Back to school feels more stressful than ever before. Parents, educators and kids are all asking what the best step is to take. More than ever, churches and youth ministries will need to be available to navigate the new few months.
So how can you best support your students, your church family and your neighbourhood in the coming months? Here are some considerations and questions.
- Make room for students to discuss what they’re experiencing. Some will feel relief in seeing friends. Others will feel anxiety either being home still or how others interact (perhaps in uncomfortable ways). Considering recent conversations about racism and other social justice issues, some students feel the weight or the impact from those issues. Things will likely not be back to the pre-COVID normal, so how are they navigating that next phase with everything else that’s happening. Providing space to debrief and process their emotions, attitudes and understandings through mentoring, small group and digital channels will be vital.
- What kinds of supports will your students need? Are some still lacking the technological capabilities to work with e-learning? Who’s missing the appropriate PPEs? These same questions can also be asked with schools and staff. How can your church help provide some of those supplies or other supports creatively?
- Some parents may not feel comfortable sending their kids back to school. What ways can you support them especially if they still need to work?
- With some high school students attending classes in-person part-time, what other ways can you provide space for them, encouraging them in their online learning and perhaps channeling their energies into productive areas. Are there areas of service (both online and in-person) that they could engage with?
- If there are church members and friends who are educators, what kinds of support and encouragement might they need especially navigating both the new guidelines for in-person as well as maintaining online learning?
- Especially for those in remote learning and/or asynchronous learning, what room could be made where youth can study together while physically distanced?
There are some specific considerations as you move forward:
- What adjustments do your volunteer leaders need? How has their work or other life expectations changed this fall?
- What parts of your youth ministry are non-negotiables? Given the assets (personnel, finances, etc.) you have available, what needs to adapt so those non-negotiables can be met?
- Alongside that, what adaptations need to happen or planned for?
- How are you adapting/coping amid all this? Do you have a network to turn to for help (for personal and ministry care)?
- Are there ways you can “join forces” with a nearby ministry to support your neighbourhood?
There are still many answers missing from the discussion of going back to school in the coming weeks. At least we can begin to think through ways our churches and youth ministries can be a support and blessing to our local communities. May we diligently pray for all the different factors that will unfold in this unique “back to school”. (And if it’s helpful to process this with someone, contact us via our webpage, phone at 416-620-2946, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.)