Over the last few weeks its been a real privilege to be part of some of the zoom conversations between young people and Bishop Rachel for a forth-coming podcast. Together we’ve chatted about the challenges of being a young person in lockdown, coping with the isolation, home-schooling and lack of social life. There have been some really frank and honest revelations about how we’re all being affected.
What’s also been fascinating is hearing all the positives that they are experiencing. And with each of them comes some challenges for us as youth ministers:
Space and Pace
We mentioned in our first COVID-19 related blog, that many of us have been crying out for a change of pace. We suggested youth ministers should “Encourage young people to take time out – enjoy the garden, go for their one permitted walk each day, slow down a bit, listen to their favourite music, bake a cake, build a den (even the 15 year olds!).” And it seems they’ve responded to that. Young people are pacing themselves – they’re loving being able to work at times which suit them (and lets admit it, aren’t we too? Personally I’ve realised I don’t function too well before 10am, but my brain is at its most productive in the early evening), and having the flexibility to combine work and leisure time throughout the day.
- How do we encourage young people to embrace a slower more contemplative pace of life, whilst using the space to connect with God?
- How will this change when school and other social activities re-start?
Engaging with church
The growth in online church attendances during Lockdown has been well documented, and young people have reported that the ability to connect with church virtually has been a blessing. They are able to engage to things and places which have been inaccessible; maybe because they have other things on a Sunday (like sports, or staying in bed), but for many they can now feel part of churches where they feel a sense of belonging – Soul Survivor Watford, Hillsong Australia, or even Trinity Cheltenham! Church has become much more accessible – you can watch a YouTube video or login to a Zoom fairly inconspicuously. You don’t need to talk to anyone, can do something else during the sermon/worship/prayers (whichever you least connect with) and in a lot of cases worship at a time to suit you. Online youth groups, where youthworkers haven’t been furloughed, are still popular. Maybe there’s less distractions and the rest of life has stopped, but in general young people are still plugging in.
It’s interesting to hear what they are missing too. For most its the social interactions with their church friends, but for many its also being able to serve through church. Often this is around music (which seems to be a common way churches encourage young people to get involved) but isn’t limited to just that.
- How do we enable young people to worship whilst still understanding that “church” is not Sunday morning music and chat, but about community?
- What happens when the local church goes “back” to their buildings and the zoom fad dies down?
Spending time with God
Like most of us, it seems young people are seeing God around them a bit more than before. Despite the pain and suffering, loss and disruption, it seems God’s presence is tangible. The sense of hope that comes from a faith in Jesus is comforting and encouraging, and for many of them its forming part of their support bubble.
- Do we have the resources to help young people engage with God in this time?
- How do we help them grow as active disciples?
Being connected with church and God more is inspiring young people to think about how they can live a life which demonstrates their relationship with Him during lockdown. There’s an apparent tension between the growth in faith and the lack of opportunity to do anything about it.
- How do any of us share our faith during lockdown?
- How can we live by the Fruits of the Spirit when we can’t get out of the house?