Grief In Times Of Trauma

Grief In Times of Trauma photo

In part one, Dealing With Grief, we discussed how we can understand grief. As we move into part two of dealing with grief, one question I often get from caregivers is “What do I do for people who are wallowing in their grief?”

While I appreciate the question as it comes from a place of caring, I am cautious of what prompts it. It is always hard to watch someone you care about go through a process in which you can do nothing to stop or ease. However, the discomfort that we feel when watching someone else grieve is more connected to our own grief than to theirs.

From an early age, we see people relate their own emotions to others. In youth ministry, you have to look no further than a middle school small group.

Typically, one student will share, prompting another one to do so. From the outside, it may seem that the stories are in no way related, which may bring some to the conclusion that the students just want to tell their own stories and not listen to that of others. This is not the case. Something, somewhere in the first story, was an emotion triggered for the second storyteller. You as the observer don’t have to understand it or make the connection, but the connection is there for the story sharers.

Our Own Pain

When we see someone in grief, we feel our own pain engage. Pain is an emotion that the animal side of us tries to run from, even though it is the emotion from which we learn and grow the most. The animal instinct in us is a mandate to survive at all costs, which also includes staying away from pain. Our gut instinct is to avoid the pain we see in another person, no matter how much we love them.

Picture the person who loses someone dear to them. In the beginning, people are there, bringing food and what they think are comforting words. But eventually, everyone goes back to their lives and the person is left grieving still. Over time people in their lives begin to question them. They say well-meaning things like “Maybe it’s time to move on,” or “Get out and meet some new people.” The reality behind these well-meaning statements is that they are an attempt to keep the pain we see in that grieving person from touching our own lives.

Is it common? Yes.

Is it helpful to the person who is grieving? No, but the people perpetuating this cycle usually do not know they are doing it.

When we are not in touch with our own pain, we are less able to help others touch theirs. 

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In our current climate, it is natural to try to rush back to normal. How many times have we heard “When this is all over?” We do this because that is all we know, and we are grieving the loss of what we know.

As a people, we cannot comprehend what is to come “when this is all over” because we have yet to fully comprehend what “this” is. We are still discovering the lens through which we understand our circumstances, and that will take time.

For some people, the things they have lost during the COVID-19 Pandemic will not be apparent for some time. For others, even though they know what they lost or missed out on, they will not process that for a while. It is unreasonable to expect someone to fully engage in processing their grief during a time of trauma. Please understand, we are ALL in a time of trauma. The things happening in the world around us, in our communities, to our churches and to our households are TRAUMATIC.

We are experiencing collective trauma, while still trying to be as productive and essential as we always assumed we were. And also, trying to help everyone else hold it together. That’s a lot on one person, isn’t it?

I know you want to hear something simpler. I would love to give you something as concise as “5 ways to support someone who is grieving” or “3 ways you can tell if you are needed”. But honestly, it cannot be that simple, because people are not simple. Helping someone else during their grief takes time. Because grief is such a personal thing, both for the feeler and the caregiver, it is hard to give solid steps forward, but I can give you tips on things you can do, to the best of your ability.

Tips For Dealing With Grief

Acknowledge the loss. This can’t be overstated. Help people to form/learn/lookup/ try out the words to express their pain and loss. Name it. Acknowledge it. Let them feel it.

Do not use the phrase “at least”. Someone’s pain is not ever more or less hard than someone else’s. I have heard people who lost jobs say things like, “At least no one I know has died from this.” But to compare loss like that is an impossible task and is based on an incorrect premise. It is based on the premise that loss or pain has a finite amount. It implies that we can put our pain on a scale and rate it according to all the pain in the world. Which is a ridiculous endeavor, because we have never felt the pain of all the rest of the world. Pain is not finite in the amount that can be felt. It does not take away or cheapen the pain someone else feels about their loss for me to also feel pain.

Do not compare, and encourage them to not compare. See above.

Be realistic about your own limits. No one can be 100% helpful all of the time. It is also not appropriate to be someone’s only source of support or help in crisis. Give yourself a break. Let someone caretake for you.

Understand what frustration and anger mean. You will see it in them, and you will see it in yourself. Anger is an important emotion for us to pay attention to right now, because anger is a protective emotion, and it is not usually primary. This means that anger creeps in when it is needed to protect another emotion or vulnerability. Instead of asking, “Why are you (Why am I) so angry?” maybe try asking “What is this anger protecting you (me) from? What is being threatened in this instance?”

There is no guidebook to a pandemic. None of us has done this before, which also means that none of us has ever ministered to people during a pandemic. Be gracious to yourself and those around you. You can give credit to someone’s feelings without sacrificing your own.

Being in touch with your emotions and knowing your own relationship to pain and grief will make your time ministering to those who grieve more meaningful. It may provoke a deeper healing process for both the person you are ministering to, and for you.


Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida. In addition to her work in counseling and the local church youth ministry, Kelly has been an advocate for youth involvement within the Florida Annual Conference of the UMC.


05: Special Episode Part Two on Ministry During a Pandemic, How Do We Measure Success, and Should We Cancel Summer Camp or VBS

Making Sense of Ministry Episode 5 - cancel summer camp and vbs?

In part two of this two-part discussion, a team of YMI experts (Steve Schneeberger, Kirsten Knox, Annette Johnson, and Brian Lawson) get together to discuss how to measure success in this season, what to do when it feels a supervisor expects too much out of you, and should we cancel our summer camp and VBS.

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Ashley (00:01):

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Welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host, Brian Lawson.

Brian – Host (00:13):

Hey friends and welcome to episode number five of them making sense of ministry podcast. Steve, Kiersten, and net are back for part two of our special episode on ministry in the midst of this pandemic that we’re all facing. We’re going to talk about, uh, how do you measure success right now? What do you do when you have a supervisor who expects more out of you than what you seem to be producing right now in the season? And is it time to cancel summer camp, mission trips or VBS? All that will be coming up very shortly in our interview, but before we get there, I want to tell you about one last thing that we are very excited about at the youth ministry Institute. In a matter of days, we are launching the youth ministry Institute online. Why am I online? We’ll offer practical courses from practicing youth ministers.

Brian – Host (00:59):

These will be short courses but meaningful and impactful courses. So if you are interested in being one of the first to know when these courses launch when Y my online officially launches sign up to receive the emails, I’ll put a link down in the show notes. You won’t want to miss this. We are very excited about why my online and we think it has a lot of potential to really help you in your leadership within youth ministry. It is now time for part two of ministry in the midst of a pandemic. One of the things I’ve noticed is going on in a lot of youth ministry or children’s ministry Facebook groups is people are talking about the student or the child who holds the camera up to the ceiling and I was talking with Kirsten earlier this week and we discussed the idea that maybe they’re struggling seeing themselves on zoom when you’re on zoom or something of that nature. Your seeing your face while you’re also seeing other people and, and I’m just wondering from your guys’s perspective, do you think that creates any issues for a student or, or even maybe a fourth or fifth grader who is struggling with how they look and then how can we encourage them in those moments?

Steve (02:08):

Well, I’m over 50 and that’s the one thing I hate about zoom. I have to look at myself and remind myself how old I am. I don’t see myself as being that person that actually is looking back at me. And then I realized that’s the person everybody else, if that’s happening to a person like me who’s pretty secure in themselves, I can’t imagine what’s happening for a young person who maybe doesn’t have that security of self. So I think you’ve, you actually have hit the nail on the head with that observation. I’m not sure how to tackle it, but it’s uh, that’s, that’s really insightful. Yes. I did zoom last week with my youth ministry and that, that is what came, like I kept seeing, right. Like them having the camera angle differently or acting silly or goofy like being able to look back at themselves I think is very difficult. So what are they we talked about

Kirsten (03:00):

is if you do it in grid view, depending on the participant, you can go over to the next screen and not see yourself like depending on how you use that. So that has one of the tips that we have used that some students come down so then they’re not looking at themselves because they think that’s distracting. Right? On this Jack, I’m looking at myself to see how I’m looking to everyone else and that there’s a barrier creates a barrier then for me to be present in this moment and really to be myself and be comfortable with being myself because I’m preoccupied with this and then that feeds all of my insecurity. I do think, I just think that’s a barrier and I wonder if that’s not why. When I talked to a lot of youth ministry, what they’re saying is their attendance is about 40 to 60% of what they had in person. I think a big part of that is the uncomfortableness with seeing themselves

Brian – Host (03:46):

a net. Is this something you would see fourth or fifth graders struggling with or how, what age range do you think? How far down would this go?

Annette (03:54):

So I think possibly, I mean we, we know and we see that eating disorders and self esteem issues, um, you know, doctor see them in, in kids as young as eight, nine and about third grade. Um, so I mean there’s definitely a reality to that, but I think those are probably more the exception than the rule. I think with a lot of the children it’s dealing more with kind of what Kirsten was talking about and that it’s kind of distracting to look at yourself and makes it really hard to be present because we’re not used to watching ourselves talk. And I don’t know if you’ve ever like sat in a restaurant with children and there’s a mirror on like one side of the restaurant, look at them in the mirror while they’re talking instead of looking at the table. Because it’s kind of funny to see yourself talk like, Oh, I didn’t know I did that with my, my face when I, when I talked, I didn’t know I did that expression. That’s weird. And, and I think that’s why you also see a lot more silliness in some of the children’s ministry things. To me with the get, with the kids, it’s, it’s more of the distracting factor, which honestly is an adult. I have that problem. Like my own brain on zoom calls by Steve said, I kind of go, Oh my gosh, that’s what I really look like to all people all the time.

