In our first week of online youth, we planned to play an online game called Skribbl.io. It was a lot of fun – for the kids who were able to log on! Unfortunately, one member of our group wasn’t able to, and spent 20 minutes listening to a game when she couldn’t take part in it.
As Sydney’s lockdown continues, youth groups can provide a much-needed source of friendship, fellowship and connection for our teens. We’re so thankful that there is a way youth groups can continue meeting during this isolating time.
Yet we’re also competing with at-home distractions, not to mention the fact that many of our youth are spending hours each week on school Zoom calls. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your online youth group, from someone who knows what it feels like when it goes wrong!
A quick game’s a good game
When it comes to Zoom, less is more. Teens naturally have a shorter attention span than adults. Add to that a week of online learning and the less interactive medium of a Zoom meeting, and a big part of the battle is keeping the kids engaged.
With that in mind, consider how you can make the time less burdensome on your kids’ attention. This might look like playing games that involve getting up out of seats, switching quickly from one round to the next and don’t require much mental energy. It could also mean having a shorter night (think one hour rather than 1½) and including “stretch and snack” breaks.
It’s time to get creative
Running a great youth group online also means a bit of thinking outside the box. Don’t feel restricted to the usual Kahoot or trivia night. There are plenty of ways you can keep games exciting. Here are some fun ideas we’ve seen:
Scavenger hunt – find objects lying around the house; first person back wins
https://skribbl.io – a Pictionary-style game with some added fun features
Make your own “would you rather” slides – get kids to indicate which side they are on and why
Baking or craft – give everyone the instructions (using items most people should have at home) and create it together
Brain training – get competitive with timed challenges like Memory, Boggle and Scattergories
https://codenames.game – an online game, which caters best to an older age group
Box of Lies – based on a Jimmy Fallon segment where the group guesses if someone is lying or telling the truth about a strange object in their house
Drama games – two truths and a lie, 20 questions and one-word stories can all work online
Music trivia – get kids to guess the name or artist of a song
The Bible should be exciting, too
Rather than having kids tune out while the talk is happening, consider how you can help them engage better with the gospel by making Bible time interactive.
Your youth can draw or act out part of the story, do a Kahoot about the story or key verse, or write notes on a whiteboard with answers to questions. The speaker can screen share funny pictures, play a relevant YouTube clip, or use items from their house to give an object lesson.
Zoom also has some great tools such as emoji reactions, backgrounds and breakout rooms which can all be used to create a more interactive talk.
Online ministry can sometimes feel awkward and frustrating, but we’re so glad our youth groups can keep encouraging one another and stay connected during this lockdown. We all need a reminder that while our world is different right now, the gospel is unchanging and its message has eternal significance for those we are caring for in ministry.