What can we do while remaining distanced?
If you have the finances to do it, why not send out parcels to members of the group with some sweets or chocolate? Write a letter, making it personal if you can. Make it a card and they can stand it up in their room and look at it again and again. Put in some Bible verses (try ones on anxiety like Phil. 4.6-7, 1 Peter 5.7, Prov. 12.25, Ps. 94.19). Send them some fun treats, like a sachet of hot chocolate and small packet of marshmallows.
Put in things that remind them of the group. Why not send items for use in a particular session: a balloon for Friday's game, recipe and ingredients to make and writing icing to decorate a gingerbread man for Sunday, hot chocolate to drink together after the session on Community?
Include a programme for the term. Could you put in an activity book, Bible study notes or ideas for quiet times?
These will encourage people and remind them you are thinking of them, even if you are not seeing them as often. And it's personal which is vitally important. Think too, if you can afford it, of allowing two siblings to get a parcel each, not to share one. It shows, you're cherishing them as individuals.
You can buy boxes which are 'large letter' size. Be creative in filling these, but go for flat lollies rather than round ones! If you are posting them, this is one time that you can say to concerned parents, 'I'm really sorry. I couldn't give them fruit,' although boxes of raisins, might just make it!!
If you need to stay distanced, adapt what you've done before
You may have done an icebreaker before where you get people to respond to questions by standing along some sort of axis: "If you think 'yes', move here; 'no', move here; 'maybe', stand in the middle. We want to move people, even when socially distanced, so think of a way round it.
Let's say you're talking about prayer. You want to get people interacting with the subject personally, so you ask a question, say, 'Do you pray before exams...?' Tell people they can respond in five ways:
NEVER - Lie on the floor
RARELY - Kneel (there's a joke there somewhere...)
SOMETIMES - Sit on the chair
OFTEN - Stand up
ALL THE TIME - Stand on your chair (yes, you'll need to risk assess that one)
Great to have people moving, while keeping distanced.
You may have to wear masks indoors but young people could still gather round a fire pit outside to keep warm. Don't use a gazebo with a fire pit - what's the Worst Case Scenario? And always keep a fire extinguisher close at hand.
You may not be able to share food with the youth group, but you could still:
Have young people bring their own marshmallows to toast (one or two at a time round the fire pit might be best to encourage distance keeping)
Get individual portions of chips delivered
Ask an ice cream van to visit (yes, it's cold in winter, but is it ever too cold for ice cream?!)
Or a hot dog van
Or a hot chocolate van
We can no longer cram in a phone box, but team photo challenges work really well in small groups which need to remain socially distanced. Here are some ideas for challenges to set. Do send me your best ideas.
"To all youth leaders (paid or voluntary) out there: if Raising The Bar is not currently on your shelf, it needs to be."
UK Youth Pastor