During the last six months detached youth work, children’s ministry with those outside the church, open youth clubs and schools ministry has all but ceased. Young people with no other connections to the church – apart from those activities – are unlikely to have joined in with zooms or checked out the church YouTube channel.
So what to do? Here are just a few – not rocket science – ideas.
Prayer walk your patch – It’s a simple as that. Pray for the young people you haven’t seen, pray as you walk down their streets, as you wander through the park they hang out in, the centre of town, past the familiar bus stop they all used to pile out at. As you pray – maybe ask for opportunity to see a few of them, even at a distance – to say “hi”. Prayer keeps us connected, in the Spirit, with those we long to see – with those we long to see come to know Jesus and follow Him for themselves.
Card through the door.
Building on the prayer walk, drop a card through their door. You could even combine the two! If they have been a regular attender at an outreach club or drop in, you should have address contact details. This is a chance to make it a bit more personal, a hand written postcard. Postcards are best, because everyone in the house can see what is written on the card – it’s personal, but not private. Many young people don’t realise that you might be thinking of them when they are not at your group or activity – so, while it might seem a small thing to you – it can be huge for a young person. You’ve taken the time to write something to them and drop it round – you’ve shown you genuinely care. It’s massive and sustains relationship and a sense of connection.
I know, how old school! This perhaps takes things a step further – but, for three months, it might be that some of the young people you know have barely spoken to anyone outside of their immediate household. A phone call might be an incredible lift – it might also be a step too far, but give it a go. When you call, ask to speak to a carer and introduce yourself (it is possible you’ve never spoken to or met a parent / carer of the young person) – explain who you are, the organisation you represent and you are just phoning because “so and so” was a regular / participant / young helper (or whatever) at your open youth club. You are literally just phoning to say “Hi” and check how they are doing, and also to let them and their carer know that “something” will be back up and running soon . . .
If the young person doesn’t feel like talking – that is totally fine. Just pass on your best wishes. If they do want a chat with you – ask the parent / carer to stick the phone on speaker so it isn’t a private conversation. There you go!
Re-connecting might feel a bit awkward and manufactured, but – for some young people this will hugely help – they haven’t see you or the rest of the youth club for six months. Even if you can start back soon, will they return? Breaking the ice like this – however uncomfortable it might feel – will lay the ground work for deeper re-connecting later.
AND, it’s not just young people you need to re-connect with. It’s time to talk to your team. Remember them?
“He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no-one following them is only taking a walk.” John Maxwell
It is a primary role if we are the “lead” youth worker (volunteer or paid) to build, nurture and invest in a team who will serve the young people with us. It’s not an optional extra and it isn’t something we only do in the gaps between face to face youth work. In fact, if you want to build a sustainable ministry developing a team of committed youth workers is key.
If we lead, this is what we are in it for,
“to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith.” Ephesians 4 : 12-13
You need to prepare your team for a return (whatever that is going to look like); you need to build them up and encourage them; a united team – sharing the same heart and vision for young people is a powerful thing!
So here are a couple of things you can do :
Call your team.
You might email your team regularly, you might even have a team WhatsApp group – but, we’ve all been through a very strange six months. It could be that you have team who have needed to “shield” or an older team where they’ve needed to be cautious about leaving the house and going about their regular activities. You might have found in the midst of all that has been going on with the virus that your team are less responsive to communication. Give each of them a call. Check in with your team – how are they doing? Do they need anything? How have things been? To be perfectly honest, you should have made this call 4 or 5 months ago – but, in the midst of all you have had on maybe checking in with a team that can’t function as a team or actually meet with young people has dropped on your priority list – but, these individuals shouldn’t drop on your priority list! Catch up – say sorry you haven’t phoned earlier. Re-connect – not just because you are going to need them as and when activity starts up again (!) but because you care about them.
Video team chat.
I know, we have probably had enough of zoom calls – but, this is an important one. Not to make huge plans for the coming term, but to get the gang together. This is your team, these are the dedicated volunteers who make stuff happen and without whom there wouldn’t – in normal times – be any work with young people. The reality might be that in the last six months you’ve managed without them. You can create content remotely, load it up to Youtube or put it on the church website for young people to access – you might have got in to a rhythm of doing that – without needing to meet as a team, without bouncing ideas of others and without asking them to contribute anything – you’ve just done it. You might have become, for six months, the “lone – ranger” youth worker you swore you would never be.
Get your team back together – pray together, talk about how it has been, pray for the young people you haven’t seen. Don’t plan – just re-connect and pray together. Get the team re-energised and functioning again, before you start trying to plan for what is next . . .