Keeping a Youth Group Going During COVID-19
Categories: Online Ministry, Discipleship
DU & Bogdan Anton are from the country of Romania, where they live and work in the capital city of Bucharest. In spite of the fact that they cannot meet in person, they have come up with inspiring ideas on how to keep their youth group activities. Aliaj, the name of their group, which means alloy in Romanian, is all about how to stand stronger as a unit. An alloy forms a powerful bond by connecting various elements.
Before this virus hit, Aliaj was already practicing three normal rhythms: family time, community time, and serving together. On March 9th, when everything was canceled and strict social distancing regulations were set in place, it was time for them to adapt to this new reality. DU explained, “It was shocking and emotional to cancel everything. We were in the middle of planning a big event called ‘Speak for Your Generation’ and, all of a sudden, it was not possible to meet. It took us about a week to gather ourselves and figure out what to do next.”
How did they pivot their plans and what were their action steps? Focusing on their three rhythms of meeting together, they designed creative ways to move activity online.
Rhythm ONE: Aliaj Family Time
- Time in the Word! Meeting on ZOOM, they spend time catching up with one another, then dive into God’s word. In the end, each person shares a verse of encouragement.
- Meals together! Everyone brings their own food and shares about what they made, all while hanging out as a family around the virtual dinner table. Some of these students barely share a meal once a week with their parents. Part of this family time is modeling to the young people a healthy rhythm of how a family should operate.
- Movie Nights! Every Wednesday night they watch a movie together. Each person pops their own popcorn, pours their favorite drink, and gets cozy with comfortable pillows and blankets for a VIP experience. The evening begins on ZOOM as a connection point and then on “Whatsapp” someone texts, “3, 2, 1..” and they all press start on the movie at the same time. As they watch they write comments through their WhatsApp group text.
Rhythm TWO: Aliaj Community Time
- Instagram! By utilizing their Instagram account, they are able to connect with current students, classmates of these students, and neighbors.
- Monday Quote! Everyone shares a quote on their story.
- Wednesday Hobbies! They share their passions/hobbies to inspire others.
- Saturday Instagram Take Over! A student is chosen to take over the Aliaj Instagram account and share about their life: show their home, what they made for lunch, their family, their hobbies, doing homework, etc.
- Challenge of the Week! Each week a challenge is posted, such as cooking with three ingredients, reading a particular chapter of the Bible, writing a poem, singing a song, a physical challenge, pronouncing a specific tongue twister, sending a specific photo, etc. All of these things create community and can easily continue after the time of quarantine.
Rhythm THREE: Aliaj Serves Together
- Responding to needs! As no one can leave their home, it can be hard to think up ways to serve the community. Aliaj found a very unique way of serving: Online Babysitting! There is a single mom in their church and the Aliaj students take turns babysitting the 10 year old daughter, so her mom is freed up to get some work done. Through a Facebook messenger video call, they lead activities for an hour, such as helping with homework, learning a dance, memorizing a Bible verse, playing a game, making a thankful list, reading aloud, etc.
- DU and Bogdan have found these three rhythms to be extremely helpful to the students of their youth group during this time of quarantine. Students look forward to the week and have a way to escape the everyday mundane tasks of being at home and doing homework. A variety of home situations have to be taken into account. As DU put it, “A lot of the kids have a blast with their families, while others come from difficult environments.”
- Before the coronavirus, students could go out and be with friends as an escape from their home life, but now they are stuck in their houses. Aliaj provides a safe environment in spite of physical separation. There is space to share emotions about how they are doing and how this quarantine is affecting them. DU tells the students if they have questions about anything to ask her first before googling it or looking on YouTube.
- You can do the same with your youth group. If you don’t already have healthy rhythms established, now is the time to build those foundations that can easily transfer from quarantine back to normal life.
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