Annette (05:15):

I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t go, okay, you got to focus, you’re in a meeting. Um, but you know, a seven or eight year old can’t and won’t get past it. They’ll just, they’ll almost end up, for lack of a better word, engaging with themselves instead of engaging with the group. Yes. I have a number of sunglasses and I thought that, I’m sure you’re in your room and somewhat dark cause you were sunglasses,

Brian – Host (05:43):

they’re sleeping on your Kirsten.

Brian – Host (05:48):

No, I think that there’s something here. I think that we have to learn to transition to classroom management virtually, which is different than in person. So there’s some different skill sets there. I especially see that relevant is when what you were describing a net as being distracted. So we have to learn how to set some, some guidelines for our, our gathering that would help minimize that, but also still keep fun and keep it enjoyable. Right. But I think for those in youth ministry especially, we need to be extra aware of the people who are hiding from the camera and we need to think about why they’re hiding from the camera and what can we do to encourage them in those moments. Because I do think there’s something there. I think for some people they love the camera, but for there’s a large chunk that that’s not the case. And so I do think, Kirsten, you’re right that maybe there’s a little bit of reason why our attendance is down.

Steve (06:39):

So I think there’s a practical application here, Brian. One of the things that we’ll be instituting moving forward is, is having a second adult on the zoom call and we have more than one adult on the zoom call anyhow, but having a second adult that would actually be in charge of, of classroom management. Um, and we’re not calling it that, but, but somebody who would monitor the comments and would, you know, maybe because of what’s beautiful about SIM, you could chat to everybody, but you can also chat directly to somebody. So that person would be tasked with, you know, paying attention to the person who’s not on camera. Hey, how’s, how’s everything going? Are you okay? And they can have a one-on-one chat in the midst of the zoom call. Um, that actually is affirming and helpful to the person who’s maybe having some difficulty or maybe they’re not having some difficulty, but you find that out, right? It’s also somebody that could, you know, monitor and make sure that somebody who’s acting up is muted so that they’re not distracting to the class. So those kinds of things to be able to help people and manage the group. But having a second person that’s doing that as opposed to the person who’s actually leading a whatever the activity is that the groups,

Brian – Host (07:56):

Oh, absolutely.

Kirsten (07:57):

Yeah. I think that’s very helpful. I recognize this last week, how often, how much of my classroom management or is nonverbal, right? That you do when you’re sitting in the group of students. And I’m like with zoom, you are very limited in that. So that was our problem solving. No, we’ve got to have somebody that that’s their, that’s their goal and that’s what they’re looking at. I think that’s very helpful.

Brian – Host (08:19):

Pearson, you ha you, uh, publish an article for us that came out yesterday that was about how do you reach kids and students who are not on zoom, who maybe they don’t have access to it or their parents won’t allow them to participate or they just don’t want to. So I’m wondering if you could share some ideas with us on, and maybe Steven Annette can chime in as well on some ideas on how we can reach out to students who just will never be on zoom for whatever reason.

Kirsten (08:45):

Yeah. I think what as I was writing that and thinking about it really has brought us back in some way back to the basics and stripped away some things that I think is helpful because I think about right students are in, children are missing that personal one on one conversation and connection. Um, and when you don’t see people face to face every week, right? There’s a lot of just small conversations you have with a number of your students or children. And so they think about how do you do that in a way that is personal and that and are like as engagement going both ways. Cause the other part that I feel like is in a lot of these ways, not just zoom but different ways that we’re communicating with Instagram live or those things is we’re giving information out. Like they can come and view it and do that.

Kirsten (09:27):

But how is there, um, conversation that’s going back and forth and our students, and I mean just simple ways, but I thought wouldn’t it be cool if every week students got a personal message from an adult, whether that’s a text message, a phone call, um, and just talking, you know, like engaging them and being able to see how they’re doing and have that one on one conversation to going back to what we call snail mail, right? Of being able to write them a letter and being able to personalize to that. I’m like, you really can seek value into someone’s life through those letters of being able, I always tell people to be specific, right? Not just, Hey, I miss you. Or, but what am I grateful about you? How do I see God working in your life? What do I appreciate about your presence in our group?

Kirsten (10:13):

Those kinds of things that can really speak life into people. But you can do that very specifically. So those are some things or just doing some challenges where they interact. How are we engaging holistically our mind, our body, our spirit, every day. And you could do some fun gamified challenges where kids interact and you could even put points to it and different stuff where you’re having communication back and forth with them as they submit that. And so thinking about, right. I think really is that going back to the basics and particularly for those students who aren’t engaging in them is how am I still being present in their life and what are ways that actually communicate with them, particularly with two way. I think that’s the important part right now is that two way conversation and how can we highlight that?

Brian – Host (10:59):

I know I’ve seen some interesting things and I know there’s their stay in place orders, so it might depend on your area and you would need to check that. But I’ve seen youth ministers and family ministers who go to the end of the driveway, they call the family and ask the kid to come up to the porch and they have a in person conversation from a driveway’s distance. Right. So they’re keeping significant distance away. You know, depending on your area, if that’s something you can do, it might be, might be interesting that I think kids would enjoy.

Annette (11:27):

Yeah. And I think I’ve seen for children’s ministry, I think this has really like catapulted us into more family ministry style. Some of the stuff Kirsten was talking about, which is reaching out to the kids as far as letting them know that they’re loved, that they’re cared about a lot of postcard writing and duty backs dropped on porches, letting them know that we love them and we miss them and what we love about them and the lessons out there more for them to consume. And then more of the conversations and more of the responses from the parents. So asking the parents what did they need to be able to be the primary minister in their child’s life because that role is shifting since they’re not bringing their kids to church to be administered to is, is educating the parent on how to be the minister in the household.

Brian – Host (12:18):

How do we measure success in this time of ministry? What measurement are we looking at to know for successful or not?

Steve (12:26):

That’s a difficult question. There’s a lot of ways that you could measure it. Whether that would be the appropriate measure would be the bigger question. You know, you could measure it on how many people I’ve reached, you know, through zoom conferencing or how many people have I connected with over the last month. So they’re committed numeric. It could be a qualitative measurement of where are people and am I ministering to their particular needs. All of those things I think have some merit to them. But it’s, I mean, it is complicated to figure out, okay, how do we feel successful in this, in this era? And I’m not even sure access isn’t the right word. Now I’ve used that word and we’ve used that word in youth ministry Institute a lot. Maybe success isn’t the goal during a crisis, maybe sustainability and survival. And let’s make sure that we get through this as a physical.

Annette (13:23):

Yeah. And I think if we look at, we look at Jesus again, which we should be doing a lot in our ministry. Um, but if you read the gospel, the story of the feeding of the 5,000 doesn’t get any more accolade or acknowledgement or praise, then Jesus healing one person because that’s within a relational ministry and numbers did not appear to be based on the tellings we have in the gospel do not appear to be the goal of Jesus’s ministry. Right? And so learning to celebrate the small what, what feels small to us as people who have numbers so ingrained in our brains. So right. Being able to recognize the incredible importance and success of a conversation that was had with that one kid on the zoom call who had the camera turned away from their face and they engage with you in the chat box.

Annette (14:17):

What a success that is. What, what a moment to be celebrated. That you have the opportunity to engage with that one student who was struggling. Um, and when you get that email or that, that DM from that parent who says, Oh my gosh, we were praying that bedtime liturgy two nights ago and my son broke down and was telling me how scared he is right now. And that he needs by how and to celebrate that I shared that liturgy with that family and that family is now ministering to their child in an effective way and that we really just have to change our barometer of success right now and like Steve said, moved to a sustainability and a recognition of the importance of the personal ministry that we’re doing, looking at where is God at work and where do I see that movement? Right? I think that in that a lot of what you’re talking about and I think that’s really powerful is how do we celebrate the wins of God’s goodness in the midst of this and how we see that playing out with students.

Kirsten (15:21):

One of the things that I have recognized or experienced is there more willingness to pray and to do prayer requests like we’ve done those before, you know, in those deeper requests and you’d get a couple here or there, right? We did it this last week and people really engaged in wanting to give prayer requests and to pray and I got off the call thinking that was different, right? Their openness and vulnerability to prayer. And then I had one girl say to me to his new chart youth ministry, cause I told them, I’m like, I’m going to write down your prayer request and then let’s divide up who’s going to pray for what and then we’ll pray together. We did that at the end she said, can you take a picture of that and send that to me? I want to pray for these during the week. And I saw school, right?

Kirsten (16:06):

There’s, there’s the when new to our youth ministry and was invited by a friend. And so yesterday I texted her friend that invited her and said, I’m so proud of you right there. Things, the power of your invite. And gave that example to her was really being able to celebrate her being willing to invite and to allow God to work in her life and then to see this other girl and how she’s experiencing an open, you know, really growing in her face because I didn’t like recognizing those things. When we’re in these crisis situations, we’re a little more vulnerable, which impacts us being more open to things. And so maybe we’re able to see God at work or really just focused at where is he moving in the lives of our students and our families in the midst of it.

Brian – Host (16:49):

Yeah, I think really qualitative is the answer right now and stories, um, which really is always a piece of the answer. But I think right now it’s, it’s the largest chunk and that’s where we need to be focusing is, is what is, what quality is happening in individual moments, not, not numerically. And part of the reason why I asked this question is because some people wanted us to talk about this. I think partly because what we discussed earlier that they were feeling maybe overwhelmed or sad or, or maybe they didn’t feel like they were doing a good enough job, but we all, I also know there are some pastors who are pressuring the youth or the children person to get a certain number in this season. Um, and wondering why your numbers are so low, which the cynical part of me wants to say, well, did you ask the senior pastor what their numbers are? But you know, that’s obviously isn’t helpful. So I’m just curious if you guys would have suggestions for someone who might find themselves in that, that place.

