30 WAYS TO DIGITALLY CONNECT WITH STUDENTS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Youth pastors have a lot of jobs already—and COVID-19 added one (or five) more.
Such as Digital Innovation Expert. Or . . . Director of Zoom Calls. Something like that.
That’s why, here at Orange, we’ve been loving conversations with really smart ministry leaders—people like you who have already pioneered some innovative solutions to help youth ministries connect digitally.
And, we want to share some of those amazing ideas here so we can learn from each other.
Heads up, there are dozens of ways to pull off each of these ideas. That’s why the list below is simply starting points. After all, what one group thinks is cool is what another group thinks is ridiculous (but you know, not in the cool way). So it’s important to contextualize and figure out how this works best in your context with your specific students!
Even better—if you have ideas of something you’ve seen or done that you’d like to submit to help other ministries, let us know and connect with us in our Facebook Community!
1. TALENT SHOW
Using a group video chat, give each student an opportunity to show off a talent (eg. sing a song, do stand up comedy, dance, share a drawing, solve a rubix cube, juggle a soccer ball, etc.). This could be a spontaneous thing or something you go big on with promoting online.
Take it up a notch. Record the talent show. Pick the top 10 and invite parents and students to view and vote!
2. PROM OR 8TH GRADE DANCE FASHION SHOW
A lot of upperclassmen and eighth graders are bummed about losing their opportunity for Prom or their Eighth Grade Dance.
What if you got those groups together digitally to show off the snazzy outfits they may have already purchased? Give them a chance to use them and encourage one another.
Use a screenshot function to take “prom pics” in a way that students can share without actually sharing the virus.
3. ONLINE GAMING
Now might be the best time to jump in and start playing the online games your students are playing! May the odds be ever in your favor.
4. NETFLIX WATCH PARTY
Getting your group together to watch a show, a documentary, or a movie and chat through it is an awesome and fun way to stay connected.
There are a few ways you could do this. A low tech option is to tell everyone to start it at the same time and start a group text about it (or use GroupMe). A higher tech option would be something like netflixparty.com.
Either way, preview what you’re watching. One unexpected scene can cause you to lose trust.
5. COOKING SHOW
Host a digital cooking show. Use ingredients they most likely already have at home, things like flour, sugar, or chocolate chips.
You can host the lesson, invite an older person in your church to teach, or give each student two to three minutes to introduce and explain how to make a certain recipe in a specific category and then show off their final product of what they’ve made.
6. DARE COMPETITION
Dares can make parents feel on edge, but they can also make students interested in participating!
Video yourself challenging students to participate in some dares. Things like build a log cabin with a bunch of hotdogs, or build a fort in the backyard with sticks and send in a picture.
Pick one winner for each dare and Amazon them a prize like a five-pound gummy bear. You can do multiple dares a day, or do one dare each day!
7. TIKTOK FUN
Use the Duet feature on TikTok to recreate fun TikTok videos your students have made. Have them recreate the TikTok videos you’ve made too using this feature!
8. MASKED SPEAKER
Having a guest speaker Zoom/YouTube in for your group to give a message in costume and allow students to have an opportunity to guess who it is. Send the winner a prize from Amazon!
9. TRIVIA NIGHT
Remember when HQ Live was a big deal? Host your own version with your students online! About anything. OR let your students put the questions together and run it for the group!
10. STUDENT TAKE OVER
Whether it’s a small group, a full grade, or a different group, what if you handed over the YouTube Live keys to someone else and allowed them to do something fun or quirky for a little bit?
11. HOST A LATE SHOW (AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY)
Create a Jimmy Fallon Show set-up with a guest and a game, where the monologue is the teaching time.
12. STORY TIME
Livestream yourself reading a story for your students (either an actual book or from the Bible or a devotional). Make sure to have someone fielding questions on the livestream as students send them in!
A fun variation is PJ’s and Bedtime story mad libs. Just grab a children’s book and cross out the names of all the characters. Replace them with names of students in your group. Log on at midnight and do a bedtime story starring them.
13. LUNCH CHAT
Have your small groups jump on some sort of video chat around lunchtime and just hang out while eating together. No real structure—just chilling while you have a sandwich!
Connect students with either other students or with adults who can tutor them in different subjects over the phone or on video chat. Be sure to have multiple students and adults involved so there isn’t any awkwardness with a one-on-one video chat.
15. BUILD A STORY
Low-tech option: Pick an order, and each student adds one sentence to the story. Build on each other’s creativity. See how long you can make the story!
High-tech option: Create a video of yourself saying one sentence (no more than eight seconds) of a story and then send that video to one student. That student takes the eight-second video that you created and puts it into some simple video creating software and adds on one sentence of their own (no more than eight seconds).
Then, they send it to another student and also back to you. The next student does the same: they add on their one sentence story and send it to a new student and back to you. You should monitor the length of the story and share it to social media once it’s complete.
