Ministry as it was is no more. I keep hearing people saying, “I can’t wait until we get back to normal.” We need to stop saying and thinking that. If we were to do ministry exactly the same way as before COVID then I think we are being a tad irresponsible.

How can we keep thinking the same thing after we have experienced 3-4 months on strictly online ministry (at least most, if not all, of us)? After what we have had to pivot to and adjust our ministry strategies to in person to online in the blink of an eye? My hope is that we have learned some things and have had our eyes opened to how we have either done really well with engaging students online or how our ministry is not set up at all to do so.

We can’t go back.

It doesn’t mean our services need to change necessarily, but I do think we need to think through different areas of ministry. I will say, we don’t have it figured out. It’s all new territory but we are thinking differently in how we approach youth ministry internally with some awesome insight from our leadership here. My hope is as I share 3 sectors of ministry we will be focusing on in this next season will maybe help others start thinking that they too can’t go back to normal.

In-person: This is what was before. The typical youth group that meets in person like we all did before COVID. It’s not bad, but it’s irresponsible to stay here knowing what we know now.

Online only: This is new territory. We are hiring an online youth pastor to work through students who cannot physically meet at our campuses but they or their families call our church home and want to get involved with our youth program. We will keep producing what we have been doing online (hopefully getting better) to use in our in-person meetings (we were already doing video teaching across all campuses) but catering, recruiting, training leaders and connecting students into groups online. What does this look like exactly? Still working on it. We are flying the plane as we are building it in this area.

Hybrid: This is having in-person groups but allowing digital meetings and call in happen for those who can’t be there physically. This is thing that will change the in-person meetings. Over COVID we have many students whose first experience with us was solely online and they jumped into groups. Think about how easy now a student can invite a friend to check out church by having them watch the service online and then jumping into a group to check it all out, meet some people from their homes if they are not comfortable coming to church yet. Or what about those who can now join a live group they normally attend but would have to miss because they are with their other parent that week, football practice went late or for whatever reason couldn’t be there? That excuse is gone and we have seen students show up week after week digitally.

Now people will say, “Won’t they just be lazy and stay online if we only offer that?” And my response would be…. “So? They are still engaged.” We will, on all forms, push for face to face interaction. But why not expand the entry on ramp of our ministries and use what we have learned through this season of online ministry as a benefit to get more and more student connected?

I think it’s our responsibility to assess and readjust.