Today marks eight weeks of Stay-At- Home/Safer-At-Home orders due to the Coronavirus. It was 8 weeks ago that our schools closed and our church hosted it's first, online worship service. The following Tuesday, our student ministry hosted our first, LIVE Facebook student gathering. 8 Weeks later, I can say, I'm frustrated and I'm tired.
At the time, I thought, well this is fun, but in a couple of weeks we'll be back together. The schools closed and we moved our student ministry to Facebook. For two weeks I hosted a live Facebook gathering. I used a software called, Open Broadcaster Software. The software allows you to run a live show while incorporating various videos, slides, and media elements. It was a lot of work, and a bit stressful; each week needing to pay attention to what was happening on your live stream.
Then came the Stay-At-Home orders. Our time home just jumped to a month. There were rumors that we'd be back to normal by Easter, but Easter came and went and we were still running our student ministry from our homes. We switched up our programing, creating more of a late night show feel with challenges, questions of the night, DYM games, and short messages from our leaders. I also made the switch from a fully live show to more recorded elements and a little less stress.
As April began to come to an end, we made the decision to move from Facebook to YouTube. Internet reliability started becoming an issue as numbers started dropping. Moving to YouTube allowed us to create a program that we could upload and eliminate the issues we were having with stability. It also allowed me the opportunity to engage more with students who were active in the comment section. But at 8 weeks in, I can honestly say, I'm getting frustrated with our current situation; and I can't be the only one.
8 weeks in, I can honestly say, I'm getting frustrated with our current situation; and I can't be the only one.
I'm frustrated. I'm tired. I'm missing my students. I'm missing my leaders. I miss being able to gather at the church, meet for coffee, have lunch, and do ministry. I'm frustrated with our online statics. Weeks 1 through 3, numbers were good, engagement was high. Online student ministry was a novelty. It was new and fun. But eight weeks in, engagement has dropped. Schedules are non-existant. And having to thinking up new gimmicks to attract students to your online platform is exhausting.
So what do you do? How do you process the frustration? How do we move beyond the current issues of online ministry and social distancing mandates?
We often say things like, "this too shall pass." And it's true, this will pass. We don't know when, or how, but this will pass. Be patient. I know it's easy to say, and hard to do, but we have to be patient. We are in unprecedented times. We've never been in a situation like this. Ministry online, not being able to meet with people, it's insane. We are literally making it up as we go. With that said, we're going to see ebbs and flows and we have to be patient. Take a breath. Relax. It's okay.
2. Don't reach beyond what you can do
By nature, I am a guy who strives to give and do my best. I am one who will critique and nit-pick my program to make it better and better. And at the right times, that is a good quality. But it can also lead to comparison, jealousy and discontentment. As I critique, I also look at what others are doing. I see their programs, their bits, their technology, and the participation of leaders and staff, and I want to do what they're doing. But I have to remind myself, I'm not them. I can only do, what I am able to do, and that's okay. Sure, I can look at others and learn, but in the end, I have to work with the resources I have. I need to know what I can do, and focus on doing it well.
3. Ministry isn't about your Online Presence
It can be so easy to get caught up in what we're doing online. Facebook Live, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter; content, content, content. Working to create the best sharable content, or the most viewed video, or even the most like story, can be totally exhausting. We think that by having students "engaging" with our content we are being successful at reaching our students. And maybe so, if they are new students who have discovered your student ministry. But likes and shares aren't ministry. Our online presence should only be the result of efforts to give our students a good online experience. Our true ministry is as we connect with our students in personal ways. A card, a text, and phone call; that's when we do ministry.
This week, we'll be talking about the state of youth ministry 8 weeks into the Coronavirus pandemic. Some states are reopening, sending people back to work. Organizations, businesses, stores, and churches are slow beginning to open and welcome people back. But what does that mean for our student ministries? As we deal with frustration, how are we working to reconnect with our students?
Join us this week as we discussion the realities of youth ministry in a post-covid season.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.