With all the changes from the start of the pandemic until now, have you wondered how the youth in our churches have been affected? Have you wondered what youth leaders have done to help the youth cope?
In February 2023, RE:NEW hosted a Virtual Café with Youth Workers via Zoom to hear from youth ministers about some of their struggles and strategies throughout the pandemic and into reopening.
We first heard from Youth Pastor Jeff Chan who leads the youth ministry at First Evangelical Community Church (FECC) in Cerritos. When the pandemic first hit, they flooded the students with all kinds of Zoom meetings: game times, worship nights, prayer meetings, and even office hours for kids to do their homework together virtually.
Though these were very helpful in the first few weeks, Pastor Jeff noticed that after a few months, the students in his ministry became physically and emotionally strained from the constant screen time for school, church and socializing.
As a result, only about half of the youth in his ministry regularly attended online youth group meetings a few months into the pandemic. Since resuming in-person services back in July 2022, however, they have been able to build back to their original numbers.
One major positive result of the pandemic was the start of a weekly online Bible study, one for girls and another for guys. Surprisingly, it was and still is well-attended. It showed that many students really do care about their faith. Pastor Jeff also continues to lead online prayer meetings as well.
Since reopening, they’ve seen a great turnout through their sports ministries. It has been an opportunity for outreach since students like to invite their friends. The students also seem to enjoy backyard youth group meetings. They love to meet and socialize with brothers and sisters in Christ outside of school or Zoom meetings.
A major strategy Pastor Jeff mentioned was a focus on mental health and letting kids know that it was ok to slow down. Sometimes at youth group meetings, he noticed the kids would be exhausted from the week. He often had to be flexible and change his plans to meet the kids’ needs. Instead, he would take that time to ask how they were doing that week. He also hopes to invest more time in family ministry since family life plays a big part in the mental, emotional and spiritual health of the kids.
In addition to events and ministry strategies, Pastor Jeff also shared several books that he recommends his high school students read to strengthen their faith: “Younique: Designing the Life that God Dreamed for You” by Will Mancini and “The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School” by Cameron Cole and Charlotte Getz.
He also mentioned a good book for parents to read to help their kids defend their faith. And he shared about several mental health books to help students overcome issues of depression and anxiety.
Through trusting in the Lord, and seeing the changing needs of his students, Pastor Jeff was able to creatively find ways to keep the youth connected to the church and one another. He also chose to focus on major issues affecting students coming out of the pandemic: mental health and family ministry. In Part 2 of our recap, we will hear from Youth Pastor Leona Chen’s unique experiences of guiding the church youth during the pandemic.
RE:NEW is a ministry that hopes to support youth in churches by providing important data and resources to help them live out their faith despite what challenges arise. Along with events like the Virtual Cafe, RE:NEW recently released a survey about the life of young people in Chinese-American churches during the pandemic and the transition into reopening. The survey results revealed the challenges young people are facing in the areas of schooling, career path, mental health, social relationships, family relationships and relationship with the church. You can view the survey results and RE:NEW’s recommended resources for each area affecting youth today here.
Written by: Elizabeth Hughes
Click here to visit our parent organization, Presence Quotient®, to learn more about our family ministry and cultural mission promotion: http://presencequotient.org/