Keep in mind that too long of a video will be a challenge to text back and forth to each other. It’s essential for everyone to stick to the suggested time frame and copy you as the youth leader on every text when they send the story to a new student.
This might be best for small groups or smaller sized youth ministries.
16. HAVE EACH STUDENT GIVE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF THEIR ROOM.
You can learn a lot about your students by learning what’s in their room. Do they share it with a sibling? Did they win an award for something? What’s that poster or picture of?
Pro tip: Put a 5-10 minute timer (or however long you designate per person) on your phone and tell them when the timer goes off their time is up.
17. HOST A DEBATE
Pick a time of day and length of time and a topic (or a schedule of topics) you are going to debate about and invite your students to the event.
Debate topic ideas:
- TikTok or Snapchat?
- Snapchat or Instagram?
- Coke or Pepsi?
- Football or Baseball?
- Old Kanye or New Kanye?
- Adidas or Nike?
- LaCroix or Bubbly?
- YouTube or Google?
- Netflix or YouTube?
Add a judge panel and determine a winning topic of each debate!
18. CHORE TIME
Make doing chores a competition between students. Example: Give students a chore and the first one back to video call wins.
Post something like, “If anybody else is cleaning their room right now, hop on Zoom right now and let’s all clean our rooms at the same time while talking.”
19. POLLS! POLLS! POLLS!
Polls are such a quick and easy way to get students to engage without a lot of commitment from them. They just have to click a button to vote.
You can use polls like:
- What shows are you watching?
- What movies are you watching?
- What food are you wanting right now?
- What activities are you doing now?
- Which American Idol contestant did you vote for?
20. THEME ANYTHING
This could be a PJ party, Christmas party, hat, party, costume party—basically any kind of party you can think of. Whatever it is, pick a theme for your gathering and encourage students to go all out.
21. VIRTUAL CHARADES OR PICTIONARY
Assign a game host. Divide the students into teams or play every man for themselves. DM them the word or phrase. Then let the fun begin!
22. CRAFT TOGETHER
Use things like an empty toilet paper roll, empty milk carton, plastic bag, or sticks. Send out a coloring sheet, and have everybody color while you chat online about whatever is on your mind
23. HIGHS AND LOWS
Pick a time of the day/week that you will always be on Zoom. Let students know you want to hear the highs and lows of their day/week.
Have students share about the best thing they did, the best thing they ate, the funniest thing they watched today.Or after a group activity, give our group superlatives for that activity.
Don’t forget to explain to a middle schooler what a superlative is!
25. SHOW AND TELL
Have each student find three pictures or items around the house and share about them.
26. SERVE TOGETHER
Find a need. Share a need. Meet a need.
For example: The local food bank is low on food, what canned foods in your house is your family okay with you donating? Or can you Instacart groceries to the food bank?
27. SEND SNAIL MAIL
As of right now, the snail mail system is still up and running…
While you still can, send your students something in the mail! You can even use online services to upload photos and address books and pay to send students a postcard. Digital postcards or virtual cards in their email or DMs or texts can be a super fun way to connect.
28. VIRTUALLY GO SOMEWHERE TOGETHER
Log on to the aquarium, zoo, or national park livestream together and have a group chat about it while you watch! So many places are offering these opportunities right now.
29. YOUVERSION DIGITAL DEVOS
There’s probably no better time than now to help students develop a daily habit of spending a few minutes reading the Bible and in prayer. The YouVersion Bible App is a great place to do that. There are even reading plans for every XP3 Middle School and High School series, and you can invite others to do the devotionals with you.
Want to connect with them yourself? Release quick, 60-second video devotionals for your students of you reading or talking through the devo.
30. HAVE A SCAVENGER HUNT
Give students a scavenger hunt to participate in!
This can be stuff around their house:
- Find one sock
- Find a random spice
- Find an old family picture where someone is wearing a hat
Or stuff they can find outside:
- Find a leaf that has four different colors on it
- Find a flower
- Find a tree
Or stuff they can find online:
- Find facts about a certain topic
- Find an article about a certain topic from a specific year
- Find a YouTube tutorial with a certain fact
JOIN US TO TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING
That’s it! 30 Ideas. Hope it’s food for thought! Join the community and let’s talk about it. ALSO a big thank you to some of the people who had the incredible ideas for this list:
Gretchen Dedina, Megan Bagnall, Jamal Jones, Dan Istvanik, Katie Matsumoto, Ryan Murphy, Frank DiRenzo, Mikiala Tennie, Dave Sewell, Eric Hawkinson, Johnathan Baldwin, Eric Mansfield, Vivi Diaz, Gina Abbas, Ben Konfrst, Candice Wynn, Charlie Conder, Crystal Chiang, Tyler Rees, Brett Talley, Jessica Hatmaker, Ashley Johnson
WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR BRILLIANT IDEAS, TOO!
This post originally appeared on www.orangestudents.com used with their permission.
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.