Steve (17:50):

Well, I think, I mean, empathy, there’s a lot of pressure in this season on churches and people. I mean, we’re all looking at having diminished income and in all sorts of different ways. So that empathy of, you know, when the pastor says, this is what I need from you, I mean, it is your boss telling you what you need to do and you’re feeling like, Oh, I can’t do that, or I’m not doing that. But there’s also a step to empathy that that person’s feeling a lot of pressure because they’re giving us down. They’re not reaching the number of people that they used to be reaching or it’s a different group of people or, um, and, and they’re feeling insecure about this new space. They didn’t sign up for this. They didn’t get trained in seminary to do.

Steve (18:34):

I think those things are all real. Yeah. And they may be feeling pressure from a committee or a board that’s asking them to justify which employees should continue to get paid, which employees are still working and which ones should be furloughed and this season because of giving being down. So they may literally be practically saying, you know, without saying it to you, they may be saying, I need something. I want, I want to keep your ministry going, but I have to, I have a group of people who aren’t going to be sold on stories and I need to bring them something. That’s a lot of pressure because you do have to, at one level you do have to produce

Steve (19:18):

because you have to justify the expense from a business standpoint. And that doesn’t sound, I mean we’ve, we’ve talked about all the, the ministry part of this and you know, one kid is worth, you know, with 5,000 would be worth, but you know, which I believe, uh, but it’s, but there is a business side to all of this that we’re doing and people are investing in us to do, uh, the work, like they envision it to be done. And so that’s, that’s always a tension in churches always. Um, it just plays out differently now.

Kirsten (19:53):

And I think one of the strategies could be, I mean we talk about this and why am I a lot is leading up and in this season of probably very important of for us children and youth ministers really to think about how are we caring for our senior pastor in this time? How are we engaging them and asking them how they’re doing and how can we help them, right? Like being able to understand that they’re under that pressure and show that empathy by leading up and maybe asking how can, how can I be helpful to you in the season? Right? Instead of waiting for that to come down from them of here’s what I need from you to initiate that conversation. So they see you as an asset and also one who is a team player and sees the bigger picture and is in this for the church.

Speaker 4 (20:36):

Right? Like really to pull that together I think would be helpful. And then, I mean, if you’re looking at practical ways of how do you count, I mean you can social media and some of those keep tracks of your, how much your engagement is in different things. And so there may be way of creating a formula of how you’re going to, on some levels, right? Be able to get some concrete, Hey, here’s what we’re doing. And like we talked about earlier, some of those personal conversations that you can have with students are family, parents, right? Like any of that engagement that you count as participation in a week. So in a week or in two weeks, how many people are being engaged? Not necessarily like we used to do that, right? Attendance, I mean showed up. But maybe this time, how many have we engaged? That can be a wide net when you’re looking at that, right?

Kirsten (21:25):

Not just how many showed up on a zoom call, but to be able to do that in a wider scope. And I also think that you give them, I mean, those will be two strategies than the other is. I think as leaders we’ve got to become excellent storytellers and sharing the wounds. So how are we doing that? Like that may in and of itself, you know, not enough, right? Like just telling them the wind, they may want some concrete but do a combo of that, of seeing that and celebrating that and communicating that. Right. Your ten second 32nd story about where you have seen a win this week. How do people know that? Because if nothing else that’s encouraging to people and right now we need all the encouragement we can get.

Brian – Host (22:07):

I probably speak for all of us. I think we’d all agree that if you’re a person who’s stuck in that situation, uh, you know, we do have empathy for you and we, um, we’re sorry that you’re in that place. But there, there’s probably lots of things going on behind the scenes that you may not even fully be aware of. But I think, I think telling the good a good story, a good story can really, I think convince about 90% of the people who are more, I would also add if, if your numbers on zoom are 60%, then you’ve got 40% that you’re not really reaching, right. That 40% letters, you know, sin that 40% other things. And then ultimately if you want to say engagement, you’ve engaged them. Cause if you can force them on a zoom call, then your next option is call them physically or send them something.

Brian – Host (22:55):

You just got to find another way to engage them because I think once you’ve called them and had a conversation with them, you’ve now engaged them and they’re part of your number. Um, I don’t know. I don’t know if that would be a satisfactory answer to your senior pastor, but it might, it might be an answer that you can give. Okay. So thinking about the future, um, do you guys think that students and children, um, we’ll be back to our groups. Do you think that’s gonna happen quickly or easily? And do you think parents are going to be afraid to send them? When we start meeting a person, I mean,

Steve (23:29):

well there’s a new reality for sure that’s on the horizon and we don’t know what that’s going to look like and it, it, it could look very different from what we’ve experienced before this pandemic and talking with my students at Florida Southern college a couple of weeks ago, we’ve talked about how this could possibly change that this is a, this is a moment in his history that, uh, that might be remembered for a long time. And, uh, it may be a pivot point in history. You know, we may be more reticent to, to greet one another with a hug. We may be not having, uh, prayers where, where we all stand up and grab hands in a circle. We may not see some people because of fear of, um, uh, viruses or you know, other diseases that could be communicated through the air. So how do we deal with, with that?

Steve (24:23):

Just the physical portion of that is, is one thing. How do we change our habits and how we interact with one another? Uh, but the other pieces, the underlying fear, and we saw this in nine, 11, 20 years ago, uh, that, that before nine 11 security, believe it or not, and I think probably people won’t believe this, but security wasn’t a high value for parents were allowed to, you know, run their neighborhoods, were allowed to, um, to do all sorts of different things. Um, that after nine 11, that stopped happening in churches, in particular, youth ministers in particular and children’s pastors were, were asked to provide more assurances that, uh, that this was a safe place for their kids. Safety and security just, just weren’t part of the conversation, uh, prior to that. So the question would be, what’s going to be the new thing that’s part of the conversation after this experience, uh, that, that parents and students will care about, um, more than they did before this. And, uh, and so that’s, those are questions we really can’t answer because we’re not there yet. But, uh, but it certainly will drive, uh, our ministries as a whole. Security issues driven ministries for the last 20 years, uh, to, to some places that have been good and then some places that had been very difficult to deal with.

Annette (25:55):

Yeah. And I think even, um, even closer in history, if I remember the church I was working at as a church is surrounding, um, after the tragedy at Sandy hook because for children’s ministry at least, um, that was so real. There had been, of course, many, many other tragic mass shootings. But, but the difference in Sandy hook was the age. And so I saw so many children’s ministries pivot in a huge way, um, to lock hallways, uh, locked doors to computerized checking systems to security guards to so many different things. I think, I think you’re absolutely right. I think this, this trauma, this tragedy is going to resonate through how our ministry is done forever. And the questions that parents ask when they drop off are not only going to be how do you make sure the kids are picked up by the right person?

Annette (26:54):

How do you make sure nobody can get into the hallway? He’s not supposed to be here, but now they’re also going to be, what are your cleaning practices? You know, what’s your screening for illness? I mean there’s going to be these new questions that we don’t know what we’re going to look like. And I think another thing we’re going to see is Kiffin when we get to the point of going back more to our normal of going into workplaces, of taking our kids to school, of going to soccer practice, of physically going to the doctor’s office of all of these errands of things, I think it’s going to wear us out because I think our bodies and our minds are going to have adjusted to this. And so I think we’re going to see people start to really prioritize activities in a different way that only because of fear of exposure, but because of literally saying, wow, do I really want or need to have this many things on my plate?

Annette (27:41):

And which things do I want on my plate? Which things do I not want on my plate? So I think people are going to really start to evaluate the value of things. In a different way. And I wonder too if part of it will be helpful in the sense of thinking about how do I have margin in my life, whereas we typically do not keep much. Right. Um, and then this season being able to say, right, I think that’s right. Like let’s prioritize in this next season and let’s be very intentional about putting margin in our lives and not just running crazy all the time. I hope, I mean, I think there’s some real goodness there. Like I hope that we’re able to think about that and then wonder how that impacts our emotional health and our spiritual health or physical health, that it really should be a way of being intentional about that in a way that makes things better for us in our being and how we do that.

Kirsten (28:34):

And then I also wonder too about isolation after you’ve been isolated for a while. How do you reenter into the community? And I would say for some people who are your extroverts or just high people oriented and high people skills that may be a little bit more fluid. There’s a section of particularly teenagers who, um, the effects of being so isolated. I wonder if what makes them want to continue or to stay isolated, right? Like how long will it take them and moving into relationship and what kind of insecurities, just from a relational perspective, this generation already social skills, interpersonal skills are deficient just because of the way they communicate. Right? So in your blood count, I’m like, we’re seeing a lot more time helping kids navigate how to have interpersonal skills and how to develop those. And then when I haven’t had to have those for an extended period of time, what effective they’re and picking those back up. And we’ll, we need to focus on that some and just how we build community back into our group.

Brian – Host (29:39):

So I wonder, okay, people ask this and I think it’s important for us to talk about it. Should summer camp and VBS be canceled. And then the second part of that is what’s the replacement?

