We ran this liveblog from March to May 2020 to help youth leaders respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. All the content shared can still be accessed and searched for via the sidebar.
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3 MINUTES, 3 QUESTIONS, EVERY THURSDAY AT 3 O'CLOCK
Well hey there, thanks for dropping by. The Thursday 3x3 is a chance for us to ask Christian youth workers in the UK about their experiences during lockdown. If that’s you, step right up. Every Thursday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which should take you about three minutes to answer. Today we’re repeating the very first question we asked a month ago, to see how you’re feeling - and asking about gender and your favourite lockdown tune.
Come back to the blog next week for results in our Monday Report.
Trying to get a sense for how many young people are engaged with the groups and services you're running online? Mark Crosby, Director of Communications for the Vineyard Church, has written this helpful guide to understanding the metrics for online stats.
Martin Saunders explores the monastic idea of a "Rule of Life" as a way of ordering our everyday lives. Could this also be something you encourage young people to do?
"Our markers and cues for daily living have been replaced by a swirling mass of emptiness, and for some of us, chaos. In this new, unplanned and unmeasured version of life, it’s hard to know whether we’ve had a good day or not; whether we can feel a sense of accomplishment that the day has been well-lived."
BBC Bitesize have published a really helpful article about young people and self-care. They spoke to someone from Young Minds, who suggested making a "self-soothe" box, filled with things you love, like chocolate, perfume, books you like, encouraging letters from people, etc.
Could this be helpful for some young people you're working with? Give it a read and see if you can pick up some ideas.
Welcome back to the mid-week round-up – bringing you liveblog highlights from the last seven days just in case there’s anything you’ve missed.
- We’re a few weeks into lockdown and the exhaustion of constant video calls is starting to take hold. Will Van Der Hart from the Mind and Soul Foundation articulated what so many of us are feeling his recent blog post ‘Telephone Empathy’. The article is full of insights and reflections on the exhaustion of video calls. There’s also a load of useful tips which are beneficial for youth leaders to read through and to recommend to any young people who are struggling with the beginnings of digital burnout.
- The theme of being tired of life online continued in Youthscape Podcast Special #10 where Martin and Rachel discuss ‘screen fatigue’ and how young people might try and reclaim online spaces.
- Many new resources appeared on the blog this week from several different organisations covering a variety of topics. While only a few are highlighted here, it is definitely worth scrolling through the blog to see what other excellent resources have been posted. Church Army has created a booklet titled: "Death, grief and hope", aimed at helping support young people during Covid-19. Premier Youth and Children's Work have published a really helpful article, by Mark Arnold, about how to help children/young people with additional needs to understand Coronavirus. Lastly, Youthscape released the final session in the online Together Apart series. All sessions are still available on the liveblog and provide comprehensive session plans to enable youth leaders to run a traditional youth group model online.
- Youthscape's Head of Theology, Dr Phoebe Hill, has written a blog exploring the dangers of "theologising" a crisis. The blog is inspired by a current area of research into theological reflections in youth ministry. The research team is asking for youth leaders – both employed and voluntary – to join with them on this project by filling in a survey. By taking the time to complete the survey you’ll also be in with a chance of winning a £100 voucher!
- The weekly Monday report summarised the discoveries of the Thursday 3x3 and provided insights into what youth workers are seeing and experiencing in relational to quarantine struggles, online church and life after lockdown. Please join us on 3pm each Thursday and spend 3 minutes answering 3 questions to help give us a greater understanding of what life is like for youth leaders and young people around the country at this time.
As always, we want to thank you so much for your support and if there’s something you’d love to see or even something you want to contribute in coming weeks please get in touch!
‘Together Apart’ is a short series of sessions enabling you to explore life and faith with young people, designed specifically for the context of online youth work. And it's completely free! The first two sessions can be downloaded here, the third session can be found here, the fourth session here and the fifth here. This is the final session in the series.
Each session includes a short programme around a theme, along with copious notes on everything that a youth leader might need to consider when running the session online. We’re not claiming that this is a revolutionary new youth work model – but we hope that it will prove really useful in the immediate context in which we find ourselves. As always, we welcome your feedback!
Session Six, written by Youthscape's Hannah Bradley, explores the theme of prayer (download it via the adjacent link). Ask the young people in your group: "Do you think prayer works?"
HOPE Together have drawn together a list of resources on their page for youth evangelism during the pandemic, including an invitation to join them in prayer. You can download prayer resources and find some ideas for schools work. Check it out!
If your youth group has toured museums and landmarks together, embraced social action, had a stop motion movie marathon and encouraged each other to try new skills, then why not try a virtual zoo or aquarium trip? Multiple zoos and aquariums across the world have set up live webcams showing footage of popular tanks and enclosures. Since many video chat platforms have a share screen function, the entire youth group is able to experience something together through one person’s screen.
- San Diego Zoo has perhaps the greatest number of webcams providing live snapshots into various animal enclosures from baboons to elephants to tigers.
