How Are You “Doing” Youth Ministry This Fall?

How Are You “Doing” Youth Ministry This Fall?

January News from OASIS 2021

September 2021. In the past, that would have meant kicking off another year of youth ministry programming with large group activities and even mission trip planning. Are you doing those things? In a time when the coronavirus still rages around the globe and youth under the age of 12 aren’t vaccinated, how are you engaging in ministry with children and youth? What did you do this past year and are you continuing any of those practices this year? We posed these question to a group of youth workers around the country and share some of their ideas, musings and concerns here in the hopes that it helps with your discernment and planning, and also reinforces the fact that you are not alone in trying to figure out how to engage your youth in these unusual times.

Over the last year and a half we kept going with youth group on Sunday mornings on Zoom. It’s been well attended! Our focus was just to go to the core stuff of faith – relationships! We made space for lament and naming grief. We offered ways to hold onto hope (without perpetuating toxic positivity). We tried to just make sure youth knew they had a safe space to come to each week. We did retreats online too. We worried less about “do you know the Bible stories” and more about connections and relationships – in our faith space. This fall we are going to try hybrid youth group – in person and online. We’ll just see how it goes. I’ve found that rituals and keeping traditions, if we can, are key…I think keep things simple and meaningful. Don’t do stuff just for the sake of doing stuff. Margaret Irribarra-Swanson

Our families and youth value having something from the Church that they can count on. We have the resources and tools to host our programs online when it gets too cold to meet outside, and are setting up our building for success in the hopes that we reach the point of being able to meet inside sooner rather than later…we’re meeting outside to start (masked) and we have cut down a little bit on the length of our meetings…Our youth loved our outdoor meetings this past year – we focused on just spending time together and that was exactly what they needed…We are giving our families every single one of our meeting dates. We will be meeting on those dates in some form, and being able to count on that has helped our youth feel secure and build momentum.  Kelsey DeCarlo

My church’s youth group met outdoors all year long last year. We thought creatively about being outdoors as an opportunity instead of an impediment. We planned sledding, ice skating, hiking, local park clean up, campfire nights, apple picking, a kickball tournament, pumpkin carving and other outside adventures. This year we’re adding snowforts, some housing construction projects, a beach trip, stargazing and more. Andrew Wicks

We will continue our youth ministry program on Sunday evenings…outdoors as long as possible in CT with service/mission components, and indoor, distanced, masked, sanitized in family/pods when weather doesn’t cooperate. Indoors distanced activities included cooking a meal for the warming shelter, giant game night, paint night, cozy ur cube…Tracy Gormley

I spent many years building consistent small groups (just in time for the pandemic) and was able to lean on my 16+ adult volunteers to run their groups. My job changed from being the person teaching up front to meeting with my leaders and equipping THEM to teach and lead their students well…we aren’t really trying to build or keep momentum. We’re aiming for consistency and stability. Jennifer Haselden

Our group will be meeting virtually until all young people have access to the vaccine…Each month, our youth also get a “subscription box” filled with pieces of ritual, to participate in youth group, and to continue fostering community. Lena Hilder McCain

We’re meeting outside when we can, or in our largest spaces when we can’t so the kids can still spread out. There is a LOT of up-in-the-air feeling and it’s hard to navigate. The feedback I got from my families was that they didn’t want to go back to virtual unless absolutely necessary. So we are taking every precaution humanly possible. Colin David Pinkington

At Niantic Community Church we’re going to do Sunday School through a combination of Zoom and monthly outdoor fun and fellowship events related to the Bible stories theme. Some kids can’t do Zoom so having a monthly in person gathering outdoors with masks will keep them connected…Our families have overwhelmingly stated they’ll come back to in person worship once their children are fully vaccinated, and not before then.  Julia Manners

We’re going back to in-person Children’s Sunday School & Music but two age level classes instead of our usual three. Youth do confirmation as Sunday School following worship. All of this will be indoors but masks are required and all volunteers must be vaccinated. We are also going to do family meet ups outdoors (hike, park, zoo…) every other month to stay connected to those who are staying at home…Youth will have Sunday evening youth group. We’ll eat outdoors and then have programming inside…If things shut down, we’ll go back to Zoom. Jennifer Fitzgerald Chapman

We are going about this year as before COVID, but with masks…We went on our mission trip last month. Thirty people traveled to West Virginia, all vaccinated. Instead of stopping at places to eat and having everyone go inside, we ordered food ahead and ate outside – pizza, subs, lasagna, etc. Once we arrived, it was only us plus three vaccinated staff. The work we did on the home was all outside. It worked well… As for Church School, our children used to go into worship at the beginning of the service and they won’t be doing that, it looks like they’ll be arriving and departing from the Sunday School wing and wearing masks. I know many families will not come – I think there is a difference between what parents of unvaccinated under-twelve year old children are willing to do and what parents of vaccinated over-twelve year children are willing to do. Kevin Weikel

We’re in a suburb of Chicago and returned to in-person church school the Sunday after Easter. We’ve done outdoor church school since then with a large, well ventilated indoor space as our inclement weather option. Kids sit on carpet squares to try to maintain social distancing. We all wear masks – leaders and kids – both indoors and outdoors because it is difficult for the kids to space out, even with the carpet squares. Church school is about a half hour long (worship about 45 minutes) shortened from our previous one hour for both. Families DO NOT want to do Zoom anymore, with just a few exceptions. We’re keeping it basic too: story, activity choice time, prayer with time to engage with each other throughout and strengthen relationships. Families are overwhelmed and we try to make space for them to join us at any time with no guilt or shame. Catherine C. Curtis

Yale Youth Ministry Institute