For many reasons, the last 14 months have felt much longer than their actual 60 weeks, since the first Covid lockdowns came into being on the island of Ireland. The pandemic has touched every aspect of life North and South, and church life in particular. In these difficult and changing circumstances, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has sought to respond to the impact of the pandemic by supporting and developing congregational life across PCI’s 500-plus churches with a range of resources. The latest initiative is the brand new PCI Youth App.
Rev David Thompson, Secretary to the Council for Congregational Life and Witness, explained that one of key elements of fruitful youth ministry is effective communication, which was challenging before Covid-19, but has become even more so in present circumstances. The new app will allow congregations to safely and effectively keep in touch with young people, leaders and parents.
“The Council for Congregational Life and Witness exists to support and resource the development of the week-by-week work of local congregations. It goes without saying that the pandemic, and its disruption to church life at every level, has made the period since last March very challenging,” David Thompson said.
“One of the biggest interruptions has been to those moments in which members can be together to catch up for a chat, and find out what is going on in each other’s lives, as well as benefiting from being together for more organised activities of fellowship, and for mutual encouragement. The new Youth App from PCI helps bridge that gap for young people and their leaders, especially when they continue not to be able meet in more regular ways, which enables them to keep in touch and share with one another.”
With a number of default ‘pages’, which can then be customised by congregations as their own ‘affiliate’ app, it brings everything together in one place, that is easily accessible to everyone involved in a church’s youth ministry. This enables congregations to not only communicate with young people in a safe and controlled way, but with their parents as well.
Congregations with less time and resources can start off with a basic template and build as their needs change, but others may want to be a little more adventurous, which makes it not just a useful tool for these times of additional challenge, but one that will continue to be useful long into the future.
David Thompson explained that this makes the App very flexible, “As a Council, we were delighted to receive funding from Northern Ireland’s Education Authority to make the App freely available to 75 congregations and we have really been encouraged by its steady uptake by congregations. We hope that it will prove invaluable in effectively communicating not only what is happening, when and where, especially when our youth groups can’t meet in person, but Christ’s gospel message of hope, which is for everyone, regardless of age.”
Explaining more about it, Graeme Thompson, PCI’s Youth Development Officer, said that it is an exciting new tool, as it can be completely flexible to the needs of individual congregations. “Each page of the app can not only be personalised, so you can have your own devotional resources, playlists and social media input, but every page can be changed to just about any content that is required.
“There is also the facility to send direct notifications to all app users, or to specific groups like parents, leaders or one particular organisation. This makes it not just a useful tool for these times of additional challenge, but one that will continue to be useful long into the future. We are really hopeful about the App’s potential over the months ahead, and very grateful to the team at Summer Madness who developed this resource and shared the technology so generously.”
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