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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"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God’". (Luke 22:14-16)
Today, on Maundy Thursday, ‘Table of the Lord’ is released – a song written to reflect how, through the cross, Jesus made a way for us to be in eternal relationship with the Father. We’re invited to a feast by his grace and, as the lyrics say, we’re in awe of all you’ve done Lord.
"We're not keeping this to ourselves, we're passing it along to the next generation - God's fame and fortune, the marvellous things he has done." (Psalm 78:4 MSG)
Tonight we’re praying for churches to have a greater desire and capacity to connect with and serve young people, during this lockdown and beyond.
Young people growing up in church need a safe space to grow in their faith. They’re living in a world where being a Christian makes them the odd one out and which is often critical, even hostile, to that faith.
Beyond the church, young people in our communities are growing up in a world where there are hardly any opportunities to explore the big questions of life or get help to face the pressures of being a teenager.
One hundred years ago, nearly 80% of young people were connected with a church where some of that could happen. Now it’s less than 3%.
Lots of churches long to find ways to meaningfully connect with young people - but they’re not sure how. Let’s pray that churches find, through prophetic imagination, creative ways to connect with young people and draw them closer to God.
Thank you, God, for calling your church to tell of your great deeds to the emerging generations. We pray that while church leaders across our nation engage in new ways to ‘do’ church, that there will be a growing desire to reach emerging generations. We pray that entire churches will be equipped to reach young people. We pray for an unleashing of resources into youth ministry and for you to raise up a wave of your people, eager to reach, serve, champion and disciple young people.
3 MINUTES, 3 QUESTIONS, EVERY FRIDAY AT 3 O'CLOCK
We are scattered, physically distanced and isolated. Yet we’re going through similar experiences in a way that is entirely new. We have never done this before, and everyone is improvising. 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.
Welcome to this week’s (Thursday) 3x3 - a way to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every Friday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which should take you about three minutes to answer. Due to the bank holiday tomorrow, we're releasing it a day early this week. Today we’re asking about guideline compliance, the experience of furloughing and who you’ve been engaging with.
Come back to the blog next week for results in our Monday Report.
The Methodist Church has collected some resources for Holy Week at home for families and individuals. Their Children, Youth and Families team have created a Holy Week journal for young people, which you can find here. There are also creative ideas for how to engage with Maundy Thursday at home.
Movement have just launched a new filmed podcast series that you can watch on YouTube or listen to on platforms like Spotify. In Series 1 of the new Movement Podcast, they will be focusing on "Creative Ways To Make An Impact".
Throughout the course of this series, they will talk to friends who are leading the way in various aspects of creativity, including Dan Blythe (Hillsong London), Tearfund (We Are Tearfund youth team), Elle Limebear (Worship Artist), Paul Nelson (Bright City) and Tom Smith (Soul Survivor).
At the end of each episode, there are three questions, so that no matter how you’re listening or watching, you can engage further and press into the things God may be stirring up in your life - as you make a creative impact wherever God’s called you.
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." (Psalm 34:18 NLT)
Tonight we’re praying for young people who are living closer to uncertainty, risk and suffering during the lockdown. Some are experiencing a ‘double lockdown’ by living in households or families where they are at greater risk of being hurt, abused or neglected by those they are having to self-isolate with. Some young people will be witnessing increased violence between people in their households.
Some young people will be staying with neighbours or other relatives as one or both parents are key workers and have been deployed to areas of very high risk.
Some young people have friends or family members who have tested positive for covid19. Some young people have already been bereaved. Others will lose loved ones to the virus as the weeks go by.
Ever-present God, thank you that you draw close to those in great need. We ask you to draw close to young people who are facing grief, suffering and uncertainty in their isolation. Keep them under the shadow of your mercy and hold them in their anxiety and fears. May people around them have the skill and wisdom to respond to their needs.
May those in need of protection reach out for help and find the support they need, quickly.
May those who are grieving know your comfort and love.
May those who are anxious for families they are in isolation with or are separate from, know peace in the midst of their fears.
We've been posting a lot on this liveblog and we don't want you to miss out, so we thought we’d give you a mid-week round-up of some our highlights you might have missed over the last seven days:
- Together Apart session three and session four came out this week! These comprehensive session plans are part of a short series enabling you to explore life and faith with young people, designed specifically for the context of online youth work.
- There have been several great podcasts released in the last week but in particular, we recommend checking out Dr Kate Middleton’s insights into the mental health of young people during isolation. There are tips and practical advice applicable to both young people and youth leaders alike. On a similar theme, another great article to check out is Young Minds blog post 'Young people's self-care tips for self-isolation’ which features practical advice from young people themselves!
- Writer and broadcaster Andy Robertson shared some excellent content on the ‘Spirituality of Games’. He challenged us to reevaluate the way we view video games and how these games are more than just entertainment to young people – they are a new way to tell stories, to engage with the world and make sense of life.
