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Adolescence

3 Ways Youth Culture Has Changed Because Of Covid-19

Bryant Westbrook
February 2nd, 2021

Covid-19 has changed youth culture like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. I even think it’s changed the culture more than we realize. Whether we see it or not, Students have different mindsets about things and their priorities have shifted. We’ve got to take it upon ourselves to recognize this culture shift and be intentional in this next season of ministry.

I’ve found these 3 things to be evident and true for the student ministry I help lead. I’m willing to bet that it’s true for your students as well. Although some might say it’s still too early to identify the lasting effects of Covid-19 and the lockdowns, we can already see how culture is changing and trending in new directions.

3 ways youth culture is different:

1. Youth are more isolated

This generation of students is more isolated than they’ve ever been. A survey done by the Harris Poll in conjunction with the 4-H organization found that since Covid-19 began, 7 out of 10 youth identify with struggling with mental health. In the same poll, it’s also reported that students now spend 75% of every day looking at a screen which students shared as a factor in these mental health numbers. One last statistic from this study, 64% of students in the U.S say that they believe the feelings of loneliness and anxiety since the pandemic will have a lasting impact on mental health for students. 

When I read those numbers I felt sadness in my heart because of the pain that students across our nation are feeling. Many of these students are coping with these feelings in unhealthy ways and need help identifying positive ways to cope like journaling, taking deep breaths, praying, going for a walk, or talking to us or their small group leader. These statistics show us just how crucial it is that we as the church are needed now more than ever. We need to be more intentional in reaching out to students and doing whatever it takes to make sure they are taken care of. Whether it’s taking a student out for breakfast, leaving them a gift on the steps of their home, mailing a note, or calling them. We need to find ways to reach out and let them know they matter.

2. Attending church is a second priority 

Because of the pandemic, students’ priorities have shifted. It’s becoming less valuable for students to attend a church service or youth group gathering. In our ministry, we’ve seen this first hand. We recently started having grade based events on Wednesdays for students to come and play games, hang out, see people, and have a community again. While all of the students didn’t show up to the hangout-type events, the ones that did have told us over and over that it’s awesome the doors were opened and it meant a lot that we were trying to do something to reach out.

Depending on your demographic, this may or may not be a good idea, but if it’s right for where you are, I encourage you to give students a place to go that’s safe. We’ve got to be diligent and persistent, whether on Zoom or in person, in making sure we create opportunities for community to happen outside of Sunday service.

3. Family dynamics have changed

Personally, The pandemic has been an eye-opener as I now have a greater understanding of family dynamics and how important they are. For some families, this pandemic season has had some ups and downs. For others, it has been difficult. Not just financially, families with underlying relational problems have been hit hard as those problems surfaced while in the pandemic. These can range from abuse, addictions, and arguing and fighting.

For youth workers, it’s crucial for us to reach out to our students so they know that we and their small group leader see them, we care about them, and we’re there for them. Think about the student who’s at home with one parent, or the student who’s at home with two parents that fight all the time. They need us to be available as a resource.

Yes, the pandemic has brought many challenges and brought to the surface hidden family problems, but it’s on us as the church to do something about it. It’s on us to have a holy sense of urgency in being the church and taking care of our people, no matter the size of your youth group. Jesus is still the hope of the world and his plan is still to reach the world through the local church. 

What will you do to begin reaching out to your families? 

How will you help them see they are cared for?

Bryant Westbrook

Bryant Westbrook is the youth director at First United Methodist Church is Valley Center, KS. Bryant has served as a missionary in Alaska, program staff for YouthWorks, treatment counselor for teens and has a passion for student leadership. Bryant's contact is bryant@fumcvc.com and he blogs at bryantwestbrook.wordpress.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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