As we approach the 1-year mark of doing our ministry online, here are some reflections from the Director of Youth Ministry, Margaret Swanson, and the Youth Ministry Committee.
From Margaret Swanson,
Director of Youth Ministry
In March of 2020, we were planning our two retreats, the Girls and Boys Retreats. The start of the pandemic began with discernment around whether we could even go on the retreats, and then creating a plan for how to offer our retreats online. Since then, it’s been a year of either re-working our regularly scheduled events so that they would work digitally or creating new events and ways to offer connection for youth and their families. We began doing zoom events – baking, letter writing, craft time and open times to connect. Over the year, we were able to run weekly youth group, do Youth Worship, celebrate the class of 2020 with a ‘lawn bomb,’ offer our summer camps virtually, and introduce new programs like weekly game night, Mystery Ministry Pals and Advent at Home and Lent at Home kits and more!
In the midst of a time where youth were losing a lot of the things that made up their everyday lives, we felt really fortunate that we could still offer youth group digitally. We focused in on the intention of relationships and connection. We wanted our Youth to know they were not alone and to trust in the connections they had within the group. We made sure we continued to offer a safe space for youth to vent, to name the griefs they might be feeling, to share about where they were finding joy, and to explore how God might be showing up in the midst of this time.
It’s been an amazing year! Of course, our first choice would be to be together in person. But the fact that our youth are showing up for themselves, and for each other, means something. As we approach this one-year mark, I am grateful for the ways the youth share, and offer support for each other. God has been so present in our conversations, our tears, and our laughter. We will continue to be creative and find ways to foster connection and support for our youth and our families.
“One of my favorite parts of online youth ministry was the cooking classes we did towards the beginning of the pandemic. It gave us a space to connect with each other and eat some delicious food. I’ve always loved eating breakfast with everyone at church before youth group, so having a creative way to recreate that was super meaningful to me!” – Lacy George, 11th grade.
“Doing youth ministry online has in a way given me more freedom in the activities and locations I do them in. Yes, it has been a challenge trying to navigate everything and get back on track but there are pros to adjusting to this new lifestyle. One, being able to do everything at my own pace is a huge plus. Whether it’s submitting things for worship or attempting to make it on time for youth group. Also, it’s been amazing to see everyone’s personal styles in the collection of videos that make up worship and the church activities outside of that. Someone’s always either outside, in a car, walking, making breakfast, whatever it may be the variety is definitely unique.” – Eva Lieber, 11th grade.
“I think one of the most meaningful things about doing online youth group this year, we have been able to continue to connect with people without being in person. Also knowing that our fellow youthies and leaders are still there for us even if we aren’t seeing them in person.” – Jordyn Kerr, 9th grade.
“Looking back on this year and the pandemic I feel like amidst all the struggles that we have all been through, I have seen God through the struggles and become closer with God through spending more time reflecting and spending time seeing the sublime in nature and learning to love myself. Youth group has been such a huge part of my journey. being able to still connect with my youth group and youth leaders in this time, in sharing experiences, cooking together, journaling together or doing fun activities over zoom. It has been so helpful to not be alone on this journey especially over this time of isolation in quarantine and Covid.” – Anika Segall, 11th grade.
From the Youth Ministry Committee
Upon reflection of the youth ministries program during the year 2020, the youth committee is grateful for the continuous refinement of online gatherings as well as individual personal outreach, Margaret Swanson’s skill and perseverance in quickly adapting the program to online format, and the teamwork of the church staff and leadership team to bring about the transition to online services and meetings that involved the children and youth of the church.
The Youth Ministry Program at University Congregational is open to youth in grades 6 – 12. If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact Director Of Youth Ministry, Margaret Swanson at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Youth Ministry Committee at email@example.com.