Moving Youth Group Online
Youth Activities Take a U-Turn
By Citywide Youth Pastor, Dan Hutchison
What a year 2020 has been so far - from camping on Maria Island and organising an Amazing Race around Hobart, to being forced online, resulting in even further connection.
At the end of 2019 our Citywide MERGE youth team planned for an ambitious 2020. A mixture of outdoor events were planned to create a space for other youth ministries to join us, whether large or small. Our vision is to see every young person empowered to live life to the full, the way God intended.
Our "Why" has not changed. But the "How" certainly has.
As the restrictions came in we quickly adapted. In fact, iat our last physical meeting I connected online to give the devotional message with the group. This allowed us to test if it was possible, show the youth how it worked and allowed me to still be involved in the night even though I had a cold.
The next week we were all on Zoom - a video conferencing program I am sure everyone is aware of now. But not just Zoom, we tried everything! Facebook watch parties, Netflix watch parties, online book club, Twitch and online Bible study groups.
We wanted to find a platform which allowed us to connect with where our young people were at physically (at home), and emotionally. Unfortunately, many of these programs didn't work as we had hoped.
However there where three things that did work:
- Hangout Time
The hangout time was an open time on Zoom to play and connect over whatever the young people wanted to over Zoom. Games like online puzzles and Kahoot (online quiz) were hits.
It has been a space to relax and have conversations with our young people other than their family.
- Minecraft server
We wanted to be very intentional in connecting with our young people in ways they like to relax when at home. And there is no better way then through video games (see image below). Minecraft is labelled the "Lego Sandbox" for this generation and I have to admit, I've enjoyed learning how to play it. Our young people made some great creations.
We have had some issues with making our own server, and continue to. But when it was working we certainly had high involvement and commitment to creating a fun world to play in.
I would highly recommend for youth leaders to play online, and chat with young people as you work together on a world-saving quest. What a great way to bond!
Friday Night Youth on Zoom
Our young people were very keen to continue the weekly event around games and a message. In this structured time we would play games like Pictionary, crosswords, and a list of visual icebreaker games that we could do through the screen.
Keeping with our vision to partner with others, another bonus of this online format has been connecting with Wynyard Baptist youth group and supporting each other in this time.
As you can see in the screenshot, below, it's been nice to see everyone's faces for the whole night from all around Tasmania. The sessions have led to some really vulnerable moments of identifying the loss of connection with friends and family right now.
We have just finished a series on taking hold of this moment to care and connect with others.
You Can Join In!
We're planning to continue running Friday nights on Zoom until the end of Term Two and it's not too late to join us if your youth group could use some friends in this time. So check out our website to join, or see what other things we are up to here ... Citywide MERGE Youth >>>
Now, as we're coming out of the restrictions and schools are going back, we are again reassessing what is the best way to connect. For some students, sitting all day in front of the computer is tiring and they want to disengage from screens. Others haven't had the technology or space to connect with us. We want to walk with all our young people, as this is going to be marathon and not a sprint.
This generation is one that's growing up connected to the world online, and made to stay home, away from it. We want them to know that Jesus still has big plans for them and right now He is shaping their characters to be resilient and creative.
I look forward to seeing what this unlocks in the next couple of years for His Church.
Citywide MERGE Youth