The past year has been challenging to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives and our ministries, but we have also learned some lessons about what is truly important in youth ministry. Many of us are looking towards a relaunch of our youth ministry, because we cannot just go back to doing what we have always done. Leaders from Holston, East Ohio and South Carolina Annual Conferences have come together to create a coaching program to help youth leaders rethink, refocus, reimagine and relaunch ministries. The cohort is set up to include four group coaching sessions and in between the group meetings there will also be individual coaching sessions. This podcast shares some insight into our thoughts on reframing ministry post pandemic as we discuss rethinking, refocusing, reimagining and relaunching ministry.
Please fill out this form if you are interested in joining a cohort:
On the anniversary of the day our world began to shut down, I invited some of my crew to talk about what we have learned, how we survived and who we have become during this past year. We also begin the discussion about moving forward. The other lesson we share in this podcast is the importance of finding your “crew” to journey with you. No matter your profession, we have all been called. You crew shares in the call and supports you through it. Find your crew! It makes things like a pandemic way easier!
As we turn the calendar to February, and celebrate Black History Month, we start with this podcast about Post-Truth. What is it? It is this time we are living where “alternative facts” have replaced scientific facts and feelings have more weight than these facts.
Post-truth is an ideology where people try to compel others to believe something without regards to the facts or evidence. Some believe this era that we are living started 20 years ago when people didn’t believe facts about smoking, vaccines, or climate change. Couple this with the use of the internet and now social media, and the conditions are perfect for post-truth.
What do you believe? Who do you believe? Where do you find your truth? What shapes you? What do you believe as “truth”? Is it politics? Science? Theology? All questions we should be asking ourselves and the young people around us.
This could make a great discussion for a small group or your friends. Let us know your thoughts and your conclusions.
Two years ago today, we sent our son off to Marine boot camp. It’s a day I will never forget, and one I never want to relive. After his first year at college, he decided it wasn’t for him. He explored his options and decided he wanted to be a Marine. This took some getting used to, but we never said no which surprised him. He turned 20 during those 13 weeks of boot camp, and through all my tears and worry, I grew stronger as a person and a mom. I remember sitting down next to a colleague, a Marine Dad, the next day in a meeting, and he told me this may be hard now, but just wait for graduation day, it will be the proudest day of your life. Those words stayed with me, and proved to be absolutely true.
Looking back, it was exactly what he needed to do and the best decision he has made. He has learned a trade that, if he choses, will allow him to make six figures in the civilian world. He can take college classes while he is serving, and he can finish his degree, for free. We don’t know what the future holds or what he will decide for his career, but as parents, we are excited that he has options.
I share our story with you in this blog and podcast simply for other parents to see that college is not the only option or even the right one for every high school graduate. Sometimes it is the path taken because nothing else is considered or even accepted. Our son graduated with an awesome GPA, is quite smart, was studying engineering and playing soccer in college. But none of that mattered because he was not happy. We do have a few military family members, so we were not opposed to him joining; however, quite honestly, I was selfish and just didn’t want MY son serving. But now I proudly say, my son is a Marine. It’s still not easy. The amount of time we spend together is short. We are so thankful that at the moment is serves on U.S. soil. (I pray for those family members that are not a fortunate to say that.) We have hopes and dreams for our children the minute we find out we will be parents. Sometimes, our dreams for them do not line up with their goals. While this isn’t easy, there comes a point in their lives that we must believe we have raised them the best we can and it is time for them to soar. After all, they are God’s children first. God will be with them through it all, even those times we are not near.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
This book emerged during a time we were all reeling and trying to find our grounding in ministry. There are 26 chapters written by 26 different authors that cover everything from historical and theological encouragement to issues to think about, missteps and learning and what we are trying. Here are some of the words that inspired me and some of my thoughts and reactions. I have also included a few of our Regional Coordinators’ reviews.
On page 29, Dr. Andrew Root writes, “At this time, Youth ministry needs to be exposing young people to stories of people in their church communities who have found God in moments of long and loss, of hope and hardship.” This is a perfect example of a way to create community between our young people and older congregational members. Why not invite these members to share these stories either on a live Zoom or recorded to share with your teen/young adult small groups? How can you do this very thing in your groups? What ideas do you have to create community and connection between generations?
“Loneliness & Human Connection” is the title for Chapter 3 written by Crystal Chiang. This is a vital topic. While Generations Z and Millenials continue to isolate themselves from face to face interactions, this pandemic has only amplyfied this problem. Chiang says that youth leaders need to reimagine how, when, where and why teenagers gather. (p. 34) We know that teens gather in places where there are others teens, this isn’t anything new. However, how can we create places and spaces for these gatherings given our current climate?
Sam Halverson, in Chapter 5, talks about teens as the treasures of our churches. He says, “[W]hen we refuse to use our young people, we miss out on enjoying the investment.” (43) Online worship is a perfect time to invite teens and young adults to become involved. Something as simple as recording themselves readhing scripture, sharing their gift of music or sharing their stories and all be incorporated into the online worship experience. Don’t miss this opportunity to engage them in the life of the church, even now during this pandemic. How are you giving teens/young adults opportunities to serve?
