Can we have an honesty-hour? Digital ministry is rough.
I don’t think we can write a whole lot without saying that first . . .
The hardest part? None of this Zoom-fatigued, every-week-pivot, all-aboard-the-struggle-bus ministry world has to do with your lack of effort, care, sweat, literal tears, and all-around incredible response to unexpected and challenging times in our world. So before we go on . . .
You’re doing great.
You’re probably not hearing that enough, but from our team to you: You’re doing great.
I’m hoping this blog is fuel that brings you a structured approach to ministry this fall. Or maybe it just inspires some critical new ideas to carry into the next season. For those of you who have been with XP3 since the start of this pandemic, this is sort of your new and improved Digital Experience Guide.
You’re here because like so many churches, you might be . . .
- meeting completely digitally
- using a hybrid distanced-in-person and digital approach
- meeting in home groups
- missing “precedented times”
The good news is, no matter what your environment looks like, through XP3 curriculum you’ve got some big tools to reach students, parents, and leaders even when services are digital or meeting remotely.
HOW DOES XP3 HELP IN 2020?
Here’s a summary of the pieces of XP3 High School and XP3 Middle School that are probably going to help the most when your group is meeting digitally or in home groups.
- Teaching Videos
- Teaching Scripts
- Small Group Leader Guides
- Small Group Leader Emails (Mailchimp included!)
- Daily Devotions (also hosted on YouVersion!)
- Social Media Guides
- Parent Cue Emails (Mailchimp included!)
- Series graphics, motion loops, and bumper videos
And yes, there’s more! Depending on whether you subscribe to Basic or Premium, you can find games, background playlists, to-do lists, teaching audio, and more. The list above is just your starter kit with the things that’ll be the most helpful.
In the following sections, we’ll break down a few of the most important parts of a digital service. We’ll include a few of the most relevant parts of The 7 Segments, our philosophy for how we structure our curriculum and approach for a weekly program.
FIRST, HOW DO I SHARE MY SERVICE?
We probably don’t need to explain to you how Zoom works. You’re good there.
Instead, we’ll introduce you to a new way to share your online or at-home youth ministry teaching content with students and parents.
Playlister. You actually get the digital sharing feature of Playlister free with your Orange partnership. If you subscribe to the XP3 Media Package, you can skip the downloading and instantly import your XP3 Teaching Videos.
You’ll find it’s way more convenient to add in your own videos before or after the XP3 teaching videos to help give students a familiar face each week than if you tried to edit & upload something yourself.
It’s great for . . .
- sharing a collection of media without complicated editing software
- sending your teaching and service to parents
- distributing media and teaching content for home group small group leaders
You can find out more and get started here.
Okay, on to a few of The 7 Segments . . .
We say this all the time, but fun over time creates connection. This is just as true for a digital service. So start with fun!
Our friends at Download Youth Ministry even have some incredible games just for Zoom! Or start your service by asking the icebreaker question from your Small Group Leader Guides!
You can also check out a blog we posted a couple months ago with 30 Ideas to Digitally Connect with Students if you’re looking for more ideas.
While connection has been the priority, good teaching content has a way of creating connection and helping students process the world around them. Reminder: with XP3 you can get . . .
- Teaching Scripts
- In-Script Interactives
- Teaching Videos (If you subscribe to the add-on Media Package, you’ll find teaching videos in your downloader. If you don’t subscribe, you have the option to purchase teaching videos individually in the Orange Store.)
There are a ton of different ways to use XP3 teaching content. Here are a few . . .
Meeting Over Zoom:
- Upload Teaching Videos to a private page, send them to students to watch, then spend your Zoom time playing games and answering the small group questions.
- Record your own video teaching the message, and send it in the format that works best for your students!
- Use Playlister to upload the XP3 Teaching Videos, a video of you teaching, or any media you want to share. This allows you to send one shareable link.
- Teach it live. Keep it short and interactive!
- Stream the videos live during your Zoom!
Meeting in Home Groups:
- Cut up the small group questions and allow students to pick them from a bowl. This will make your time together more discussion based.
- Have students watch the Teaching Video prior to coming, and then lead a discussion with them using the small group questions.
- Have your group watch the Teaching Video together. Feel free to pause the video where needed to debrief with your group.
For the Fall 2020 series on Comparison, we introduced Digital and at Home Options to our Teaching Videos, Teaching Scripts, and Small Group Guides to create an interactive teaching and small group experience. Check your downloader for the update, and be sure to let your Orange Specialist know how it goes!
Small group relationships and discussions are often the most influential part of student ministry. While teaching is important, nothing turns information into application quite like talking about it with peers and a caring adult. That’s why, when circumstances
prevent a face-to-face meetup, we recommend ensuring students always have the opportunity to connect in a group.
You already know that XP3 gives you Small Group Leader Guides and Small Group Leader Emails, but when it comes to format, here are two ways to switch up this season.
