The weekly church youth group gathering, whether for service, faith discussions or recreational activity, has had to change this fall in the face of COVID-19. B.C. youth leaders are adapting the best they can, trying to keep young people engaged and connected to the church.
Cedar Valley Mennonite youth group in Mission had been meeting in person earlier this fall for such activities as a Halloween costume party, bowling and “light painting.” New this fall was a drop-in skate park in the church parking lot after school one afternoon a week. The Cedar Valley youth have also met via Zoom, including holding a paper airplane contest with other youth groups, and have been planning a one-night fundraiser for homeless and vulnerable teens in early December.
At Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, the high school youth were still meeting weekly as of mid-November, mainly with Bible studies, but also for such activities as a Halloween party and movie night. “We had been asking everyone to stay [about two metres] apart and have a mask with them in case of a scenario where they couldn’t distance,” says Noel Dueckman, Emmanuel’s youth group coordinator. “We have avoided any games or activities that can’t be done at a distance. The youth seem to be fine with it,” he says.
Jack Meers, youth pastor of Eden Mennonite Church in Chilliwack, says COVID-19 has presented a new and different challenge, but leaders have tried to be creative. “On one day during the summer, I and a couple of our youth leaders drove all around Chilliwack and delivered donuts to our youth kids at their homes, safely and at a distance, of course,” he reports. “While it was a long day, it was a really big win and a great time to connect.”
The group started meeting again in person in September, alternating high- and middle-school youth each week, per the church’s safety plan.
“Some creative things we have done online are Kahoot tournaments with other MC B.C. youth groups on Zoom, Jackbox games, and we’ve been utilizing videos from the Bible Project during our teaching times,” says Meers. “I’ve learned to be flexible on almost all my plans, as the situation is ever changing.”
Recent tightening of restrictions by the provincial government and health authorities have forced youth groups that had been meeting in person to transition back to Zoom, and they will re-evaluate once the restriction period is over.
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