Creating Digital Experiences withinYouth Ministry

I began working as an Associate Pastor to Youth Ministry on June 14, 2020.
As you can imagine, it has been difficult to onboard and get to know the youth in the time of a pandemic and isolation. Though my first month of ministry has not been perfect, I would love to share a few ways that I have been working to engage with these new people in my life. My main goal for the summer, and going into the school year has been to create opportunities for the young people to engage in shared experience with one another while being distant. Though I haven’t figured out how to engage with the “never zoomers,” I hope that in sharing these ideas, it may spark some creativity in your own ministry.

Subscription Style Activity Boxes
Each week I have released a family friendly experience that everyone can participate in on their own time, and we all discuss it during our Sunday night Youth Fellowship time. I will break down each of these activities for you below.

Chopped Challenge
I set up boxes with 3 mystery ingredients — a mini can of sprite, an apple, and Swedish fish — for everyone to pick up on Monday afternoon. The guidelines: Only use ingredients that are already in the pantry (no additional grocery shopping), they had 1 hour of prep and cook time, and they had to film the entire thing. I took all of the clips and created a 10 minute “episode” that spliced and diced each video together. I also included a Judges Guide for the parents and siblings for the dish to be judged. I allowed them to choose any kind of dish that they would like, whether that be appetizer, meal, or desert. I found GoogleDrive to be the best way to collect everyone’s videos, but it took several different platforms to finally collect from everyone.

Co-Creators
This box is for the artsy crafty young people. I filled boxes with random art supplies, and a prompt that asked them to create something that would bring them or someone else hope. I also included a blank card with a pre-addressed envelope that would go out to congregation members on the prayer list.

Duck Hunt
This one has been the most time consuming, just a heads up. I purchased a subscription to geocaching.com and looked for all of the locations in our greater area. I then purchased 50 mini rubber ducks to leave at 50 locations. The young people have all week to use the coordinates and riddles to find as many as they can by Sunday night. The person with the most wins, but honestly who doesn’t win with collecting fun little ducks?

Mission Bingo Card
I must admit, I hate the imagery of participating in mission opportunities with someone holding up a paddle yelling, “BINGO!” With that being said, I wanted an aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-navigate guide for our youth and church members to use as they move towards giving back to their community. The “bingo” concept came from that, and also it allows them to participate in as many or as few boxes as they feel comfortable or able to.

Strange Stories
My young people love TikTok. For this week’s activity, I assigned all who wanted to participate a weird Bible story. The challenge is to create a TikTok style video (15 seconds, and editing however they would like) that tells their assigned story.

Zoom Games
Since there is so much zoom fatigue, I am trying to utilize zoom in different ways. In the past, Sunday evenings was when they conducted their worship time, but for the summer we are trying out a weekly game night. The following *Free* games have worked great for our group of ~20.
Codenames (codenamesgame.com/#play-online)
Trivia Night
I used the breakout groups as a way to create randomized groups. I had 3 rounds in which I created 3 separate Google Docs for each team to see the questions and submit their answers. 1st Round: Old Testament, 2nd Round: New Testament, 3rd Round: Community History
Pictionary
Using the Whiteboard function in Zoom, I had teams of 6 people, and it honestly went a lot better than I anticipated.

Book Study
Another activity that has worked well so far is reformatting Bible Study. I am assigning them a Fictional Young Adult Novel (First up was “Piecing Me Together”). By exploring story through YA, we are able to consider a common story — the main character — and tie that story to scripture. Through this book we were able to talk about systematic poverty, white privilege, race, police brutality, and several relationship dynamics. Up next we will be trying out a few graphic novels. I recommend using novels of which the main character has a different context than that of your community. As I read and work through more books, I hope to have another post where I give more details as a resource.

Hobby Hour
This was a random attempt to build relationship over zoom, and it has gone over much better than I anticipated. For “Hobby Hour” I invite the young people log on to zoom with me as they work on something that brings them joy. As an example, they have made friendship bracelets, played instruments (on mute), played video games, and other crafts. It has been a way for me to have “office hours” where I can get some face time and also learn what kind of activities the young people like to do in their spare time.

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Ashley Sutherland

Ashley Sutherland

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Princeton Theological Seminary, MDiv/MACEF 2020 Aspiring advocate, learner, and United Methodist. she/her/hers