As we head towards Christmas, it is a good time to create some space for reflection and learning. We know that Christmas is usually an extremely busy season for youth leaders, but perhaps this year might be slightly quieter. There will not be as much preparation to be done as in the past, although perhaps the creativity needs to be greater than usual for what we can deliver.
Whatever lies in store, can I encourage you to find some space to stop and reflect on what has been happening this year. Good leaders don’t just respond to the crisis before them, but they also take time to reflect and to learn, to see what lessons can be learnt and how these can help shape their future.
I want to suggest ten questions that all youth workers need to be asking themselves:
1.What have I learnt about youth work as a result of the pandemic?
It is almost an understatement to say that everything has changed. How has your youth ministry changed over this year? What did you discover you needed help with? Were there areas that you were quick to adapt to and others that you struggled with?
2. What did you used to do that you really miss and need to keep hold of?
It’s important to remember the things that you feel you have lost this year. Don’t let go of these things, and work out a way to include these as you go into next year.
3. What did you used to care to much about and can let go of?
Equally, there will no doubt be some things that you used to do which you realise have not been necessary at all. The change in practice this year means we don’t have to go back to the old ways once we re-emerge from the lockdowns – acknowledge these things and let go.
4. How would you describe what you were trying to do in your youth ministry?
I think taking youth work online has revealed lots for us, perhaps quite a few weaknesses. As we have seen many young people disconnect from what we provide, we need to reflect on what we were trying to do. Were we entertaining more than disciple making?
5. Would you describe what you are trying to do now as different to what you were trying to do before? Is there a different priority or purpose?
Following on, how are things changing? What are you realising needs to be a higher priority? Is it that numbers aren’t as important as engagement? What are the priorities in your youth ministry today?
6. How can you connect with young people you don’t know during social distancing measures?
We’ve acknowledged young people are disconnecting from what we have been offering. What can we do to keep the connection? What can we do to connect with young people we don’t yet know? Try not to fall for the temptation to ‘just’ invest in those who attend, how can we expand our reach? You might want to explore contact with your school, or have a social media profile specifically designed to reach out, or set up a gaming channel to connect with teenage gamers (all within the confines of your safeguarding policy, obviously. What? Yours doesn’t mention gaming?!)
7. How are you investing in your other youth leaders?
Take some time to think through how you have been supporting those you lead with. Do you know how they are really doing? Do they feel neglected or have they grown over this season? What could you do to invest in them some more?
8. What is God saying to you about your youth ministry and your young people?
Take some time to sit with these questions before God. What does he want to say to you, to show you, to encourage you with?
9. As you look back on this year, who would you say you have been trying to please?
Need I add any more?
10. Do you know how much God delights in you right now?
You are a child of the one true King, and he loves you. Give yourself permission to soak in this truth as much as you can, and serve him not out of obligation but out of delight and gratitude, knowing that you don’t need to prove yourself or earn His love, but to allow His love for you to spill out onto those you serve and love.
These are not easy questions but we cannot afford to overlook them if we want to walk closely with Jesus, and to do our very best for the young people in our communities. You might like to pose these questions to other leaders, each think through your responses and then spend some time together sharing your responses and to pray for the year ahead.