Catholic teen participating in online bible study

How to Win at Online Small Groups

Catholic Youth Ministry in COVID Times Part 3 of 3


Spring 2020 thrust most youth ministries into uncharted territory with almost no time to plan.  Amazing youth ministry leaders adapted, learned new technologies, and kept their ministry going amidst a global pandemic.  

Many of these ministry leaders have remarked that small groups were more nimble than large programs and shifted online with relative ease. We at NET Ministries have spoken with these incredible leaders and have gleaned ideas of how to make the most of your time with teens when doing online ministry.  

Here are 5 things that are bearing fruit in different ministries around the county: 


Prioritize community over content.

Catechesis is absolutely essential to good ministry, but right now teens are hurting. They are experiencing grief over everything from lost loved ones to lost milestone events. Ignoring this reality with a heady lesson on the Creed may well fall on deaf ears. At YDisciple we often quote the well-worn adage: “Teenagers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Take time to build trust and empathy in your small group community by teaching them to listen to one another and to practice sharing about their own lives. Use one of these activities in your small group time:


When it does come time for content, Less is more.

If teenagers are doing school online, by the time they get to you, they are burned out on Zoom.  Don’t try to do the exact same program as before in a digital setting. You’ll need to adapt. 

Many parishes are shortening the length of their ministry time in order to keep teenagers engaged. For those using YDisciple videos, they are choosing to do just 1 or 2 clips from a video instead of all 15 minutes and keeping their meeting time to around 45 minutes. This also spreads out content. Where you may have had 4 weeks of content before, you now have 6-8 weeks!


Reverse the classroom.

An emerging trend in education is the “reversed classroom.”  Traditionally, class time was spent hearing a lecture, and then assignments to help concretize the content of the lecture was done on the students’ own time. Teachers are now taking advantage of new technologies and recording lectures to be watched at home. That way class time is less passive and can be spent helping students in real-time with assignments.

The same can be done in small groups. Send them a link to the video you want them to watch and have them watch it before they come to the Zoom small group meeting. This way, small group time can be more active and spent processing what was said in the videos.

(By the way, all subscribers can request a private link to get their families and leaders set up with a FREE account to make sharing content super easy!)


Parents make great small group leaders.

Instead of having online small groups, send parents the YDisciple Leader Guide and have them facilitate discussion with their student (and maybe even a few of the teen’s friends!).

Before you commit to doing this, gauge parents’ interest. Many may be overwhelmed with online school already. It is important to know your community.



Videos on videos on videos…

 Did you ever think we would be talking about how teenagers were burnt out from being on screens? Yet here we are. If you are doing small groups online, consider taking a break from video content altogether. While YDisciple is primarily known as a video curriculum, we actually recommend that people do not do videos every meeting with teenagers. This is even more true in virtual ministry. Instead, try one of these options:


No matter what and no matter how your teens still need to encounter Jesus in the life of the Church. However you adapt your ministry this year, trust in God’s providence that he can still show up…even on Zoom.



Stay in touch

Get regular tips for growing your ministry right to your inbox.

Scroll to Top