At the start of the pandemic, many of us were asking practical, short-term questions like how we’d get our shopping or whether there’d be any toilet paper left. But as this season has gone on, our minds have gone to longer term concerns like when this will end, how do we navigate this landscape with our churches, and what church will look like after all this.

As a church leader and youth worker myself, I hear your pain and frustration with the challenges of leading a local church in this season. But I also hear the cry of youth and children’s workers, working alongside the next generation, listening to the daily challenges they face. I know you’ve been consumed with fire-fighting, keeping budgets in balance, and pastoring church members, but I’d like to challenge you that there is no better time to give resources, time, and focus to youth and children’s ministry.

Now is the time to take steps of faith to invest in the church of now and the future: youth and kids. 

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What are the younger generation facing right now?

Young people are facing all the same things adults are, but on steroids. Loneliness is at a whole new level and hope for the future is in short supply. As the poor get poorer, young people and children in the poorest families are getting the roughest hand dealt to them.

However, school doors are opening more and more, and they are looking for our help to recover. How can we serve schools at this time? What part can you and your church play in the new Recovery Curriculum’? HOPE Together is preparing the Youth Wellbeing Journey to tie into the school curriculum, and it would be a great resource to support your local school with.

We may have lost touch with some young people in recent months, but the young people who are still engaging with our churches are the new core. How can we disciple them better? The needs of the whole church are important, but can I encourage you to disciple and pastor young people in particular, as we emerge from the Covid crisis? The negative experience of the pandemic is amplified for them because they still don’t fully know who they are and they’re trying to figure that out in the midst of this chaos. That said, they are also best placed to know the needs of their peers and to support the church in its outreach to their generation. Our young people engaging with church are the energy, creativity, and innovators that we need to move forward, to grow, and to bring the good news of Jesus to more people.

The negative experience of the pandemic is amplified for young people because they still don’t fully know who they are and they’re trying to figure that out in the midst of this chaos.

What does God want to do in and through young people and children in this season?

I believe God wants to bring hope to the hopeless. Bring community to the lonely. Bring good news to schools and colleges. Bring light on social media. So, how do we empower this generation to do that?

Through HOPE’s work on the Amplify programme we see, in this generation, the men and women of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32): those who understand the times and know what to do. We need these young people as we come out of lockdown and into a new cultural landscape. Young people understand the digital age we live in, and they definitely know what to do and where to go to reach their generation. What opportunities can we give to young people in this next season?

What are we taking into the next season and what should we leave behind?

We will come out of this time changed. The new normal will be different. Where are we seeing fruit now, that we need to keep growing after the pandemic?

There are also things we were doing in youth and children’s ministry pre-Covid that we should have chucked out a while ago. Covid-19 has thankfully forced us to drop them, and when this is over we have to decide if they are best left to gather dust. We can raise up young people who share Jesus’ light, love, and life in every dark space and place, but only if we engage our discernment with how best to disciple them in every season.

So, please do ask yourself: what does life look like beyond this? Let’s look for answers that are faith-filled, courageous, and future-focused so that young people and children are reached and discipled. The next generation can encounter Jesus anywhere, anytime, and on any platform. Let’s make the most of every opportunity, learning from and releasing the digital natives in our churches to make Jesus known.

Have a go! What’s the best that can happen?