March Madness is one of my most favorite times of the year. I love the rush of the first Thursday of the tournament, the Cinderella stories of long shots taking the court, completing a bracket for a challenge among friends, and the stories of the players and the thrill of competition. March Madness has happened each spring since 1939 … but not this year!
March Madness has been cancelled because of concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus, but you know that. The famous college basketball tournament is not the only victim. The list of cancellations is long and growing: no school, no Masters, no church, no youth group, no, no, no!
Today, I spoke to youth pastors and read many of their posts relating to ministering in a day of crisis. Each of them is developing a plan of what ministry will look like now in the day of “social distancing.”
For the next few weeks, you will not have your regular meetings. You might not see some of your students for weeks. So how are you going to serve, evangelize, and encourage students?
As you decide how to answer this question, let me remind you that many of your students are heartbroken. Some are deeply hurt because – like the college athlete waiting for his or her chance at the big dance – many of your students have just seen their senior sports season erased, their spring drama canceled, their prom, graduation, spring break, even their lunchtime just stop.
Maybe this is a bit of an over-dramatization, but I don’t think so. At a family dinner tonight, I watched a young lady begin to cry as someone reminded her of her spring break mission trip being cancelled.
Here are some quick ideas that might help you in planning your new ministry:
How do we connect with students without promoting the spread of the coronavirus? How often do we need to connect?
- Connect regularly with different groups through an online resource like Zoom (here are some other options). You will be surprised by the students’ receptiveness. Especially, the mid-schoolers!
- Provide discussion starters to accompany your streaming worship service. Keep these resources short for parents who are doing this for the first time.
- Offer a place for students to gather for an online community. Gamers have been doing this for years, now let’s find a way for youth groups to do it.
How do we give an awkward side hug in cyber world (creepy)?
- Sympathy cards. Send the kids who have lost her soccer season a card or a pizza. Tell them you know how hard they worked and that you are sorry.
- Be sensitive to financial needs that might arise in your students due to this event.
How do we equip local student missionaries?
- Give your students ways to serve on their own. Give them a list of ideas of ways they can serve. Some ministry ideas might be obvious to you but they may totally miss it.
- Remind them to read the word daily. This is a challenging time and we need to be ready, so read the word daily.
- Keep a journal. Basically, about your corona experience and what you saw God do around you during this time.
What message do they need to hear from us?
- If we empower students to live out the gospel in their communities, then all the coronavirus “cancels” were worth it. If we help parents connect with their families and become disciple-makers, then all the heartbreaks from lost opportunities will be worth it. If we can discover how to help students engage with Jesus and His Word, then it is well worth all the effort and creative energy we spend.
How do we help parents disciple their students?
- I have heard some great plans in my conversation with youth pastors: We are going to help our school deliver meals to students providing free lunch, we are going to reach out to senior adults who are shut-in, we are going to challenge through Instagram. I have heard youth pastors say they are reaching out to the parents of their students to encourage the parents to begin a family devotion. Check out this group for Student Ministers as well as this group for updates and ideas related to the coronavirus.
If you would like some more ideas, we are connecting online for through the Student Ministry Network for support and encouragement. Or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.