We are all in an unusual situation with the current pandemic, and this is a critical time for youth leaders to be especially attentive to how youth are processing these events and interpreting them through the lens of their faith.
With this mind, I'm hoping to be a helpful resource to you all! Here and in the attached PowerPoint presentation you will find a resource to help your group "make faith sense" of the current situation within the context of a youth group meeting (or any age group meeting if you so choose) that would presumably take place over Skype, Google hangouts, Zoom, or whatever platforms you are using to connect virtually with your group.
Given the reality of not being able to meet in person, we have tried to offer something that fits well with these platforms, recognizing the challenges that present themselves in these formats. Therefore, our hope is that this resource will help you have conversation with direct enough questions that youth will feel comfortable answering, while also leading into more profound and free-flowing conversations about what is going on in our world at this time and how it connects to our faith.
The basis for this exercise comes from a book called Making Faith Sense: Theological Reflections in Everyday Life by Robert L. Kinast. The point of the book is to offer ways for groups to have intentional conversations about the things that happen in their lives in order to uncover the ways in which these experiences are impacting, or can impact, our faith and our interactions with the world around us. Given that we are all experiencing a pandemic together, this offers us a chance to have an intentional conversation about the ways that this is shaping us, and to be intentional with our desire to listen to what God may be showing us during this time or how we are being directed to respond.
In the accompanying PowerPoint, you will find question in four phases to help you and your group explore our faith and what God may be calling us to during this time.
Slide 2: "What's going on?" This first step offers the chance to check in with everyone and how each one is experiencing this unusual situation. This will also build the basis for the conversation that follows.
A note: While the point of the conversation going forward is not to focus on any one person's particular experience, the conversation should take into consideration everyone's experiences. Be sure to be sensitive to the validity of all the participants' experiences and check in later on an individual basis if something arises, such as an urgent need that requires more attention from the church community.
Slide 3: "Where is God?" (affirmation) In this step we are asking what can we affirm during this time? Here we use Scripture and our tradition to help better inform ourselves about this experience using the tools we already have. What Scriptures can we use during this time? What prayer practices, songs, sermons have we heard that seem applicable now?
Example: Many Psalms cry out to God for help in the midst of tragedy, but also recognize God's sovereignty and protection (Psalm 22, 13, etc.). How does this event happening during the season of Lent and Easter help us reflect on those?
Slide 4: "How can we adapt?" (adaptation) In this step we are simply asking what it is that we may want to rethink or adapt. Given the conversation, are there things from our faith that we can use in new ways to respond to what is going on? What new perspectives are we gaining from this experience? How can our faith respond to these new questions or perspectives?
Example: Are there people who are being unequally affected by this situation? Are there ways our churches can reach out to these people?
Slide 5: "Do we need to change?" (conversion) In this step we are asking questions about what we may need to change in our lives. Given the situation, are there things that are now apparent to us that we want to change? Has this exposed anything in our lives and practices that we need to consider turning away from in order to turn more toward God? Does Scripture and our faith tradition agree with these proposed changes?
Example: Are there things that we have taken for granted before that we need to appreciate? Do we need to change how we think about our connection to other people? To all of creation?
Spend time with your group talking about how you can enact some of the changes and adaptations you have discussed. As well, reflect on the things you can affirm that can serve as a blessing as we move further into this unknown circumstance.
As the leader of your group, you will know best what your group needs and so you should feel free to make changes to this format as you see necessary. Our hope is that this can create fruitful conversations that help youth and leaders better process this experience of the pandemic in our lives and societies, and that we may all grow to better understand how to be faithful disciples in the reign of God. Please contact me with any questions or further ideas about how Mennonite Mission Network can provide further resourcing to you as youth pastors and leaders at this time! Furthermore, I would love to connect with your group either by leading a session over this content or presenting over other themes and opportunities through Mission Network.
Download the Presentation here: Power Point or PDF