For youth ministry, 2020 was a year of cancelled plans, changed ideas and forced innovation. Lockdowns and the loss of in-person gatherings have meant that youth leaders everywhere have had to get creative to continue engaging young people. And youth leaders rose to that challenge – youth groups moved online, care packages were delivered, letters of encouragement sent, youth services held in churches and so much more. But it’s been almost a year now, and while you may have had moments of in-person youth work in the last 12 months, here we are in 2021 still in lockdown, still struggling to keep young people engaged.
Young people are finding things really hard right now. They’re feeling frustrated and losing hope of things returning to normal anytime soon. They’re fed up of having to do everything online and feel isolated from their friends. They maybe want to connect with their youth group via video call but Zoom fatigue is setting in and those calls seem less and less appealing. It’s hard to know what to do next and how to meet young people where they’re at right now. If you’re looking for something new to try with the young people you work with, Youthscape has some resources that might work well for your situation.
Shuffle is a set of 42 cards, each with a daily challenge designed for teenagers who are exploring Christian faith. Young people are invited to play a new card every day for six weeks and the hope is that the challenges will help them experience faith in a new way. But if they pick a challenge they don’t feel ready for that day, they just put it back in the pack and shuffle! Shuffle is one of Youthscape’s most popular resources which has prompted the release of subsequent variations of the game including Shuffle: Mindset Edition (cards with challenges about mental and emotional wellbeing) and we’ve just released Shuffle: Green Edition (cards with challenges about sustainable living and care of creation).
The Shuffle resources are ideal for lockdown and socially distanced youth groups because the way the game is designed allows you to engage with young people even when not meeting with them regularly in person. Here are four ways you can use Shuffle in your youth ministry:
1. Whole group challenge
The original idea for how to use Shuffle is that each young person has their own pack and can work through the resource individually and a youth leader or parent/carer checks in on their progress from time to time. In the current context that could look like every young person in a youth group being given a Shuffle pack and asked to try a challenge a day. Once a week, the group could meet, online or socially distanced, and discuss their favourite card of the week and the one they found most challenging. The key with the weekly meetings is timing. While still online, you most likely want to keep the time to a minimum of 30-45 minutes to keep the young people’s focus and leave them wanting to chat more rather than feeling like it went on for too long. So if you have a larger youth group, why not split the young people into smaller numbers for discussion to enable everyone to have a chance to share.
2. Challenge buddies
For young people who are more likely to do a challenge if they do it with a friend, a challenge buddy system could work well. Again, ideally each young person would have their own pack, but it could work one between two for this option. The pair could alternate who chooses the card for the day and work together to complete the challenges and tick each card off the progress poster.
3. Social media stories
A growing way to connect with young people is through the use of social media. So how could you combine social media and Shuffle? Well one possibility is to use social media stories as a way of letting young people know the day’s challenge! Stories are only available to view for 24 hours making them the perfect way to suggest a new challenge every day.
Firstly, you’d need to get a Shuffle pack and set up a social media account for the youth group (if you don’t already have one). One thing be aware of is your church or organisation’s safeguarding policy for online youth work and the use of social media sites with young people. If social media youth engagement is new to your group, make sure to consult with your safeguarding lead beforehand.
Secondly, you’ll need to let the young people you work with know what’s happening. Explain to them how Shuffle works and the purpose behind the game. You could do this individually - through email, phone call to home, etc. - or by hosting a video call or in-person launch event.
Now you’re ready to begin. Each day pick out a challenge card for the young people to try. Post a photo of that particular card on your social media story and encourage the young people to get involved. At the end of the day, why not use the story poll feature to check in and see who’s done the challenge! If you want to give the young people more choice in which challenge is chosen, you could use the poll feature at the beginning of the day to decide between a couple of card choices. With this option, make sure you set a time limit for when the challenge has to be chosen by, e.g. within one hour. Similarly to the ‘whole group challenge’, you might want to gather as a group every so often to discuss how everyone is getting on.
4. Mentoring resource
The final suggestion for how to use socially distanced Shuffle is as a mentoring resource. A young person who is mentored by an older person in the church/organisation would receive a Shuffle pack and be encouraged to work through it. During regular meet-up sessions, a mentor could check-in on their mentee’s progress. They could offer encouragement, support and guidance and journey with the young person as they complete the challenges.
While we look forward in hope to a time when lockdown and social distancing are things of the past, we must continue to support the young people around us and adapt our programmes to what they need right now. So why not give Shuffle a go! Choose from one of the three packs and challenge young people to take on the responsibility of completing the tasks and activities through which their faith might grow in new and exciting ways.
Try a new kind of Shuffle
Young people care about climate justice. They see how climate change is destroying environments and communities and how the natural world is being exploited and they want to fight against it. Our recent research in collaboration with Tearfund found that 9 out of 10 Christian teenagers are concerned about climate change but only 1 out of 10 think their church is doing enough. Young people want to put their faith into action and fight for climate justice. But for many, they doubt they can make a difference as an individual and don’t know how to start making more environment-conscious choices. Shuffle: Green Edition can be the first step on that journey!
Shuffle: Green Edition invites young people to engage with the climate crisis and empowers them to make a difference. Over 42 days, through 42 challenges, young people will learn more about the impact of the climate crisis and explore how to start living sustainably. They will see God’s heart for his created world and how he asks us to care for and protect what he has made. And as we’ve explored here, Shuffle: Green Edition isn’t just a youthwork idea that has to wait till lockdown ends, restrictions ease and things get back to normal. You can Shuffle now – so why not try, and let us know how it goes?