Though we’re all “connected,” we can still feel disconnected during this season.
I remember years ago when I was a full-time youth minister and trying to explain to parents that even though their students had tons of friends on devices, they still needed real connection. A real connection with God first and then with others in person.
For this reason, a group of friends and I would host an annual youth retreat with over 400 students for a weekend and make one of the rules that they could not bring any devices. We received a lot of pushback from the students about the no technology rule and sometimes even more from parents. These parents wanted their students to be connected; however, they trusted us, and we gave them our cell phone numbers.
The point was that our students needed to detox from the online world to connect with the real world. If they didn’t have this time away, they would be connected to their devices but disconnected from other people. That point is clear now that we see this recent data from Barna research group:
This chart shows that from those surveyed, no matter what age group they’re in, loneliness is seen in large numbers. How can this be when everyone is online through Zoom or FaceTime, or some other software? Everyone is calling and sending messages. Everyone is on social media more than they were last year because it is all that we have. How are these groups feeling more alone?
The answer is simple: While we are connected through devices, we aren’t bonding in meaningful ways. Seeing someone on video isn’t the same as seeing them in person or having face-to-face contact with that person. So how do you fix it? First, I don’t think you can fix it, but I do believe you can help.
During these times, people need to know that someone is thinking and caring about them. Your church or ministry can do several things like make calls to each group of the church from the seniors to the nursery age students connected to your church. In the nursery age, you’re going to call the parents and connect with them. You want them to know that you’re here and thinking about them as well as praying for them.
You can also enlist some of the church leaders to make birthday calls to the members on their birthday. You would be surprised how a birthday call from your church on your birthday could change your day for the better. Birthdays would be a great way to show those in need that you’re present with them.
I have also seen churches during graduation season put signs in the lawns of students congratulating them on graduation. No matter how you do it, try to let your people know that you’re present with them.
SMALL GROUPS OR RESOURCES IN THE MAIL
Small groups online can still be useful and meaningful if you plan. Our women’s ministry did a paint night with the members online. Each person who registered received the painting supplies for the night in the mail, and then they created their piece of artwork online together with the instructors and others from the ministry.
We also recently held a virtual brunch where we sent the recipe and shopping list to those registered. Once the event began, the chef used the ingredients and guided everyone else from start to finish. We want to help those attending feel like they’re with us in the room even though we aren’t in the same room.
I am not implying that these are the only ways to combat loneliness. These are some ideas, and you need to create some. We don’t fully know how long this season will last, but we do want to make sure that our people thrive throughout this season.