Pastor Kiran Skariah (or, ‘Pastor SKAR’), who serves as the Youth Ministry Engagement Coordinator of Baptist Churches NSW & ACT, is well-acquainted with looking for innovative ways to help people know and grow in the Lord. An avid gamer, Kiran recognised that the traditional setting of hardwood pews on a Sunday morning was a major disconnection for non-believers, and saw the potential of the gaming community’s reach. He now has an official “Verified” status on Twitch – the world’s leading live-streaming platform for gamers – which he uses to regularly connect with over 10,000 young people by offering short sermons, conversing with gamers from all over the world, and ending each gaming session with prayer. By taking ministry into the online realm, these youth have a way to hear the gospel – even in times when their local church is unable to reach them, such as during Covid-19 restrictions.
In a Facebook video interview with Steve Dixon, our Associate Director of Youth & Young Adults (as part of Gen 1K Leadership), Kiran shared how he has seen God show up through this season. “Obviously we are already set up in the online space, so we didn’t have to adapt in that sense,” Kiran said. “But what I found is the need of the local church – of so many youth pastors who all of a sudden were forced to go online and didn’t know how. So a lot of my time was spent trying to help them get online.” One way Kiran did this was by quickly putting together a video of practical tips and tricks for connecting your church online, information on how to use different online platforms/software, and tips for crystal-clear audio when recording.
Kiran also decided to launch a weekly Youth Group Stream (with prayer, games and guest speakers) so that young people, youth leaders and pastors could still congregate, have faith conversations and support each other while Covid-19 forced us indoors. “I’d had numerous pastors say ‘hey, we’re not actually equipped to take youth group online – it may take us a few months, or we may not be able to go online at all, so what can we do?’”, Kiran explains. “I normally don’t stream on a Friday night because I want kids to be in their local youth groups (and I sometimes speak at youth groups). However, once Covid hit and I realised that churches weren’t going to be able to meet, we changed our stream schedule, and within 24 hours of the government announcement, we were ready to be live on Friday night for any church that couldn’t put together youth group in time!”
The stream is like a combined youth event every Friday night, with entire youth groups – pastors, leaders and youth – all coming in together, including many of our own Baptist churches. And more pastors in the chat means that if there’s a kid looking for a local youth group, it’s a lot easier to connect them! But it’s not just NSW or ACT benefitting from the stream. “On Good Friday we did our combined youth group special, sharing what Easter was all about, and decided to do a gospel call,” Kiran says. “We ended up having seven people sitting in their bedrooms around the world making the decision to follow Jesus for the first time! We were able to dialogue with them and send bibles out to different parts of the world.”
Anne Wendt, Youth Pastor at Padstow Baptist Community Church, says: “I first heard about Pastor Skar at the leaders conference in February. Once COVID stopped our normal program, word spread about his Friday night youth group. A couple of our leaders jumped on to check it out and were so impressed. We were looking for fun ways to stay fresh and give our young people some online options to engage them and their faith, so Pastor Skar became part of our rotation for Youth. We joined in about every 3 or 4 weeks (along with running our connect groups and doing youth group on Zoom). We have loved Pastor Skar. It’s heaps of fun, and there’s so much of the gospel presented in what is shared and in the culture set in the group. We have been really blessed by Kiran and his team, and our young people love it!”
Steve Dixon says, “It’s been wonderful to be able to direct people to Kiran’s ministry over recent months as we know that many churches have struggled to continue to find ways to engage young people during these times of digital-only youth ministry. Kiran provides an engaging, positive, and Biblically focused opportunity for young people to consider and grow in their understanding of both who God is and how to be a follower of Jesus in the world today.”
Praise God for saving those people, for Kiran’s selfless response to Covid-19, and for the ability of our youth groups to continue God’s mission through partnership and learning from others. If you’d like to get in touch with Kiran, feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Has your church’s youth group tuned into Pastor SKAR’s stream? Let us know!