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Quaranteam Jesus: Keeping the Lessons Learned from Virtual Ministry Moving Forward

“All right! Everyone go get the biggest ball of lint you can find out of your dryer filter, and GO!”

If you thought that virtual ministry was going to be any less messy (literally or figuratively), you were sadly mistaken.

“Can You Unmute Yourself?”
For true ministry in a virtual space, we needed to provide faith-filled deep connections to counter the surface-level connections that are all too easy over the Internet. We also needed to balance that depth with silliness, lightheartedness, and joyful hope in the midst of some heavy things in the world.

It’s an oft-repeated saying around Life Teen training sessions that teens will care what you know once they know that you care. And they know you care when you’re willing to learn their technology in order to reach out to them and meet them where they are — which in this past year has meant a literal physical distance in addition to what once was merely metaphorical spiritual distance.

So when I was accidentally muted, and the teens were shaking their heads?
It was fine.
And when I called a teen by the wrong name because it had been so long since I’d seen him in person?
It was fine.
And when a glitch in using a virtual background made it look like my eyes were floating on an image of the coronavirus?
Again, fine.
Embarrassing, awkward, and ridiculous as all that was for me on a personal level, the teens were totally there for it, giving me the benefit of the doubt and the grace that they likely never received when they were in the same kind of situation. And even if your teens aren’t so sweet to you, they certainly have the opportunity to develop that empathy and maybe let their guard down a bit to give you the chance to share the gospel.

Quaran-timely Lessons
We need to keep coming up with new and different ways to keep reaching teens in their spaces instead of simply hoping to welcome them into church spaces. Right now, many of those spaces are virtual, anyway, but the lessons we’ve learned over this past year are so priceless; let us not be so quick to go back to “normal” in our ministry.

  1. Go Live
    There’s just something about interacting with a live person that cannot be replicated by watching someone’s pre-recorded message — even if it’s the same person giving literally the same message. Making yourself a little vulnerable and doing a live social media session or virtual hangout is a little intimidating if you’ve never done so before, and some people will be better at it than others. Still, the personal touch and feeling of accessibility is irreplaceable. Just like we value Core and youth ministers giving live teaching for each Life Night instead of resorting to only a video each week, we need to prioritize live virtual interaction, as well, even as we’re diving back into in-person gatherings.
  2. Teens Will Teach You
    Don’t pretend you know what teen lingo means if you do not. Don’t guess how to use a social app. And don’t be afraid to ask a teen. Admitting that we do not know something and empowering our young people to teach us are two major ways to enter into a relational ministry that is real and impactful.
  3. Lead With Joy
    There was a lot of real turmoil over this past year and into this one. There have been a lot of reasons for grief and a lot of reasons for rage and tears. But the Lord is the “reason for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15). And if we leave out that hope, that joy that comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5), or hide it because what we are going through is serious, difficult, or painful, we are doing a complete disservice to our young people and not, in fact, sharing the Good News at all.
  4. Authenticity Over Perfection
    Our young people get enough in their lives that is fake, photoshopped, overly curated, or even downright deceptive; they don’t need that from their ministers, too. Yes, please come out of your comfort zone to meet teens on their journey, but remember that what they need is you: a real person doing a real thing in their lives, not another influencer selling them unkept promises.
  5. Begin Everything in Christ and Bring Everything Back Around to Him
    You are not nearly alone if your personal prayer life has struggled mightily this year. But as people charged with “bringing teens closer to Christ,” we have the essential duty of starting with our own prayer. And then we have the equally important task of bringing everything back to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, instead of to ourselves or to some secular values, or, worse, just leaving young people to find their own way.

When relying so heavily on electronic connection, it’s exponentially essential to bring Jesus into every space: He’s not nearly as present online as He should be, and as we meet this digital mission field head-on, remember that even if everything feels different or unfamiliar, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and He is staring at that screen, too.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

About the Author

Kelly Sheredy

Kelly Sheredy is a wife, a stay-at-home mom, a Secular Carmelite, and a freelance writer and editor near Cleveland, Ohio. As a Life Teen Core Member, admin for Blessed is She - Cleveland, former middle school youth minister, and a sinner in need of a savior, she certainly loves a challenge.

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