Two Ideas for a Different Small Group Format
- Combine teaching and small groups. This has been done for you for the Fall 2020 series on Comparison.
- If you use Teaching Videos in home groups, prompt the small group leader to pause the video and ask some of the small group questions. It’ll break up the talk and hold a student’s attention!
- If you record your talk, leave space for students to answer the questions.
- If you teach live, teach the Introduction, and then send students and leaders to breakout rooms in Zoom to answer the questions. Then bring them back! Rinse and repeat for the Tension, Truth, and Application and Landing.
- Switch it up with Expansion Packs. Expansion Packs are an add-on designed for programs with a second gathering, but they work really well for groups who want to go deeper, or just experience a different format! Reach out to your Orange Specialist to learn more or try out a series!
Whew. This section is a big one. It’s everything that happens outside your program. That includes . . .
- Partnering with Parents
- Social Media
- Devotions and Discipleship
Keeping tabs on each of these areas will help you apply some strategy and focus to connecting what happens in your program to a student’s at-home rhythms.
Did you know each XP3 series has a companion devotional available in the YouVersion Bible App?
If you’ve already been using the XP3 devos, the better news is that all new series will contain 7-days of devotionals each week. No more 5-day weeks and accidentally finishing the devos too soon!
Here’s a list of a few creative ways to leverage those devotions throughout the week.
Have students do the devotions on their own.
- Copy and paste the devotion in a text thread with no additional conversation after.
- Have students search for the plan in the Bible App. (Search for the series title!)
Have students do the devotions with their small group.
- Use the reading plan in the Bible App and use the invite feature with your small group!
- Record yourself teaching (or reading) the brief devotion every morning and post it online or in a group text.
- Copy and paste the devotion in a text thread with a text conversation to follow.
- Assign a few key students a day to present the devo, and have them share a short video of them reading the devo to share with their small group.
Have the entire ministry do the devotions together.
- Share the link to the devos at the beginning of the week so your ministry can start the plan together. (Or teach it live, day by day!) Then, throughout the week use the Instagram questions feature to interact with your students about the plan!
- Assign a few key students a day to present the devo, and have them share a short video of them reading the devo to share with the ministry.
Have families do the devotions together.
- Send the devotions to families, so that families can do them together.
PARTNERING WITH PARENTS
Partnering with parents is always important, and it can be especially helpful in times of uncertainty. Consistent communication not only builds trust, but also equips the parent to have spiritual conversations at home. Below are a few tools XP3 already provides to connect digitally with families.
- The Parent Cue App: This free app gives parents four cues each week to connect with their teenager (in a way that doesn’t result in eye rolls). It comes pre-loaded with cues that connect seamlessly with the content discussed in XP3’s suggested teaching dates, or you can customize it for your church by subscribing at OrangeApps.Church.
- The Parent Cue Email: XP3 curriculum comes with parent emails each week so you can connect with families no matter what is happening in service or even if they don’t attend!
- ParentCue.org: Parenting is harder than ever. All in one place, you can keep up with blogs, resources, and inspiration to fuel parents in your youth ministry this fall.
- Also . . . Your Parents. No, it’s not a brand that XP3 provides, we’ve just found asking families how you can best be “the church” for them goes a long way in helping you clarify your parent strategy. In a season like this one, being the church may look different month to month. Just asking parents is a really great starting (or restarting!) point.
You know this… but providing parent resources doesn’t mean your parents will instantly engage with those resources. Creating a short video, podcast, or training can help make help more accessible to parents. We’ve even got a promo kit for the Parent Cue app if you’re looking to use it in your ministry!
To some students, your social media channel is the church right now! It’s an important way to help remind and engage students who may have disengaged through the pandemic.
Here’s your social media toolkit.
- Need a social media plan with graphics, captions, and ideas? If you’re a Premium XP3 curriculum subscriber, you get access to a Social Media Guide to help you. You can lead the social media charge yourself, or an in-the-know volunteer can run a social media strategy that works. You’ll find a mix of social media posts that are just for fun, that promote the series, or that are just thought-provoking—all tailored for engagement!
- Looking to start your social media strategy or just get better? Check out this 13-part series to help give you a crash course in the do’s and don’ts of social media.
- Do Social Media without… Social Media. If you have a group that has many students who aren’t on Social Media (shout out to Middle School ministry), think outside the box with the Social Media content. Have students sign up for text messages or do a groupme with students. Think about different ways you can still connect that content with them even if they’re not on a social media platform.
This is the really basic version of a digital program, but we hope it helps to lay the structure and foundation for you to contextualize and bring your creative goodness into the world. Got ideas? Questions? Drop a comment below!
Or if you’re looking to . . .
- a) connect with another human who understands you.
- b) connect with a bunch of humans who understand you.
You should reach out to your Orange Specialist. They’re there for one-on-one coaching around every ministry and digital-ministry-related topic, and they’re even offering Strategy Sessions with other youth leaders about ministry in a digital world!
Find your OS, reach out, or sign up for one of their strategy sessions!