Children and youth pastors across the U.S. have gotten creative in connecting with kids and teens in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Next Gen pastors in the Northwest District saw the need for helping foster those connections in a digital fashion and got to work. A group gathered to share what they were doing in their specific ministry areas. That’s when the idea was born: produce a collective sermon series featuring multiple youth pastors across the district.
The team created “Brave,” a district-wide sermon series for student ministries. Rev. Ryley Olson, Next Gen pastor at The Ransom Church (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), was part of a Zoom call with youth pastors at small churches who expressed concern in everything moving online and being unsure on how to create engaging content. That’s when Olson and fellow Next Gen pastor Shawn Broderick of GracePoint Wesleyan Church (Brookings, South Dakota) began to curate the series content. From there, they shared their plans with the team via Zoom and began to execute the plan.
“I believed we had an opportunity, as a church with a large staff, to resource those youth pastors and help them do what they do best,” said Olson.
“My goal was to help lead with Pastor Ryley and Pastor Shawn in this process and get the information out to as many churches as possible,” said Zach McConnell, Next Gen pastor at Linwood Wesleyan Church (Sioux Falls). “That included calling churches about this resource and letting the district know about what we were working on.”
As McConnell began contacting other churches, he humbly realized the team had a valuable resource that could be utilized by many.
“We recognized that several churches do not have the resources or staff to run a student ministry while navigating through uncharted water,” said McConnell. “We asked ourselves, ‘Should we build the content so other churches can continue doing things they are good at, like building relationships?’”
It didn’t take long to answer “yes” to that question.
“Brave” is seven-week sermon series that it is geared towards the COVID-19 pandemic and asks the question “are we brave enough to walk with Jesus during this time.” The series includes these video messages below:
- Week 1: Brave Enough to Surrender
- Week 2: Brave Enough to Testify
- Week 3: Brave Enough to Serve
- Week 4: Brave Enough to Pray
- Week 5: (youth groups were encouraged to lead on their own)
- Week 6: Brave Enough to Worship
- Week 7: Brave Enough to Obey
The idea for the content had been ruminating in Olson’s spirit for a while.
“When I had left my previous ministry position, God laid it on my heart to start praying for the kind of students he wanted me to help shape,” said Olson. “The ‘Brave’ series was always intended to be a prophetic word over our students and who I believed God was calling them (and our leaders) to become. I have seen and even led youth groups that are afraid to call their students to more, not thinking they can rise to the occasion … Students can lead at higher levels than we believe.”
The trio of leaders knows that partnership and collaboration help all churches be successful and has made this complete series available to churches across the district.
“This is a great story of a collective mind of Next Gen pastors coming together to help our district,” said McConnell. “We created this series in order to help all churches, big or small, to succeed. We believe in the Church and believe that by providing teachings led by familiar faces from across the district (faces that students would recognize from youth camp, Follow Conference, lock-ins, etc.), then maybe they could be challenged in a new way during this time period. This is our opportunity to reach out and help serve our fellow churches in the trenches of ministry.”
Broderick talked about how it’s hard to be away from the students and their families but sees the value in ministering in these ways when in-person ministry cannot happen.
“It has been rewarding to see our team of youth pastors come together as the Church and put together a series where students can hear from familiar faces and voices that they would’ve seen at different camp, retreat and district events throughout their years in youth group,” said Broderick. “Personally, it has been a blessing for me to connect with youth pastors who are experiencing the same things that I am too.”
Olson believes it’s imperative to resource and encourage students to led in the here and now.
“These students will not be the Church someday — they are right now,” said Olson. “These students are leaders. These students love Jesus. These students are brave.” He also noted that creating the Brave series and encouraging students to lead is impacting whole families during this COVID-19 season.
“The most rewarding part of this is that we have reached so many students that we wouldn’t have reached without moving online,” said Olson. “We’ve even reached some parents with the gospel (who don’t attend a church) through this series.”
Broderick wants to encourage fellow leaders and Wesleyans to keep providing hope in the coming days.
“Love hard,” said Broderick. “It’s going to look different for our ministries, students and volunteers, but hop on every opportunity that you see to show how much those who surround you are appreciated. People are looking for hope!”
In the end, Olson sees the days of this current pandemic as an opportunity for unleashing and encouraging the church, especially when so many people have been hurting in various ways.
“One thing I have gotten to see is the Church coming together and new leaders being unleashed,” said Olson. “When we create content, we need to make it available to others so that they can use it too. This allows our efforts to multiply faster. Saving time on certain things we aren’t good at frees us to do the things that only we can do. By sharing resources, we free ourselves up to do what we do best. During this time, I want to encourage people not to just ‘make it through’ but to find opportunities to move the kingdom forward and be a blessing to those around you. We are in this together.”
Editor’s note: For any church who would like to use these videos, feel free. Please do not change any of the actual video content. If you would like to add your own introduction or conclusion to the video, please feel free to do so. For more information, email Ryley Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.