Connecting in the Mess

“We hit the water and we canoed,” Shannon Wiebe recounts warmly. “It was probably one of my absolute favourite things in eight years of full-time ministry that I’ve done.”

Wiebe is the youth pastor at Boissevain MB Church and has been exploring new ways of connecting with her students through the season of covid – including a three day canoe trip and bonfire bible studies.

Although this is a season where everything looks different and many church programs can’t do “regular” activities, Wiebe has found ways to connect with her students amidst the mess.

“Our kids are grieving and have lost out,” Wiebe says. “When it comes to our youth program, I wanted to ensure that my students didn’t experience a sense of loss in whatever we could do together.”

Shannon Wiebe is no stranger to grief and loss. She lost her husband in 2015 and was left raising three young boys while pastoring full-time. When she remarried in 2020, her family became a blended family of 10. She took a huge step of faith and resigned at her first church which led her to the position she is in now.

“My world has been incredibly messy,” Wiebe shares. “I’ve walked through some pretty devastating things and it’s been pretty magnifying.”

Wiebe wants students to have a place to acknowledge their own losses and grief. Whether it be loss of a graduation, a sports season, a missions trip, or a person.

“Students don’t need us to fix things, they just need us to acknowledge it,” says Wiebe. “They want to feel validated and cared for.”

Wiebe persisted to host youth events through every change and mandate. She planned online bible studies and mystery box nights where students would be sent a surprise activity to take part in over Zoom. Some of these box activities include gingerbread house kits, Bob Ross painting kits, and “Nailed it” style baking competition kits.

When restrictions lifted to allow gatherings outdoors Wiebe invited the youth to small group bible studies around the church bonfire or took them to the dollar store to pack Christmas boxes. For many of these students, these nights were the only time they got to meet with other people and connect.

“My students have craved physical connectiveness and presence,” Wiebe said. “It didn’t even matter what we did.”

Wiebe realized it wasn’t about how she could impress these kids or recreate the activities they had done before the pandemic, it was simply about entering into the hard stuff together and finding Jesus in the mess of it all.