A New Beginning | Navigating Ministry to Students Post Pandemic
by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor to Youth and Young Adults
1 I love you, LORD; you are my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. – Psalm 18:1-2
STUCK ON REWIND
As a kid I remember after watching a video my parents would take the video tape out of the VCR and put it in the rewinder. Every so often the rewinder would get stuck and the machine would continue to spin endlessly. The last couple of months have felt like we have been stuck on rewind and finally someone unjammed the machine. It has been a crazy time for all of us. At times over the last couple of months it was hard to distinguish the day or the hour. I had to setup rhythms and habits that coincided with the day just to distinguish which day was which. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues many of us wonder what it is going to look like moving forward. We have all experienced change, but reports indicate that some changes affect particular groups more than others, and young people are no exception. Here are 3 changes that family, leaders, and community members should be aware of as we seek to minister to young people.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
As a kid I grew up knowing the possibilities of my future. I knew that I could go to school, that I could find work, that I could travel or do things that I found interesting. For the most part, I could look around and see opportunities in every corner and depending on what I wanted to pursue, or how hard I wanted to work to achieve that dream, nothing was necessarily impossible to achieve. Today, students are not in control of their future like they use to be. The economy is uncertain, school may or may not be open, the way we use to do school definitely won’t be the way we will do school going forward. Starting jobs aren’t there, civil unrest is a part of our everyday life, sports and other activities are shut down, and our world looks nothing like it did a year ago. Let us acknowledge the reality of fear within our society and the way it has displaced many of our “traditional” functions or lifestyle.
Jobs and schools can provide a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for skill development, along with avenues toward future careers. The absence of work and/or school may pose a challenge for young people in a number of ways, but one impact that may go unnamed is the impact it has on their identity. The financial stress on the family, the lack of achievement or productivity, and the inability to “control” who they are or what they want to become all have a direct impact upon their identity. Young people may also have more time on their hand to spend at home, with friends, or to help others. According to Volunteer Hub, “Volunteers under the age of 24 account for 22.6% of all volunteers.” It may be time to help students redefine what success looks like and help them reorient their futures.
AN INABILITY TO TRUST
It seems that everyday “new” news comes out dispelling the information from yesterday. We are bombarded with information from unfamiliar resources. The Pew Research Center recently did a report looking at the state of Americans’ trust in each other amid the COVID 19 Pandemic. “This survey finds that about a third of Americans (35%) register low levels of trust in other people, compared with 29% who are “high trusters” and 32% who are “medium trusters.” What they also found is that compared to other age groups, young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to say that most people can’t be trusted, will try to take advantage rather than be fair, and look out for themselves rather than try to help others. The same report notes, “…the less interpersonal trust people have, the more frequently they experience bouts of anxiety, depression and loneliness.” It is important that young people have an outlet to communicate their feelings, that they be heard, and cared for. As the body of Christ, we may need to check in on each other more, help young people navigate the new social realities, communicate a trust in Jesus Christ, and to be present more. Young people are looking for security in an unsecure world. They are looking for those who have gone before them to lead the way and provide a sense of stability.
A LOSS FOR WORDS
“We all share certain fears during the pandemic. We are unsure when we can safely leave our homes and we worry for family members. But some fears weigh more heavily on some groups than others.” Tyler Greenway, Fuller Youth Institute
For young people, Covid-19 is a major threat to their personal financial situation and mental health while older adults may focus on the physical health aspect. Yes, there is a concern among young people for physical health, but young people are primarily concerned with how this is going to impact their overall future. There is an uncertainty of what their future is going to look like and the absent of opportunity to voice it. They are frustrated, confused, angry, scared, and at a loss for words. Young adults are keen on meeting people and establishing a solid group of friends as well as a network that will boost their careers. It is also during these years that young adults more or less find their identities and are willing to develop deeper relationships.
As young people continue to ponder their future in an uncertain world, we can consider how we might help them
Practically Speaking | How might we minister to Young People a.k.a. “Youth and Young Adults”?
- Reach out to them and think about the words they might need to hear from us right now as-well-as what words we need to hear from them.
- Give them an opportunity to be heard. Be present with them and listen to their struggles.
- What do the scriptures say about uncertainty, fear, and our futures? How might a young person benefit from hearing the word of God from someone older?
- Pray daily for youth and young adults. Specifically write down a few names of young people that God has put upon your heart.
- Commit to developing relationships with young people that are God orientated and full of hope.