Connecting with Students During COVID-19
In the past 7-10 days, those of us who love and care for students have been thrown a curveball. I don’t know about you, but I keep going to my bookshelf looking for the book, “How to Do Youth Ministry During COVID-19” and I cannot seem to find it!
Anybody else out there with me?
I thought I would share with you some things I have started doing in the past week. Clearly, right now, this is trial and error and I am no expert. But, we all have to pool our ideas and I hope this might give you some suggestions.
My sweet spot is small groups and one-on-ones. I am constantly referring back to the blog post, “The 4 Cries of a Student’s Heart,” that Doug Franklin wrote. The four cries of a student’s heart are: 1. Spend time with me. 2. Discover Me. 3. Connect with me. 4. Pursue me.
How can I practically meet those needs when I cannot physically be in the same room with the high school girls God has gifted me for this season?
- Group Text. My small group has a group text and I am trying to reach out to them in this format every single day. Ideas: Share a Bible verse, word of encouragement, or something funny, but my favorite is to ask a question that requires a response. For something funny, it might simply be “How many days have you been in those pajama pants?”. Or sometimes, I go a bit deeper, “Today I felt _______.”
- Individual Text. I take a look at those daily group texts I send out and notice who is not giving me a response. Definitely reach out to them in an individual text. “Hey, haven’t seen you respond…how are you doing?” Also, I treat my Zoom small group time (see below) like a normal small group time, so if someone didn’t “show” up, I text them immediately after letting them know I missed them! (Be sure to check on your church’s policies and procedures before contacting students individually.)
- Individual Coffee Date via FaceTime. I love my coffee dates/one-on-one chats. I am setting up times telling them to grab their favorite drink/snack and meeting with them via FaceTime. Yes, at first it is a bit awkward, but then you fall into the rhythm of it. And here is the thing, it is so great to see their faces and it gives you a much better idea of how they are doing. (Be sure to check on your church’s policies and procedures before contacting students individually.)
- Zoom Small Group. I have a confession, I am old (55) and some of you young ones may have been doing this for years. I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating to me doing my first small group this week in this format. But, let me encourage you to dive in and do it! Zoom is great because not only could I see each of the girls, but they could also see each other! And THIS helps build community. Right now, as they are confined to their homes, they need community. This week my goal for our time was to get the girls comfortable with the Zoom format and we just talked about what we were thankful for. Next week, we will go to our more “normal” format of small group.
- Snail Mail Letters of Encouragement. WHAT? Do people still do that? Yes, they do and let me tell you from experience, students LOVE to get snail mail. It is a great way to say you value them enough to take a moment and HAND WRITE a note of encouragement to them.
Those of us in youth ministry have been talking about how busy our students are. We have been reading the books on how to get them to our youth events. Right now, we have a captive audience! Yes, they have their e-learning, but there are no sports and clubs filling up their time. Right now, these students have only time on their hands.
We are being given an incredible opportunity to pour into them and care for them. Yes, it looks a bit different than what we signed on for, but it can be done with God’s help.
As an adult, I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around where we are right now with this COVID-19. Can you imagine how they are feeling? Let’s give them a safe place to process and shine the light of Jesus into this darkness.
About the Author
Cheryl Franklin Baertschi
Cheryl Franklin Baertschi and her husband live in Carmel, Indiana and have raised 4 boys. After their youngest left the nest 6 years ago, she decided to fill the quiet house with high school and college age girls that she could encourage, mentor and disciple. She continues to learn daily from them.