One age group is hit particularly hard with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s teenagers.
The virus spread just as their long-anticipated milestones were set to unfold–sports championships, prom, spring plays, and commencements. Even worse, they’re sequestered from their friends at the prime time for peer relationships.
Youth ministry expert Rick Lawrence said today’s adolescents are exhibiting anxiety, sleeplessness, loss and sadness. “They’re missing something fundamental,” Lawrence said on this week’s Holy Soup podcast. “It’s almost like they’re losing some of their identity.”
Rick, author of Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, said many youth pastors are trying to stay in contact with their kids during this time when regular youth group meetings aren’t possible. But they’re discovering that their old ways of communicating a message aren’t working.
Prior to the coronavirus, many or most youth ministers based their weekly lessons around a 20-minute sermon. Then, when churches came under lockdowns, they attempted to deliver their sermons via online platforms. But, as Rick describes in the podcast, the results have not been encouraging.
“The curtain has been pulled back,” Rick said. When youth workers see their teenagers’ faces on screen during a Zoom online meeting, it’s not usually a picture of rapt attention. But Rick said it’s not the technology that’s failing. It’s the form–the lecture method. The disinterest is also present, but often masked, when young people sit passively at church for a live youth sermon, Rick said.
“Kids are wired to be participatory learners,” Rick said. “It is central to their identity. And they get that in every area of their life–except at church.”
Rick utilizes a very interactive, participatory style in his own youth group. And that has not stopped since COVID-19 hit. He’s devised ways to facilitate the interactivity through Zoom. Rather than preach a sermon, Rick uses the online technology to place his kids in small groupings, provoke meaningful conversation, assign simple hands-on experiences, and help participants make deep discoveries. He highlights how he does this in the Holy Soup podcast, here:
Now, how long will it be before the rest of the church realizes that true engagement requires participation?
This is why small groups are the only way to grow people spiritually, Remember this when Church starts up again. No more lectures! They are not the way forward!
The church as usual is behind the eight ball in the things that it does. When I was obtaining my three university degrees, I came away with a very important lesson. The attention span of listeners. Expert advice of educationists is that beyond 20 minutes we switch off. That means most sermons are a case of talking to people that are not listening. And to think we pay someone to do this.
We learn the most by doing apparently. Are we ever asked to do something as a result of what we have just been told? The answer is a resounding NO. All we are expected to do is turn up, listen and go home. Job done.
And people wonder why the church doesn’t grow.
From John M on Facebook: “So instead of someone who has studied the subject teaching others we will have everyone sharing and pooling their ignorance? I’m all for interaction but letting the students talk as much as the teacher lowers the bar. Maybe some kind of hybrid?”
Rick C resonding to John M: “It’s not lowering the bar at all. It’s how both Jesus and Paul taught. It’s how the ancient philosophers and rabbis taught. They never lectured their students. They used parables, factoids, insights and ideas to spark a conversation.
Most people don’t learn by lecture anyway. They learn by conversational experience.”