COVID-19 Ministry: What A German Youthworker Is Doing
By Alex Zoeller and Mike Vlajnic, CCA City Church, Andernach, Germany
When this Covid-19 crisis started to spread over Germany I asked myself what is my role in all of this. Should I hide somewhere waiting till it is over? It came very clear to my mind. The Holy Spirit was moving me by saying, “This situation doesn’t surprise Me. I called you 18 years ago into this ministry. I gifted and educated you. I led you through some valleys and deserts to be prepared for this time.” He showed me two pictures: first, a 9/11 firefighter carrying a person through all the dust and then a person sitting on the couch just watching the news. God said, “Don’t just watch the news. Fight to save desperate souls. People need hope. Church services are not allowed and all the churches are closed. Kids and youth have to stay home where parents cannot handle the situation well because love is a foreign word. This is your time! FIGHT!”
How Do I Fight?
As youth pastors-church leaders, the first thing we needed to do was to TAKE THE CHALLENGE! When you have never worked with a virtual tool it’s NOW or NEVER! Let’s learn how to use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Skype, HouseParty, and other stuff offered here in Germany. Honestly, I was not motivated to do it and had a fear of all that virtual stuff – fear of failing and missing it all. But the biggest fear was to lose all the students from our groups.
How Do I Overcome This Fear?
Just take the challenge and start running. Begin to trust Jesus with everything. So, I did. I learned the computer stuff and collected all teenagers in our virtual rooms. Played games with them, prayed with them and the most important I talked about LIFE with them and found out about their fears. You can only open the hearts of teenagers when you are honest and open about your own life. Your own fears. I did it and they opened up and didn’t care about virtual rooms at that moment. Did everything go so easy peasy? Nope. The 13-17-year-olds liked the first two sessions and then disappeared. The 10-12-year-olds celebrated and accepted the program but not the older ones.
The Creator’s Creativity
In CRISIS, pray for The CREATOR’S CREATIVITY! The ideas came pretty quickly! We invited the youth on Saturdays to an event called “the CRAZY THING”. On five platforms, youthworkers were waiting for teenagers to come into a virtual room and spend time there. First, Platform WORSHIP, then Platform FIFA20 PS4, next Platform GAMING, then Platform GROUP GAMES, and finally, Platform THE LOUNGE. The lounge was open all night to come back and check out who’s there, chill a bit, and leave for other platforms. What happened was that the same teenagers who didn’t want to hang out Wednesdays anymore hung out all night at the LOUNGE – sometimes even until 3am. After some weeks, some teenagers wanted the Bible time.
Give ’Em What They Want!
We started “BiblePower” and “TeensPrayer” once a week. Study the Bible for an hour and pray for 30 minutes together in a virtual room was all of a sudden great and a bunch of people visited those programs.
Daily and Personal Connection
The “2 Minute Message” was effective for us. Every day we shot a crazy, funny, and spiritual 2-minute video to say “Good Morning” to the kids.
I wanted to have a one-on-one connection with all the teens. But, how can I do it with 30 teenagers? A personal contact? The answer was involving our co-workers (we have eight wonderful helpers). We divided up the teenagers and gave every worker 4-5 to connect with.
When I was running as fast as I could, I had no fear at all. The rest is history: Jesus took over, used me, and helped me lead teenagers through this crisis. No fear when the Creator is running with you.
The “Never Fear Always Trust” Song & Video
In 2013 our youth group went through Max Lucado’s Book “Facing Your Giants: God Still Does the Impossible.” For this series, I wrote a song called “Never Fear Always Trust.” It says you always have the option to trust in the Lord instead of fearing the enemy. This song became a hymn for my youth group, and the church at home sang it as well. Now, after several years, this song became more current than ever before. People from my youth group remembered the song because everybody had the same giant called “COVID-19” standing in front of them. The song encouraged them to fight instead of hiding.
The song “Never Fear Always Trust” was heard in a lot of youth groups again. I was asked to produce a lyric video for churches which, by law, were not allowed to sing during the crisis. But they watched the video to be encouraged by the simple truth: When you are scared – start singing! Now, all that matters are the lyrics, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you – You are mine” is a wonderful encouragement from God in Isaiah 43:1-2. The song tells the story of this real hope that God has everything under control and never loses track. The faithful God does not leave your side in a crisis. He is faithful.
The song, video, and youth group session that Mike wrote are available on the interlínc Youth Leaders Only platform as well as on Spotify and other streaming services and are being used by ministries globally even in orphanages in India where kids are watching the video on mobile phones and finding new hope during the COVID-19 isolation.