When the COVID pandemic hit in March, Rev. Andrew Kinney, youth pastor at Chapel Pike Wesleyan Church (CPWC) in Marion, Indiana, began talking with his lead pastor, Rev. Steven Colter, about how ministry may be forced to look different. Neither dreamed ministry would look different for so long.
When school was canceled, Kinney suggested the youth group begin meeting for a daily devotional via Zoom. And what started as a temporary virtual meeting turned into studying the Bible together as a youth group for 100 straight days.
“The plan was to bring normalcy and consistency to a group that has experienced anything but normalcy and consistency in their lives,” said Kinney. “Our plan was to do a daily devotional until school started back up. Little did we know they would cancel school for the rest of the school year. But by the time we realized it, we were already into a great rhythm, and we decided to continue until we lost interest or needed to stop based on schedule conflicts.”
Interest never waned and the group continued to meet.
As Kinney tried to put a game plan together, he remembered that the YouVersion Bible app “has a feature that we could share Bible readings together. We started with a devotional on dealing with anxiety. I thought that would be a good start since we were dealing with a lot of global anxiety.”
Since then, the group completed 16 different Bible studies:
- Dealing with Anxiety
- The Power of the Blood
- The Story of Easter
- Spiritual Disciplines & Evangelism
- Gospel Driven Work in the COVID-19 Crisis
- Christ > Corona
- 8-Day Armor of God Boot Camp
- Wisdom from Ecclesiastes
- Lessons from the Land: the Gospels
- John the Baptist
- 5 Days of Prayer
- The Book of Ezra
- Samson Challenge
- The Mount
The group of 10-25 teens (average of 15 daily) begins their time together by chatting and hanging out for 15-20 minutes. Then they split up the reading with volunteers. After the readings, the group dissects the lessons and dives deeper into the scriptures.
Kinney sees this daily devotional as imperative for the teens on the call.
“It provides teens with an opportunity to socialize with others their age,” said Kinney. “During this time, I’ve heard about a lot of people who feel alone and depressed, but our teens have had a chance to fellowship daily with their peers.”
The youth pastor is also encouraged that the teens he leads have been in God’s Word “for almost four months straight” and that the daily devotionals give him and his wife the opportunity to spend time with many of their teens every single day.
A few of the teens weighed in, sharing about their experience with the daily Zoom calls.
Before I started online Zoom meetings, pretty much the extent of my relationship with God was just going to church and listening to Christian music periodically. Although COVID-19 is 100 percent a tragedy, it is also a blessing in disguise in many ways, not just for me. Once we started daily Zoom meetings for Bible study, I was more obligated to actually read and study the Bible. It has turned me into less of a lukewarm Christian. Now, I feel way closer to God than I have ever before, and I’m very thankful for that (Cora).
Undoubtedly, this has been a time of great spiritual growth and peace in my heart and mind. I can easily say that I’ve gotten closer to God and closer to my youth pastor and friends because of Zoom (Kaleb).
Prayer group Zoom videos have had a big impact on me and other kids who attend every morning. It has helped me get into the daily habit of spending my first hour of the day learning about God. It’s been a way for me to stay connected with the people in my youth group and engage in important conversations about Christianity. I’ve grown much closer with God and my youth group in these crazy times (Laynie).
Doing our daily devotions has been a great experience for me and my family. It gave me a reason to wake up in the morning. Sometimes we would do challenges like “who has the cleanest room by the end of the day?” and “who can come up with the most creative place to do a plank?” It was really fun and kept me eager for the next day. But, most importantly, I learned a lot about God and became closer to him. I don’t want to stop learning about God every day. The best way to learn about Jesus is with other people so we can learn from each other (Jillian).
After my school was shut down for three weeks (or so I thought) I was frustrated. I wanted to be back at school. But, a week from my birthday, my youth pastor sent out a text asking if the youth leadership team would meet on Zoom. So, we did, and we talked about doing daily devotions in the morning. I thought it sounded like a great idea. It was something uplifting in the midst of my frustration. It’s extremely relieving that in the midst of all of this craziness, God has not left any of our sides because he IS greater than the coronavirus (Abbey).
I have appreciated feeling welcomed by everyone on Zoom. I have had a blast getting deeper into God’s Word with my friends and all the fun and the laughs we’ve shared. God has helped me not be afraid of the things that were happening at the time and still now related to COVID-19 and the riots. He has given me peace. It has helped being able to talk to my friends almost every day about what is going on and share my feelings (Michaela).
I have really enjoyed hearing other people’s perspectives and opinions about Jesus and our relationship with him as our Savior. God has shown me how there will always be trying times. Just trust him. He has shown me to find comfort in his Word and the people he puts in my life. We can always confide in him with our care and anxieties. He is faithful and just to hear us in our time of need (Rebekah).
Kinney and the teens are continuing to meet before the school semester begins and will restructure to encourage to keep reading and study the Bible each day.
“We never would have had this opportunity without COVID-19, because usually our teens would be in school, sports and extracurricular activities. We want to form some sort of accountability with each other and find a way to keep meeting at least once a week to see how everyone is doing in their own devotions,” said Kinney.
“We are grateful for Pastor Andrew Kinney and his team at Chapel Pike Wesleyan who have leveraged technology to raise the level of intentional discipleship and Bible engagement for their students,” said Dr. Mark Gorveatte, district superintendent of the Crossroads District. “They have refused to let the pandemic limit their youth ministry’s impact.”