Gathered youth groups continue thanks to Zoom

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NW Youth rYouth work is all about relationships, but how can youth workers maintain those relationships when they can’t meet with young people physically? Leo Roberts, Children’s and Youth Work Development Officer for the URC’s Northwestern Synod, explains how online gathered youth groups have helped him, and the young people he works with, maintain their connections…

It’s important for young people to have the opportunity to talk about how they feel, what they’re experiencing and how they’re coping, especially during the current pandemic. Without being able to see young people physically, this can be done with phone calls, texts and internet messaging (ensuring you comply with Good Practice guidelines, of course!) But it’s also important that they feel connected to each other and the Church, and that they are able to have some fun.

Gathered youth groups are pretty much what they say on the tin. A place, date and time are advertised,  and young people gather together to spend time with whoever shows up. Normally, in Northwestern Synod, we hold a gathered youth group session in a different area (known as a missional partnership) of the synod each month so that young people can have a chance to attend a session without needing to leave their own geographical area.

In light of lockdown, instead of cancelling these important opportunities for young people to gather, we decided to experiment with the idea of holding them online, and so we started meeting on Zoom.

Online sessions involve a lot of fun and laughter (as usual) and, as we have become more familiar with being in an online settings, our discussions and interactions have deepened into important matters of life and faith, giving young people a safe and open space to explore their questions and challenges.

The virtual world is not something I have engaged with much, as I prefer face-to-face conversations, but I am pleasantly surprised how good it is to continue our sessions online.

Many of my concerns and worries about online meetings have been allayed, and I really enjoy the interaction. I think it is invaluable for the time we find ourselves in, and I would like to continue to use it for some meetings when the pandemic is over. Thank God for creative people who develop these technologies!


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