Engaging people in a socially distant world –

By Aaron fozzard

 Some teenagers are loving the new digital youth ministry, and some are not. The term “voting with your feet” comes to mind. This is generally disheartening for the key leader and their team, who in turn try all sorts of new cool ideas to make it more appealing.

I have always thought that digital youth ministry activities can never rival the plethora of different escapism tools offered by the technological era we find ourselves. I would often tell my team and co-workers that we cannot compete against the PlayStation. This phrase meant, that there are no activities that we create that can be as polished as games on PCs and gaming consoles.

But we can offer something that is closer to our human nature. We can offer community.

I have been asking the question, have you seen a decline in attendees? The responses are similar, yes, but mostly those who were on the fringe.

After listening to a conversation between two colleagues, an issue was brought to the foreground in which they had no strategy for correcting it. The issue was around the interaction of the task at hand, and the relational aspects of human interaction. The lament was that they were generally task focused when brought into a meeting or discipleship space. It is highly likely that these two colleagues are task focused people, and that is totally okay.

Humans are likely to lean towards being task focused or relation focused.

It is the human condition to work inside the bounds of their God-given trait. However, this doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, and no internal work needs to be done to be better at the trait they don’t intrinsically have.

Task orientated people are focused on getting the job done and, generally, forget that the people with them in the task are people with a deep innate need for community. I should know because I am one of these people. Relational people lean the opposite way, seeing people as more important than the task.

The solely task-oriented person just wants to get the job done, and therefore the task gets done, but their people feel disconnected and at times hurt.

This person can cause stress that is not helpful to the flourishing of people. The solely people-oriented person just wants to engage with people, and therefore relationships flourish but little work gets done. This person is likely to forget the task, and therefore cause too much comfort so that of the task may not progress. The person leading must know where they fall in the two categories and put in place strategies to make sure both are done regularly.

If you are a task-oriented person like my colleagues and myself, you require a strategy that helps the people in your meeting, small group, or other group conversations feel as if they are valued.

You need to show that people in the group can relationally connect with you.

Before the live meeting, phone call, or video conference, I, generally, ask myself the question, “who is the person or people I am about to talk to?” this question helps me notice that there will be real people present. This in turn forces me to ask a question that creates community quickly. For example, “how are you?, How was your [insert event] on the weekend?, “What have you been watching?”, “how did your team go on the weekend?” (even if I don’t like the sport or team). These questions and variations of these questions can help the task-oriented person create a sense of belonging for those in the meeting or call.

On the other hand, the relational person must have a strategy to help them not get stuck on creating belonging at the expense of sticking to the task.

A simple way to do this is to create an agenda that communicates to the leader and team, or those in video call what will be done during the time together and sticking to it.

In a youth ministry video call it may not be necessary for the students to see the agenda, but the other leaders on the call should have access to it. It may be helpful for the mission statement or “the why” of the meeting to be communicated early on. For example, “we are here to chat through [insert topic or reason], but before we do that lets go around the room and hear from each of you about [insert topic, i.e., how was your week?]. The topic or reason for the meeting must be briefly stated to the whole group so that the group can keep each other and the leader accountable to the task.

A good question for both to ask is, “what am I likely to neglect or overlook?”

A leader is to understand whether they are a people person or a task-oriented person and adjust their focus so that those they lead or communicate with feel cared for and their contribution is valued. This recalibration for the leader can lead to real change and more people staying around because they feel like they are part of a community. Community is what humanity longs for.

We were made for community, and it can be achieved if we are willing to adjust ourselves. People may leave even if they have contact, but no community. We must be willing to change and challenge ourselves to lead better.

  • Where do you err? Are you a people person or a task-oriented person?
  •  What do you need to do to become better at the opposite?
  •  What is one strategy you could put into place today?