Steve (29:51):

Uh, I think it’s too early to do those kinds of things yet. Will some churches cancel them? Yes. And what would be helpful replacements? I don’t know at this point just because we’ve, there’s so much unknown about the future. Um, and that’s probably not a helpful answer to anybody, but there is this sense of, okay, we have to get through the next moment to understand what the moment after that’s going to look like. And to be patient with a journey through those moments I think would be important. My feeling is that, that, that people are not ending out their summers right now. Maybe they had them planned out prior to this, but they’re, but they’re really not thinking. I mean, our kids have things that they’re scheduled to do in June and their camps and, uh, and experiences, and we’re not really worried about them at this point.

Steve (30:50):

We’ll worry about them probably sometime in mid may. They are, they’re going to happen. And then there’s alternative experiences. Then we’ll look at those. But thank we’re, we have the luxury at this point to say which is so counter what we usually teach. Uh, we have the luxury to say, okay, we’re going to do this thing and two to three weeks. Um, and uh, and people I think will do that. Um, whatever that is and that, that’s the answer I don’t know is what those experiences will be. But because I think people are dealing with a shorter time frame now in terms of making the decision.

Kirsten (31:30):

Yeah. I think when it comes to you making a call, right? Like people are okay with not knowing as far as there are parts that I wonder about in maybe the need for canceling isn’t the, the illness, right? The virus, the financial. So you think about the cost of summer camp and mission trips and families before we’re like, okay, I’m put that in my budget, I can work around that right now. Paying that to be not, not capable of doing that or not willing, cause I don’t know, I’m still may affect my job stuff so I’m not willing to spend that money there because I need that to be in vaping because I don’t know what this looks like or how we navigate that. So I wonder too, maybe sometimes the call of canceling or kids not doing it may not always just be because of the illness and the virus, but as much as the financial costs.

Kirsten (32:26):

And then, I mean typically in the past churches, right, you had families who have multiple kids, so that was difficult or had financial need. You would help that. But as the church in a position now to have those funds to be able to do that, I think part of financially is the question of is that feasible to do that? So if I’m not going to do for multiple reasons, could I be dangerous? I mean that would be my thought. Would my family feel more comfortable? We did a day trip somewhere. We did service projects in our community for a few days. Right? Like doing more localized, um, if not just for virus but also for financials. Um, VVS and probably it’d be a little different with the finances, but I think your mission in camp, that’s a real concern for people. Well, just from a real practical stance, plank for VBS is like, just really like as far as getting down to brass tacks goes, the churches I’ve spoken to who’ve been specifically asking for advice.

Annette (33:25):

What I’ve been saying is I think it would be in your best interest as a church is if you have your BBS currently planned for June, you do not try to put it on. And that is because VBS takes so much behind the scenes work leading up to it that I don’t think we’re going to have that time leading up to it. If we are released from stay at home type orders in some form or fashion by, you know, by June, I don’t think churches are going to have had time to recruit their volunteers to prepare their materials to buy things. Frankly, especially with more and more spores going to essential items being a priority of what’s being sold. Um, you know, you may not be able to get 4,000 puffballs um, for craft and I don’t think parents of young children are going to be regardless of if school starts back or anything else.

Annette (34:17):

I don’t think most parents are going to be ready to send their kids to be in groups of other children. Um, for an optional activity by June. I just really from a practical standpoint, so to allow churches kind of a gift of time, what I’ve been telling you, you currently have it scheduled for June. I would encourage you to look at scheduling it tentatively for later in the summer with the knowledge that it may just be canceled. For me personally for VBS specifically, there are going to be people who disagree with me on this, but I don’t think we need to offer an alternative right now. I don’t think we need to try and do VBS online. I don’t think we need to throw more things out there. I think we just need to continue to do what we’ve been doing and when time comes, be prepared to do something for our families. Whenever that is, whether it’s in two or three months or six or eight months, um, you know, it might be a weekend BDS, it might be a one day celebration. It might be, you know, something that looks really different. But I’ve seen churches stressing things. How can I make VBS a virtual experience? And in my opinion, I don’t think that’s what most families are looking for right now. And so I don’t think it’s something we need to add to our plate just to give some more what Annette said.

Steve (35:38):

And, and that night, I haven’t talked about this ahead of time, so I’m not sure if this really, um, conforms to what she, she’s saying or not. But, uh, at our church, I’ve told our children’s minister to, to have a timeline. So we have vacation Bible school scheduled for the third week in June, I believe. Um, and I told her that let’s not cancel or do anything. Let’s not create any more anxiety than we need to at this point. Till the 1st of May. So May 4th or fifth, I think it was the date that I put out there for her to make a decision. And then I said, uh, between Easter and May 1st get with your adult volunteers, uh, people that you trust in your ministry and, and begin having conversations about, uh, what it might look like if you didn’t have PBS, what are some alternatives to that?

Steve (36:31):

And so that could be all of the things or, or many of the things that are, that mentioned. And then that way when you come into the 1st of May, you not only have, uh, you know, a time period to make that decision, but you have some alternatives instead of that. Or one of the alternatives could be nothing. You know, we’re not going to do anything. We’re just canceling it completely and, uh, we’re not going to have a replacement anything. Um, and that’s okay too. But, but that way everybody is part of that discussion. But, um, but kind of giving people a timeline and then a chance for input because that’ll allow people to release kind of some of that emotional energy around, you know, vacation Bible school for a lot of churches is a pretty popular experience and meaningful experience for children. So, um, to, to not do it, um, without some input I, I think would, might be hurtful to the church and, and, and the people in it. So, uh, getting input I think is going to be really important for us. At least.

Brian – Host (37:31):

I like your timeline. I think that’s a great timeline to say come May 1st is when really the announcements are going to be made. In my context. I probably, I would’ve involved people in the conversation, but in the back of my mind and in my gut, I would already be leaning towards eliminating anything that was significant and cost and anything that was significant in manpower. And I would personally guide the team towards focusing on day things, things that are a few hours at a time that we can be flexible and nimble on. Um, and that would be where a person I would be leading. Um, now grant you, I’ve never led VBS, which is the reason why I’ve never be a children’s minister cause VBS scares me. But, um, but so that’s, I think how I, I probably would approach it. Um, I like your timeline, but I would probably, you already know kind of in my gut that anything that was significant financially or manpower wise would probably be on the chopping block. I wonder if each of you would like to share any final thoughts and then encouragement that you would like to give, uh, to leaders in this moment.

Kirsten (38:40):

I would say I think it’s just important to give yourself permission to be where you are, to feel what you feel and to make the best decision for you as well as your church. And um, obviously engaging people in those decision making as you do that. Um, but just to give yourself permission and to recognize that, that God has given you what you need to do, what he has called you to do and that he will provide for those things. And so I think if we give ourselves permission and we recognize God has given me what I need to do, what he has called me to do, then we can stay present and make good decisions and be effective.

Steve (39:22):

I concur with Kirsten. I think that living into this moment, it’s, it’s unchartered territory and, uh, we can only do the best that we can do. And, and to compare our best to somebody else’s best is never fair, uh, even in other circumstances. So, so we do exactly what we can do and uh, and know that that will be seen well in God’s eyes. And if we pay attention to the people in our ministry, parents and young people and their needs, then you can’t go wrong in those areas. If we began to be more self focused and say, well, I need to survive, my job needs to stay intact. I mean, I think that’s all in the back of our mind then. And that can be dangerous. So if we continue to do what we were doing, um, at the beginning when we started ministry focusing on others and, uh, and our relationship, um, with God, then I think we’ll be fine.

Annette (40:31):

And I just would remind people that God has never been confined to our building. Um, God has never been more present within our buildings than without. And that the church has never been the building. The church has always been the people and that what I see now more than I’ve seen in years is the church moving in incredible ways. The church ministering in what seemed impossible, ways that God is moving, that the church is moving and that we, because we had to, we got creative and that God is ritually within that and that the fruit of this time will be apparent one day and to not grow weary, um, of this time, but to look for God, to seek God because God is moving in incredible ways right now within our students, within our children, within our family, within our churches. And I think it’s going to change the church,

Brian – Host (41:34):

change the church in good way. Well, friends, that’s it for part two of our interview of ministry in the midst of a pandemic friends. I hope that you feel encouraged and inspired. I hope you see that in the midst of the chaos that the church is being moved to try new things, to grow in different ways. And when we get through the end of all of this, I think you as a leader and your ministry and the church as a whole will be stronger because we walk through this. So friends, don’t be discouraged, keep going, keep moving and we believe and I hope you believe that God is working through you. If you need further encouragement, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, the making sense of ministry Facebook group. I will put that down in the show notes now it’s time for our quick win.

Brian – Host (42:25):

Over the past several weeks we at, why am I have hosted several youth children and family minister gatherings. These were digital gatherings and we’ve seen people in these digital gatherings from all over the country and even outside of the country and we’ve heard some fantastic ideas and one idea was shared this past week that I thought would be fantastic for you to put into practice. Uh, in our group we discussed about playing games to keep student engagement up on zoom to make it a little bit competitive. And then one of our friends, Kendall shared in the group that if you are on a limited budget, the great idea for prizes, instead of just buying a bunch of prizes and giving them out every time you have a game or a competition is instead use raffle tickets, give away raffle tickets for the prizes and then do a drawing at the end of the week or at the end of the month or however you do that. But use raffle tickets so that you’re only buying a couple of couple prizes instead of a bunch of prizes. So thank you Kendall for that idea. Friends, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others, share it on Facebook, leave it a rating and a, and I hope that in some way we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley (43:40):

For more information regarding coaching, consulting, job placement and online courses, join us at yminstitute.com.