Chapters 8-14 make up a section of the book titled, “Missteps and Learning.” These authors remind us to give ourselves grace as we begin to navigate ministry during this unprecedented time. In fact, one of my favorite quotes comes from Kevin Libick on page 61, “Don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do.” It is important for us to redefine success based on our values, on input not output. Celebrate all students, not just those who are showing up. Focus lesson production and more on connection. The one complaint I received constantly was the lack of time students had for church. Now they have more time, but we can’t be physically together the way we are used to. But there is no reason you can’t connect. How will you change the way you define success in ministry?
The final chapters share some great ministry ideas that have worked for some. Everything from a Late-Night Talk Show to a Virtual School Study Hall and rethinking Confirmation. All these ideas motivate us to rethink ministry in our own context. What have you tried that has worked, even for a short while? Are there other attempts that didn’t work?
Mark Oestreicher’s book has come at an important time as we are all searching for ways to continue youth ministry during this disruption. It is a quick read with several different voices that inspires us to move forward in new ways to spread the gospel message of love and grace to our teens while creating community.
BookReviews: (From Regional Coordinators. 1-5 pizza slices, 5 being the highest.)
🍕🍕🍕🍕”This book is such a timely, relevant resource that is so needed in what is surely a season of disruption! Loved the great, practical advice, stemming from both losses and wins, coming from youth leaders who have been serving in this season and know the struggle.” Chasity Opphile, Regional Coordinator
🍕🍕🍕🍕”Full of practical steps,Youth Ministry in the Season of Disruption includes a slew of ideas that will both encourage and inspire any youth leader as they face the continued uncertainty of ministering to teens in the covid age. More importantly, this book reminds any leader that they are not alone in their pursuit of hope, navigating with care the frustration and lament wrought by a global pandemic. General Editor Mark Oestreicher assembles a variety of unique voices who provide innovative insight and timely truth. It’s a breath of fresh air that just might assist in the needed transformation of student ministry in the 21st century.” Tim Beck, Regional Coordinator
Kathy Dickriede and Jason Hockran, two people I admire, join us this week on our podcast talking about their experiences in the mission field. They share their calls, passions and their personal stories of why mission work is important to them. Kathy talks about stepping out into the mission field is a risk-taking experience. In fact, she says, that we take risks right now, during this pandemic, by going out to eat or to the store. What would it look like to also take a risk to help others, even in this time of pandemic? They both reference their call to be in mission. Jason even refers to finding your identity in God through mission work. What a beautiful thought! If you have gone on a mission trip, or helped in your own community, you do walk away with a renewed sense of who you are and who God is. We also talk about the careful balance between helping without hurting, and the importance of preparing and debriefing, especially when taking young people out to do mission work.
Kathy references Micah 6:8:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
I think it is important for us to ask ourselves, even in the midst of uncertain times, how is God calling me to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly? We may not be able to be physically together, but we can still serve others. Have you found ways to do this? It is easy to hunker down, in our homes, and forget that there are people, maybe on our own streets, that we can serve in some capacity. Advent is an excellent time to live this.
Be sure to think about how you will serve after post-pandemic. Below are some informational links you can look at to be inspired. After all, it is important that we each leave the world better than we find it.
Until next time friends, be well!
I reference a mission trip I went on with teens to West Virginia, that was Bramwell.
EEK! Here we are, already in the Advent Season, and we are tapped out. If you are still searching for something to do with Children, Teens or Family Ministries for Christmas Tide or after the New Year, we share lots of ideas on this podcast. Below are a few links of resources that we discuss. If you are not connected with anyone in a network to share ideas, please send a message. If you have some great ideas, please share in the comments. This will become a resource where we can send people to who are looking for ideas. We need to lean on one another as we lead during these unprecedented times!
We can’t tell the future, but we do know that we are not “going back to normal” once we are on the other side of this pandemic. A few youth leaders talk about what they see as the future of Youth Ministry, post pandemic. The key to all ministry is relationships. This was true pre-pandemic and it will hold true post-pandemic. As we move through this time of social distancing, be creative on creating community and keep an open mind on the definition of “community.” It is time youth leaders focus on relationships and discipleship and less on programs. We know that we can become “zoomed out.” Our students, after a long day on the computer for school, don’t want to be back on in the evening for youth group. This is difficult and requires us to be creative. This creativity is what needs to carry us into our time post-pandemic. Whatever you decide, leaders, do not simply think you are going to go back to what you were doing before. We are all changed people from our experiences from this pandemic; therefore, there will be a new norm. Our lives will be different and ministry will be changed.
What a crazy ride these past eight months have been! It has felt like a rollercoaster. Everyday is something new, either with statistics, with science or a new standard. Life has been difficult for all of us. I especially feel for youth leaders right now. No matter if you are paid staff or volunteer, you are struggling. It is hard to know what tomorrow will bring, so planning for a week out is even more difficult, and who can think about what next month will bring? We don’t know quite what to do because we are navigating this without any prior experience. This podcast highlights some great ideas for connecting with teens while social distancing or virtually away from one another. Some times it helps just to brainstorm with one another. One thing youth leaders do well, shamelessly borrow ideas from one another. If you need to connect with another youth leader, if it is in northeast Ohio or across the world, please leave us your comments, and we will connect you! Do not go one more day feeling like you are alone in this!
This week we had a special opportunity to talk with a teacher from the I Promise School. Kay Low shares her experience at the school, but also her passion for the calling God placed on her life to be an educator. We also toss around ideas about how we can support and love on teachers especially this fall as they navigate their classrooms during this pandemic. Take a listen, then take action to reach out to an educator! Be inspired!