While we may not have certainty about what next year looks like or everything that will happen, we do have clarity about who we are and why we exist. For the 2020-2021 school year the way we Love God / Love Others / Love Life is summed up in 2 words: safety and connection.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we need connection with others–sometimes especially the people who don’t live in our house. As we have reviewed survey results from DCPC Youth parents, we have heard a desire from many of you to see in-person small groups resume this fall and we want to make that happen in a way that guards the health and well-being of everyone who participates. We also heard from parents who aren’t prepared for in-person gatherings and we want to do our best to create engaging and fun virtual gatherings. Whether we get together in a room or on Zoom, our goal is as much safety and as much connection as possible. Because this is a different focus than what we’ve done in previous years, there will be some changes to what we do and how we do it. Keep reading to get a sense of what those changes might be, but keep in mind (you know this is coming) that things can change quickly in 2020.
Safety means that DCPC Youth leadership prepares in-person environments and guides in-person interactions in ways to minimize potential transmission of COVID-19 among participants. Safety does not mean that all risk of transmission is mitigated; any in-person interaction carries with it a potential risk. Here are the changes we’re making to reduce risk of transmission:
- Unfortunately, dinner and big group gatherings have to go this year. Small groups, our main organizing principle for the last 4 years, is one of the better ways we can safeguard participants by keeping the number of interactions limited and consistent.
- Middle and high school groups will meet on separate evenings to minimize the number of people at one time and provide natural disinfectant (a.k.a. time) in between groups.
- Small groups will meet in physically-distanced groups (6 feet) and wear masks at all times.
- Small groups will meet outside, weather permitting. If the weather is not permitting, we will try to meet in large rooms with exterior doors open to promote natural air flow.
- Any group meeting indoors will have its own entry from the outside to reduce congestion at start/end times.
- Small Groups will be reconstituted by the following grade/gender breakdowns with the goal of creating groups of 8 youth and 2 adults in each so that interior meetings are possible:
- 6th & 7th Girls
- 6th & 7th Boys
- 8th Graders
- 9th Graders
- 10th Graders
- 11th Graders
- 12th Graders
- Anyone with any symptoms or exposure to someone who has been sick will be asked to stay home.
- Attendance will be kept very carefully in case it needs to be used as contact tracing. In the event someone becomes sick, we will keep the individual anonymous but inform others in the group that they may have been in contact with someone who is sick.
If you’re a detail-oriented person who can help us create safe environments, please email Matt and let him know you would like to be part of our Safety Team!
We think about connection in 3 ways: youth connected to other youth, adult leaders, and God. With less connection happening at school, sports, and other clubs/groups, we hope to be a source of life-giving connection that leads to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health for everyone who is participating. Here are the changes we’re making to increase connection:
- Being part of a community shouldn’t be dependent on physically showing up at a certain place and time, so we will be placing a greater emphasis on what small groups are doing outside of Youth Group. Expect small group text groups, watch parties, online game nights, and more.
- Meanwhile, when we do meet in person we won’t be able to eat dinner or play games and icebreakers together. To relocate the balance between content (big group message and small group discussions) and connection, we will be trying out a new rhythm of Youth Group (both in-person and virtually) that will include more nights off of teaching/discussion and more nights focused on playing, talking, and praying.
- We will have virtual options for all youth group programming this year.
- If there was a way to spend time with others in a safe environment and improve physical health while strengthening mental health, we would jump at it, right? Thankfully, there is: outdoor sports! No matter what your sport is, chances are there’s a way we can safely do it together in a group or with one or two others. As we get further into the fall and the weather cools down a bit, look for affinity groups based on a variety of outdoor activities: running, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, walking, and more! Groups will be able to communicate between events and even find ways to serve others through their preferred activity. These groups will also be inter-generational and a great way to get to know other DCPC members and friends.