By Ben Trueblood
When met with the challenge of not being able to gather in person due to COVID-19, student pastors jumped to the next right platform and moved their ministries online.
It was a smart and needed move—digital ministry to reach digital natives.
Teenagers are already online and student leaders quickly adapted their messages, small groups, and community-building activities there, too.
Now that the conversation has begun about reopening our churches, there are careful considerations student pastors should be making now, too.
We would be remiss to reopen student ministries and go back to doing the same things we were doing to reach teenagers before COVID-19 hit.
The silver lining to this pandemic is the opportunity to truly step back and evaluate how we can best reach this generation of students and their families.
Now is the time for student pastors to dream about what ministry looks like in mid- or post-pandemic culture and put those plans into action. Here are three points to think through as you do this.
1. How do we make sure students who cannot (or choose not to) meet in person still feel like they belong in your student ministry?
Student pastors must anticipate the challenge of ministering to students both in person and online.
To jump back to only in-person gatherings would be to ignore the students who are still at home but want to be engaged and to ignore the opportunity to continue to reach teenagers where they are looking for community most often: online.
2. We must engage our core student ministry volunteer base as soon as possible.
As you begin to think through future programming, you’ll need to know which of your volunteers will be able to gather in person and which of your volunteers feel more comfortable at home.
Now is a great time for student pastors to deepen relationships with volunteer leaders, listen to their feedback, and cast vision for the future.
As always, your ministry is only as strong as the leaders you recruit and empower.
3. Dream it and then do it.
What does it look like for your student ministry to be more relational? More welcoming? What practical steps will it take to get there?
Many “big picture” changes will require leadership conversations, vision casting, and likely even volunteer training.
Don’t miss this chance to dream … and then take steps now toward building a ministry that is more discipleship-focused than ever.
Use this Three Stages of Reopening Worksheet to get started.
Ben is the author of three books: A Different College Experience, Within Reach, and Student Ministry That Matters, is the host of the Lifeway Student Ministry Podcast and the YouTube channel, Student Ministry That Matters.