1. Covid creativity
The pandemic forced everyone to adapt to something no one expected. One of the inspiring things about it was seeing youth leaders and organisation innovating in exciting, creative ways to meet the sudden challenges. No doubt for many it was a really difficult time, perhaps being furloughed, burned out or just discouraged by the effects of Covid-19 on youth work. One thing we hope helped in all this was setting up the Coronavirus Liveblog as a way of sharing all the brilliant things you’re doing, linking people to vital resources, and sharing any encouragement and tools we could to help. The blog is archived but still searchable if you’re interested, and we set up a new hub for our pandemic-related resources at the Covid-19 Resource Hub.
2. Launching Satellites 2021
The team and the plans our new summer event Satellites 2021 took off significantly this year. We opened up bookings for next year’s event and while we’re following the news and the science closely, we’re still planning for it to go ahead. The event is driven by seven core values and a fundamental vision for discipleship – one where we revolve around God and not the other way around. Martin Saunders, Director of Satellites, also published his book We are Satellites this year, which explores these ideas in greater depth. Want to read it with your youth group? Youth leaders can get a study guide for the book if they buy six copies for their group at the YS Store – and they’ll get a 7th book free. There’s loads more announcements about Satellites to come very soon, including a new website in the new year!
3. Headstrong is here
Everyone’s wellbeing has been challenged this year, but young people may have had it the worst – indeed it seems they’ve often been forgotten or side-lined in this crisis. Whether disconnected from friends, stuck in difficult home situations, or facing overwhelming uncertainty about exams and their futures, it’s been a lot to cope with. Mental health and wellbeing has long been a priority at Youthscape and this year we launched Headstrong, a new platform aimed at young people to help them with their wellbeing. You can read more about it here, or explore the site, which is packed with advice, reflection and encouragement from Christian mental health professionals, here. There’s also fantastic group resources, exploring the challenges of lockdown and isolation, that you can download for free on the Store.
4. Luton gets cooking
Youthscape Luton ran a new local programme during lockdown called Cook with Youthscape. It was designed not only to support young people who live in poverty, providing them and their family with a healthy vegetarian meal, but also empowering them with new skills. Each family received a parcel of ingredients and a physical recipe card, as well as access to a digital recipe video walking them through each of the steps. This way, the young person was able to do something positive and productive away from screens, as well as learn something new. 337 young people engaged with Cook with Youthscape, serving 6360+ meals throughout the 12-week programme! YS Luton also partnered with 19 other local organisations to form We are Luton, answering 383 referrals from families across Luton in need of support. They also brought Youthscape’s lockdown wellbeing resource Thrive to 38 secondary schools across Bedfordshire, engaging ~ 16,785 students with the material.
5. Big brains at work
The Research team has been as industrious as ever. This year they published their We do God research, which explores the role of spiritual practices in youth ministry. It looked at ways youth workers might ‘try on’ faith through ‘spiritual experiments’ such as prayer, fasting, forgiveness or challenging injustice. These practices can help those who don’t have faith begin to feel what it might look like, whilst deepening discipleship for Christian young people. You can read more of the fascinating findings here. A lot has happened since We do God came out – but more recently Dr Phoebe Hill thought about what it might mean for young people to ‘perform’ faith in a pandemic that has largely shut corporate Christian practice down, reducing church experience to a session on Zoom.
The Research team also ran a mini survey called the 3x3 in the spring, which looked at youth workers’ experiences of lockdown. Our research quarterly The Storyhas continued, with tons of content related to the challenges of Covid-19. The Research News blog concluded this year with a fascinating, 3-part deep dive conversation between Dr Phoebe Hill and Dr Andrew Root, where they explored a ‘theology of online youth work’. They talked about Zoom fatigue, our relationship to technology, theologising coronavirus, and keeping hope and faith in these strange times.
6. New youth work resources
The Innovation team have been busy making new resources to help youth leaders and young people. We created an extensive tool called Showcase to help young people fuse faith and creativity – using all kinds of artistic activities to reflect theologically and grow in their faith. We made two free downloadable Bible-study resources designed for use either in-person or online, called Together Apart. We also rewrote our Shuffle: Mindset resource – a great way to help young people develop positive habits around their wellbeing.
7. Podcast powers on
Martin Saunders, Rachel Gardner, and their excellent guests made several Covid-19 podcast specials during the first lockdown to help respond to the rapidly shifting terrain. Later in the year, the YS Podcast had a min-revamp, with a new episode format, a new ’season’ structure, and even a new logo and jingle. You can catch all the episodes, previous seasons and their excellent guests here.
8. Gathering online
Lockdown made large gatherings and conferences impossible this year, but in the summer we were able to run Now What?, an online conference for youth leaders adapting to all that had happened so far. It was full of brilliant content that you can still catch up with if you missed, here. We loved gathering with you, albeit virtually. We held another conference in October, the New Hope schools work conference, which was another excellent chance to unite and encourage one another in the midst of seriously challenging times. Stay tuned for another online conference coming in early 2021…
9. Words from the wise
We have two blog platforms on the Youthscape site, Youth Work News and Research News, and there’s always interesting stuff happening on both. As you can imagine, there was a lot of deep reflection going on about what the pandemic has done and is doing to us, and what we can do about it. How did young people become scapegoats in this crisis? How can you be an anti-racist youth leader? Where is the hope for Generation Covid? How do we avoid overwhelm in a time like this, and what can we expect of lockdown’s psychological aftermath? Have we forgotten the deep, spiritual value of rest, and have we given ourselves permission to fail when life forces us to shift gear? A lot of questions, but hopefully some answers too…
Finally, and most importantly, we’re thankful for you. You pressed on, furloughed, stressed, sad, suddenly having to adapt to ever-shifting circumstances. Your courage and creativity will have brought light and hope to many in a dark time. There’s often lots happening at Youthscape but you, youth leader, and the young people you serve, are the reason it all happens. We sincerely hope that what we do is a real help to your work, and we’ll always welcome your thoughts on what we can do better. 2021 is already filling up with things we’re planning, and we can’t wait to see you there. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a hopeful New Year.