Josh Wellborn, National Youth Director, is interviewing Youth Leaders from across the country. His desire is to connect Youth Leader’s with what is going on in youth ministries around the U.S. now that COVID-19 has interrupted our weekly youth meetings.
His most recent conversation was with Vince Parker, the central ministry leader of Switch. Switch is the youth ministry of Life.Church. They have multiple location and are known for one of, if not the largest online platform in the Christian church world. Josh spent his time with Vince asking a few questions about what they are doing to create and cultivate online communities.
The Life.Church goal is to create a healthy online relational community. At the present time, students are living online more than normal. We must meet them where they live and it’s time to ramp up what we’re doing online. He used the illustration of visiting someone’s house. You need to be invited in and welcomed. We need to create that space for students. We need to invite them to engage in community.
Engagement is key, according to Parker. It’s not enough to simply put your youth service online. What works when everyone is in the same room, doesn’t translate well to the online community. Students want engagement. All the apps on their phone allow them to do something and be involved in what’s going on. It needs to be a 2-way conversation, not just pushing out content. He talked about a time they took their service live. Everything started fine, but when a 15-minute worship set started, students checked-out. They want to be a part of what’s going on. Include them “in” on the conversation. Parker says if you are going to do an online service, keep it short – under 15 minutes. Or, split it up into segments.
Parker suggested going “live” on Instagram, or even Zoom. Invite students into the conversation with you. Ask them what they think about what’s going on. Don’t just tell students what they should be thinking. Allow them to discuss their thoughts and concerns and ask questions. Another suggestion Parker gave was to ask students to do things during this time. We are restricted from something, but not everything. He mentioned checking on neighbors and friends, praying for someone, or connecting in some way. Face to face over the phone was suggested instead of just texting. It’s important we stay connect and make sure we see each other is doing ok.
Wellborn mentioned the fact that the large majority of our 13,000 AG churches do not have a paid youth worker. He asked, “how can the mom, who is the youth leader, engage and help students during this time?” Parker answered, “find out where they are (what app are they using with their friends) and use that platform to build community.” It takes time, but simply start by asking questions. How are you doing? Is your family ok? How are you spending your time? What about your friends? What do you think about all this? Get the students talking and see where it goes. Always be prepared to insert appropriate Scriptures and make application to their walk with the Lord, but don’t push it.
Students want and need to know you care about them – enough to enter their world and ask them how they are doing. This is an unprecedented opportunity to do ministry in an unconventional way. Let’s make the most of this opportunity to build a community online. And, perhaps when this is all over and we are able to meet face to face, our group’s relationships will be stronger than ever.