Dealing With Grief

Dealing With Grief - An article

There is an emotion in the midst of everything I do these days. It is like a cloud, heavy and yet undefinable. It comes across like apathy sometimes, and other times it looks like anger. Or sarcasm. Sometimes it even looks like fear. Most people do not have words for what it means to them because they have spent a LOT of time and energy running from it. It is grief, my friends. It is heavy, and it is real, and it is not going to allow us to ignore it. Many of us are dealing with grief.

In therapy sessions, I urge clients to “open the door” to emotions which they have historically been afraid of addressing. This is undoubtedly one of their least favorite exercises because I also encourage them to personify that emotion. Does it have a body? A face? What does it want?

If you have ever watched a scary movie or TV show, you know that the terrifying things are the things in the “unknown.” What is downstairs? What is around the corner? What is waiting for me at home? What’s in the box?

Dealing With Grief Clouds

The emotion that is clouding things for us these days is grief. It can cover everything we do in today’s life to the point where nothing looks like it “should” look because it is touched by loss.

Our natural inclination to dealing with loss is to employ the “At least…” scenarios. These are unhelpful in the best of circumstances, and downright dangerous in others. These set-ups are a go-to for many people, especially within the structure of Christianity, where we have all been taught from a young age to “count our blessings,” “be thankful for what we have,” and realize that “others have it worse.” These others are “the least of these” and should be our focus. So we change our thoughts from fear and grief and instead tell ourselves we are happy for what we have, and that is the thing to focus on the most.

Can you see the problem, though?

Acknowledging The Possibility

To be happy that your families is safe means to acknowledge that others are not, or that yours might not stay that way. To be thankful you still have your job is to acknowledge that there is the possibility you could lose it and that others have already done so.

To use this time to engage your students in a new and different way, on a new platform with a new schedule, is to acknowledge that our old ways were not working the best and that much of our labor until now may have been in vain. And to dream about “when this is all over” is to admit that there is a “this” right now – that while we hope there will be an “all over,” we actually have no idea.

In the midst of all of this comes the reality that we still have a call to answer. If adults are having trouble understanding how to honor their grief, how are the kids doing? On the surface, many may seem fine or unphased. But at some point, it will hit them, and when it does, we will want to help. So, what can we do?

Dealing With Grief

You Cannot Fix Them

The first step is to understand that you cannot fix this for them, and you should not try to.

Allow them to be sad. Allow them to be angry, or confused, or checked out. Reach out to them, but do not get upset if they cannot receive it. Sharing with them that you are here for them is helpful.

Understand Your Motivations

Be aware of your motivations for what you do.

If you are trying to do a celebration for your graduates, it may be a good idea to stop and check your intentions. Are you trying to “make up” for what they lost? You cannot.

Are you trying to make them “feel better”? You are also unable to do that.

Are you trying to stave off the sadness for them or yourself? This is not the best idea.

Ask Them

What you can do is ask them how they are doing. If they don’t have the words, that is okay. Give them permission to be wishy-washy.

They may know what they need from the ministry, or perhaps they do not have a clue. They do need you to tell them that it is okay to have their feelings. They are allowed to be mad one minute, sad the next, and checked out the time after that.

Processing losses takes time. Whether it is significant losses like freedoms and the idea that air is generally safe to breathe, or seemingly little ones like the cancelation of a prom, any loss is an opportunity for grief to set in.

Dealing With Grief Is Possible

Grief is the emotional process by which we come to terms with change. It is necessary, and it is not fun. But when we acknowledge it, let it in the door, and sit with it for a while, we can understand it better. When we understand it better, we can handle it better.

Grief does not go away in the way that we think it will. There is no timeline for it, and no strict order for the process. It will sit with you daily and sometimes demand your full attention. Addressing grief and acknowledging it, will remove the mystery and thereby remove the fear. It is okay to miss the things you lost or that were taken from you. It is also okay to wait a bit before dealing with grief. We all have our ways of processing, and that is okay.


Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida. In addition to her work in counseling and the local church youth ministry, Kelly has been an advocate for youth involvement within the Florida Annual Conference of the UMC.


04: Special Episode Part One on Social Distancing, Covid-19, and What Parents, Students, and Children Really Need

In part one of this two-part discussion, a team of YMI experts (Steve Schneeberger, Kirsten Knox, Annette Johnson, and Brian Lawson) get together to discuss the church’s early response to social distancing, the pitfall that we as leaders can fall into, and finally what parents, students, and children really need from us in this season.

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Resources Mentioned:
20 Free Zoom Games
The Common Rule – Spiritual Rhythms for Quarantine
Resource for Parents Homeschooling & Working From Home
   The resource for parents was taken from the work of Becky Bailey.

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Ashley: (00:01)
Welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host, Brian Lawson.

Brian – host: (00:13)
Hey friends and welcome to episode number four of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is a podcast designed to help you lead well and your ministry transform lives and impact generations. In fact, episode four is a special episode all about social distancing ministry. The reality is that all of us are facing a new season of ministry and we oftentimes find ourselves confused or unsure about what to do and we really feel like we’re just stumbling in the dark, trying new things here and there. So we thought what better way to help you tend to bring in some of our own youth ministry instant experts and have a conversation with them about ministry now in this season. So today is a conversation among three of our experts at mine. Those includes Steve Schneeberger, who is the executive director and founder of the youth ministry Institute. Kirsten Knox, who is the senior director of ministry partnerships.

Brian – host: (01:02)
And Annette Johnson, the children’s ministry coaching coordinator. Between the four of us, we have well over 70 years of experience serving within local congregation, both in children and youth ministries and some may say or some have said that we may be the dream team to discuss this new season of ministry we’re in. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do feel like we have a lot to offer you. One more thing before we start friends. I’d like to let you know about our Facebook group. Our Facebook group is called the making sense administry ministry group and we would just love, I would love it if you would join that community. We would love to engage with you to hear what you have to say, to hear some of the questions that you have and it’d be an easy way for you to see all of the content that we are releasing linked to that group. We’ll be down in the show notes, friends now we head into part one of our conversation about ministry and times of social distancing. Well, welcome Kirsten, Annette and Steve. Uh, it’s good to have you all together for a conversation about this craziness that we find ourselves in.

Steve: (02:04)
Yup. Glad to be here. Thanks for having us.

Brian – host: (02:07)
So I’m just curious, uh, what’s the longest stretch you’ve gone so far without leaving your house?

Steve: (02:13)
Well, I’m the grocery shopper in my house, so it’s only been about three or four days at a time.

Annette: (02:19)
I’ve mainly been the stay at Homer and my husband is our tribute. Um, so I’ve gotten probably a good seven or eight days, but here recently I’ve started, um, going and picking up lunch from the school for my elementary school kids, which has been a great thing and a great help for the grocery situation. So I’ve been leaving the house now every day, but it’s a, you know, a 10 minute drive in the car and I don’t get out. So nothing very exciting.

Brian – host: (02:45)
I love that you call him the tribute. Here’s this

Annette: (02:49)
tribute. Can we send him out into the hunger games?

Kirsten: (02:54)
What about really four days? Um, I’m also the grocery shopper, so I’m getting and doing that piece.

Steve: (03:00)
We have an active neighborhood and we’ve every weekend we’ve had an event that we’ve uh, hosted, but it’s not at our house. People draw drawings on the sidewalk with chalk during the day and then people walk around and see them during the evening and then stay, you know, far away from one another and greet each other on the street. So we’ve gotten out of our house for that in our neighborhood, which has been kind of nice.

Kirsten: (03:27)
Yes. And I would say that too. I’m doing out every day walking the dog. I, they have been walked more in the last week. Then I think they get tired and I’m like, let’s keep walking loosen. We’ve exchanged the house for a little bit. I still need the other day of a dog, like hiding under the couch that leave me alone. I don’t want to take a walk.

Brian – host: (03:51)
Oh, that’s great. I think our dog feels exactly the same.

Steve: (03:58)
I should say. My wife and I run every other day, every other day, three to four miles, so, so we’re out of the neighborhood for that too.

Brian – host: (04:08)
Yeah. Make us all look bad. There you go. Steve.

Steve: (04:10)
Yeah.

Brian – host: (04:12)
As we go into this, I think the best place for us to start, we’re just going to have a conversation about what we’ve seen and what we’ve experienced. Um, and hopefully some of it is helpful to people serving in, whether it be youth, children or family ministries or some variation of, of all of those. So let’s start by talking about when we first found out about coven 19, then we first heard about social distancing and figured out that we were all walking into a new season. I’m just curious, what are some of the thoughts that maybe you guys had regarding ministry when that happened or maybe some of the thoughts that you think ministry leaders had when they first heard about it and heard about what was going on?

Steve: (04:51)
Well, that’s an interesting question for me. I actually am in a church where I also serve as a supervisor of the youth and children’s minister. And so I first heard about covert 19 like the rest of the world, heard about it early January. And, um, and thought this doesn’t look good, but I’m the kind of person that if somebody’s house is burning down, uh, I’m go straight into dumb denial and say, Oh, that’s not happening. We’re not gonna have a problem here. So I think for me it was a straight into denial, even though in the back of my mind I thought this is, this could be really bad, um, for more than just China or for the whole world. And, um, but we didn’t initially, uh, begin talking about things and PR until probably the end of February. And then, then we began to talk about what if, uh, scenarios, but it, but it didn’t get real until, well, I think like the rest of the United States, it didn’t get real until, uh, the NBA basketball player contracted it and Tom Hanks contracted it. And then all of a sudden the world seemed to spin out of control and we had to really start talking about, okay, this is what we’re going to do.

