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  • Hannah Williamson

Don’t Press Pause On Youth Ministry!

We have now been in some sort of lock down for just over 137 days. I’m not sure any of us expected this! I know I’m sick of zoom calls and feel like there is a whole group of people that I haven’t seen in a VERY long time! I think it could be tempting at this point, especially as we move into the summer to feel a little ‘fatigued’ with it all. This got me thinking about youth ministries all around our country. The summer is a time we normally ramp up to running youth camps or taking our kids away to them. I know for me this next week would have been one of my busiest getting ready for taking over 250 youth leaders and young people away. It could be tempting to press pause for a while, but in this blog I want to encourage you to do the opposite for the sake of your young people!

Here are few areas that I believe you should not press pause on and why, with a few tips on how to keep going despite this strange season in history that we find ourselves in….

1. Don’t press pause on your Youth Team.

‘Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the sea of Galilee…..Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:1 & 12

I love the thought from the verse above that ‘again’ Jesus met in person with those who He was inputting into and had a meal with them….He did a normal thing by having a meal in order to help them and encourage them on their way forward. At the end of this season, your youth ministry will still be needed (if not more than ever) and you will certainly need a youth team to help the young people coming out of lock down. If you press pause on the encouragement, care and development of your team you could end up in a very tricky situation. I have always found taking young people away in the summer not only benefits the young people but the team of leaders too – it stretches them, grows them and allows for better connection to be built amongst them. In this season, find ways to still do that. You are their pastor and their leader and so it’s your responsibility to develop and grow them!

A practical thought to help in this….

Why not schedule in a day a week where you work your way round meeting those on your team – turn up at their doorstep, invite them to your garden, take them out for a cheaper meal during August. Whatever you do, make sure you a physically connecting with them rather than just a video call or phone call.

2. Don’t press pause on real connection with young people.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Lepar, a woman came with an alabaster jar….’ Mark 14:1

In the above verse, we see again, Jesus in a home, at a table with people. He was physically in person and here two people are mentioned – Simon the leper (although I believe by this point he had been healed!) and a woman who is about to anoint him showing her great love for Him. In this encounter of which there are others too, Jesus connects with the people around the table in quite a profound way. Prior to lock-down there was a sense that young people were in many ways stuck to their screens and lacking in real relationships. As we are now a few months in, the reality is that this is probably even more of a problem than before. I always found it fascinating that in our youth ministry the most successful part of our Friday night programme was always our small groups where young people could talk with each other. I rarely had a problem where the girls in my group didn’t want to talk!!! Social connection for young people is vital! This is understandably very difficult for now and may be difficult for a long time so can I encourage you to get creative! Like the above point, find ways to physically see your young people and on a regular basis.

A practical thought to help in this….

Plan to go for walks with groups of young people. You don’t need to be standing close together and this stays within the regulations but walking and talking for an hour could be so beneficial for the young person! Where it is a young person from the local community where you may not know the parent, turn up at their house with a gift (maybe some icecreams in this heat for the whole family!)….you may get the added bonus of connecting with the family on the doorstep!

3. Don’t press pause on schools work.

‘Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ Luke 17:11-12

This passage is interesting, because 10 lepers together would rarely be seen. This would suggest Jesus was in or close to the leper colony where anyone with the disease lived. He went out of his way to the place of need. I have always found schools to be full of need. Obviously, schools work as we would normally know it has come to a pause due to kids not being in school. I think we can safely assume it will be quite some time before you are allowed back into schools, even when young people return (hopefully) in September. Can I encourage you, however, to find other ways to connect with schools, especially when it gets to September? I have more recently been contacting schools regarding our church food bank. I have found that of all the places that refer families in need, schools are one of the biggest. Maybe schools work may look differently for a while but that doesn’t mean it needs to stop. There may be other ways for you to connect and help.

A practical thought to help in this….

Find out who the safeguarding lead is for every school in your town, write an email of letter to them ready for September with some creative suggestions of how you as a youth ministry could help struggling Young people on return to school – grief support, food for families, video assemblies on different topics that will help motivate young people as they go back to school?

4. Don’t press pause on basic discipleship – e.g. helping young people learn to read their bibles and pray.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock.’ Matthew 7:25

Young people are at an age where helping them learn spiritual disciples could literally set them up for life. I know my time alone with God gained strength in my teenage years and has really given me a great basis especially when tough times have come. Youth ministry is so vital in this. As much as I would like to hope that parents are helping their kids in this area, my experience says this is rare. You as a youth leader or youth pastor have a vital role to play in this. So often young people can rely too much on the youth leader but if you can help them learn to hear God’s voice, get stuck into the Word of God and speak to Jesus in a normal way then it will probably sort out all the other challenges we have with young people. This kind of discipleship is often done through your youth programmes or in one to one or group settings which of course, you have now not had for months. If a young person needs anything in this season (like all of us!) they need Jesus. Can I encourage you to once again get creative in how you help young people in this area but to become brave. I made a decision a long time ago that I wouldn’t feel awkward about asking people how their relationship with Jesus is going. Many people don’t have the guts to ask. Whenever I have asked a young person that, they have never complained and generally been honest which opens up the conversation.

A practical thought to help in this….

Ensure you are offering suggestions of how to do this! It can be easy on social media to put up lots ‘random stuff’ but how are you helping them dig into the Word of God? Maybe text or phone a young person this week and ask the ‘big questions’ and then give them some easy but practical first steps to build on their relationship with God. Don’t assume they won’t do it, but presume God is waiting for you to help them!

5. Don’t press pause on fun!

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.’ Proverbs 17:22

As I mentioned in 1 week’s time, I would have been heading to our Youth Camp, Cultivate! It has been a long time since I have not done this in the summer! In many ways it is a very strange feeling. I will of course miss the time spent with others, the incredible time with God and seeing young people encounter Him in new ways, but one major thing I will miss is the fun element of summer camp! The water fights, the pranks, the laughter etc. As we have an continue to walk through this pandemic young people may well be full of fear, particularly if they have lost someone, seen people sick or just been watching the news! As the above verse says, a cheerful heart is good medicine, so I want to encourage you to find ways to have fun with the young people in your youth group. Whatever you do, don’t make everything so serious!!!

A practical thought to help in this….

Buy some water balloons??? Need I say more?


Youth Pastor, Youth Leader - this is your time to STEP UP, put aside your lethargy and start leading. There is no better time than today to put some things in place to ensure you are not pressing pause on your youth ministry but are ramping it up! Now is your time. I am praying God fills your with all the creativity you need to reach this generation for Him.

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