- Houston Zoo also has a varied mix of webcams to view, showcasing animals such as giraffe, rhino and leafcutter ants.
- Edinburgh Zoo is another zoo with some excellent webcams to check out. The penguin enclosure is particularly entertaining!
- The Chester Zoo YouTube channel features pre-recorded tours of exhibits and animal feeds. This is definitely where to go if the live webcams in other zoos aren’t loading or the animals are hiding off-screen!
- Georgia Aquarium has several webcam tanks letting you look in on beluga whales, jellyfish and more. Georgia Aquarium is home to some ocean giants, including whale sharks and manta rays. You can view these magnificent animals and more in the Ocean Voyager exhibit.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium has webcams highlighting some of their most popular tanks. The sea otter and shark cams are some of the most viewed. The aquarium only shows footage during certain hours but plays pre-recorded clips when the live-feed is off.
INTO THE WILD
While zoos and aquariums are great at promoting species awareness and championing conservation, sometimes you just want to see animals in their natural habitat. The Explore website offers just that! While there is still aquarium and zoo footage on the site, the majority of cameras are hidden in real life nature reserves and known wildlife hotspots.
For an online session, it’s important to remember that not all young people will be interested in seeing animals in zoos and aquariums. Keep the tour short. Check it out for yourself beforehand and identify where the best webcams are so as to direct the group to the most interesting exhibits. It is also worth noting the times the live cams are running considering some of the suggested sites are based in the United States.
Make the session interactive. Ask each young person what their favourite animal is beforehand and try and find webcams or footage of that animal to highlight to them during your tour.
Many young people will be dealing with bereavement at the moment; how can we, as youth workers, best help and support them? Church Army has drawn on practical experience to create a booklet titled: "Death, grief and hope", aimed at helping support young people during Covid-19. It includes guidance on:
- Grief, and how it can affect us.
- How we can positively remember the person who has been lost.
- How saying goodbye is different because of the current crisis.
- Why Christians are still hopeful.
We’re creating a special series of the Youthscape podcast, which will continue to appear at semi-regular intervals during the current global crisis.
The latest edition has just gone live; this week, Martin and Rachel discuss "screen fatigue" and wonder if young people will move to new online spaces. They also talk about what rebellion for young people looks like in this current time.
The Bible Project has created weekly small group and church bible study resources. You'll receive an email every week containing: a Bible Project video, a short audio message, 2-3 scripture readings and 6-8 discussion questions. You could adapt these resources into material for your youth group - or maybe it'll just be the inspiration you need, as a youth leader, to care for your own spiritual life. Check out their most recent video...
Last week we asked you some questions for the Thursday 3x3 a weekly survey of three quick questions, to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic. It was another quiet week, thanks to Easter so thank you to the 57 people who answered our questions. Remember, the sample is not representative of the wider Christian youth work tribe so we shouldn’t assume that they apply to everyone!
This is a short summary of the Monday report. Head here to see the extended results.
1. KNOWNS AND UNKNOWNS: BOREDOM, ANXIETY AND POOR SLEEP
We presented a non-comprehensive list of issues young people might be facing during lock-down and asked you whether you knew young people were facing this, were concerned they might be, didn’t think it was an issue or just didn’t know. Head to the full report to see the results.
80% said they knew young people were experiencing boredom, while 68% highlighted anxiety and 67% poor sleep. It’s interesting that 56% are concerned about young people’s use of technology (too broad a concept really), but only 32% know this is actually an issue. 95% said that loneliness was either a known issue, or something they were concerned young people were experiencing, and 42% said they knew young people who had family members with COVID-19. It is interesting to look at what shows up at the bottom of the list too. There is concern that young people will be increasingly likely to be victims of exploitation, bullying or domestic violence during the lockdown, but most of our respondents either said this wasn’t an issue or they didn’t know if it was. Do we know how to spot the signs, if this was happening to a young person? Finally, two-thirds said that ‘not enough food’ wasn’t likely to be an issue for young people they supported, with only 7% highlighting that this was a known problem.
2. ONLINE CHURCH AND YOUNG PEOPLE: THE ACTION IS NOT ON SUNDAY
Many of us will have experienced multiple weeks of online church services by now, so we asked, ‘What’s that like?’ Most churches seem to be taking a pick n’ mix approach to the platforms they are using for online church services. At one end of the spectrum, some are exclusively pre-recording and broadcasting the service on YouTube while others are running highly interactive gatherings using Zoom (games, discussion, readings). In-between are the many who are blending ‘broadcast’ material alongside chat boxes or WhatsApp groups that are open for prayer/feedback or chat before/after or during services, and activities for children emailed in advance to families.
When it comes to Sunday services, the general sense was that they aren’t youth-friendly enough and that as a result, youth workers are leaning more heavily on supplementing these services with sessions straight after the Sunday service, at other times in the week (online youth groups), and with contact using other platforms (see week 1). Of those who mentioned young people specifically in relation to Sunday services, 14 of the 22 comments were negative, with only two being positive about the impact that moving online was having.
