3 Tips for Leading Youth Ministry in 2020

Are you wondering how to do youth ministry in 2020?

Zach Norris, Youth Pastor at Life.Church Broken Arrow, shared his experiences with us as he’s doing ministry with Generation Z in this season. Here are his thoughts on how we can do youth ministry in 2020.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted or been completely prepared for the year 2020. It seems like it has been one thing after the other, each event completely impacting the way we live our lives. A majority of what was “normal” has been removed. And in the midst of it all, instead of coming together as a society, we’ve seen a lot of division and hatred.

As hard as this year has been as an adult, imagine how hard it has been for teenagers!

Think about this: as a teenager, this current global pandemic is the biggest life event they have ever faced in their lifetime. As adults, we have faced several life-altering experiences in our lifetime. If you are here in the United States some might include: Murrah Bombing, 9/11, and the 2008 recession. Having lived through these experiences we are now more prepared to lead through hardships. For those of us in youth ministry, we have a unique opportunity to pastor students right where they are at.

So how do we do youth ministry in a time like this? Here are a few thoughts: 

1. Listen

As youth pastors, we have a tendency to tell students how they feel or to assume they feel a certain way based on the way we feel towards something. The problem with this is that it doesn’t give students an outlet to express their feelings.

Generation Z is incredibly passionate and they have a lot to say because they want to see change happen.

The best thing we can do is listen to them. Ask them questions about how they feel or how they are handling something and get a glimpse into their heart. They want to be heard, and giving them that outlet is key. Students don’t need someone to tell them how to feel, they need someone to listen. And as we listen, we can then begin to guide and speak life into them. 

2. Learn.

It’s pretty incredible the things you learn in the midst of doing youth ministry (some things you wish you hadn’t) and we can learn a lot from Generation Z. They see things from a different perspective and it’s important to lean in and learn all that we can from them. If we don’t take the time to learn about our students – how they think, and why they think those things – then how can we pastor them well? 

Here are some great questions to ask if you’re seeking to learn from the students in your youth ministry:

  • Looking at 2020 as a whole, what are your thoughts and feelings?
  • How has everything that has happened this year impacted your relationship with God? 
  • Who has God been to you during this time?
  • Do you feel like you have someone you can process everything with?
  • What do you want/need from the church and your small group during this time?

We have to be able to know the passions of our students, what keeps them up at night, so that we can love them to the highest capacity. Once we know how they learn best, we can help them grow.

3. Love.

We know that as followers of Christ we are called to love like Jesus loves us. Not only in seasons of struggle is this important, but every single day matters. Did you know that Generation Z is one of the most passionate generations of our time? Because of this, they’re also a generation more susceptible to mental illness than any generation before.

We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus and make an impact in this generation. 

So how do we love students during this season? First, we have to be connected to the vine, Jesus. This season is challenging for us as church leaders too, and we need to make sure we are able to process it with others in our lives. If we’re being filled up ourselves, we can then pour out into our students and our leaders. 

Next, be present. During a time where things are changing so fast, students need to be pointed to a constant in their life. So much of what they see in the world today is negative, but we get to point them to the light of Jesus Christ. Our world needs unity more than ever, and inviting Jesus into it is the only way we can truly experience that. 

Last, we can partner with parents. Parents need resources on how to lead through these times as well because they are fielding a lot of questions. As we partner with them, we’re making them the hero in these situations, and are equipping them to lead through this season with their kids.

Is youth ministry easy in 2020? No. But we could argue that it’s never easy. Here’s the thing, though: if you are called to this mission to lead students, then you know there is nothing else you could ever imagine doing. We have the opportunity to build the kingdom of God and impact the lives of so many students in such a time as this.

While this season is challenging, we know that God never makes mistakes! He knew what He was doing when He placed you where you are.

Take the time to listen to your students, give them an outlet to express how they feel. Learn about them, understand what they are passionate about. And then simply love them. That’s all it takes to reach students in this special season.

We may not do all of this perfectly, and that’s okay. We serve a God who is perfect, and we know He is always with us and will never leave us, nor forsake us. 

If you are looking for curriculum and resources to share with your youth ministry this fall, check out these resources on Open Network.

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