What is going to happen if my service gets canceled this week?
How will my students react if we can't meet together?
If you've asked yourselves these questions, know that you are not alone. Services can get canceled for a variety of reasons, and we must be prepared to lead well even from a distance.
Rain, snow, or even the coronavirus can lead to service cancellation. What if I told you there was still a way to gather even when you can't? We've compiled a list of options that is sure to keep your youth group thriving even when the room is empty.
We have some practical solutions listed below, but be sure to stay till the end for some extra encouragement.
Option 1: Devotional Approach
The goal of this method is addressing the real issue with not gathering. If we don’t gather, then what are my students learning or reading? You want your students to stay in the word of God, but it’s difficult to manage this without your pulpit capabilities. I would suggest going for a devotional approach to get students on the same page.
Use your personal and church social media to get the word out about this devotion, and challenge students to dive into their scripture together. This creates a shared experience while not being together. It also helps create good habits in having a quiet time. As youth ministers, we seem to love this approach seasonally, and yet we forget to do this throughout the year. There is a church out in Texas who does this extremely well, and they provide a year-round devotional written by their staff based on topics they are touching within their student ministry.
If you miss a week of service, you are still in the know about what’s being discussed. There are tons of resources out there to look for, and I’m a bit biased towards YM360 products. The purchasing route will save you time on your end, but also know that there can be an immense joy in self-creation of devotional resources. The Bible is the same whether we preach it from the pulpit, or study it from our couches. We must lean into this when the room is empty.
Option 2: Livestream the Message
We live in a world where our screens both isolate and powerfully connect us. We preach against technology regularly, but this is a chance to lean in and use technology to our advantage. Many churches are leaning into this option for their Sunday morning services, but you can do this for midweek gatherings as well!
You may think to yourself, we aren't the big church with fancy cameras to pull off a live stream. Those churches likely have the tech structure and cameras to host live on their site, but you have many outlets available to you outside of that. With simply a smart-phone or laptop camera, you can go live right now.
Sites like Youtube and Vimeo have live stream options, or you can use the site: Livestream! These are all platforms available today to broadcast your message to your students. Are you ready for another platform that might give you even more street cred with your students? Preach your message live on Twitch.tv. This is a platform where people have been streaming video games for ages. You've likely heard a name like Ninja when talking about Fortnite. He uses the free Twitch platform to broadcast, and you can too! When my students found out I streamed on twitch occasionally, the news spread like wildfire. Your midweek service could do the same!
The two things to keep in mind about this option are notice and attention. Here’s what I mean by those. How are you going to get your students to notice you streaming your service. Social media can once again do this or email to parents or even snail mail. I know…snail mail is still a valid way to communicate. The second is attention. How will you keep your student's attention while you stream your message? This likely means shortened messages, or even working in more visual elements to your message. You can be the best preacher in the world, but most students won't stick around for your 45-minute live-streamed message. Add some engagement by having a chat available with the live stream, use graphics and slides, or even take breaks to answer some of those things coming up in chat! This transitions perfectly to our third option.
Option 3: Social Media Stream
You may think this sounds similar to the last option. There is a bit of a difference here, though. In all of the other options, you are asking students to click a link or head to a specific address. What if they were just able to click one notification and start hearing your message? Through Instagram live and Facebook live, you can start broadcasting your service right away.
Students receive the notification that you have gone live, and it’s that easy for them to join in with you. This method also has their names pop up so you can give them a personal greeting when they arrive. Social media was built for interaction, and the live streaming options within those platforms are no different.
Your room doesn't have to be full to have a full live feed. When that live button pops up in stories, most people will click for at least a few seconds to see what's worth going live about. If you can ensure something exciting and powerful is waiting for them on the other side of the button, then you have a midweek gathering.
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Option 4: Pre-Record
Imagine this, you press the button to go live, and your internet crashes. You can't support the live stream, and the experience goes terribly. The easiest way around this is to pre-record the message or service. You can make sure your content is well produced and ensure it will land. Mess ups can be re-recorded, guests can be brought in, and there is no pressure to get everything right the first time.
If you're looking for a group that does this better than anyone else, check out Dude Perfect's Overtime show. One quick YouTube search of "Dude Perfect Overtime" will introduce you to five guys who have mastered the art of production.
This show is a talk show where five guys do goofy/random things, and you soak up all 25 minutes of the episode. We can be so quick to criticize YouTube culture, but I believe some YouTube stars are better at capturing this generation's attention than we will ever be. It's time for us to stop bashing this culture, and start learning from them. The last church I served in understood this idea, and so we asked a small group of students to grow a YouTube channel. This channel held sermons, announcements, and goofy videos. These announcement videos were shown to a room with maybe 150 people inside, and yet you go to the channel and see the video has over 500 views. That's 500 opportunities for someone to hear about your next event or summer camp.
Our students love the internet, and although that can be a problem at times, it's also where they are at. This fourth option gives you a chance to meet your people in a powerful place.
I hope these options help...
We want to make a statement here about the overall state of student ministry at this moment. This can be a scary time due to panic, worry, and the unknown. The entire world of sports has shut down, and our churches are being asked to do the same. When the world is in panic, we know the one who this was not a surprise to. We serve a God who cares for and protects us.
When we become followers of Christ, we shed the way the world thinks. Colossians 3:14-17 is what my heart holds onto during this time.
“14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
The world is looking at the church, and we must look to Christ. I pray that you gain confidence in Christ today and that your youth group remains confident even when they are not in the same room.
ROBBIE AND JAKE TALK ABOUT THESE FOUR WAYS TO GATHER & OFFER YOU A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE VIDEO BELOW.