- Our friends at Open Doors Youth have created some incredible resources for young people and youth leaders for this time of isolation – learning lessons from the persecuted church. These resources are available in several different media forms and explore themes of uncertainty, isolation, lack and fear.
- The ultimate ‘Lockdown Listicle’ appeared on the liveblog just in time for the start of the Easter ‘holidays’! This list brings together 99 fun, thoughtful and creative ideas young people can try out over the next couple of weeks.
These are just a few highlights from a week of all-around incredible content. 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, released last week, can be downloaded here and the third session can be found here. You can catch a new session of Together Apart every Wednesday here on the liveblog.
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 Four, written by Youthscape's Hannah Bradley, explores the theme of curiosity and conviction (download it via the adjacent link). Would you stand up for something you believe in even if everyone else was against you?
A lot of young people are using Houseparty at the moment, a video-sharing app that's been around since 2016 but gaining popularity recently (it's had over 2 million downloads in just one week). It's also received a lot of negative press because of security worries - it has features that allow people to easily virtually "enter" a room. Open View Education have written this helpful blog post for a clearer overview of Houseparty.
There's been a lot of talk about online youth work on this blog, as many of us try to adapt to this new reality we're living in. However, there may still be some ways we can support young people "offline". Jemimah Woodbridge, Director of YS Luton, shares some ideas in her new blog post.
"Local authorities everywhere are going to be faced by some desperately difficult problems to solve when it comes to young people, and we could be part of the solution..."
Starting digital evangelism for the first time? Need tips for how to use social media to reach young people? We recommend this blog post by our friend Ben Cutting, digital evangelist at Youth for Christ. We love this quote about digital evangelism for the long haul:
"In that sense, digital evangelism is like dieting. You can shortcut the proper process and get some instant results but long term, it requires time and consistency to be more than a flash in the pan. I want to encourage you that when all this is over and the youth group can meet up again, please continue what you have started online."
"Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." (Proverbs 18:24 MSG)
Tonight we’re praying for young people’s friendships. During the teenage years, friendships take on a powerful new dimension in helping young people gather a deep sense of belonging and confidence. On the flip side, it’s also the time when young people are most vulnerable to feelings of rejection and loneliness if they don’t find close, supportive friends, or if they are caught up in peer groups that assert a negative influence on them.
Let’s pray that when the regular routines that provide social connection, stability and purpose are removed, young people in our churches and communities will find existing friendships growing stronger, make new positive friendships and find brilliant ways to support each other.
Father, friendships are a brilliant gift from you.
We thank you that young people are often the best at demonstrating the kind of loyalty, sense of adventure and compassion in their friendships that delight your heart. Tonight we pray that you will bless the young people in our churches and communities with even greater skills to develop positive friendships that will build their confidence and increase their hope in this difficult time.
May they find opportunities to be honest and vulnerable with each other, in a way that’s safe.
May they be courageous in reaching out to peers who may feel lonely or are struggling at this time.
For young people who may have felt socially isolated and lonely before covid19, may this break from the regular routine give them new ways to express themselves and find good, lasting friendships.
For young people who may be feeling trapped or overwhelmed in their peer groups, uncertain who their friends are or suffering bullying online, may they have the strength to reach out to peers and adults who can support and love them.
For young people whose struggles to accept themselves and feel that they fit in is exaggerated by social media, may they find safe and meaningful ways to connect with peers online.
May the young people who know you, find the confidence to take the risk of sharing you with their friends.
Looking for another group activity to do with young people during the lockdown? Instead of the usual in-person movie night, why not have a Netflix party? Netflix Party is an add-on to Netflix that allows people with different accounts to all watch the same thing at the same time. If someone pauses the show to grab some popcorn, it’s paused for everyone. There’s also a fun chat option at the side so people can send comments to one another while the movie’s going on.
This will only work if everyone in your youth group has a Netflix account. The other challenge is that Netflix Party is only compatible when running on a laptop or desktop computer because it's downloaded and run via Chrome. Hopefully, even if a young person doesn’t have their own account or own a computer, someone in the family will be willing to let them borrow theirs for the night.
Prior to any party, make sure you follow your usual safeguarding procedures regarding consents and also ensure you’re not exposing young people to anything which isn’t age-appropriate. Netflix has an abundance of movies to choose from but why not select something that you can use to fuel discussions in subsequent group meetups?
Films like ‘Lion’, ‘The Boy who Harnessed the Wind’ and ‘The Theory of Everything’. All these movies contain inspirational themes of characters who overcome immense challenges. You could pull out themes from the movies and link to bible stories with similar themes. Use these movies as a link between the experiences of fictional characters and lessons learnt from reading scripture.
