Most churches would probably agree that sometimes it’s difficult to get youth group participation from their young members. However, many youth can be coaxed to join in fellowship with their peers if there’s a field trip involving bowling, amusement parks, or an arcade. Even game nights can help bring teens to their church hall to socialize with their fellow students.
So what do youth group leaders do when all those venues are off the table because of the pandemic and folks must practice social distancing?
Peace Dale Congregational Church (Peace Dale, RI) invited their youth and their friends to a Friday night virtual scavenger hunt. About ten youth, both members and nonmembers, logged into Zoom with their video on so everyone could see each other. Then Kateri Wheeler-Clarke, Director of Youth Groups at the church, announced an object from her list of 15 items (see items below), and the teens had one minute to find the object and show it onscreen. The first person to return with the item earned 5 points, second got 3 points and everyone else got 1 point. Points were tallied up at the end of the game and prizes (gift certificates) were awarded to the first three winners.
“Right now the closest thing that we can do to stay connected is having Zoom meetings,” said Wheeler-Clarke. “The interaction helps the youth to stay connected to their church family. It also keeps them away from video games or other online entertainment. When every day seems like ‘Groundhog Day’ virtual Youth Group helps to provide social enrichment as best we can right now.”
Amber Horton-Lambert, a mother to one of the youth, thanked the church for holding the event. “I haven’t seen my child Karmen laugh and have so much fun since the quarantine started,” she said. “She is like an only child (her brother is 22 and out of the house) and I think she is getting bored of ‘mom time’.”
“Never before would I have imagined that a scavenger hunt could mean so much,” said The Rev. A. Fred Evenson, Senior Minister. “We all know the joy of finding, but Kateri took it to a new level by using an online scavenger hunt as a catalyst for helping the youth connect with each other and with their leaders, inspiring many smiles along the way! The value of a smile cannot be overstated for the lonely, cooped up kids who yearn for fellowship. I have to think Jesus, who loved and welcomed the children, would smile with them, as they ran around hoping to be the fastest finder in the group!”
Wheeler-Clarke got the idea from Kristin Putney, CE/YM Resource Consultant for the Southern New England Conference. Wheeler-Clarke took the advice and did some research on the web and found some good ideas that she used to plan the evening.
Wheeler-Clarke explained that over the past year the youth group gained a steady group of teens that don't attend worship, yet, but she is excited that they continue to join the group virtually.
“During these pandemic times, another positive aspect is that most youth are available because there isn't any competition with sports or school events,” said Putney. “I have also noticed that there doesn't need to be a lot of lead time to plan a youth group virtual gathering, and getting another adult for online safety is not difficult because everyone is in their homes.”
“As Christians we are called to meet the needs of our neighbor and serve one another,” said Wheeler. “This is one way our church shows that we care about our youth. They haven't been forgotten.”
“In a world that seems to have lost its way, thank God for finding us, even locked away in our homes, as we learn to give thanks for the fact that we don’t have to go to a church building to be found -- that after all, it is in God that we live and move and have our being!” said Evenson. “And thank God for helping us find the treasure that is each other. May God bless our finding!”
You can contact Rev. Fred Evenson and Kateri Wheeler at the church office 401-789-7313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Please take precautions when using Zoom. Read this article about Zoombombing.
Photo: Re-enactment with just a few players.
Scavenger Hunt Items:
||Empty Toilet Paper Roll
||Professional Sports Gear
||An Indoor Activity
||Gloves or mask
||Pandemic Board Game
||Tom Hanks Movie
|| Disney Character