Lockdown has had a huge impact on youth ministries across webnet and beyond. In this article, Dan Ovens shares how, despite the obstacles, God has continued to faithfully be at work in and through young people.
Hi, my name is Dan and I am a youth pastor at Corsham Baptist Church.
Like many youth workers, when lockdown began I found it very hard to maintain meaningful contact with young people on the fringes of youth ministry, leaving a committed core connecting to programs as these migrated in various forms online. With lockdown, all our outreach ministry in the community campus and local secondary school was also affected overnight.
After the first few weeks of adjusting to the virtual world and caring for the core, I just want to share with you some of the encouragements God has brought our way as we’ve sought to innovate and get mission moving forward during this uncertain season.
Firstly, with our face to face children’s ministry with year 6 & 7’s ending (run by our excellent children’s worker), I took a group of 8 year 7’s online in a new group designed to better introduce them to me ahead of joining the youth ministry program from September and giving them space to connect with each other during this season. This group consists of time connecting on Zoom, playing games together and then focusing in on people that encountered Jesus in the gospels, seeing the difference Jesus made in their lives and can make in the young people too. This group has been led by myself with support from a young leader.
The young leader comments: ‘I have found it really valuable to just look at the basic gospel as it reminds me once again of what my faith is rooted in and Jesus’ grace, which can be easy to forget how wonderful it is’. And when it comes to witnessing the young people: ‘Them listening to truths and responding to them, and some of them giving their lives to Jesus’ has been encouraging.”
As this group has bonded it has been a privilege to witness God at work among them, and the fruit of the Children’s workers face to face ministry. The other day, following the session, one young person chatted to their parent and then made a faith commitment. Last week, through a direct challenge in the session another young person made a faith commitment live on Zoom!! In addition, we have another of the year 7’s considering baptism and also attending a recently launched Youth Alpha.
Which brings me to Youth Alpha. A month ago we launched an online Youth Alpha with four young people. This group is overseen by me, but is run by two of the older young people. It has been great to sit back and witness God working through these two young people as they facilitate discussion and lead the group.
One of the young leaders states: ‘helping lead The Alpha Course has helped me develop my confidence and I have been strengthened through the interesting discussions and questions asked from the younger youth’.
Finally, one other encouragement that we’ve experienced during this time, is the formation of a daily Bible reading WhatsApp group. Recognising that some people struggle to maintain the discipline of Bible reading and prayer at the best of times, and with increased isolation and need to take responsibility to feed ourselves without the ease of access to people and programs. We started a WhatsApp group to keep us accountable to each other.
This group started as a group for young people and youth leaders but very quickly we added other members of the church and even an entire homegroup! The result is the youngest member being 12 years old and the oldest 60+. A link to a selected set Bible reading (a single chapter) is posted Monday to Friday with weekends for catch up. Users are then free to post questions and comments from their own reflections & one of us post our own short reflection by video each evening. We’ve covered some very short books – but we already find ourselves in our 10th book of the Bible!
One person in the group has said: ‘I’ve found this group really helpful, definitely aiding discipline’, and another, ‘This has been really helpful. Thanks as well to everyone’s else’s thoughts and reflections on each passage. It’s made me think a lot more about stuff, and encouraged me to keep on reading my Bible’.