Looking Back to Look Forward: Five Lessons I’ve Learnt Through a Pandemic

- by Matt Meek, Youth Pastor: Riccarton Community Church, Christchurch

Relationally deep programmes are comparatively easy to adapt

Throughout the pandemic, youth ministry has for many churches been one part of church life that has suffered the least. Even when “online” hasn’t been as good as the real thing, young people who have a deep relational connection to each other and to those who disciple them, have remained connected.

The lesson learnt here is to invest even more heavily in developing deep relational connections among our young people and with their leaders. Instead of focussing on providing fun and entertainment, we will focus more intentionally on running activities that develop deeper relationships.

Focus on the “why” not the what.

Our team have had a lot of conversations about why we do things the way we do over the past year. Covid restrictions led us to meet in smaller groups in homes and we found these offer things that our larger meetings couldn’t provide. It led to us involving more parents because we needed them to host or to provide transport and we found that many of these parents naturally started forming discipling relationships just because of their proximity to young people.

Sometimes as we asked the why question we had the uncomfortable realisation that we weren’t really sure why we did some things in the first place at all. If they weren’t leading to relational connection and/or discipleship they got the cut and many of those things won’t ever make a comeback. Asking why means we focus intentionally on the things that really matter, it gives us a chance to repair the leaking vision making us stronger than before.

People long to be contributors, not consumers!

I can be someone who can be critical of the consumer nature of church but through these last couple of years, I’ve found that people really do long to contribute. Those who were only consumers who were first to leave our ministries and they will most likely be the last to come back, but those who had a role to play have stayed committed.

In future, I am going to ask more of our young people because they will grow more if they are contributing. I’m going to ask more of our parents because having them engaged is gold on so many levels! I’m going to ask more of our elders because when they show up our team and our young people feel valued and important. And I’m going to ask less of myself because when I do tasks that someone else can do, I’m stifling my real role which is to equip the saints for acts of service.

Clear communication is really hard to conquer, and it’s crucial we do!

Over this time I have learnt the importance of taking time to communicate regularly and well. I’m aware that often schools, sports teams, and clubs are better at communicating with families than we are. If I desire to see families equipped to live out their faith together, parents discipling their children and valuing the church's input into their family life then I have an opportunity to communicate in a way that inspires, equips and even holds accountable these families to values that they desire but sometimes neglect to live by.

I’ve found over the past couple of years there are many parents whose deepest desire is to pass on their faith to their children but are often unsure how to do it well. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do get to spend some time thinking about it and if I can offer some helpful suggestions I can make a real difference.

My time with God is what makes me a leader worth listening to

I have noticed the difference over the last couple of years between times when I have led out of my relationship with God and times when I have tried to lead feeling dry. The vibrancy of my relationship with God is one of the key determinants of how my ministry will go.

Therefore, I’ve been learning to prioritise my time with God. To plan regular retreat days, to build prayer and silence into my work time, to lead from a place of intimacy with God. I am blessed to be a blessing, but if I try to be a blessing without receiving first, I run out of anything good to offer pretty fast.


I think now that perhaps I like change because it presents an opportunity. While “opportunity” may not be the first word that comes to mind when we consider this past two years, it might be an important one for us to consider as we move forward.

Our ministry at Riccarton does not plan to return to “normal” because we’ve learnt that normal wasn’t achieving everything we wanted it to. We have learnt lessons over the past two years that are going to make us better and I for one am committed to making sure we learn and apply the lessons for the sake of God’s kingdom expressed through the lives of our young people, our families, our churches, and our communities.