Young Adults Manage COVID-19
Blessing | Joy | Privilege
How have our young adults managed the COVID-19 world?
Daniel Richie, Summerhill Baptist, leads the young adults' Bible study. He explains how the group (below) morphed and adjusted to isolation, during the early months of 2020.
(Scroll down to the end for insights from "Refuge " young adults, Hobart Baptist.)
The people in our Bible Study range in age, from 18 to early 30s. We have three married couples, several University students (studying quite demanding courses), several in full/part-time work, and four German volunteers at Worldview (WEC) Bible College.
General "Vibe" During Unprecedented Times
COVID-19 provided some varying challenges for our young adults when the restrictions were applied. Some were severely discouraged and struggling with the changes. Some lost their jobs. For the University Students, all of their demanding learning went online. Our Worldview friends were faced with the immensely difficult decision of whether to remain here, or head home to Germany. One person had just resumed Nursing at the LGH in the Emergency Department, so naturally, we were thinking and praying about their safety and wellbeing.
Everybody dearly missed the fellowship of meeting together weekly and the fun, joy and encouragement that comes from that. We know that the one, true God is a relational God. (Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.').
"Everything now, in my week to week life, is either cancelled or on a screen. Bible study was the last thing to go. And the most important too."
Bible study participant
Many people, not just Christians, have realised how much we take social interaction for granted and how wonderful relationships with others are. Hopefully, the world will take this as a learning point - relationships are far more valuable than wealth, status, prestige and success.
For believers, we know that loving God is our first priority, and loving others, our "neighbours", is next.
During COVID-19, each person in our group was tasked with presenting on a 'hero of the faith'. They were given some simple guidelines for how to run the study: give a devotion following their presentation and then have at least 2-3 key questions related to their devotion.
As many of these heroes of the faith had suffered greatly for the Kingdom, it was also a good lesson in perspective: Coronavirus has indeed brought the world to its knees. Isolation sucks. Some people have lost their income. Some have lost their lives. It is a huge deal. But at the same time, this probably won't be the greatest challenge we will ever face.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Key Learning Points
- Give people things to keep their minds active. Some people felt a lack of purpose or struggled with the reduction of activity and interaction. We gave a recommended reading/viewing list, and posted videos or articles each week, about the person/topic that had been studied so people could engage further.
- Active listening is important any time, but particularly during online meetings. Nod and smile to acknowledge the speaker, ask questions and contribute to the discussion.
- Having different people lead the study each week helped avoid complacency. Everyone had to put in time and effort to prepare their study and therefore understood how valuable it was to have people being active participants during the session. (This also builds confidence to lead more).
It was a good lesson in perspective
- Don't be afraid of silence. Even during "normal" face to face Bible studies, there can be periods of silence. Learn to get comfortable with this - people may be thinking deeply, or working up the courage to answer. If there is consistent silence, learn when and how to ask probing questions.
- Make time to share prayer/praise points at the end of a study. It's a good way to gauge how people are going.
- Check-in text messages/calls are crucial and should not be limited to just this season of life. It also gives everyone responsibility to check on others in the group, not just leaders.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Our Bible Study
"We had to adapt quickly"
Some people found it really tough. It's important to acknowledge this, and offer support, understanding and encouragement.
Those times of prayer, as well as the check-in messages and calls, are absolutely essential.
We missed the fellowship and hanging out and doing life together. While the Zoom conferences have probably gone as well as they could, it simply never replaces face-to-face interaction. There was a noticeable increase in smiles, jokes, laughter, and contribution when news came of the gradual easing of restrictions.
One member of the group made the following remarks summarising a lot of people's thoughts nicely:
"I think the one-on-one conversation is increasing. People are building relationships with each other as we're all looking out for each other, being that a lot of us are in stressful stages of life with commitments and changes with study, work, starting new families, or just other responsibilities that we as young adults are facing in our lives. By looking out for each other, even the quick "how's the day been" message, quickly spurs some mutual encouragement and prayer points".
"...what I'm seeing in my life is letting God take the reins again. I can get a bit stubborn and "too independent", but this time has allowed for me to remind myself that God is in control and it's His will that needs to be done, not mine. And I'm seeing some nuggets of encouragement fruit from that".
This is simply a snapshot of the impact COVID-19 had on our group, and some of the reflections that came out of it. Our hope for believers is that they were/are able to use this strange and challenging time to draw closer to God, to find new and creative ways to do ministry, connect with others and encourage them.
"By looking out for each other, even the quick, 'How's the day been?' message, quickly spurs some mutual encouragement and prayer points".
It is crucial to acknowledge those who have lost jobs and their income; those that are struggling with their mental health and loss of social interaction; and those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. The Bible says to "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). We need to meet people where they are at, acknowledge their challenges and show them the love of Christ.
During this phase of life, that we will all remember in the years to come, we should also be reminded of the fact that, whatever happens in this world, God is still in control, knows us each by name, loves us unconditionally, and cares deeply about whatever situation we find ourselves in.
Summerhill Baptist Young Adults Bible Study
Q & A: Hobart Baptist's "Refuge" Young Adults
Liam Conway, Ministry Apprentice at Hobart Baptist, describes his observations of young adults during COVID-19 (Rona).
Q: Do you have any insights about how young adults in your circles have coped with COVID-19?
A: I think most young adults have found Rona difficult, the distance from loved ones, has really rocked them. For some I think fear has been a big driving force, either fear of the government or of Rona.
For most people it's been an unwanted hibernation and retreat so there's been a big swing towards self-preservation patterns and stabilisation. They're coping, but it's stressful and tense. I've noticed a general spike in depressive symptoms, and a general listlessness in young adults as they try and cope with this new experience.
Q: And how have young adults engaged or disengaged with church community during this time?
A: I've noticed a drop-off in some ways but also a pick-up in connections. Most people are barely coping and so interacting with a church is either a big job, or is too stressful. That said, many people are still interacting with churches.
Honestly, for the most part I think because online church takes more work to read and guage people's body language, it makes church harder. And the fact that people are really just coping in our churches makes church a 'Job too Big'.
Equally, I'm paid, so I can't speak from my experiences, only observations. One other thing is that Uni hasn't stopped. And because it's been scrambling, students have been scrambling, and that makes church 'Too Much Work', because church is also scrambling.
All in all I think it's mostly: A Job Too Big for most people to grapple with.
Liam has contributed a theological reflection to this edition of ADVANCE | step by step. Read "Jesus the PROPHET" >>>