God loves flipping our expectations.
It’s what we celebrate each year during Advent. The king of the universe has come to bring all people into his royal family – not by military might, but by making himself weak for our sake.
It reminds me personally that God is always who he says he is.
It should then come as no surprise to me that, despite the fact that youth ministry is a challenge during these times, God has flipped what we thought was possible on its head and surprised us with a strange amount of blessing.
Here are three ways in which our expectations for youth ministry have flipped this fall.
1. Online ministry is actually working
I shouldn’t sound too surprised, but one of the key questions we asked ourselves going into the fall was this: is it even possible to get kids to know God and experience his love in community online?
The answer, by God’s grace, is yes.
Core programming on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays still yields consistent turn out, and what’s more – kids seem to be really enjoying it. More often than not, our Zoom Youth Groups are filled with a tremendous amount of joy, laughter, depth and honesty.
We are so aware of the number of challenges that confront youth and families in an online world, and so we are continually thankful for the faces that show up to worship virtually.
2. Introverted kids like the buffer
Don’t get me wrong – meeting online and meeting in person are two very different experiences. And yet, some of those differences have actually benefited our introverted or shy students in ways we could have hardly anticipated. Students that felt reluctant to share in person are finding the extra filter of online communication – dare I say it – comforting!
Students that could barely get a word in are now leading conversations. Students concerned with others’ opinions are speaking more freely, and opening doors for others to share. Students wondering if their contributions would be worthwhile are finding places to be themselves.
It’s an extraordinary thing to witness, and I wonder if the very thing causing many of us to feel stifled is actually causing others to blossom.
3. Online or offline, fun is still possible
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but kids of all ages, really, really, really need to play. Fun was one of the first things to go in the transition to an online world, and we thought it might be the hardest thing to provide as well.
One thing is for sure, though – we have had a ton of fun this fall.
On Halloween, we hosted a youth socially distanced field day in Central Park, filled with non-contact games like Live Foosball, Nerf Wars and Disk tag. We’ve also discovered online games like Skribbl and Codenames that we regularly play online together. In Jr High, students have even initiated a comprehensive point system that tracks standings from week to week.
I never thought I would laugh so much this fall. Or, as a matter of fact, receive so much roasting for my poor online drawing skills!
God loves flipping our expectations
The above bears repeating, because we have definitely had ours flipped in youth ministry. As we say in youth group, we love seeing your kids grow to know God more and experience his love in community.
This year has had its struggles, but advent seems like its coming at just the right time. God reminds through his provision, and most importantly through the provision of Jesus, that he has an abundance of life for us, even when we least expect it.