Wednesday, April 15, 2020

3 Online Ideas for Doing Youth Ministry During Covid-19

During the pandemic season of Covid-19, how are your youth faring? Have youth ministers at your church gotten the chance to interact with students at a personal level? A few weeks ago we explored different methods to reach out to online group members, but what about youth ministry? Video calls are excellent to schedule, however using social media to minister to today’s youth demands an approach that is both organic and conversational. Because of this, one of the most impactful methods to use when connecting with the youth can be through a livestream. Between the two of these, let’s explore three ways to make the most out of your youth ministry’s video calls and/or social media livestreams.

The Panel
Who said online service has to be the same old sermon? “The Panel” is a type of online service where students anonymously text in their questions to a phone number that is made available to them (either in advance, or on the spot). Free phone numbers can be created by Google Voice, and it becomes a cinch to generate a digital phone number and begin receiving text messages through Google’s free downloadable app. By giving them the ability to submit questions anonymously, students are allowed to be vulnerable and to ask the questions that really matter to them. Your next youth service on dating or pornography may end up being one of the most engaging services you’ve ever held by allowing your youth to steer the direction of the conversation. “The Panel” can be done on Zoom, Instagram, or TikTok. Even though we addressed why your youth ministry needs to be on TikTok last week, Instagram would actually be the most ideal platform to choose for this type of youth service. By utilizing the “Go Live with a Friend” feature, the youth pastor can invite different youth ministers each week to help answer the submitted questions.

Online Lock-In
Your students are already up at 3am playing games or browsing their social media, so why not commit to staying up with them for one night? While few (if any) students will stay with you throughout the entirety of the whole lock-in, the goal of such an event is instead to make connections with students. The internet truly is our students’ domain. Instead of forcing the students to bend the knee to the church’s calendar, a bold event such as this shows that the youth ministry is willing to be there for their students on their time.

Similar to the marketing principles of in-person ministry, larger events require larger advertising. Promote the event weeks ahead and give teasers for what the students can expect; give them suggested windows of time to attend if they want to play a certain game or talk about a certain topic; finally, include your youth ministers to lead and oversee portions of the lock-in so that the event can have more variety and creativity.

Zoom shines through as the ideal platform to host such an event, since meetings can last up to 24 hours with a basic paid account. To take it a step further, be creative and conduct shorter TikTok and Instagram live streams during the lock-in to funnel even more students to the ongoing Zoom lock-in call. A word of caution, however: Zoombombing is a very real and harmful nuisance, where students are at risk of being exposed to pornographic images and other offensive content. It is vital for strategies and contingency plans to be drafted to prevent such an event from derailing your entire evening (Here is a great article on how to prevent Zoombombing from occurring to your Zoom meeting).

Youth Takeover
It’s an expectation to see a youth pastor go live and try to engage students on social media. But a fellow student? Now you’ve captured their attention even more. In my book Youth Empowered, a section is included on how to launch a student-led “Social Media Empower Team.” The goal of such a team is to extend leadership to qualified students who are passionate about spreading the Gospel through the use of social media. Under the mentorship and guidance of an Empower Team Leader, a team of students can take turns conducting various “Youth Takeovers” on the social media accounts that your youth ministry possesses, hosting and/or posting Christian-centric content that is respectful, fun, and creative. To find out more on Empower Teams, click here to learn more about Youth Empowered.

Let's Connect! Follow on Twitter: @SeanBuono

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