I bet no youth worker included PPE in their 2020 budget, but it might be part of the requirement as you move forward. .There are plenty of views about when and how to open up our states, cities, and yes, even our churches.  Regardless of when it happens, there will come a day when churches will re-open and ministries, including youth ministries, will begin to open their doors and gather again. 

Most leaders have discovered a routine for what works for youth ministry in the current climate and situation.  As we are living into this new normal, now is the time to begin thinking and processing what it might look like as we restart our ministries when the time comes.  Clearly, how and when we restart ministry is going to vary drastically depending on our context.  Factors like geography, church size, youth group size, and other demographic components for your context impact when that restart actually occurs. 

Unfortunately, since relaunching is contextual in nature, there is no formula to utilize in order to restart well.  What I want to offer you is a series of questions along two levels – practical questions and balcony questions – for you to think through as you consider relaunching. 

Let me take a moment to differentiate between practical and balcony questions.  Practical questions deal with how we will meet as our churches/ministries restart.  In other words, what practices do we need to change or to implement in order for us to meet effectively and safely in a post-quarantine world. 

Balcony questions are big picture questions to think about how youth ministry may change or need to change to be more effective in a post-quarantine world.  The idea of thinking on a balcony level stems from Mark DeVries’ work Sustainable Youth Ministry where he introduced the practice of youth workers practicing “balcony time” each week.  DeVries defines balcony time as time set aside to work “on our ministries rather than in them”, that is to work on the big picture of mission, values, direction, focus etc rather than on executing the weekly tasks that have to happen in order for youth ministry to happen.  These are questions that will take some time and space to think through and may be best thought through with your youth ministry team.  With that in mind, here are the questions to consider:

Practical Questions

  • How will we insure social distancing can be practiced in our spaces? Most youth rooms are not large enough to allow participants to sit 6 feet apart.  That means we have to use different, larger spaces or limit the number of people that attend.  Some places can make that happen by splitting Jr. and Sr. high groups.  Others may need to go to grade level divisions.  Regardless, we need to have a plan.
  • What will we do about shared meals? Both preparation and sitting together to eat the meal?  Is it time to eliminate shared meals at least for a season?
  • Will we require or suggest masks be worn at our gatherings? Helping keep young people and their families safe now becomes a value that every youth ministry must embrace.  Are we willing and able to take this step?  
  • Do we need to change the types of games we use in our youth gatherings? Let’s face it, youth ministry is known to take part in wacky games that require either close interactions or foods of some sort or both.  I mean imagine the classic “Chubby Bunny” in a post-Covid 19 world?  What precautions are needed moving forward?

Balcony Questions

  • Through this pandemic what have you realized are the 2 or 3 most important priorities for youth ministry?
    • How do you create opportunities to focus on and strengthen these priorities as you restart as restrictions are lifted?
    • And based on the realization, are there “old things” (programs) that need to cease?
  • What new practices did you find to be effective tools for ministry during the pandemic?
    • How can you continue to implement those practices as you re-start?
    • How might they become a part of the new normal?
  • How have you seen creativity in the midst of the pandemic?
    • What factors were evident that created an environment where creativity was
    • How can you insure that opportunities for creativity within your youth ministry continue as we move forward?

Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list of questions to consider, but I pray that you will find them helpful and that they may serve as a jump-start for you as you prepare.  Feel free to share additional questions by commenting on this post or on social media @scmyp

Interested in having a personal ministry coach help you process the Re-Start of your youth ministry?  SCMYP is offering free coaching to youth workers in UMCSC.  Find out more and sign up HERE!