“No real provision for young people - even though we've asked for it. Church leaders seem blindsided by this, and are just focusing on their 'core flock’.”
3. THAT'S A KEEPER: ONLINE TOOLS, NEW IDEAS AND REGULAR DEVOTIONALS
Four weeks into lockdown we asked you to tell us up to three things that you’ve been doing differently in your youth work/ministry that you would like to continue doing when this period is over. Of course, the jury’s out on what ‘over’ means, but you get the idea. This one feels perhaps most important of all, so although this is a very quick analysis of your answers, I hope we can revisit this question again.
- Making better use of online platforms and tools: Zoom for team meetings, youth group and mentoring; individual/group messaging; YouTube; Instagram and better use of social media and video in general
- New content or approaches: Worship Wednesdays, online baking sessions, video-recorded interviews, digital detox, weekly shuffle challenges. Whether it’s new ideas, or a slightly different approach (simpler, shorter, less focused on content) there is lots of ‘new’ happening.
- Supporting young people’s faith. Lots of you want to keep sharing regular ‘devotional’ content, whether that’s publishing video reflections, sending texts or letters of encouragement or Instagram posts of scripture.
- More regular and one-to-one contact with young people. There’s a desire to continue to invest in relationships through checking in with individual young people, often through text, phone calls or post.
- Parents and prayer. And then finally, respondents wanted to maintain a greater level of communication with parents and to continue to pray more in the future.
SEE YOU NEXT THURSDAY
Thanks to those who took part. Why not put Thursday 3pm in your diary and check back here each week to take part yourself?
Student Christian Movement (SCM) are holding part 2 of their series: "Preparation in Exile: How do we help young people prepare for university during Covid-19?" - an open discussion for youth workers, church leaders, Chaplains and those involved in further education. Tune in on Wednesday 22nd April from 11.30am via Zoom.
Premier Youth and Children's Work have published a really helpful article, written by Mark Arnold, about how to help children/young people with additional needs to understand Coronavirus. Mark is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints. The article lists some useful resources and gives some practical tips.
Are you drafting volunteers in to help with your youth group? Trying to get people up to speed with online youth work? Or maybe you're still looking for some help and support. Youth for Christ has a whole range of resources, including sample sessions, video tutorials and physical resources you can get on their website. Check it all out here.
Are you feeling overwhelmed? In need of some encouragement? Gemma Milligan, Youthscape's Engagement Manager, has written a blog post just for you.
"These are overwhelming circumstances, and it can sometimes be really difficult to know how to cope. And when we add into the mix the new challenge of trying to find creative ways to continue to connect with and support young people during this time, this can feel like a very big ask..."
We’ve been rummaging around in the digital basement, and found some old posters from the first few editions of our research quarterly The Story, way back in the heady years of 2015 and 2016. We thought we’d share one a week with you, as a free download, in case you find yourself with a little more time for reflection and reading. If that’s not you, stick it in a file marked ‘Later’. You can download the poster as a PDF via the adjacent link.
As well as the information found in this poster, you can download the full Losing Heart report here. You can also find the other Story posters here and here.
We've also now released the spring edition of The Story: you can read it online here, or to get the full version in print, subscribe to The Story here.
A free downloadable PDF from our research quarterly The Story, on 'everything you need to know about Losing Heart'.
Are you planning to get some extra training in during this time? Esteem Acet UK are running a four-day accredited Relationships and Sex Education Training programme online. You'll learn how to:
- Support young people in building self-esteem
- Support young people in developing healthy relationships
- Develop confidence in talking openly and sensitively about sexual health issues
- Support young people to develop skills and resilience to deal with the influence and impact of modern technology on relationships and sex (including porn)
- Communicate to young people the importance of making healthy life choices about sex
- Plan and deliver effective, fun and interactive sessions with young people
- Apply best practice and recommended government policy guidelines
They are also posting out a pack of physical resources to use during the training, including #isitOK?, the sexting resource that Youthscape and Esteem Acet UK worked on together.
Onelife Leaders have put together some ready-to-use resources for youth workers during the pandemic, including online gatherings for youth workers, discipleship tools and some helpful blog posts. Check it all out here.
3 MINUTES, 3 QUESTIONS, EVERY THURSDAY AT 3 O'CLOCK
Yep, you read that right. Turns out that, neat though it is, Friday at 3pm is probably not the best time to ask you our three questions. The weekend is calling, you’re winding down, and you are not ritualistically checking our blog. So, from now on, it’s the Thursday 3x3.
If you’re new to this we thought it might be important to capture some of what this glorious community is doing, thinking and feeling during an entirely new experience. But things are changing so rapidly we didn’t want to just ask once. Every Thursday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which should take you about three minutes to answer.
Today we’re asking about what young people are struggling with, and what you want to hold onto, post-pandemic.
Come back to the blog next week for results in our Monday Report.