I have always been a planner. I love making lists, color coding everything imaginable, and preparing for what’s to come. I pride myself in being able to tell youth’s parents, “Don’t worry, it’s all mapped out for the year.”
This summer when I was outlining our schedule for the 2020-2021 youth group calendar, it was certainly different. I thought it would be a wise choice to stick with working on 2020 and leave 2021 for later, as I had hopes that by January we could regularly meet in person again. Our 2021 calendar is completely virtual now.
Of course you understand this kind of thing! We have all been adapting and making last minute choices and changes since March. What’s new about not having a plan?
For the youth in our multi-church group, Oasis, the plans usually include a wide variety of activities. It is common for our young folks to request discussions on theology and important justice topics. Our past conversations have been animated and spark other tangents on their minds. So when I was planning for 2020, I kept those serious chats in the lineup! From summer to winter, it has become clear that was a mistake.
Sure, keeping themes and messages in our content is vital to effective ministry, but the formalized ways of doing things we used to are simply different when we’re not physically together. Our youth thrive off of each other’s energy, and that can be tough to pick up on when some folks have turned-off cameras and may be shy to jump into a serious topic chat.
The leadership team for Oasis also took notice of what’s clearly happening with our youth. They are zoomed out! Aren’t you? There are lovely benefits to video conferencing, but when it becomes most of your existence, you my want to skip out on another scheduled hour of talking.
So what’s the plan for 2021?! FUN!
We are simplifying and streamlining our program this year and much of our time as a group will be spent in a more lighthearted way. We will share music with one another, we will host virtual mealtimes, and we will play. Our passion for theological conversations has not left us, but having those chats among lighter activities is definitely what our youth need right now. They need a break. They want a break.
If you don’t have everything planned to the minute, lean into that. I have been getting better at it, myself! Giving our youth the space to simply be and enjoy is providing them with respite and familiarity. It’s easy to make youth group feel like school when everything is so serious and mapped out. We want to be something better, a place to go, an oasis! So bring on the games, and we can have big chats later.
Written by: Emily McKenna