Two months ago, COVID-19, popularly known as coronavirus, was once nothing more than a blip in the news cycle. But today, much of life is temporarily on hold. With the enactment of “social distancing,” our society is taking strong preemptive measures to quell the spread of COVID-19. Based on information our leaders are receiving from countries around the world, it is our civic responsibility to adhere to the guidelines so that we drastically reduce the spread of this virus.
This is an unprecedented time, for our generation and for the Church, which presents many opportunities for the Body to step up and shine the love of Christ in creative ways to our neighbors, friends, and youth.
As we’re all figuring out what a “new normal” looks like—as our regular routines have been temporarily interrupted, this has especially been the case for youth workers in the urban context. So here are a few tips to creatively engage with youth during social distancing, that help them process this situation through the lens of the kingdom, through Christ’s Hope, Love, Peace, and Service to others.
1. Create A Virtual Social Space:
We all know that routine is very important to youth of all ages. In the wake of social distancing, routines are disrupted. Given we are in the age of technology, there are many tools available to help maintain personal connection with youth. Consistency is important as well as reliability. Use online video conferencing tools to create a virtual community. Schedule times throughout the week to connect with youth. Taking into account that the internet and WIFI connection may be limited or reduced, use a variety of mediums. Facetime, text threads, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, and of course, Zoom are all free and accessible, even with low bandwidth.
Suggestions for creating virtual community:
Stream a movie or video, and hold a round-table discussion afterward.
Host a Chat: Send a topic and assign three people to debate on the issue; taking questions from the live audience.
Host a Bible study.
Organize a COVID-19 forum to process questions, fears, concerns, etc. related to the coronavirus and what is happening in society right now. Use this time to counter misinformation and empower youth with accurate, up-to-date knowledge.
Host a Hangout: No agenda, no pre-scripted lesson. This is just an open time to give youth the opportunity to share from their heart.
Coordinate a prayer time: Meet at the same time every day to pray for the needs that arise.
Host a virtual game time: During non-school hours, coordinate a series of online games and tournaments that are team focused and have an educational component (such as Words With Friends, Sudoku, Scrabble, SumWordz, or Gaming crews)
Exercise together for 15 minutes each day. Meet at the same time every day. Change up the exercise routine to maintain interest.
2. Safety Check-in:
For a variety of reasons, home is not always a safe space for young people. For the youth that have difficult or volatile family dynamics, the current state of social distancing may place them in harm’s way. Give careful thought to ways that you can establish a confidential check-in system that they can turn to for emotional support. Provide them with a list of emergency resources in your area and action steps they can take, should the need arise. Perhaps your church can become a temporary sanctuary for them if they need to leave their home environment.
3. Stay Calm In The Chaos:
There is no shortage of information out there as news channels are covering the impact of coronavirus 24/7. Too much information can contribute to a sense of hysteria and chaos, which can leave youth feeling anxious, annoyed, and overwhelmed. As a leader, use your position to model steadfastness in the face of cultural chaos. Help the youth in your care to find the calm in the midst of the chaos through spiritual practices such as meditation, silence, etc. Create space to listen to their fears, frustrations, and concerns, validating every emotion they are experiencing right now. In what ways can you point them to the deeper kingdom truths that can become a guiding force in such times? A virtual Bible study is a creative way to explore the examples of how God shows up in such times and the lessons that can apply to our lives today.
Check out these resources designed to guide youth into a deeper study of scripture:
Many young adults are unaware of the importance of self-care and the sooner we can enable them to tap into the practice of self-care, the better they are in the long run. As a leader, host a series of short discussions exploring the reality of how stress and anxiety impact one’s body, mind, and outlook. Discuss the importance of self-care and help them identify the types of self-care practices that are most meaningful to their needs.
Here are a couple of simple articles to help you dive into the topic of self-care:
5. Academic Assistance:
Academic support is important, especially for those children who like to ask questions and are more oratory and social learners. One way to provide structured support during social distancing is to organize micro study groups for 30 minutes each day. Let youth know the schedule and allow them to ask questions related to the subject during that specific time period. You can also help youth stay actively engaged in their studies by organizing a virtual Jeopardy or hot-round trivia event to keep interest and make study fun over the next few weeks.
Use this resource of free educational apps that will help youth stay sharp:
6. Service In Love:
As the Body of Christ, we are meant to shine light in challenging times. Scripture encourages the Body to think of the needs of others, to show genuine care for others, and to help those in need. Hold a virtual forum and invite youth to share their observations of the unintended gaps in social services, as a result of the requirement of social distancing. Brain dump all the needs they are aware of. Spend time praying through the list and asking God to show your group how to dream big so that you may help others during this time. Ask young people to keep a journal of what God is speaking to their heart to action and prompting them to respond to the needs around them. Guide them in how to care for their neighbors and friends in ways that are safe and appropriate, but still in keeping with God’s movement.
Here is a list of additional resources to help you navigate this sensitive time with caring and thoughtful leadership:
ABOUT FEATURED ARTIST: Rapper, Dee-1
If Tupac and Lauryn Hill had a son, it would be Dee-1. He is truly the voice of a generation, and has skyrocketed from doing local talent shows to rocking worldwide tours. Growing up in New Orleans, the temptation of the streets was very appealing. But these same streets broke Dee-1’s heart when his best friend got murdered. At that moment, Dee knew that God called him to break the cycle of negativity, so he chose a different route. Dee began rapping in college and became very popular on campus, but upon graduation, he decided to use his charisma and swagger to become a middle school teacher to reach the youth. He soon traded his classroom for a microphone and a stage, and the rest is history. Dee-1 entered the rap game on a mission: To inspire people everywhere to “Be Real, Be Righteous, and Be Relevant.” He has since released some of hip hop’s most powerful albums and has collaborated with platinum artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Macklemore, and Sevyn Streeter. His single, “Sallie Mae Back,” went explosively viral and became known as the “debt-free student loan anthem.” His latest album, ‘Slingshot David,’ is his most exciting project, carrying a theme of finding your Slingshot and using it to defeat your Goliaths—a concept everyone can relate to. From his dreads to his outfits, to his raps, Dee-1 is a colorful personality full of raw energy and pure hype. As he continues to rock big stages and make hit records, all he asks of the people is to stay focused and keep their #MissionVision sharp at all times. Follow Dee 1 on Instagram for more fun and relevant content.