Brian – host: (06:09)
Well, you know, if you were talking about it as a team in late February, you were probably already ahead of most churches. I don’t think, from what I’ve heard, I don’t think most people even had it on their radar. I don’t know if Kirsten a net agree with that, but,

Annette: (06:23)
well, I was going to echo that. I think, um, as far as, um, for us and from a, from a lot of churches that I spoke to and just observed on social media, I mean, we knew it was happening and it was this thing in China and then it was this thing in Italy and in our homes are kind of talking about, man, I wonder if they, would you really think they would ever shut down school and in America? Like would that actually happen? And if they do, will they shut down church? Like kind of these like, Oh, that’s kinda, that’s, there just didn’t seem like that’s going to happen. And I think for us it was, it was really not until school started shutting down and that wasn’t even, I’ve been in South Florida and we weren’t even close to the first, um, part of the country to start shutting down.

Annette: (07:10)
So I started seeing and hearing from brands and other States that announcements were coming out, that schools were shutting down. And I sat down and started having some conversations with my husband who’s a pastor at our church about, okay. So I think we’re coming. I think we’re going to be next. You know, it’s going to be in the next few days. So what do we need to do? And I know that one of the earliest conversations that, um, I, I was having and I was encouraging other churches to have was sustainability. So as you’re starting stuff, cause I think we all kind of went into this going, I’m going to just do everything. I’m going to, I’m going to give so many resources to my families. I’m going to zoom every day. I’m going to Facebook live every day. I’m going to visit, I’m going to that and, and just really trying to say, Hey guys, I think this is going to be a marathon. I think we’re going to be in this for awhile. Um, our families are going to be overwhelmed. They’re going to be confused and scared and tired. And so what can we do to not add to that stress, but to relieve some of that stress? And what can we as individuals

Annette: (08:23)
while keeping care of our own mental health, um, you know, not biting off more than we can chew right at the beginning and then feeling like we’ve built something that we now have to sustain. Um, and I’ve also talked to a lot of people and given them, not that I’m the one to give them occurring permission, but encouraging them to give themselves permission to let go of things that they started and they realize aren’t sustainable, um, that it’s okay to say, you know what, I’m not going to Facebook live every day. We’re a month neat. I’m going to start, I’m going to start doing a Facebook live once a week, um, or whatever, uh, that it’s OK to, to change your mind on some things. Because I think at the beginning we all just kind of, we had this adrenaline pumping through our bodies and we just kind of jumped into the deep end. The adrenaline has worn off and just kind of settling into what, what does this look like now for the longterm,

Brian – host: (09:17)
Kiersten? I wonder, thinking about initial responses only, do you think you’re saying that this has played out how people thought it would or do you think it’s more intense or less intense? What are your thoughts on that?

Kirsten: (09:30)
Well, I think, um, in the beginning, right there is this panic. So I think when that was talking about how we threw everything at it, right? Like I’d get a fix up and I don’t think we saw it longterm particularly. I think as we have walked through it, we’ve recognized that this is longer. So I think in the beginning we really tried to do some, you know, we did a lot and now looking at how, how do we really reflect on what are the needs of students and families and how can we help them? But I would say it has shifted right from the very beginning response from ministry leaders to now there has been a chef and possibly healthier shifts. Uh, not that panic response, but I’ve got to fix this. I’ve got to figure this out, but looking at the long haul and how can I do that in ways that it’s helpful. So I would see that as shifted.

Brian – host: (10:19)
Yeah, I think I agree with everything you guys are saying. I think that there was an initial, I don’t want to say adrenaline, I think is the best word. I think I know you use that word. There’s an adrenal adrenaline and uh, we need to do this now and you jump in, but maybe we jumped in a little too much without thinking about the longer implications. What do you guys think that students and parents and children are expected of us at the beginning? I mean not now that they’ve seen us do things, but at the beginning, what do you think their expectations were of us ministry leaders?

Annette: (10:52)
From what I’ve seen and heard, I don’t think, at least from the, from the families of children, that’s kind of the perspective I’m coming from. I don’t think they had any expectations and I think they were kind of shocked when we started doing things. They were like, Oh, you’re still going to do stuff. I figured we were just done with that for awhile. You know, they, I think they just figured we weren’t going to do anything because everything was changing. So from at least parents of younger children, I didn’t see a lot of expectation from them at all. Yeah, I would agree. I, um, we’d do youth ministry at our church on a volunteer basis and when we started to think about doing things, I think they were there. They were surprised or happy surprise that they had really no expectations. I think their expectation was that we were just kinda going to close down and hunker down and we would see them back when we were back out and about again, the students at our church when they first met

Steve: (11:54)
on a zoom call, which was within probably 10 days of, uh, of when we shut everything down, they expressed a desire to get back together, like in person. And so, so there, I mean a certain amount of denial for them, right. This is not going to last very long. Uh, when can we get back together? So there’s an expectation of, of relief. Okay. We can be with each other on this call, but it’s not enough. We need to be with each other in person. And how do we do that? So it was really difficult for our youth ministers to kind of get them over that hurdle of and desire, um, uh, physically being together to, to say, okay, what do we come up with that will be, that will suffice or substitute. Um, in the interim knowing that this is temporary, we’re just not sure how long it’s temporary. And I think people have at least our churches settled into a pattern of, of expectation, um, that they didn’t have before cause they didn’t know what to expect.

Annette: (13:01)
I saw this in my personal life and then the families that I spoke to and what was interesting was it’s something I had heard from a friend I have who is currently stationed in Italy. And you know, they were kind of ahead of us as far as their shutdowns went. And she said for them the second week was the hardest. And that’s kind of what I saw in our families, um, was, it was like that first week was that adrenaline I was talking about. And, and as leaders and as families, I think everyone was kind of like, okay, we could do this, we’re gonna, we’re gonna do these, so we’re gonna do all these things and we’re going to have activities for our kids and we’re gonna make who make Plato and we’re gonna play educational games and we’re going to have a routine. And then the second week it’s like the wheels fell off and it was like, I can’t do that if I can’t keep doing this.

Annette: (13:47)
I’m exhausted. I’m sad, I’m mad. I just, I’m frustrated at the end of my rope. And then by the third week, not that it got easier, but it almost kind of became, okay, this is what we do now. And I, and I saw that in our families too as like we put things out on the internet. It’s like that first week they were like, they were, they were watching everything and listening to everything and clicking and liking everything. And then the second week it was like there was hardly anybody around. And then the third week it seemed to kind of settle into more of a spaces of like what I would expect, you know, people kind of coming in and out of things as we just kind of settle into what our normal is.

Kirsten: (14:28)
And that I think you hit on something that there’s a, uh, unanticipated emotional exhaustion that comes with all of them. We’re not physically exhausted. We’re not, you know, going from the kitchen to the bedroom is not physically exhausting, but, but emotionally this is really taking a toll on people and it’s, it’s hard for to put their finger on it. Uh, they just know they don’t feel good. Um, and to give people permission to say, you know, I, I’m emotionally exhausted because I’m sad. I’m mad, I’m scared. Uh, all of those things, and especially when it comes to children and young people, uh, to be able to give them that language that this is, this is scary. It’s scary in a very different way. It’s not scary like going to, um, a horror movie or, um, or you know, driving through a dangerous, uh, place or, you know, being in a natural weather disaster, um, where everything’s happening at once.

Steve: (15:36)
It’s, this incessant doesn’t go away kind of hidden under the sheets, fear that, um, that it’s hard to really get your arms around and so it doesn’t feel real. And many people said to me, this is surreal. Um, it’s not really happening. It feels like a movie, but, um, are really acknowledging the fact that okay, it is real and it’s okay that your emotions are run the gamut all in a, you know, 15 minutes. Um, that’s okay. Um, trying to figure out how to say that to children and youth has been a challenge. We have to, um, youth in our household, my sons are 15 and 16, and trying to get them to identify those kinds of emotions are really, really, really difficult and challenging. But, um, but the real,

Brian – host: (16:31)
yeah, absolutely. You know, I was just thinking back on my experience and, um, I, I had put out a few articles right at the very beginning to try to help people with this. And you know, like you guys were describing it got lots of interest and people were reading. Um, which was great and I hope that was helpful. But I remember being so exhausted that second week and even really into the third week, only recently do I feel like I’m not in that place as much anymore. But you know, there’s this thing in the business world is called like the second product syndrome. And so the first product takes off and it’s fantastic. It happened with Apple actually, you know, their, their first first computer was fantastic. And then the second one was awful. And it’s partly because the hits been so much energy in the first one and sort of forgot why people like the first one.

Brian – host: (17:24)
And so I think we put pressure on ourselves to say we did really well that first week. We put everything we had into it and people really engage. And then now engagement’s gone down a little bit. Um, and so we’re forgetting that it was new and people were engaging a lot because that, and then I know people who’ve now started to feel bad about themselves because they’re not getting the engagement that they got that first week and they’ve put that pressure on themselves. So you’re adding what you guys are describing and then you’re also adding the pressure you’ve put on yourself as well.

Kirsten: (17:56)
Just in this season right now is youth ministers and ministry leaders feeling discouraged, right? There’s this sense of what am I doing when people aren’t engaging in zoom the way they used to, right? Like we felt like we saw off that cliff a little bit and people’s attention and how they’re engaging and then a sense of real discouragement. So giving them permission to feel that, but also to recognize some of that is, you know, there’s a rhythm to this. Um, and then then thinking if they’re not engaging in those original ways that they weren’t the beginning, what are ways that we can engage them? What are alternative if they’re not clicking into zoom, right? Joining those kinds of things. What are ways that we can still connect with students and families and children, um, that look a little differently. So I have seen this since a discouragement and then trying to talk to them and encourage just some problem solving, right? Like what are other ways and that it doesn’t have to look the way we thought it would in the very beginning or where we found success in the very beginning of letting that kind of evolve as we walk through this situation.

