Like most of the youth ministry universe, our church has rocked many different online versions of our programs. YouTube original content with live chat to offering groups through massive zoom meetings is among those offerings. This bumpy ride has led to innovations, failures, and complete fatigue from doing so much digital both at work, in school, and through ministry. This fatigue created a blind spot I wasn’t fully aware of until this past Wednesday night. Blindspots are those places between our side mirrors the road that oncoming cars pass through. Without consideration before changing lanes, blindspots have the power to cause trouble. The blindspot created from my Zoom fatigue led to the quick dismissal of its future place in our ministries. That experience has led to a question I want to pose here and now.
What if our best days in Zoom Youth Ministry were ahead?
Church online has been a less attractive option for us as we were able to meet in person. Tired of zoom and trying to juggle it all, online has sort of fallen to the wayside a bit. Lack of volunteer support, lack of desire to do that one more thing, and bumpy experiences have all contributed to the problem.
Maybe that is why I was set up for a surprise this past Wednesday night.
Stuck at home because of quarantine protocols for the second straight week, I was the logical choice for the host for our online option. Since it was my only real option to connect as a youth pastor, it had my full attention. What was different this time, however, was our approach.
Using the simple technology of a Facebook Portal (which now supports zoom calls), Zoom, and OBS switcher software we offered a hybrid approach. As the host, I could spotlight the in-person content for our online crew. When there were moments that didn’t translate online, OBS software allowed me to play games and videos to flesh out our large group time. All of this landed at the same place in-person and online, small group breakouts.
I was confounded by how much we felt part of the vibe that was happening in-person. Facebook Portal made it so easy, where it had been tough before. OBS made playing videos smoothly, where in the past just doing a screen share made them jumpy. Making it all happen in the same time slot as in-person further created the bridge. Think about the possibilities that are now normalized for us going forward.
Snow days that canceled youth groups in some parts of the country can continue online.
Leader meetings now have more accessible time options.
Technology continues to improve so we can offer more engaging experiences online.
Zoom Youth Ministry gave me honest prayers from our small group members, like Bella, who wanted me to pray for her parents to get connected to Christ and a follow-up conversation with one of our young leaders who stayed back to debrief the night.
In-person will never cease to be my number one priority for students, but I do believe our best days in Zoom Youth Ministry are ahead. Connecting people to Jesus and one another will happen on a level we couldn’t have dreamed over a year ago.