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Why COVID-19 Has Impacted Student & Collegiate Ministry

In some ways, student ministries and college ministries were the most prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. These ministries serve tech natives. The technological savviness of students allowed them to pivot quickly. A lot of their social engagement is already online.

Even though these ministries serve tech natives, the increased amount of digital interaction still made its mark. Here are a few ways COVID-19 has impacted these next generation ministries:

Mental Struggles

Anxiety and depression already plague this generation of young people. COVID-19 compounded the problem. This was a big wakeup call for young people to their need for in-person social interactions. Over the course of weeks many churches saw less and less engagement in their midweek groups. Some of this had to do with the mental state of the students they serve.

This also affected ministers. Ministers are called by God to ministry and the main vehicle for that is relationships. During the COVID-19 season their relationships have been radically altered. As you’re reading this some normalcy and in-person social interactions are coming back, but COVID-19 still left an effect on ministers. A lot of ministers faced the same anxiety and depression as their students. They were teaching to phones instead of audiences. They were having coffee meetings over Zoom rather than in a coffee shop. It hurt and still does.

Digital Care

This season also shined a light on the lack of awareness and resources churches have in caring for students when they cannot be present. How can you really care for someone when you can’t be physically present? Churches noticed the importance of in-person social connection in caring. There is only so much care that can be done on an online platform. Several ministries sent cards as a personal touch, but some of that still didn’t seem like enough.

Students were struggling and ministers weren’t able to comfort like they wanted. Students were graduating, but no usual celebration was to be had. Churches tried their best, but it wasn’t like it used to be. 

Digital is Vital

Churches realized there was ministry to be had on the fringes. Churches discovered students on the fringes that would never participate would participate through an online platform for games and other interactive nights. Churches began focusing on becoming digitally savvy and new students were tuning in for devos and times of worship.

The church’s eyes were opened to a whole new world and a new fantastic point of view. This season has shown next generation ministries that digital is vital and more young people can be reached. Digital can no longer be second class in terms of ministry platforms, but it is important as the church moves forward.

Practical Guidance

Digital Presence

It’s been said for a while that a church’s digital presence is the front door to its ministry. COVID-19 secured that fact. Most young people are checking out a church’s Instagram page before they ever step foot in the building. They are looking at the website before they ever meet the pastors. Students are checking out sermons or lessons a minister teaches to see whether it’s engaging. It is the new foyer, and if they don’t like what they see, there is a good chance they won’t actually walk into a physical building. Creating an inviting digital presence is key to seeing students integrate into your ministry.

Online Engagement

In today’s culture, most churches cannot get into schools, but their social media platform can. Digital innovation was born in churches throughout this season and churches can leverage this to their advantage. Churches who work at not just informing their audience online but engaging their audience online will be able to connect with students that they would never be able to reach otherwise. Work at creating an engaging and interactive presence on your social media platforms. You can do this by asking simple questions students would like to answer, creating polls, or asking students for feedback on a specific topic.

Self-care 

Many leaders find their identity in doing. Feeling paralyzed during this season negatively impacted a lot of ministers’ identities. Events were canceled and ministers found more time on their hands and began to feel less fruitful. This is not all a bad thing. It allows a time of pause to reflect on where identity is being placed. Is it in Christ or in ministry activity? The key to any minister’s success or longevity will be because their foundation and identity is found in Jesus Christ.

Creating Movement

Broaden Communication Strategy

Ministries will need to shift their communication to become broad. Most ministries communicate only to their church audience and through a few methods. In this new season churches will need to think about how to communicate to (1) their church audience, but also (2) the watching audience. There is now an audience that is engaged with your church that never steps in the building. Are you speaking to them, and how well? Make sure you consider them in your communication.

Event-Focused to Relationship-Focused

Events are an important part of student and college ministries. They are easy places to gather and to help people come together as a community. However, churches have realized through this season that it is the relationships that ultimately sustain the ministry and those events. What are things you can do to (1) bolster your relationships with students and volunteers? and (2) How can you increase the relationships within the ministry?

Personalizing Student & Collegiate Ministry

  • How are you caring for and engaging the mental health of your students?
  • What does your online presence look like? How are you working to reach students with your online content?
  • What are you doing as a minister to provide helps for your own spiritual and mental care?
  • How can you broaden your communication strategy as a ministry?

Connect With Us

The SBTC provides help and support for churches with preschool and children’s ministries. We provide networking opportunities for preschool and children’s ministers through monthly Zoom meetings, in-person trainings, and conferences. The convention offers VBS regional trainings for leaders, as well as regional, state, and national Bible Drills for children and students. We have a special needs consultant who can assist churches with developing a special needs ministry, addressing problems and concerns while growing this vital ministry. It is our pleasure to walk beside you as you minister to children and their families.

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