by Nigel Rosenzweig, Pastor for Grow Ministries
What do you do when all of a sudden you can no longer meet face to face in the same room for your children, youth or family ministries? It might be easy to say, ‘Let’s cancel these ministries until restrictions are lifted.’ But is there another way? Yes there is! Most of our ministry groups can keep meeting together with the help of online meeting apps like Zoom or GoToMeeting. All you need is an internet-enabled device with a camera, microphone and plenty of data.
It has now been almost a month since I first took my Youth, Confirmation and Faith Trail ministries online. In that time, I have discovered new challenges but also unexpected blessings.
Here’s what I have discovered:
- Running ministry online is more emotionally exhausting than running a session face-to-face. It takes more effort to read people’s body language on a screen. So be prepared to feel fatigued after leading your first session!
- Assign leadership roles to your online session. Work as a team. Be prepared beforehand to share the leadership. When leading be clear with your instructions. Know what you want to talk about and do. Keep guiding the discussion and inviting people by name to share.
- Give plenty of time to check in with everyone. Give more time to this than you normally would when face-to-face. Checking in gives everyone a chance to listen to each other and support each other. This could be as simple as sharing highs and lows. I have noticed people are listening to each other more intently than when they are together physically.
- Be prepared to give encouragement to what people are saying through your body language. Use bigger gestures. Use the ‘reaction’ buttons. Jumping in with words of encouragement might seem nice but can be rather disruptive online.
- When working with youth use some of your time to enjoy a simple online game together. An early favourite in my youth group was https://skribbl.io (An online group drawing/guessing game). Ensure plenty of time to check in with each other, dwell in God’s word together, discuss their questions, pray and bless each other.
- When teaching online don’t try to work through too much content. It takes longer online. Keep your teaching conversational. Be willing to accept silence and allow some time for contemplation. If your teaching session is longer than an hour, make sure you factor in a break time!
- Praying in unison can be rather difficult in a video meeting due to audio/visual delay. To combat this, at a recent Faith Trail milestone event we taught everyone to pray the Lord’s Prayer using actions. One person prayed aloud, everyone else joined in with the actions. This worked well!
So do not give up the habit of meeting together as some are. Get to know the technology that is available and use it to keep meeting to encourage one another in our common faith.
Brad Griffin of Fuller Youth Institute has written a great article that helps us name and process our new reality. If you are meeting with your youth online, you might like to consider working through the activity he suggests or share it with the families of your congregation.
“While parents are frantically learning how to home-school and ensuring they have a well-stocked kitchen, our kids are wrestling with their own mixed emotions. And on the ministry front, while our week may have been consumed by figuring out video streaming or moving group gatherings to digital spaces, our students need more than just online youth group. They need help naming and processing their new reality.” Brad M. Griffin