Youth Ministry in Uncertainty

Catholic Youth Ministry in COVID Times Part 2 of 3

 

“Uncertain times.” Go ahead and Google it. You’re not the only one.

Line graph with sharp peak indicating search engine use of the term "uncertain times" in 2020

Google Trends

This image shows how often the phrase “uncertain times” has been Googled over the last year. That big spike? That’s March 22, 2020. March 2020, when all of our plans were obliterated by a microscopic virus that none of us had ever heard of before. Suddenly we were all wondering, “How do I [parent, work, pray, pay my bills, fill-in-the-blank] in uncertain times?”  

 

And we ministry folks were suddenly wondering, “How on earth do I do youth ministry with so much uncertainty?” 

 

But here’s the truth:  You were doing youth ministry in uncertain times in 2019 also. 2020 doesn’t have a monopoly on uncertainty. What this pandemic has done is just to turn a spotlight on something that is always true: nothing is certain. Your summer 2019 mission trip could have been canceled. Your 2018 Confirmation class could have been upended. Everything has the possibility of changing in a heartbeat. Nothing is certain except for the Lord.

 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

 

The difference was that in 2019 we were comfortable. We had been lulled into thinking things were certain. Now we know that was never the case. This time should serve as a reminder to us that we always ought to be committing our plans to the Lord.

 

The teenagers you minister to are living in this uncertainty as well. This hope we have in the Lord needs to be the foundation of your ministry this year. Be intentional about it in your work with them.

 

Acknowledge loss.

The teenagers in your ministry are grieving. Some are grieving the loss of a loved one. Most are grieving the loss of specific things like graduations, sports, plays, and parents’ jobs, and they are also grieving the broader loss of security itself. Give them space to talk about these things. 

 

Be honest.

Share with them your losses as well. Don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable with them.  It is good for them to know that you don’t have it all figured out. They need to see that discipleship isn’t always rosy.

 

Lead them to encounter the One who never changes.

Statements like “Nothing is certain except for the Lord” can sound trite if you don’t truly know Jesus. Help them develop that trusting relationship by encountering him in scripture. Try using these scriptures in Group Lectio Divina:

Psalm 13 

 Isaiah 40 

Or discuss wisdom from the saints, like Teresa of Avila’s famous exhortation, Nada te Turbe or St. John Henry Newman’s poem The Pillar of Cloud

 

 

You’ve always been doing ministry in uncertain times. Lean into the discomfort we are all experiencing now that we’re calling them that. That uncertainty can create a space in which we encounter Jesus, the One who will never change, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

 

 

 

Embrace the challenge

Answer the Call

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