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Intergenerational Youth Ministry During COVID-19

Congregations looking to keep their members connected as the body of Christ could organize a “mail buddy” system, pairing children and youth with other church members homebound because of COVID-19.

Almost overnight, COVID-19 forced congregations to face the challenge of being the diaspora of the body of Christ. With little time for strategic planning,  graveside funerals were being Zoomed to family and friends across the country, phone calls were substituting for the passing of the peace with those who regularly worshiped in the same pew, and Bible study notes were being emailed with instructions to reply-all with insights.

Just as quickly, our homes’ daily rhythms were disrupted: alarms no longer needed to be set, lunches could be served at the kitchen table instead of packed in lunch boxes, sports practices no longer preempted sit-down dinners, and TV breaks for kids aligned with scheduled Zoom work meetings for parents. The search for online activities to keep math and writing skills was no longer reserved for summer. And I’ve noticed that once people’s basic sheltering-in-place needs were met, the desire to be connected to a church family slowly grew.

This is a perfect opportunity to connect children and youth who need to keep up their writing and reading skills with those those who cannot meet physically to remind them that they are a part of the body of Christ.

At First Presbyterian of Ann Arbor (Michigan), parish nurse Sandy Talbott came up with the perfect idea: mail buddies! Each child or youth is matched with another member of the church they might not know to exchange letters. All writing levels are encouraged to participate, including nonverbal members, who are invited to draw or create an image.

“Not only are you creating a new faithful friendship that can continue to grow on paper,” Talbott said, “but it’s also an opportunity for children to practice literacy and motor skills.”

What a homecoming it will be when we get back to “normal” and those mail buddies meet face to face in worship!