Finding Community and Connection in the Shadow of COVID-19 at Forest Hills Baptist Church Youth Group, Raleigh, North Carolina
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AuthorPate, Kirby E
MetadataShow full item record
TitleFinding Community and Connection in the Shadow of COVID-19 at Forest Hills Baptist Church Youth Group, Raleigh, North Carolina
AbstractThe onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in dramatic and unexpected ways. Closures, cancelations, and quarantines altered our lives and the ways in which we viewed the world. The effects of this season had the greatest impact on our young people, who experienced increased levels of anxiety and isolation. In Church life, Youth Ministry programing and activities across the country were halted or significantly altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the ability to host traditional programming, and the inability to provide a sense of belonging and connection through virtual activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the students in Youth Ministry programs became disengaged and disconnected from congregations life. When Churches were able to open their doors and resume regular ministry programming, the problems surrounding Youth Ministry and virtual platforms did not disappear. The Church was open, but young people were no longer showing up. As the world continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Youth Ministry and the Church are in need of programming and experiences that re-engage and welcome back students who no longer feel like they belong. This thesis explores the shifting cultural landscape of postmodernity and seeks to reimagine how to create community and connection among young people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project sought to create ministry practices that increased the perceived sense of belonging among students through the structured experience of visual art and storytelling. Five participants between the ages of fourteen and eighteen volunteered to participate by sharing their stories as an act of worship through visual art with the congregation at Forest Hill Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC during the Fall semester of 2022. This research project included six sessions that were designed for students to share their stories and create individual pieces of visual art. Once the six sessions where completed, the students shared their artwork with the congregation as an act of worship. Following the completion of the project each participant completed an individual questionnaire and participated in a group interview. The questions and interview were designed to determine if structured experiences could create ministry practices that increased student perceive sense of belonging within a congregation. The themes that emerged from the questionnaire and survey indicated that students who experienced safety, celebration, and intergenerational community.