Solutions for Youth Work during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Like the rest of the world, BCC youth groups in the 19 Norwegian churches had their everyday lives turned upside down during the last months. Usually the weeks are packed with activities, edification, and various events – there is rarely a dull moment. But when the COVID-19 virus hit hard in the spring of 2020, these youth faced many new challenges.

Andrea Ellefsen is actively involved in youth work. Photo by BUK Horten

By Salome Schoeler – Photo by BKM Horten / BKM Grenland 

The BCC media production department turned around quickly to create a weekly online alternative with interactive spiritual content which many members follow. But for youth in the local churches, being unable to gather in person with friends over a longer period was not so easy, it turned out.

Church youth groups around the world have enthusiastic people who have been passionate to continue the work, despite obvious challenges. For Andrea Ellefsen (28) from Horten, Norway, meeting with other youth as often as possible is a cause close to her heart. Her local group of about 150 youth usually meets at least once a week. She says that even though it was a big transition when the COVID-19 restrictions came, many enjoyed a short break from previously hectic daily routines at first. But it was not long before many youths needed more activity.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic started we actively used Zoom, Discord, and other channels to have weekly live broadcasts with competitions, quizzes, and spiritual content. We also had an “Amazing Race” in which almost the whole youth group competed at posts around the town of Horten. It was extra fun to finally see each other, even though it was at a distance and from different cars,” says Ellefsen.

Online meetings, podcasts, and activities for small groups

In June, Simen participated in a BCC Online youth broadcast with his own song about the COVID-19 era. Photo by BCC

Simen Andresen (33) is a youth worker in the church in Grenland, Norway, where around 250 people attend the weekly youth meetings. He says they too are used to a high level of activity. So, when the pandemic started, a lot of activity took place online, both locally and from the BCC central organization. In addition, exciting activities were planned for small groups, including a podcast for youth aged 13-18.

“We had online broadcasts during the first weeks, with both spiritual edification and competitions, where we challenged each other to create activity within the government’s guidelines. For the youngest, we started a podcast. We invited two or three teenagers to an informal conversation simply to gauge how they were doing. I think just the concept of hearing each other’s voices was a positive thing in such an uncertain period.”

Local youth organizations with many active members also joined this effort and formed the basis for groups that met during the period with restrictions on gathering. For example, the volleyball group challenged the other groups to make an outdoor cinema, and the climbing group invited others to their climbing wall.

“There was a lot of commitment and creativity, especially among the mentors. The goal was to do everything we could so that our youth would not have to be alone at home in this time,” he says.

What was it like to gather again for youth meetings, after the government allowed events with 200 participants?

“When we were finally able to gather with everyone again, there were still many infection control measures we had to follow. Since we are 250 young people in our local church, not everyone could come. But we clearly noticed that we needed to see each other- everyone was quick to sign up, and it was a particularly good youth meeting!”

Mentors at a planning meeting in the local church in Grenland, Norway. Photo by Simen Andresen

“These challenges have given us new and positive experience”

Andrea Ellefsen says that the youth group in Horten learned a lot from having to be creative during this time. She encourages others doing voluntary youth work to use the opportunity to gain experience through the challenges the pandemic has brought.

Swipe to see photos: (Photo by Andrea Ellefsen)

“During the pandemic, we noticed how incredibly little creativity it takes to plan a successful gathering, whether with a few or in a larger group. It does not matter so much if things are a bit spontaneous, but more that you are positive and contribute in the way you can. What matters most is to be with good friends and create shared experiences and memories, regardless of whether the circumstances have changed. The goal is to ensure that there is room for everyone- regardless of age and other differences.”

She hopes the youth will experience autumn as a positive time, even though it looks like the restrictions will last longer.

“It will be a unique situation, considering we have to keep an overview and count of who is at the youth gatherings, and maintain good hygiene and social distancing, but we hope that activities and meetings will be as normal and relaxed as possible, so that it will be a good experience for both the younger and older youth,” says Ellefsen.

“This week we had a fantastic kick-off for our mentors, with team building and spiritual inspiration, and we are so excited to get started again. The youth gatherings are the highlights of the week for many, so it is inspiring to be part of this work.”