Just like everyone else, the youth in our churches have had to deal with big changes over the last two years due to the pandemic. Through those changes, some were drawn closer to God and some pulled farther away. At RE:NEW’s Virtual Cafe with Youth Workers this past February, youth pastors shared how they dealt with the challenge of how to support and keep youth within the community of God amidst changing regulations affecting everyday interactions with others. In Part 1, we heard from Youth Pastor Jeff Chan’s experiences and the strategies he used to successfully minister to the youth during the pandemic. In this part, we will hear from Youth Pastor Leona Chen.
Pastor Leona led the youth ministry at Evangelical Formosan Church of Arcadia for 5 years. Unlike Pastor Jeff’s youth group, her youth ministry was very small and made up mostly of deacons’ kids. Many of these kids had similar issues to pastors’ kids: not being personally motivated to attend youth group, but doing so out of duty or to honor parents. Before the pandemic, attendance was sporadic which made ministry events difficult to plan. The pandemic ended up being a blessing in disguise though.
Because all of the kids’ schools had closed and their grades were slacking, Leona got the idea to host Tutor Tuesday Zoom meetings where she would help the kids in her youth group get their work done and figure out a schedule to manage their workload. Soon, she found that the kids’ enjoyed the online hangout time to do schoolwork together and even found ways to compete with one another and make it fun. The Zoom meetings were so popular that she began holding Tutor Thursday meetings as well. Sometimes the students didn’t even want to sign off at the end of their meeting. Leona recalled a time when she had to end their meeting so she could cook dinner, but because the kids didn’t want her to leave, she brought her computer into the kitchen and showed the students what she was cooking and how she prepared dinner.
Pastor Leona shared that these Zoom meetings gave a space for the kids to bond with one another during a difficult and confusing time. After they went back to in-person youth ministry, she noticed that because of the relationship built during the pandemic, the attendance and retention rate was 90%, which was very different from what it was before. Although she hopes to continue her friendship with these students, Pastor Leona is now transitioning into intergenerational ministry at the church where her husband is a youth pastor.
After hearing from the youth pastors, Dr. Agnes Ip, the CEO and Founder of Presence, shared with attendees the results of a recent survey done by RE:NEW about the life of young people in Chinese-American churches during the pandemic and the transition into reopening. She gave an in-depth look into what challenges young people are facing in the areas of schooling, career path, mental health, social relationships, family relationships and relationship with the church. To access the detailed survey report and additional resources, please visit RE:NEW’s website here.
The Virtual Cafe with Youth Workers was closed by a few questions from others involved or interested in youth ministry and a time of prayer. It was a meaningful time for youth leaders to connect, fellowship and learn from one another.
Written by: Elizabeth
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