One of the lessons from 2020 is that when it comes to making young disciples for Christ, we cannot leave the responsibility to the few... we're all involved. It's not just churches and specific youth groups that are looking to create safe and inspiring spaces to explore faith. We also need to equip families to support their children and help volunteers to encourage families to engage with faith and discipleship together.
This is not a new realisation for Urban Saints but the pandemic has brought it out into the open. It has focused our thinking and challenged us to be creative in how we offer this support. Discipleship that begins in the youth group but also extends beyond it, has become not just the best option but rather the only option. We pray that this is one of the lasting legacies that will remain once the pandemic is truly behind us all.
We are passionate about local weekly groups gathering together and when it is again safe to do so, we will be leading the way back to face-to-face sessions. But we know that groups will have even more lasting impact if they can encourage the discipleship journey to continue in other areas of the lives of young people.
Our commitment to discipling young lives for Christ extends far beyond simply granting access to sessions from home rather than in the church or community centre building. New group resources have been - and will continue to be - developed, but we have also been exploring different ways to equip volunteers to make disciples.
Whatever the rest of 2021 holds for us all, Urban Saints will have a range resources that even better support local groups as well as families, schools and even the young people themselves.
New and improved
Early on in the pandemic, the Urban Saints team introduced three new types of resources that could help with the transition to meeting as groups online.
Pick n Mix was created with lockdown and social distancing in mind and are easily adapted for online group sessions. Kids Club By Post is aimed at groups of younger children and the sessions are ideal for delivering through the post or via emails to families. The first term of 2021 follows the whole life of Jesus concluding with the Easter story.
Meanwhile, to complement the huge range of sessions available on our Energize website, we created Energize At Home. These shorter sessions have been adapted for use by families in the home - perfect to help parents support the faith journeys of their children at this time. We also introduced the option to add parents to Energize subscriptions, allowing them to share in the discipleship journey of their kids and to play their part in encouraging progress.
Just catch a movie?
The Energize At the Movies series has played a big part in closing the gap between group life and home life. Groups can watch a movie "together" before unpacking the related sessions in small groups over a video call. None more so than the latest session (released in January) exploring the deep, poignant and uplifting new Pixar movie, Soul.
Winning in 2021
The return to lockdown in January saw us revert back to online sessions and home deliveries. New content coming out this year will reflect this shift back, while keeping an eye on group life beyond Covid-19.
The Energize team has committed to producing at least one new Zoom-friendly activity every week during lockdown. Weekly Wins will ensure that no matter how far you've made your way round the Energize back catalogue, there will always be something new you can try. We're just about to launch a brand new Lent course - called What Would You Say? - written for online sessions. It focuses on the questions Jesus asked ordinary people and what they reveal about him and about us too. Kleer Series 2 is also coming very soon to Energize. The follow-up to one of the most popular and creative resources available through Energize, it includes six video-based sessions and is easily adaptable to either online or face-to-face as required.
Get away from it all
It's the one thing we can't do right now. Go away. Undeterred, we launched our 2021 Camps programme last month, hopeful that this summer will see the chance to safely run physical Camps. However as the summer of 2020 proved, our Camps teams are some of the most creative and adaptable volunteers in the business! As a result, we have three different Virtual Camps resources available on our website - with all the activities mapped out for you to host an unforgettable adventure from the comfort of your own (and your young people's) home...
By young people. For young people.
Throughout 2020 we got to hear from young people across the UK and Ireland and from all over the Urban Saints movement. We wanted to challenge the messages that young people were hearing through the media - to "flip the narrative" - to see things differently and also to respond for themselves. You can catch up on these videos and other resources on the Flip the Narrative page on the website.
We're going to continue this through 2021 (watch this space!) and why not set your alarm clocks for the latest of these youth-driven resources... The Early Early Show... a light-hearted discussion show hosted by our very own anchorman, Tom. This first pilot series runs until Easter with new episodes released every Wednesday.
Don't be socially distanced?
We are blessed to have a team full of wisdom and experience as well as a whole load of volunteers who are constantly learning lessons and ready to share their experiences too. We've set up specialist forums on social media for our Urban Saints Groups and for those who already use the Energize resources. Wwe've never needed each more than now and one way to play your part is to sign up to one of these forums and get involved. You can connect with them on Facebook or just get in touch and we can help you get stuck in too.
We know that it is tough right now to keep going in youth and children's ministry. We feel it too and we're desperate to return to gathering with groups face-to-face, as soon as it is safe and wise to do so. If you are determined to continue (or even start) making young disciples for Christ during the pandemic, then we can help.
If you don't know where to begin, why not give Energize a try? You can explore it free and without obligation for a month and if you need help to know how to make best use of Energize in your current setting, get in touch with the team for advice.