I started having serious conversations last week with parents and students about fall youth ministry plans. Our state has progressed in reopening to the point that allows in-person meetings of 50 or fewer people, all masked, who retain six feet of physical distance and who preferably gather outside. So it seemed worth considering: could we gather youth under those conditions?
The conversations revealed persistent anxiety about reopening, even though we’ve slowly been doing it for weeks. Outbreaks in other regions of the country are scary, and the daily case count in our state started moving in the wrong direction last week, too, making any mid-July decisions about September and October feel tentative, if not foolish. The parents of my students are on top of that, for very good reason.
Talking with them also made clear that decisions about church participation will likely follow decisions about school and sports activities. If schools aren’t open, church events won’t see a lot of kids. If schools are, they might see some.
The clearest picture right now is one of continuing online youth ministry. Of course, “continuing” need not mean extending our emergency plans from the spring into the indefinite future. We can iterate on Zoom. We can make the kinds of plans we’ve never made before, not simply because the circumstances don’t permit anything else, but also because they urgently call for this.
Many of us have lamented that we weren’t trained for this. Yes we were.
2 thoughts on “Fall”
Thanks for hanging onto the idea that you were, in fact, trained for this. I started last spring saying “I’m an introvert, I’ve trained for this,” and that feeling has worn away. But I am learning more about what and who I need to connect with, and that leads to how. (And that sounds like it came from my detective-story writing books. Sorry.)
We have seen many churches across the country behave recklessly, treating the question of in-person gatherings as a question of religious freedom rather than public health. So I am grateful for the cautious approach that you (and your colleagues) are taking. When schools and businesses make choices, they are weighing so many factors — if people aren’t working and children don’t have safe spaces to learn, our society will feel the impact for years to come. Church metrics are different — we need to ask, “are we loving God and loving our neighbors?” I firmly believe that we can find meaningful ways to do both without gathering in-person, for as long as necessary.
I miss being together. It hurts. And I worry that my son’s virtual confirmation class will not allow him to grow the relationships that will lead to a mature faith that he carries with him into adult-hood. These are no small things, and yet my wishes pale in comparison to my obligation to keep my neighbor safe during a global pandemic. And I think it’s particularly hard to bring children and youth together and then require them to stay apart (I recall being a leader on church youth retreats where one of us was assigned to shine a flashlight around the campfire every ten minutes for a quick headcount, as some of the confirmands were a little too eager to sneak off for some one-on-one time!) So please keep the Zoom activities coming and keep open the question of other ways we might continue to interact virtually until it’s safe to bring us together again.