Many people have felt disconnected during lockdown. We’ve prioritised our most important relationships. But many peripheral relationships have been put on hold as we’ve focused on surviving. For some of us this has meant not investing as much time in our youth kids.
Let’s be honest. Zoom youth group has been hard. Many have found that only the most connected or enthusiastic participants have continued to attend. Who can blame them? After spending all day at online school many kids have felt “Zoomed out”. And it’s not just the kids. Youth leaders are doing church online, Bible study online, university or TAFE online. We’re all feeling the screen fatigue. Online formats can be overwhelming, disconnecting, awkward and anxiety provoking.
But the time has come for us to start reconnecting with young people face-to-face! Where do we start?
As a youth leader, you might be feeling super energised and excited to get back into the swing of things… Or you may be feeling discouraged by low attendance during lockdown and feeling pressure to get everyone “back on track”.
Firstly, remember that God is in control.
You may have low numbers for a while when youth group or Bible study goes back. Or you could be inundated with young people who are super keen to see their friends. Neither situation necessarily reflects an individual young person’s relationship with God.
It’s okay to pace yourself. Set realistic expectations. Know your kids.
Tips for reconnecting at youth group
1. High energy games for the ‘super keen, I was born caffeinated’ kids
Some young people are going to be absolutely stoked to be out of lockdown and probably more excited to see their friends than their leaders at first. Some high energy games that allow for leaders to actively participate can help burn off that extra lockdown energy and give you an opportunity to be involved in the reconnecting that’s happening with their peers.
2. A low-key space for the ‘quieter, please don’t make me play this game’ kids
Expect that some of your kids will actually be a bit nervous about being face-to-face again. They might feel like they’ve forgotten how to act in social settings and find their enthusiastic peers overwhelming. It’s okay to provide a chill space for people to opt out of the games. Set it up with bean bags, food and some more relaxed activities. This is a great opportunity for good chats.
3. Shorter talks and studies
For the first few weeks, it’s probably a good idea to have shorter talks and studies. Get people used to the youth group setting. Make the change gradual.
4. Personally invite students back
There’s probably a number of kids who have dropped-off during online youth group. They might feel guilty for not going and think that they’re not welcome back. Simple. Invite them again. This will make them feel welcomed, show them that they matter and demonstrate that you noticed they were missing. Group announcements are great. But a personal invitation is better.
5. Try a smaller group in a different setting
There are going to be kids who struggle to get back into youth group, regardless of whether or not they attended online. They may be low in motivation, struggling with the loss of routine or feeling as though they’re disconnected from their friends. They could also be anxious about socialising in groups again. Try organising a smaller group catch up to help ease them back into things. Go for a walk, grab a milkshake. Showing that you understand and accept where they’re at is a great way to take the love of Jesus to them.