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Youth work in isolation: Time for a new gameplan

Lahna Pottle

27 Mar, 2020

 

COVID-19 has scuppered all plans and programs, forcing a dramatic reimagination. Lahna Pottle explores what that means for youth work, and how rethinking Youthscape’s The Gameplan could help.

 

Eight months ago I moved back to my home town to start as the youth and young adults worker at my home church. It’s an incredible job, it’s fast paced, and I came in excited with a bunch of ideas. Over the last 8 months I have worked to build back a schools ministry and youth ministry and seen it grow, albeit painstakingly slowly.

I’m the only youth worker, it’s a team of one in many ways and so over the months I have found different tools to help me keep focus, keep organised, keep dreaming, and keep sane. One such tool is Youthscape’s The Gameplan. It’s a weekly planner for youth workers with areas to reflect on your week, write a prayer for your youth ministry, organise your different events, and then there’s always a reflection that gets you to think about a particular area of your youth ministry.

Fast forward eight months and I sit in my kitchen, as many youth workers I suspect now are: overwhelmed, confused and feeling like all my plans have slipped through my fingertips and smashed on the kitchen floor. I’m having to completely rethink how I do youth ministry, what my week looks like, and I have so much to do to try and turn this around. Meanwhile my mind is spinning with the ramifications of this professionally and personally. And all of that chaos is going on while we need to be socially distancing and so I can’t grab a coffee with a youth work friend and have a cry like I want to.

I need a new game plan.

The old ways and the new

So I had a little cry, several phone calls and zooms with friends, and I feel back on track ready to re-imagine, re-try, and prophetically re-imagine what the youth ministry I do is going to look like. The Gameplan has been a brilliant tool for me, but it was designed for the old way of doing things, rather than for this new paradigm. I wanted to find ways for it to become useful in this new context, and so here are some of my ideas:

*As a caveat to this article, I had nothing to do with the creation of this resource! I’m aware it feels a bit icky (and perhaps even opportunistic) to be writing about a resource created by the charity I work for. I’ve just found it to be a really helpful tool over the last few months and in the last few days, and I wanted a chance to share in case it’s helpful to someone else!

 

1. REFLECTIONS ON LAST WEEK AND NEXT WEEK
This take on the Ignatian practice of the Examen feels especially necessary right now when everything is shifting so much and so quickly. It’s given me time each week to honestly express how I’m feeling, bring it to God, and reflect on what I need to take forward into the next week. It’s amazing what 10 minutes to reflect on the week been and the week to come, can do. That time I spend at the beginning of each week helps me refocus and shift my perspective away from anxiety and towards hope, away from the unknown and towards the known, away from myself and towards God. Now more than ever, while I’m figuring out a new game plan, I need to fix my eyes firmly on God.

gameplan-inside-planner-3
 

2. PRAYERS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
I used to know what my young people wanted prayer for because we saw each other often and chatted. I’ve found that since social distancing I haven’t known what they want prayer for. This section has been a helpful reminder for me to check in with the young people I work with. Every week I take the opportunity to text them, check in with them, and see what they’d like prayer for.

 

3. TOOLS/IDEA PAGES
This page every week was always interesting but sometimes I found I had already thought/strategised about that particular area. Now, having to rethink my youth ministry almost entirely I have found myself going back to old entries and using those tools and idea pages to help me think about the various aspects of my ministry being affected and how I might reconsider them. When everything is changing, it’s easy to overlook a particular area of youth work like leadership, worship, mission and how that will look in this new model.

If you have The Gameplan you might find that it has a new lease of life at this time. It may, like me, help you start planning, processing and praying. If you don’t have one, either order one from our store if it sounds like it would be helpful, or instead find a journal and make your own!! Friends, find whatever it is that will help you to keep your eyes fixed on God right now, and give yourself time each day and each week to look back, look ahead, and give your work to God.

I have often found the Bible verse of the week to be weirdly fitting for what is going on that week (Thanks Holy Spirit!) so I’d like to leave you with the verse from this week:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

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