On January 21, 2020, it was confirmed that a new disease had reached American shores. As the novel coronavirus quickly spread across the nation, states began making difficult decisions about how to contain that spread. The once obscure notion that those decisions would affect us and our churches, soon became a stark reality.
In the days following, many young people across the nation celebrated as news trickled out that they would be receiving an extra week or two off of school due to the outbreak. A week turned into a month and a month quickly turned into the rest of the year. Schools were closed and along with it, end-of-the-year festivities have been cancelled. Unfortunate seniors are finishing out their final months of high school within the walls of their homes. Students across the nation have received stay-at-home orders along with the rest of us. And it is here that we find ourselves attempting to minister to people through creative means.
Perhaps, a bit of silver lining in our struggle is that we have been stretched and, in many ways, our ministries have even been expanded during this time. As I consider the practical aspects of ministry during this unusual and historic time, three words come to my mind…Connect, Care, and Choose.
In ministry, one of our main goals is connecting the hearts and minds of people with Jesus Christ. That is accomplished through the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
Paul encourages us to focus on God’s Word:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”—Colossians 3:16
Don’t stop teaching God’s Word and sharing the Gospel. Can I encourage…even challenge you? Don’t stop teaching God’s Word!
“Yeah, but we can’t meet together in person.”
“I feel weird speaking to a camera.”
“I haven’t seen a person in 6 weeks.”
“I’m not technologically savvy”
We have all the excuses, but are no less called to teach and preach the Word of God today as when COVID-19 began to rear its ugly head all those weeks ago. God has given us some incredible tools to meet this calling today. Technology like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook, YouTube, or even a written word, such as this article, are all effective ways to remain influential and be a voice for the Lord speaking into the lives of those in your ministry…even during quarantine.
Schedule a student Zoom meeting a couple of times a week. Post a weekly Bible lesson specifically for your students. Develop a Bible study for them to work through and discuss in small groups. Give the teens in your student ministry the opportunity and platform to share a minute or two about what God is teaching them during this time.
Don’t miss an opportunity to be a tangible blessing. On a practical level, we have some great opportunities to be a blessing and encouragement in a tangible way to our young people, even during COVID-19. Many of you have a vibrant ministry to the young people you serve by joining them in their schools for lunch or taking them out for a cup of coffee at times.
Unfortunately, those opportunities are no longer available to us, at least for the time being…but that doesn’t mean that we can’t bless them tangibly! We just have to be creative! Consider putting together a treat – cookies, candy, soda, devotional books, gag gifts, puzzles, games or giftcards are always appreciated. Even a handwritten note goes a long way! Stop by their house and drop it on their porch with a wave. A simple gesture like this will mean the world to a teenager who’s been housebound for the last several weeks!
Don’t miss the NEEDS of those placed under our care. Millions of people have lost their jobs. It is likely that there is a family in your ministry that has been effected in this way during these times. Let’s not miss the opportunity to be a financial and spiritual blessing to them as they weather this storm.
After all, isn’t this the heart of ministry? Caring for those whom God has placed in our ministry. Caring for the lost souls who desperately need Christ in these days? But, how do we care for people that we’re not even seeing face to face…I believe there are many ways, but let’s talk about a couple of them!
Don’t forget to love them. This seems like an obvious statement, but often physical absence causes us to forget very real physical and spiritual needs. Just because the needs are no longer visible to us on a weekly basis, doesn’t mean that the needs have somehow just disappeared. Each individual we were ministering to before still needs to be loved and ministered to today. Don’t forget to love your teens!
Don’t forget to pray for them. But how can I display love for someone that I’m not seeing regularly? The easiest and best way is to pray for them!
“The easiest and best way to show someone that I love them is to pray for them”
Paul’s encouragement to the church at Ephesus still rings true for us today:
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”—Ephesians 6:18
All too often, prayer becomes our last resort in showing love when in reality, it should always be our first option to display our love. Don’t let it stop there, though—people need to know that you are praying for them. When you pray for someone, communicate that to them.
Just consider how encouraging it is for you when you receive a text, phone call, or email from someone just letting you know that they prayed for you. There’s no agenda. They’re not looking for anything from you. They just genuinely care for and love you. And that care prompted them to bring your name before the throne of Almighty God. What an encouragement! Let’s do that for our teens!
Each of us have a choice to make. COVID-19 quarantines have placed us under stress, pressure, and challenges in ministry – the likes of which we’ve never faced before. We can allow that pressure to break us or we can allow that pressure to stretch us.
Choose to see and seize the opportunity. The young people you minister to need leadership RIGHT NOW. These are murky waters and for many of them, these are dark days. Perhaps they’ve suffered loss—maybe the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. Maybe the loss of family financial stability due to an unstable economy. Maybe the loss and disappointment of a missed opportunity or unmet expectation like a cancelled graduation.
No one person has been immune to some ramification of what our nation is facing and everyone is looking for a glimmer of hope as we face this crisis together. Perhaps you are that glimmer of hope as the light of Christ!
Pastors, leaders, parents, friends, let’s seize the opportunity that Christ has given to us during these difficult days! Lead people to a God that loves them and desperately desires a deep, meaningful relationship with them!
I Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.