Steve: (19:03)
And it doesn’t have to look like the next person’s a youth ministry because now we’re in an era or we’re all living on the internet and we can see each other filters because they happen. Everything that’s happening is happening there in a, in a public square. So, um, so it’s not, it’s not, uh, not that it was hidden before, but, uh, but people weren’t paying as much attention to what each other was doing. Uh, now he had all over the place and, uh, I coach a youth minister who like in the third week, he said, man, I’m just depressed. I see all these people that are my peers that are doing all these great things out there and, and I’m not doing those things and, and my kids don’t even like to meet on zoom. So what do I do with that? Um, so, so finding that, finding that contextual fit for the kids that you work with is really important and to stay away from the comparison trap. You know, that Facebook has, has had us in that trap for years now anyhow, so now not just magnifies itself.

Annette: (20:12)
I think remembering too that our families are feeling the same way we are. So we are discouraged because what we’re putting out isn’t maybe being engaged within the same way. And on the flip side of that, our families are feeling guilty that they’re not engaging. I’ve heard this from so many families with especially elementary age kids, as school got started back up and kind of, you know, throughout the country, it was at different points that that online school kind of got relieved. But it was, you know, at least at the beginning for most people they weren’t worrying about school. So it was like the church stuff kind of gave them something to do and then the school stuff got released and that became the priority. And they were stressed out and there were kids in homes that were not doing well or unable to do it, or you know, just, just all those emotions that we were just talking about.

Annette: (21:06)
And so the church stuff got put on the back burner because they just couldn’t take another thing in. They were, you know, they were just at capacity and then they feel guilty. Right. Oh my gosh, I didn’t get my kid on the zoom call. Oh, I should have, you know, Oh, we didn’t open the virtual lesson. We didn’t watch the video. We didn’t, we didn’t, we didn’t. And so reminding ourselves to that my only, we need to give each other permission. We need to give ourselves permission to, to feel our feelings and to, to back off and to do whatever we need to do. And on the same pride we need to, to realize our families are in the same situation we’re in. And so just, just having that empathy for both sides that they may not be engaging because they literally cannot right now. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s not that they don’t appreciate what we’re putting out. They just, they can’t, they don’t have the bandwidth right now to handle another thing.

Brian – host: (22:05)
And I know some States the schools have canceled and other States have gone to online. Um, so I know there’s a little variance there, even within Florida County to County does things differently. Um, and so I know there’s a lot of adjustment that has to happen with that. So thinking about the season we’re in now, so we’ve, we, we have to acknowledge that we’re in this, we’re not going to change it. It’s the reality we have to face. What are some things that we can give to parents that they may or may not engage in and we’re not gonna make them feel guilty about either way. Uh, but what are some opportunities or things that we can give parents that you guys would think has been beneficial for them right now in this space?

Kirsten: (22:47)
That’s a great, it is. And one of the first things that we can do for them is really be a source of encouragement to them. I mean, it’s exhausting for parents and families in the season and really for us to be that voice of encouragement and cheering them on and believing in them and really being that for them, I think is very powerful.

Brian – host: (23:08)
Yeah. I saw, um, I’ve never, I’ve never read this book, although I’m, I may read this book now. Um, it’s called the common rule habits of purpose for an age of distraction. Um, but I saw they, they had put a risk resource out that was a resource for parents, right? To do with their family, to try to help them maintain a sense of order and purpose in their life, in the midst of the chaos. And one of the things that I grabbed out of that resource, uh, was a liturgy for it to do with your children before bed. And it’s very simple. But I, I, I just loved how profound it was. And it goes something like, you asked to the child, did God make you? They say, yes. Does God love you? They say yes, will God protect you? They say yes.

Brian – host: (23:57)
And then you say you’re right. And then you remind them that the God that created everything knows you and loves you and will be with you. I’ll protect you. And then we pray together every night. And so I’ve done that every night. And so the kids joke, they’re like, yes, yes, yes, I know the answers, but it’s my hope to kind of, you know, calm them if they have any sense of anxiety in, in this moment. But I just found that simple liturgy to actually be very beneficial. And so we’ll, we’ll put a link to that in the show notes, but there’s some other things in there. But that was the piece from that book that I really thought was fantastic

Annette: (24:29)
and I’ve seen some great resources out there for helping parents, which Steve alluded to at one point, to have some of the language to talk to their kid because that’s not something that every parent really knows how to do. Um, they don’t have the language to, um, to speak through the emotional components of this with their kids. So I’ve seen some great resources that, that gives parents some of this language to help talk to their kids through what they’re feeling and help their kids identify what they’re feeling. Some things like, you know, fear may look like anger. It may look like fighting with their siblings. It may look like irritability. It may look like tiredness. It may look like not sleeping enough. That kind of kind of what things you can be looking for in your kids. Um, and then to help them identify it and name it, because I think there’s a lot of power in being able to kind of embrace what you’re feeling and know what it is and work through it.

Annette: (25:37)
Um, I know that I’ve done that quite a bit at my house, especially with my teenagers. Um, you know, when they say I’m bored, I say, I know you’re bored. This is hard. And we kind of talk through what, what is board and, and what can we do to fix it. But what more could board be? What else could we be feeling, kind of thing to just help us identify where we are and, and sit with it when we need to and work through it when we need to. But I think for a lot of parents, having that language, um, can be really powerful for them. Yeah. Our children’s Nestor, um, is a big fan of Becky Bailey who’s, um, a professional education expert and uh, and she read some things on her site and uh, and then paraphrase them for parents. Um, and I think that was helpful in terms of how to adjust to having your children at home and, and school and how do you balance that? What are some tips? So she came out with a, a sheet, a worksheet, those five tips that again, she condensed

Steve: (26:44)
in paraphrase. So it was easy for parents to digest. So I think, you know, finding those kinds of things that are, that are good things to pass on to parents, uh, but also being aware enough to know that they have limited time and how do we, how do we make those into bite sized chunks so parents can, can read them and actually apply them.

Brian – host: (27:08)
Yeah. Steve, could you, is there any chance you could get ahold of that document so we could share it in the show notes?

Steve: (27:15)
I have the document that, that our children’s minister, uh, prepared and we could make that available.

Brian – host: (27:21)
Okay. And then in that, if you have any of those that you mentioned, that’d be great as well.

Annette: (27:25)
Absolutely. Yeah.

Brian – host: (27:27)
You know, it sounds like this, I hear you guys saying that this season is less about teaching and more about processing. Would you all agree with that?

Steve: (27:37)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting when you think about what the role of the church is, you really think about discipleship, right? And, um, and, but I teach at, uh, Florida Southern college, uh, youth ministry classes. And, and right now the class I’m teaching is, uh, teaching and learning styles, uh, for youth ministry. Um, and we, we teach, uh, Maslow’s hierarchy, uh, which means you have to have certain needs met before you go to other needs. And, um, and some of those are security and safety and all of that before you even get to discipleship. So it’s interesting now, or the church is having to wrestle with this, these basic needs of I don’t want to overblow it and, but it’s, it is survival, right? How, how are we going to survive this crisis? Um, and for some people, are we going to survive this crisis? How are we going to come out on the other end? And that’s all consuming. Um, so the church all of a sudden takes a step back down into the lower forms of Maslow’s hierarchy and say, okay, we really need to think about that. How do we help, um, people, uh, get through this? Um, and there’s discipleship to be had for sure. But, um, but it does take somewhat of a back seat for us in order to take care of people in, in a real way that, that I believe Jesus would take care of people in situations like this.

Annette: (29:12)
Yeah, I know it’s an overblown analogy, but that, you know, fuse a lot with parents of young children and incense, especially of the airplane, giving you the instructions to put the mask on yourself before you put it on your child or your, you know, your dependent. That’s with you. And I think that for, for children and family ministry right now, that’s a lot of what we’re doing is helping the parents put on their oxygen mask because right now they’re the only thing their children have their it, they are hundred percent of it all the time. And um, and so, so helping our parents to access an oxygen and an oxygen mask through, through different means, through prayer and through like, like C-SAT, just helping them to take care for those basic basic needs in their life right now so that they can in turn, breathe life into their children.

Kirsten: (30:06)
And you watched us just right, doing things for them, right? We are, we oftentimes feel very comfortable with doing. And I think right this season is really about being, being with them, being present with them, helping them navigate that versus doing all the time. And I think there’s also some uncomfortability with that because we feel comfortable with doing so as leaders, we’ve had this shift that, but also being able to think how can we do the present, um, with our families and our students and our children and also recognizing that for different families they are experiencing this differently. Right? For some people this is a thunderstorm and for some people this is like a category Bob hurricane that how they have been affected is differently. And so adapting to that and really being present with our families and students and the variety of where they are, how they are experienced in this and how this is impacting them.

