Navigating ‘uncharted waters’ in youth ministry

Youths and youth ministers from St. Ann Parish in Long Grove meet over Zoom earlier this month.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

LONG GROVE — As social distancing requirements continue in the state of Iowa, youth minister Julia Jones cherishes St. Ann Parish’s weekly “youth ministry nights” on Zoom. “I miss all my kids,” she said.

Jones hosts two 30-minute sessions through the video conferencing service — one for junior high youths, and one for high school youths. When the parish began offering the meetings in March, the primary goal was to pray and “check in,” but now Jones incorporates weekly challenges, such as students talking to their parents about vocations, and keeping a journal to write down moments of grace. She utilizes lesson plans from the Center for Ministry Development.

Sometimes, guest speakers pop in to share a lesson with the students. During Holy Week, the emcee of Notre Dame Vision, Scott Boyle, spoke about Holy Thursday and asked the students what they were doing to wash someone else’s feet during this time of social distancing. “We had some kids that were making masks for the University of Iowa Hospitals. A lot of kids talked about spending time with their family,” Jones said. “The question was really thought-provoking for a lot of them.”


Helping the youths stay connected is a major goal for the program. The youths “are really wanting to be among people again, which I think we can all agree with,” Jones said. One week, the students played show and tell. “We met a lot of dogs,” Jones said.

Each Zoom meeting closes with prayer, and the youths have the opportunity to share their prayer intentions. Jones said the youths enjoy the prayer time and the opportunity to see people outside their immediate family.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered impossible many traditional forms of worship and programming for the youths; summer programs such as Notre Dame Vision and the parish’s Kentucky mission trip have already been canceled. However, “we need to keep things moving forward,” Jones said. “These are uncharted waters, but we need to keep thinking of new ways to engage.  Now is a good time to be brave.”

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