It’s been two weeks since students have been in their classrooms. Many have spent a LOT of time at home (likely a considerable amount in their rooms). Some go to their default past–time (whether it’s gaming, Netflix binging, Tik Tok videos to name a few), others complain of being bored (despite not being willing to do anything). There is a better way for students to use their time, and for you to encourage your youth in the process.
Before we start, a couple of considerations:
- A person doesn’t need to tackle all 5 areas. Some may overlap. If any of your youth are stuck, have them prayerfully consider 1 area for now. If they’re still not sure, have them try one (they can always switch later).
- It’s not up to you to walk every youth through this. You may choose to mentor 1-2 of them in areas that require a deeper focus. Some students may need you to meet with them initially, then they can take it from there. You could have some youth mentor one another in peer mentoring situations. Some of these ideas (like “new interests”) can be group activities.
- During this state of emergency, make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well.
Right now, students have few or no time commitments. (No school, no homework for many.) Perhaps it’s time to guide them to reset their time so it takes on some healthy rhythms and boundaries. Find out how the youth define healthy rhythms for themselves, whether it’s physical, spiritual, social, academic, mental, or “all of the above”. Some youth may be ready to create a whole new plan. Others may have no idea where to start. The weeks remaining in this “time off” provide students with the opportunity to at least experiment with 1-2 areas in their lives. Most already have an idea of what healthier boundaries they should pursue (e.g. “I probably shouldn’t always be going to bed at 4 am and waiting up at 2pm.”). But changing habits takes time and effort. Encourage each youth to think of a reasonable plan for the next 21 days, then hold them accountable.
What’s something new the students in your youth group haven’t explored? Try curating a list of different people’s interests, which can be submitted anonymously. That list could include items like:
- Favourite book
- Favourite music artist
- Favourite movie
- Favourite TV show as an 8-year-old
- Favourite Bible story
- Favourite snack
- Favourite website
- Favourite short-story
- Favourite YouTube video
- Favourite virtual game
Be aware that you may need to edit the list for content before making it available to the group. Challenge each student to choose 1 category a day, find a recommendation they’ve never experienced before, then try it out.
If students had a chance to learn something new (a new skill, a topic of interest, etc.), what would it be? There’s time to try it now. Whether it’s following YouTube instructional videos to play guitar, trying some cross-training exercises, doing research on a new topic of interest, or learning a new life skill (like cooking or budgeting), encourage them to work on it for the next 3 days (or longer). If possible, suggest resources (including experts you have connections with).
TIME TO SORT
When we’re busy, we tend to avoid unresolved issues. When there’s time alone (at least physically), sometimes those issues surface. Since late February, p*rn views and searches have dramatically increased because people (including youth) have more time without commitments.
It’s during stretches of time like this that God sometimes helps to bring unresolved issues to the surface. Students will need people to help them process those issues. It may hurt. It may take a while (even beyond the state of emergency). Whether it’s an active listening adult like yourself or a professional therapist, encourage them to lean into God as he seeks to bring resolution to what’s broken.
WHO NEEDS HELP?
While it’s great to take time to become better personally, it’s also important to encourage youth to help someone else right now. They can help in ways that seem simple, such as checking in on someone they haven’t seen for a while (whether from youth group, a relative, an older adult in the congregation), but their actions can be significant. Maybe there is a specific need you’re aware of like helping someone who’s not proficient at video conferencing by teaching them how to do so (while practising physical distancing). Maybe there’s a worthwhile cause they want to bring awareness to—encourage them to be creative in those campaign!
While it may seem for some of them that there’s lots of time and nothing to do, assure your youth that God has a rich and bountiful array of ways he’s continuing to transform each of us—younger and older—for his glory, whether it’s through personal growth or reaching out to others in the name of Jesus.