This week many churches are making the tough decision whether to hold services or not — even in the church where I (Josh) serve, we’re making decisions today that determine the plan this weekend and probably our local church gatherings for the next 30 days. With high profile systems like the NBA and many colleges and universities canceling events, there will be enormous pressure to put church gatherings on hiatus as well. While this may be frustrating to some and relieving to others, there’s no doubt among followers of Jesus that gatherings are essential to their faith and walk with God.
So what do you do when you CAN’T gather? For centuries the church was unable to have large-scale gatherings because of persecution. Only in recent times is the regular gathering of the church a reality. So what do we do in the case of a pandemic like this? How do we hold the value of community and “breaking bread” when the very gathering together brings significant risks to our people?
1. Gather together online
There are more powerful tools than ever to help you gather online. I would suggest YouTube.com first. They have the best tools and are built for community, chat, replays and voting. It’s also one of the key places where your students already are, so it makes it easy to point them to your channel and go live at the service time and/or times you normally meet. I think Instagram is a GREAT option as well, potentially even easier, and the “request to join” allows others to appear on screen as well and share or sing or win an online game. You can look into others like Zoom but your students don’t have those apps or tools installed already and it is out of the “digital ecosystem” they frequently use.
2. Keep it fun
Download Youth Ministry is uniquely positioned to help you create a super fun online service. We have thousands of screen games you can use in person or online, as well as tons of social media resources and much more to help you keep it fun as well as meaningful. In a time of fear, isolation and frustration, it’s a great opportunity to have some fun and relief from the tension in a time when everyone is stressed and scared. Remember, DYM isn’t ONLY about having fun, it can certainly be a powerful tool in a time of trial and pressure.
3. Remember this is an incredible opportunity to really pastor
In a time like this, there is also a chance to really pastor students well. Love ones who get sick, care for students who lose someone they love, the fear surrounding it all, creates a GREAT opportunity to reach out and love well! You can still text, call, send messages over social media, and encourage students even when you aren’t in the same room! This is THE time to show up … even in a culture where we can’t necessarily physically show up
Another idea — kinda random I know — but I just bought www.youthgrouplive.com and am thinking about doing an online youth group 5-6 times this weekend: a youth ministry program/service for the whole country. Would that be helpful to you? Let me know in the poll below:
And finally — for what it’s worth — my mom has a pre-existing lung condition and is 72 years old, so I really do take this one in particular very seriously. To speak frankly, she won’t make it if it the virus spreads to her. So if you’re gathering, be safe and smart, and remember to wash your hands and dab your sneezes. It helps her — and all of us.
So welcome to your new role as an online youth pastor — your students live in this space, and God has given us an incredible calling and opportunity even in the face of adversity.
PS: Grab a Hand-washing 101 freebie video here as well.
PSS: We also just recorded a spontaneous podcast on the subject once our church cancelled for this weekend. We planned to talk about youth ministry mission trips but this went sideways, and for the better. It’s a great very open, fluid and raw conversation. Listen now!