“I have to say you guys are amazing. Thank you so much for your help in these uncertain times. With six kids at home anything helps and you guys have helped with everything.” – recent Facebook comment from a parent of Streetlight Youth Programs attendees
The onset of COVID-19 restrictions brought a lot of changes to how we connect with youth and their families. Our programs were cancelled and
regular rhythms of ministry disrupted. We hoped the development of YouTube videos for Kids Club, messaging with families on social media, and socially distanced check-ins would help us stay connected in this strange time of limbo. As we put these new or altered strategies into place, we initially grappled with the lack of connection that everyone was feeling to the lockdown. A surprising development began to emerge as time progressed.
Our relationships with the parents/caregivers and other family members of our kids began to grow and deepen. One of the challenges we often face as youth workers is building a connection with the whole family. A child or teen might faithfully attend our programs and may even join us regularly for church services, but other family members may not engage with us beyond signing a registration form or offering a wave as our bus picks up or drops off their family member. Sometimes this is due to skepticism about church and the people there. Sometimes family members have positive memories of church programming from their youth but assume that it is mostly meant for kids.
Life for many adults we’ve met can seem like one crisis after another to overcome or simply survive. Navigating a pandemic just adds another layer of complication: it strips away many vital community supports, and further isolates those who are already used to putting up walls between themselves and others.
However, we have found that many of these tough-to-reach adults were thankful to be checked in on. They were eager to be connected to a community since so many community supports had been shuttered. Many were more willing to share about their lives, beliefs, worries, and concerns about their kids. Weekly deliveries of groceries, crafts, supplies, Cobb’s Bakery bread and more have helped to develop relationships.
We have met family pets and chatted with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins. We have helped solve IT issues, Zoomed, texted, Instagrammed, Facebooked and everything in between. We’ve chatted about managing difficult behaviours while walking alongside families through tough times. We have heard that families have begun to pray or watch Kids Club lessons together.
People have more time to ponder and talk – this has allowed us to have extensive conversations with parents we have known for a long time as well as those we’re really just getting to know. Many have expressed thankfulness to Streetlight for the love and care given to their children and to their whole family. We pray that God will use the relationships being established and the thankfulness that is felt to draw these families closer to Him, during COVID-19 and beyond.
By Danielle Heemskerk, Youth Worker