Here’s how you’d go about setting up your lockdown movie night:
- Download and install the Netflix Party extension from Chrome
- Make sure all the young people have also downloaded the extension otherwise they won’t be able to join the party
- Load the Netflix website and choose a movie
- Choose something light-hearted and funny to watch – something young people would naturally laugh and chat about if they were watching it in person
- Turn that solo-movie into a party by clicking on the red NP at the top right of the screen
- Start the party and invite your youth group to join by sharing the URL
- They then can click on that URL invite which will load their own Netflix account and they join the movie by clicking on the red NP in the top right of their screen
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; in it, Martin and Rachel talk about youth workers or workers in youth organisations who might now be on furlough. How does this play into our rhythms of life?
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 read more about our response to sexting in this Research News blog by Rachel Gardner. We have also worked with esteem Acet UK to produce #isitOK? - a resource to help youth workers talk to young people about the dangers of sexting.
A free downloadable PDF from our research quarterly The Story, on 'everything you need to know about sexting'.
The Diocese of London Children & Youth has a page full of useful resources: helpful links for young people, children and families. They've also been running online discussions; you can tune into them or watch videos of previous discussions. Find it all here.
"Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." (Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG)
Tonight we’re praying for young people in our churches and communities to experience the goodness and mercy of God. Whether we are able or not to stay in contact with the young people we’re called to serve, we can rest in the confidence that God is more than able to make his presence known to each and every young person right now. Social isolation is no barrier to the Holy Spirit. If you can, bring young people before God by name. Ask God to pour out his blessing and comfort on the young people who are living in your community.
Father, every young person is known and loved by you. Tonight we pray that the young people in this community who you have called me to serve will reach out for you and will find you. Bless them in their homes. Bless them online. Bless them out on the streets. Bless them as they sleep. Bless them as they adjust to this new way of living. Above all, may they see and understand how wonderfully they are made and how powerfully they are loved by you. Amen.
A new network of churches which are looking to help their communities during the Covid-19 epidemic is growing rapidly. YourNeighbour.org - an initiative of the Good Faith Partnership - is seeking to ‘help churches to be good neighbours’ by equipping leaders, connecting churches with people in need, and by working with the government. It’s free and quick to join, and by doing so you’ll get access to a range of online resources, including some from Youthscape.
Last week we asked you some questions for the Friday 3x3– a way to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Every Friday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which will take you no more than three minutes to answer. Sixty-nine people responded this week. So, this doesn’t represent the wider community of Christian youth workers - it just gives us a sense of what’s going on.
You can read the full-length breakdown and reflection here, but a brief summary is below:
1. EASTER: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON?
This will be an Easter like no other. We asked you to complete the statement "Over Easter, I anticipate that I will mostly…" Half of you said you were going to carry on at your current pace, with 8.7% expecting to work harder. Only 40.6% expected to slow down or stop working. Of course, we don’t know what ‘current pace’ means, or whether Easter would normally be a time for rest for all Christian youth workers (I suspect not..). But it’s a reminder that this situation will affect us differently.
2. STAYING MENTALLY WELL: PEOPLE AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS
We asked, "How important have these been for looking after your own mental health this week?" and presented a list of activities, many recommended by the NHS and other mental health charities. The weighted average shows "Staying connected to people" was most important, closely followed by "Going outside". Prayer and worship feature highly, alongside diet and rest. With a minority anticipating slowing down over Easter, it will be important for us to consider what rest means over the following two weeks.
- Staying connected to people - 2.70
- Going outside - 2.68
- Prayer, worship or meditation - 2.55
- Eating and drinking well - 2.54
- Rest - 2.50
3. DIGITAL BURNOUT: NOT MUCH "NOW", A LOT OF "NOT YET"
Digital burnout can mean feeling exhausted, distracted or disengaged when interacting online, or beginning to avoid online activity. We asked whether you had seen any evidence of young people you support experiencing digital burnout.
Fifty-five people answered this question, with 39 (71%) reporting that they had not seen evidence of young people experiencing digital burnout. Some added that they were intentionally keeping online activity simple or minimal, either in response to young people’s request for space or to avoid overload. 18 of these added the caveat ‘Not yet’with some anticipating that they would see this in days to come. Seven people said that while they didn’t see digital burnout among young people, they were experiencing it themselves.
Fourteen (25.4%) told us that they had seen evidence of young people experiencing digital burnout. Ten responded with a clear ‘yes’ to our question, and an additional four reported lower engagement with digital youth work this week compared to last week. A few of these 14 told us that young people want screen-free evenings when they’ve been doing schoolwork online in the day and that some have turned their phones off for a day.
Thanks to those who took part! If you missed it why not join us next time – see you Friday at 3pm?
During Holy Week, Christians around the world will be remembering the sacrifice of Jesus that makes it possible for us all to draw close to God. It’s good to be reminded that we can have this intimacy with the Father through the Son. And now more than ever, it’s good to pray for young people in our churches and communities to know this intimacy with the Father too. So every day this week we’re inviting youth workers and those who care about young people to join us in praying for them. Each day at 6pm we will share a prayer and a few pointers for how we can be praying for young people at this time.
We would love you to join us.