To say that the pandemic has significantly impacted children’s and youth ministry is an understatement. As church leaders, we already know that the way we do our work will look different because of the pandemic, at least in the short term. We don’t know, however, how the interruption of regular in-person worship, ministry opportunities and routine intergenerational encounters will affect children and teenagers’ spiritual formation in the long term.  

Today, churches are reopening, along with much of the rest of the world. Yet many families are slow to return to their pre-pandemic levels of in-person church involvement. Most congregations did as much as they could to keep young people engaged during the pandemic. But once “Zoom fatigue” kicked in, the novelty of virtual Sunday school waned precipitously.  

The last two years left a deep impression on all of us. How can we heal the bodies, minds and souls of the most vulnerable among us? It is vital for leaders to formally and informally assess some key areas: Where are our youth, both socially and spiritually? What questions are they asking now? How can we best support them in their ongoing faith formation?  

Despite the obvious challenges, this is not the time to wring our hands in despair. Now is the time to innovate. This is the time to rethink what we do — will it actually help us lead new generations to live meaningful and faithful lives? As your program staff and volunteers make plans for the coming months, what can you imagine that will resurrect your approach to nurturing Christian hope and discipleship among children, youth and young adults? What are the lessons learned during the pandemic about fostering social connections and teaching Scripture that you can use to transform young lives with the gospel?


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Before you go…

This year I’ve attended large, in-person gatherings for the first time in what feels like a long season of “family only” get-togethers. Mask mandates are now mask recommendations. We’re seeing fewer businesses with strict pandemic protocols posted on the doors. Even with all of the hopeful signs of progress, the effects of COVID that we can’t see are just as significant as the effects we can see. This is especially true in regards to children and youth’s faith formation.  

Let’s not miss an opportunity. Children have to matter to us because they matter to God. We can clumsily try to pick up exactly where we left off two years ago, or we can prayerfully and deliberately evaluate where we are now and discern what God is calling us to do next.  

As always, you can email your comments and ideas to alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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