Pastors did the necessary pivots and were quick to adopt new technology, and ministry quickly changed. As restrictions relax, communities cautiously step out, and churches prepare to meet together in a limited capacity, some of the online ministries may not be utilized as much as they were. But for many, if not most, the lessons learned during COVID-19 will impact the way we do ministry. They will likely inform “the new normal.”
Ministry leaders have had to adapt their strategies to meet the needs of their particular groups. Kyle Engle, the children’s and youth pastor at Olney Baptist Church (OBC) in Maryland, has compiled resources for those ministering to youth, giving helpful detailed information.
We know there are a lot of resources out there, but how do we know where to begin? Which ones are actually worth getting and using? This list is intended to help you by providing certain resources that I have found to be useful for ministry for this season of life and which can also be extremely helpful for ministry in the years to come.
Virtual meeting resources
- Zoom: The free account will allow you to do a meeting for up to 40 minutes at a time. If you want to host for a longer time period, a paid subscription costs $15 per month. You can have up to 100 participants with either subscription. You can share your screen, use the built-in whiteboard, and it is easy to play virtual games with Zoom as well.
- Instagram Live: If most of your students are on Instagram, then you can use Instagram Live. It would, however, take a while to track down all your students and make sure they are all following you and vice versa. You should only use this if the large majority are already on Instagram.
- Google Hang out is free and works much like Zoom.
Virtual game resources
- downloadyouthministry.com (DYM): This website is designed for youth ministers. There are many inexpensive games available for purchase. Sign up for their email list, as you will sometimes receive free games. There is some good curriculum on there, but not all the curriculum in their shop is worth getting.
- Sidekick: This is an actual platform where you can play games and make you can make your own games. Many of the games provided at DYM are playable on Sidekick. The cost is $12 per month. You can purchase a DYM and Sidekick bundle and you can also try both out for free.
I use a PowerPoint for my students every time I teach, even when I am using Zoom. It gives them something to look at other than my face and many students retain information visually.
- Canva: Canva allows you to make nice graphics and a free version is available.
- ShareFaith: I always use ShareFaith for my PowerPoint presentations. The templates allow for some customization. It is pricier, at $25 per month. To maximize the benefit, our church shares an account between different ministries.
For some ministries, sending quick videos to their students and parents is an important part of how they do ministry. A 30-second video can, in fact, have more impact on a student than a 30-minute message. But, unless you have good resources to help you, it can be very annoying to make short little videos and it can take up way too much time.
- YouTube: This is free and not too complicated to use.
- BIGVU: This is an app you can download on your phone/tablet and it has a free trial. Not only can you make videos, but the app also provides you with a teleprompter which makes videos so much easier to do! You can also edit your video a bit in the app and the program provides you with an online link that you can send directly to others very easily. Download BIGVU to try it out for free. After the free trial, it is $9 a month.
During this time, communication with both students and parents is key!! If you are not communicating with both your students and parents on a weekly basis, it is likely you are not reaching your students or getting them to show up to your virtual ministry.
- Mass Texting System: If you are not using a mass texting system, then you are missing out! With this technology at your disposal, you will be able to easily communicate as much as you need to! Certain texting systems can integrate with other online software systems you are using. Clearstream and TextInChurch are the most popular and do cost money. If your budget cannot support that, Remind, an app, is free and fairly user-friendly. I send two texts a week to my students as reminders/promotion for my weekly ministry, one in the middle of the week and one about 2 hours before we meet for our weekly ministry. You can pre-schedule texts as well. I also send my parents a short video once a week, answering the question as to why they want their students to show up this week. I make a video in BIGVU and then send that link via Clearstream.
I also do is keep attendance, even during this pandemic. After our weekly ministry, I will send a personal text to every single student who did not show, letting them know that I missed them. I will also text every parent of every student who did not show and let them know I missed their kid being there.
Also, about five minutes after our Zoom meeting has started, I will send a personal text to every student who has not shown up yet, asking if they are going to join us. Often, my attendance will double within the first 10 minutes of the Zoom meeting because of those personal texts. This may seem like a lot but once you get used to it, it really just becomes part of what you do.
General youth ministry resources
Rootedministry: This is another good resource for parents and youth leaders with relevant content, podcasts, resources, and much more.
Here are some extra links that might be helpful: an example of OBC’s Children’s Message during coronavirus and a free curriculum which includes a 3-week series on anxiety (3 lessons/3 power points/3 screen games).
DO NOT TRY TO DO EVERYTHING! Pick one or two things that you think would probably work well for your ministry and stick to them. When it comes to ministry, it is better to do one thing excellently than to add as many things to the calendar as possible. Put more emphasis and planning into your weekly ministry than in planning events and games.
Check out the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s free bi-weekly online “Kidmin Forum” for networking opportunities and to get more information about VBS and more.