Planning a Youth Ministry Event in 2021: Tips for COVID Safety

Planning your next youth ministry event? These tips will help keep your group safe in 2021.

You have your next youth ministry event in mind, but like us, no one gave you a roadmap for planning it in a pandemic.

Social distancing feels a bit antithetical to how most churches and ministries operate, so having to think about things like youth ministry games with social distancing is tough. And if that’s hard, how about planning an entire youth ministry event?

Our President Erica gave a helpful talk at a recent youth ministry training event called Recharge. She opened up about how we’re planning events right now, in hopes that what we’ve learned might help every youth pastor prepare for their next event with all the necessary safety measures in place.

Check out a clip of her training and a highlight of the ideas below.

As a youth mission trip organization, we’ve had to dedicate a significant amount of our energy toward understanding recommendations from health authorities and interpreting their impact on the way we facilitate mission trips.

Here’s what we believe every church leader and youth pastor should think through when planning their next event: 

youth ministry event

Get your leadership fully onboard for your youth ministry event.  

A lot of decisions aren’t simple anymore. If you’re used to being able to call the shots and plan events without much oversight, we wouldn’t recommend counting on that approach when planning your youth ministry event in a pandemic.  

From the very beginning, you should be thinking through who you need to communicate with, when you need to bring them in the loop, and how you should be communicating with them along the way.

Make a list of all the potential stakeholders that need to be a part of your decisions. Some might include:

  • Lead pastors
  • Church boards/elders
  • Business Administrators
  • Risk assessment teams
  • Volunteers
  • Parents

As you pull together the elements of your event, start to include them in the process as early as possible. They can help speak into the details, or help you think about things you might be missing. Having them included early on will also go a long way to avoid any unforeseen resistance to your event.

In your communication to each stakeholder, be sure to spell out exactly what will happen and what their role is through it all. Safety measures are key elements to communicate, to make sure they understand and approve of them before moving forward. Give them space to voice what they need from you as well.

And if anything changes with your event plans, let them know right away. They can also be the ones to help problem solve or create new solutions if something comes up in your planning. 

planning a youth ministry event

Everyone has to arrive healthy.

Arriving safe to your youth ministry event is one of the most important things you can talk about with your youth group and their parents.

As we’ve been planning youth mission trips for this summer, we’ve instituted a philosophy we’re calling a “Community of Care.” This philosophy guides us to understand that because we care for one another, we’re all going to take steps to contribute to making our youth mission trip as safe as possible. It’s a great perspective to communicate that the responsibility of safety is shared by everyone.

One helpful resource we’re providing to youth groups coming on our mission trips is a Symptoms Tracker. It allows a group to check their symptoms up to 10-days before a trip and makes it easy to note any potential concern.

Here are a few other quick ways you can make sure your group arrives healthy for your youth ministry event:

  • Ask them to shrink their circles before an event.
  • Wear masks when in public and try to social distance everywhere possible.
  • Avoid unnecessary visits to other people’s homes or crowded spaces.
  • Track symptoms and temperatures when possible.
  • Explore COVID testing for anyone who might be a concern.
2021 youth ministry event

Clearly define “bubbles” ahead of your event.

We define a “bubble” as the people you’re not able to socially distance from. They are your family, maybe a close friend or co-worker, or in the case of our youth mission trips, they are the people you get in a van with to drive 8-hours.

Youth ministry vans weren’t made for social distancing. But since they are the main mode of transportation for youth groups coming to serve with us, it’s one of the most natural ways to define the bubble that you stay in throughout your mission trip.

So, that defined bubble is also the crew you serve with. It’s the group you sleep near and you eat next to. All of this helps minimize any possibility of someone stepping outside of their bubble and risking the health of another group.

For your youth ministry event, be sure to define your bubbles ahead of time and communicate them clearly to each youth, parent or guardian, and volunteer. You might also want to help them think through how they can start protecting their bubble 10-days before the event. That could be an added safety measure that you adopt into your own version of a Community of Care.

how to plan a youth ministry event

Let your space define the safety parameters for your youth ministry event.

As much as we want to get back together and plan a youth ministry event like we’ve always done, it’s just not safe for us to jump back into those old ways. Letting your space define elements of your event, and what you can do safely in that space, is a great way to think about your next youth ministry event through a different lens.

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • When you look at your space, do you have the ability to spread out?
  • What should the capacity be, if you need to try to socially distance during the event?
  • How should worship times be planned?
  • Are you going to serve a meal? How can you provide sanitation measures to keep different bubbles from bumping into each other?

As you plan out these details, be sure to lean into your group of stakeholders to help you think through any blind spots you might have. It also might be a good idea to have an outside perspective to help with the risk assessment.

youth ministry event during a pandemic

Remain flexible.

We’re preaching to the choir here. If there are any humans on earth who know how to be flexible, it’s youth pastors in this pandemic.

None the less, it’s a great reminder that we can’t assume that any of our old ways work when thinking about our next youth ministry event.

Shift your mentality and anticipate that everything might need to look different. Your plans might change just before your event, or even during your event. If that does happen, having an attitude of flexibility will go a long way.

Encourage your group, parents and volunteers to embrace flexibility too. You’ll thank yourself for putting in that effort later on.

youth ministry event resources

Other Resources for Your Youth Ministry Event

Don’t do your youth ministry event planning alone. We’ve leaned into some incredible resources provided by health authorities, and we want to pass along what we’ve learned.

Check out our COVID-Proofing Resources HERE >>

Any of that information can translate to any basic youth ministry event that you’re planning. Know that all of the information is subject to change, so we’re constantly reviewing CDC guidelines, national camping association recommendations, and others to ensure we can run a safe summer of youth mission trips. You should be doing that too. Pay attention to your local health officials and adapt as necessary.

There is a lot to be thinking about here. But the good news in all of this is that your next youth ministry event will be a chance to get together again. Finally being physically present with each other will bring so much joy and a glimpse at what’s to come, knowing that we’re getting closer to being on the other side of this pandemic.  

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