Youth Ministry Screen-to-Screen
By Cameron Pedicord
It is a simple formula that generations of student ministry are built on.
Gather students at church and get them excited to bring friends by making it a fun and exciting place to be. Then, at the end of the night, there is an opportunity to teach and share content that draws students closer to Jesus and His way of life.
Key words: gather students.
The problem is that for many churches across America this formula is not working like it used to. Why? Many reasons, but one of the big ones is that young people just don’t wanna leave their houses much anymore.
I recently read a post in a youth ministry Facebook group asking what the biggest problem others were facing in their ministry. Overwhelmingly, people said getting students to attend events and youth group on a regular basis.
This got me thinking about how much student ministry has remained the same despite massive changes in society. Let’s face it.
“The teens we work with are growing up in a world that would seem like science fiction when modern youth ministry was pioneered.”
So the question I am proposing is what if we re-thought the formula?
Students gather in very different ways than they used to. Why go to the mall with friends when you have instant video contact with everyone you know right in your pocket and access to millions of items with the click of a button? If the goal is to gather students so that they can engage with life-changing content, then there are more ways than ever to do this. Students have access to millions of hours of content, whether it’s through YouTube, Twitch, Netflix or countless other platforms.
What would it look like to get the content we want to share up on YouTube? That way, students can engage with it between sports, homework and other extra-curricular activities. Then, empower small group leaders to jump onto Zoom at different times throughout the week to give students an opportunity to process and apply what they have learned. You can also have a Slack channel where students and leaders can stay in contact, ask questions, share prayer requests, and encourage each other 24/7. Well, maybe 12/5. While the technology platforms are flexible, you get the idea.
This idea started several years ago when I was working on staff in a middle school ministry. One of my volunteers, a high school student at our church, wanted to start mentoring and going through the Bible with several of his students. He couldn’t drive and was struggling to get everyone together so he met with them all on Skype. This out of the box at the time thinking blew me away and empowered him to connect with students in a much more accessible way. One youth worker I talked to recently said he used Google Hangout to get several of his student’s together. While some only participated through chat, they were able to have some solid time together, especially when it was just two or three students at a time.
Now it is at this point that many reading this are seriously doubting my sanity. Drive students even more to their screens (when at the same time we’re taking them through small group material about becoming wise with their screens)? And if kids aren’t actually coming to church, how will we measure attendance!?
Don’t get me wrong. I deeply appreciate live preaching and face-to-face interaction. And I am not at all advocating giving up meeting together in person on a regular basis, in fact, I hope many of these screen-methods are jumping points to more face-to-face connections.
“But changing the formula for how we deliver content can give us new opportunities to program our ministries to meet the challenges our teens face today.”
My goal in this post isn’t to suggest you tear apart your current ministry structure. I couldn’t take having so many youth workers getting fired on my conscience. Instead, it is to start new conversations and expand our imagination around the way we have always done things.
So what about you?
Which of these might be a technique you’d try?
What else you got?
Cameron Pedicord is an experienced youth worker and avid lover of all things food and cooking. He is a leadership coach and consultant to church and nonprofit leaders and regularly blogs at VMI Leadership Solutions. He works to help churches and nonprofits clarify vision and generate momentum to multiply impact. Cameron, his wife Corrina, and soon to be two children live in Northern California.