We are living in unprecedented times in youth ministry! But one of the greatest weapons that we can use during this time is discipleship. Our teens need their youth leaders more than ever to be there for them and do life with them. We may not be able to hang out with them on a Friday jumping around in the mosh pit or sitting with them at church on a Sunday, but we can still be effective disciples during this time. Below are some practical tips for discipleship during iso.
Please note: some of these would subject to the restrictions in your area at the moment.
1. Phone Calls
Phone calls are more key now than ever before! We can’t see our kids on a Friday or a Sunday to ask them about their week or see how school work is going, so phone calls are key right now. For those kids you usually call every few weeks, now is the time to call them every week. They may not answer (we’ve all experienced weeks when no one does) but follow up the call with a text- ‘Hey bro, just calling to say hey, how’s your week been?’. If your teen doesn’t have a phone and it’s appropriate to do so, try and call their parents. Especially if they’re a church parent they will love getting a call from you.
2. Zoom Calls
We’re seeing that a lot of youth ministries are doing zoom calls on a Friday night as part of their youth program. This is an awesome way to connect with your teens. Make these a memorable time of connection- play a group game (see last week’s post for game ideas), get one of your teens to run a game, speak positively about your week, pray with your teens, do a study! This is your greatest connection point for them!
3. Zoom Hangs during the week
We’re also seeing that some youth groups are doing additional group hangs on zoom during the week. This is another great way to connect with your teens & bring a positive influence into their worlds. Always be respectful of their parents & conscious if it’s during a school night of timing of this.
4. Self- Distancing walks (for older age groups)
It’s great to be able to get out of the house and go for a walk! If your teens parents are comfortable with it go for a social distancing walk with them around their house. Don’t opt to meet them somewhere, right now it’s important to respect their parents and so the best way to navigate this is just meet at their house and walk from there.
5. Check regularly on the teens who were struggling pre- iso.
Many people during this time are struggling with anxiety and stress, including teenagers. They might have already struggled in this area pre- iso, so it’s good to be able to check on these teens regularly and see how they are coping. If it’s appropriate you could speak to their parents as well and see how they are going at home.
6. Devotions on the Bible App
Another way of connecting with teens during the week and also getting them to talk about God is doing a devotional together. The YouVersion has some great resources which you can use with your teens.
Switch Youth- the youth ministry of Craig Groeschel’s Church (Life.Church, USA) has a number of practical & relevant devotions which you can do with your teens. At the end of each devotion it has a ‘talk it over’ section where teens can write what they got out of each day. This is a great way to get teens talking about God!
7. Write letters or drop off a gift
Everyone loves getting a handwritten letter addressed to them in the mail, especially if you’re 14 and never get a letter in the mail!
Your teens will feel super encouraged and loved if you write them a letter with some verses on it or drop off something at their house. And note that this isn’t just for the girls! Guys will appreciate some haribo lollies being dropped off at their house too.
As part of your connect on a Friday you can even do a prize delivered to their house if they win- pizza, uber eats, pack of essentials are great at the moment!
8. Notify a leader above you if issues arise
If a teen discloses something concerning, make sure you bring it up with a leader above you. Even though you’re not seeing leaders above you on a Friday and Sunday, remind yourself that it’s still important if issues arise to notify them for the safety of your teens.
9. Be mindful not to over contact teens
Some teens will never answer calls and that’s ok. Every youth leader has experienced this at one stage or another.
But during this time you can’t see them on a Friday to say ‘hey bro you didn’t answer my call this week. Is everything okay?’. So don’t over contact them. If they don’t want to answer, they won’t answer. Try a few times (check with the leader above you if they have a certain number of attempted contacts) and then reduce contact to once every few weeks or not at all. If they’re not joining on a Friday zoom or responding to calls/texts, then they don’t want to engage at the moment and that’s ok. Especially with teens with families not from church, it can come across inappropriate if a leader is constantly calling but the teen is not interested.
10. Continue to invest into future leaders
We may not have a physical youth program on a Friday night, but next year we will and so we still need to be investing into our Senior Students as our future leaders.
You could still run your rookies course over zoom, get them to be a part of your Friday program by filming a section at home or run a game for connect group. Get creative and think of ways for them to engage and still be investing & training them up during this time.