With the lockdown in NSW being extended for another 4 weeks, it is important to keep in mind safe youth ministry in an online context.
Safe Ministry provide some great resources and guidelines for those who have gone back online for youth during COVID.
Some things to consider when organising youth gatherings online:
- Planning is crucial. You must take care with the message you intend to communicate through both the words and images you use as it may be perceived differently by those who view it.
- Youth group members, their friends and parents should be directed to the Church or Youth Group’s official video streaming/conferencing account and not an individual leader’s account. These accounts should only be used in a one directional manner e.g. the Church account must not add, follow or comment on any followers account.
- Caution should be observed with the use of any sites that delete posts, images and comments.
- Schedule times for online forums and make these times known to youth and parents (chatting outside organised times should be discouraged).
- Clear guidelines should be made known to parents and participants about the forum e.g. maintain respectful conversations, observe appropriate dress codes, where possible leaders and participants should be in a public place (not private bedrooms) and be respectful of other household member’s privacy when meeting.
- A senior leader (e.g. Minister, Church Council, Elders) should also be informed of when and how groups are meeting online.
- There should be at least 2 adult leaders present in any online gathering and all leaders should be clear about what their responsibilities are in this forum e.g. sharing a talk, leading a discussion, moderating/responding to comments.
- Leaders should never have a group with students only of the opposite gender.
- There should be no private contact or conversations with any student in Years 7-9. Any private conversations with older youth must be recorded and never deleted.
- Make sure there is clear communication with parents about the changes so they are aware of the new means of connecting and communicating and can be alert to it.
- If youth are going to send prayer points to a leader though a social media messaging platform we would recommend use of more public forums such as group chats with two leaders rather than private messaging.
- Where possible, invite others in to video conferences and chats rather than conducting them one-to-one. (If it is not possible to invite someone else, consider postponing the chat or informing your head ministry leader of the chat and the reason for it).
- Ensure all leaders, parents and participants know whom to speak to regarding inappropriate behaviour by leaders or ministry participants.
Check out all the resources provided by Safe Ministry here.
Remember, it is our responsibility as leaders to ensure the safety of young people we are in ministry with, in any context.
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and Youth/High School ministry leader as a part of the PULSE team.