Isolated, But Not Alone, Youth Unite During Crisis
Story by Heidi Shoemaker
Young people may particularly have a difficult time making sense of what is happening in the world today. Their brains are still maturing and they lack experience, leaving them vulnerable and confused. They have been socially isolated from their peers, teachers and churches for months. Add the seemingly endless news cycles, and children and teens (and even adults) may feel overwhelmed, anxious and scared. Many feel alone.
Retaining that connection and sense of community is challenging in the best of times for adolescents and teens; during a pandemic, it requires innovative thinking and a willingness to work well outside the box. So what are Ohio youth and young adult pastors doing to ensure that these susceptible individuals—who may be isolated—are not alone?
The Kettering church has a pastoral duo who stay linked with their youth and young adults. Pastors Jason Calvert and Paddy McCoy employ a mix of technology and “old school” methods to remain connected to their youth and congregation. According to McCoy, “Young adult elders are each calling and caring for 20 to 25 of their young adult community members, evaluating their health, prayer needs and other needs.” Calvert shared that the high school students are calling approximately 50 elderly and/or lonely church members each week.
In addition to Sabbath School and prayer meetings held virtually, the pastors offer live weekly Bible studies, daily devotional videos and interactive games and challenges for biweekly prizes. Sometimes to encourage youth members celebrating birthdays, “We simply drive by a student’s home [parade style], honking and yelling and cheering!” says Calvert.
In April the Kettering church launched “the Hub,” an online initiative to connect church families with God and one another during this time of isolation. Visitors to the site, ketteringadventist.org, find innovative resources, live online events and opportunities to contribute content ideas to help it expand.
Both pastors regularly text their respective community members, letting them know they are praying for them and are available to talk via whatever means preferred. “I truly believe that all the work to create content and be a constant online presence helps our members feel like we are wrapping our arms around them, even from a distance,” says McCoy. Metrics for the various platforms seem to support this belief, as weekly viewership of worship services has recently quadrupled, while virtual Bible studies have nearly tripled, including a global following.
McCoy receives positive messages from near and far, such as one from a Kettering College (Ohio) student: “Hey Pastor Paddy! I look forward every Sabbath to live streaming the service all the way from up here in Michigan and enjoy all of your podcasts and Wednesday connect chats with Pastor Jason. It is such a blessing to be connected to such a wonderful community.”