our online content was top notch.

I won’t lie to you, I think it was. I was/am super proud what we have been doing in this season and it will change a few things for the better even after we go back to meeting normally, whatever that means. But online services will not keep students engaged… alone.

One thing about youth ministry that will not change, even in the midst of COVID is…

The importance of real relationships.

Know how I know? Because online viewership went down as we went on and could not meet for 14 weeks. And then when we were able to meet outside on campus for small groups for 2 weeks, the engagement went way up again, like a breath of fresh air… now we are back to only online here in California. What am I getting at? As time went on, we realized students just wanted the message and to break into groups. We still film the fun stuff but we put it on on our Youtube Channel and share it around, but we put so much thought into our services thinking it’s what they wanted… but it was not.

While a lot of energy is being focused for online programming for our youth, we are crazy if we think that’s the thing that’s going to keep them engaged. Relationships built by small group leaders do that. Pour into your leaders so they pour into students.

Online services are the spark to the conversation, but we need to count it as a win if a student doesn’t tune into online but a leader tunes into their life at some point during the week.

I put out a survey to my team about what are the most engaged small group leaders doing in your eyes and guess what, it was not just watching the online services we planned. Here are some of the responses.

They are not giving up. They continue to reach out to students through out the week regardless of the lack of responses some students give. I believe that persistence has been the reason we have had the attendance we have had.

They are texting their students more than twice a day and are meeting with them physically.

Finding days and times that work best for the largest group meeting. Most meet on Wednesdays, but some meet other days, because that’s what works best for their entire group. Some engage in fun group activities before settling down and diving into the content.

Meeting @ houses, parks, having a separate day to just solely hang with their students

They are reaching out and connecting with students outside of Wednesdays. They are in constant communication with students. One of them had them over for a taco night to watch service together a few weeks ago.

Each response is from a different campus, not knowing what others were gong to write, about their leaders and what the most engaged group’s leaders are doing. See a pattern?

So in this season, I am challenged and reminded to pour into my leaders like how I want them to pour into their students because this is how we are going to see the best engagement moving forward. We will continue to put our best foot forward online, but we will not lose the main focus of what is the glue to making discipleship happen.

Intentional relationships.



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