Youth Ministry and Discernment in the Time of COVID-19

Like many 20-year-olds navigating college and transitioning into adult life, I was looking for a summer internship. Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church seemed like the perfect place for me to work. I grew up participating in programs that BMPC offered and continued my faith journey into college. This summer, I was looking to discern if ministry was a career I wanted to pursue. Given the circumstances, I felt incredibly lucky to be offered a summer intern position with BMPC Youth Ministry. Summertime is usually filled with many fantastic opportunities to build fellowship for all our youth. We had plans to visit the beloved Camp Kirkwood twice this summer with different age groups, go on a mission trip to Mexico with our high school students, and so much more!

As the world would soon discover, all those plans had to change as our country dove into quarantine in March. In April, I happily learned I would still be able to spend my time working with the youth group; however, this work would look very different than what was initially planned. Pastor Leigh had already embarked on the demanding task of making a quick and seamless transition to an online model of our youth programs for the remainder of the calendar year. I jumped in near the end of the school year, but Pastor Leigh and I had our work cut out for us as we reimagined what youth ministry looks like during a global pandemic. We clearly had to create very different goals for youth programs this summer.

Usually, summers for BMPC youth include large-scale events, providing opportunities that would otherwise be impossible during the school year. We worked diligently to create a community (even if just online) for youth, keeping youth connected to faith, and helping youth traverse essential questions. We formed two new programs (one for middle school, one for college students), offering weekly opportunities for youth to connect. We had challenging conversations and provided safe spaces for youth to discuss evolving situations surrounding the nation's pandemic and racial inequalities. Our programs also offered space for prayer, Scripture reading, and plenty of silly games.

Easily the most fulfilling work this summer revolved around helping youth faithfully respond to the societal upheaval after the death of George Floyd. I am honored to serve alongside and to have been mentored by Pastor Leigh, who bravely took the lead on this challenging work. We came together, both intellectually and spiritually, not only to examine inequity but to listen to how God calls us to respond. While "zooming" with the college ministry program at my university, I was surprised to discover how rare this work was amongst my peers' churches across the nation.

Ultimately, this summer has shown me the importance of community. Being the people of God and following Jesus' example of love, truth and compassion has united our endeavors with the youth. I have grown closer to the BMPC community throughout my internship, which has enriched my faith immensely. While I am still unsure if I am called to professional ministry, this internship has helped me more deeply understand God's movement through the ministry of the Church. While this summer was not what I expected, working with the youth gave me something to be excited about every week. It is an experience I will look back on fondly and gratefully, as a time when I learned more deeply what it means to follow Jesus.