9 Tips for Safeguarding the NextGen During Coronavirus


by Rev. Dr. Jessica Jones, Canon for Next Generation Discipleship, Gulf Atlantic Diocese Director of Family Ministry, ACNA Next Generation Leadership Initiative

by Rev. Aaron Buttery, Associate for NextGen Leadership, C4SO Diocese

Due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are in the beginning of a new season of ministry with young people. This season of challenges presents an amazing opportunity! As we are encouraging our churches and clergy into a missional attitude and posture, many youth and children’s ministries are also launching new and innovative ministry opportunities.

As one children’s pastor said to us on Tuesday, “Just think, this may be the best moment to empower and encourage parents into catechesis in the home! We have been trying to do this for years!” Across the country, youth ministries are using video conferencing, media, and other means of connection in amazing ways to build community, offer clarity, and continue becoming more like Jesus. (We will share more ideas in future posts!)

As we all lean into online ministry with young people, it would be very easy to forget or put aside our various Ministry Safe training and policies. We strongly encourage you to be ever more mindful as we shift into uncharted territories—to continue to be responsible and to make sure that your amazing cadre of trained adult leaders and volunteers continues to be responsible as well. (Tell them thank you from us, too.) Keep these 9 tips in mind to safeguard the NextGen during this season:

  1. Remind your adult leaders and volunteers that a virtual space is the same as a room, and not to be alone in that space with a student.
  2. If your ministry features one-to-one discipleship models, switch to triads or small groups. Using an app or conference call that has a recording feature does not make it a safe environment, as recordings can always be deleted.
  3. Be mindful of texting and apps that have one-to-one features. Marco Polo and GroupMe are some of my favorite communication tools because they have strong group functions. Your students will reach out to you individually, and these apps allow them to return to the group easily.
  4. Use of social media is increasing exponentially. Use it as a means to encourage public connection, and work to avoid private messaging.
  5. Be open and clear with your students and their parents about your safety guidelines.
  6. In your video calls and connections, make sure you are fully and appropriately clothed, and that there are no beds or suggestive items in the background. When orienting students to your online environment, asking students to be in a main room (not bedroom) and appropriately dressed, is also recommended.
  7. Keep your background checks and Ministry Safe training up to date.
  8. Be cautious and diligent if recruiting new leaders. Young people are already targeted at higher rates for online predation, and we are the first line of defense for that in our churches.
  9. Set up a schedule of online meetings with your adult leaders to ensure that students are not falling through the virtual cracks, and to encourage Ministry Safe practices online

Our prayer in this season, a prayer that will have an impact long after Coronavirus, has been:

Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us, that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another, and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another. Grant us brave and enduring hearts that we may strengthen one another, until the disciplines and testing of these days are ended, and you again give peace in our time; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The spirit of neighborliness—especially in a time when the NextGen will struggle with homelessness, loneliness, and a sense of exile—will help provide safe and transparent environments for us to follow Jesus alongside our students.

Let us know how we can help.

Continue the conversation about NextGen ministry in this missional moment!

Join Aaron Buttery and Jessica Jones, along with the C4SO and GAD NextGen Teams via Zoom. Contact Jessica Jones for the Zoom link.