Steve: (31:04)
There is some incarnational beauty in all of this. You know, just being present, uh, with people. Uh, I see all the jokes on social media about how long marches and how long April will probably be, you know, it just feels like it goes on and on. It’s, we’re not going to get to the end of the month. Um, but life has legitimately slowed down and we’re in conversation with people in our family more often. That conversation, at least in our house, uh, can get deep at times. Now we don’t have as many things to talk about. Um, but in a way that actually pares it down to, we focus on what’s important right now. And so that, uh, being in the moment with people, um, and uh, and the idea of incarnational ministry that you’re in the moments with people as opposed to trying to drag people to a different moment or encourage them in their growth, you’re just being with them. Um, uh, Andrew route calls that place sharing. We share people’s place where they’re at right now. And, uh, and I think that’s a beautiful imagery of what the church should be all about right now. Um, and if you really read Jesus well and the gospels, well then, then Jesus was the ultimate place share. He was in moments with people, um, wasn’t really dragging people from place to place. He was in the moments of the, of that moment

Steve: (32:41)
and, and recognized where people were in that moment and, and taught in that moment and, and sat with people in that moment. So that’s what we need to do. And I think that’s part of the beauty here. Right? And then thinking about, I mean, the question I keep asking myself is what am I learning in this season that I can take with me in the next season? Um, and particularly in sense of ministry. And I think the power of being present with people and being that placeholder for them so much. When life gets busy and you think, well, we get back to normal and we’re doing, doing, doing and have all these things that are going on, um, how is our ministry adding to that? And how can we learn in the midst of that really when everything gets back to normal, whenever, whatever. That was like for us to really focus on being present because there’s power in that and whatever season you’re in.

Kirsten: (33:33)
Right. Um, and so being able to do that in this next season of adding that element in, what might that look like and youth ministry, what might that look like in children that are streets? How do we do that with people and not feel the pressure to do and to push them to different places or different things I think is one of the values that I’ve been reflecting on of what, what might that look like? Cause they’re great value there. And I think for me the struggle sometimes is a value being present with people. And there are times when you do that that you feel like you haven’t done enough or I haven’t, I need to be doing something for people. And reshifting the way we think of being present for people and walking alongside them is very powerful. And as is doing something when it doesn’t always feel like was task right.

Kirsten: (34:25)
Then when we can do those paths, we feel a little bit more productive or effective. And seeing the effectiveness of like prayer oftentimes is in this season. May we see the effectiveness of being present and be able to carry that into the next season. Kiersten, you said when things go back to normal and one of the things I’ve been reflecting on what you were kind of intimating this is that maybe we don’t need to go back to what was normal. Right. Lately a lot of our old normal was broken and that goes for the church and for family structure and for the business world and for so many things. Um, and so, so asking, you know, what, what do we not need to, to bring back? What, what can Jeff go ahead and not resurrect when the new season comes. Um, and I think you, you really hit the nail on the head is that we, we are coming from a place of so much, so much being so task oriented.

Annette: (35:24)
Um, that idea of you come home from work and say, I didn’t get anything done today. All I did was talk to people. I didn’t check a single box on my list and, and I have to remind myself and my pastor husband quite frequently of sounds to me like we did a lot today if what we did was meet people and talk to people. Sounds like we did a lot of ministry. Um, we, we did a lot of what Jesus was doing today. Um, and so, you know, just, just kind of asking myself as I, I crave and I yearned for normal, whatever that means to, to allow myself to grieve what maybe needs to no longer be normal and, and allow it to stay in the past and, and what, what should the new normal look like? Yeah. Cause I really see this season, right?

Kirsten: (36:15)
This can really be like a reset for us and it’s going to be long enough that we can say, Hey, let’s reset. What have we learned that has been very valuable here? What have we done? What has really met the needs of our soul and this season? Um, that weekend bring and reset. Sorry. Yeah, I think that’s a great, um, question, right, to think about what don’t I need to add and really gives us an opportunity to reset and really view that which just means it was very, it was one of the beautiful things that come out of this.

Steve: (36:45)
Well, one of the other beautiful things that comes out of this experiences is new ways to do ministry that, um, that now we’ve trained people to be in virtual spaces and to actually be comfortable in them. So, uh, I don’t know this has happened in all places, but uh, but we’ve seen new people come in to these virtual spaces that we never saw in the actual space. Um, so does that mean that there’s some comfort for some people to be there? And uh, so there I think not to create more busy-ness, but maybe create more simplicity that OK, I, I can create this space that somebody doesn’t have to get in their car and drive to me anymore. They can just be here with me in this moment. Um, uh, and save some time, economize other time a little bit more. Um, and still have a, the same similar kind of experience that they would have had it in person. So I think there’s an opportunity in a lot of ways. I don’t think we’re going to go back to normal. There’s going to be a new normal that’s going to come out of this. And a lot of ways

Brian – host: (37:56)
Man friends that was such a rich and deep conversation and that was only part one, part two. We’ll we will release in a few days. Uh, so be looking out for that. As for our quick win a minute today, here’s what I have for ya. Uh, last week we released 20 free zoom games. These are games that you can play on zoom or really any, uh, any digital meeting space, um, that will be free for you to use. And this is a great resource. So we want to share with you, uh, cause we know how exhausting it can be to always try to find another game or another activity. And so we thought this might give you a leg up and may help you so you don’t have to search so long. So that a link to that resource is down in the show notes. And until next time, friends, we are praying for you and we know you can do this and we believe in you. If you enjoyed this episode, please share this with your friends. Leave it a rating and a and until next time, friends, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley: (38:58)
For more information regarding coaching, consulting, job placement and online courses, join us at yminstitute.com.

HOW TO ENGAGE STUDENTS BEYOND ZOOM

An image for a blog post about how to engage students beyond zoom

It has been several weeks of creating ways to do ministry differently. I imagine by now you have problem-solved some of the challenges of the virtual video platforms and researched solutions. Many groups are experiencing 40% – 60% of their students engaging weekly through the platforms. You may be seeing the same thing and are asking the question, “How do I engage students beyond Zoom?” Below you will find 5 ways to engage your students beyond Zoom.

How To Engage Students Beyond Zoom

Write Them A Letter

There is something energizing about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. Many of your students may have never received one. This is a powerful opportunity to speak value and encourage them. You can order stamps and note cards online and never have to leave the house! When you write them, be specific. Try to stay away from an, “I miss you and hope you are doing well” kind of message. Tell them how you see God working in their lives. What is it that they bring uniquely to your group? What do you miss about not seeing them? Highlight the qualities of their character for which you are grateful. These kinds of notes are ones they keep. Recently, I had a former student who is now a young adult post a picture on her Instagram story of her Bible cover upon which I had written her a personal note. On her story she wrote, “Sometimes you just need reminders of the past to have strength for the future.” You may or may not see the impact of your words. But you can trust God will not waste them.

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Create a Mind, Body, and Spirit Challenge

In this season, helping our students develop wholistic healthy habits is valuable. These habits can help them increase their emotional capacity to cope. Many students are significantly less active right now. They are feeling the effects of the lack of physical movement, even if they cannot articulate it. Physical activity and social connection impact their emotions, coping ability, and their sleeping patterns. Creating a challenge is a proactive way of helping them to engage their mind, body, and spirit. And, who does not like a friendly competition? You can gamify the challenge to increase participation and accountability. Create a daily challenge that contains three elements- mind, body, and spirit. Each day they have 3 activities to do that engage each of these aspects of their beings. You could do weekly challenges or a month-long calendar. You can create a system where they keep track of their participation in the challenges and earn points. Do not feel the pressure to create this all yourself. Ask a few students who have been less engaged to help you and keep track of the points. This is another layer of involving them in ministry. Examples of challenges that engage the mind: read a chapter in a book of your choice, draw or paint something that inspires you, memorize a scripture. For engaging the body: plank for 5 minutes, take a 15-minute walk, or do 2 sets of jumping jacks, squats, and sit-ups. Examples for engaging the spirit: google a scripture with an emotion you are feeling and write it somewhere visible, text 4 people an encouraging text, spend 5 minutes praying for others, or make a list of 7 things for which you are grateful.

Utilize A Group Messaging App

Students who are hesitant to join in on Zoom may feel more comfortable engaging through written messages.  Seeing themselves on the video could create a challenge for them to be themselves and be present in our virtual gatherings. With their world completely changing, the extra energy it takes for them to engage on a video platform may just seem too much for them right now. There are a number of group messaging platforms available. GroupMe and Slack are two options that are free. The main thing is to find a platform that allows them to talk together. You may want to split up your ministry into small groups or middle school/high school depending on the size. You can also invite a couple of students to help you with starting a few conversations a week. Give them some conversation-starter tools such as: “Would You Rather” questions and “Choose Your Top 3”. You can get both of these books on Amazon. The students could also ask for prayer requests and even write a prayer for those who give a request. How cool would that be!

Have Personal Conversations with Them

One of the things we miss out on the most by not gathering physically is the personal conversations you were able to have with your students. Do not fear. You can still do this. Get out your database, create a system, and call or text them each week. Make sure you follow your church’s child protection guidelines. Carve out a couple of hours each day to just talk with students. You can get in your comfy chair and put your feet up. Depending on the size of your group, you may be able to talk with all your students each week. Or, you could invite your adult leaders to help. The goal is that each of your students has a personal touchpoint with an adult weekly.

Deliver Goodie Bags

In this season, it is easy for students to feel isolated and invisible. Goodie Bags communicate “I see you. You matter. I’m thinking about you.” Depending on the size of your group and budget, your goodie bag could have one or two items or multiple items. When filling the bags, think about fun, stress-relieving activities such as silly putty, stress balls, snacks, and devotional activities. Our church recently delivered goodie bags. The items that got the most reaction were the mini (5×6) chalkboard and a chalk pen. We asked them to write a scripture or positive message on the chalkboard every few days that would help them navigate this season. We then asked them to share it on social media – if they had access, of course.

This is a crazy season! Take heart, God has given you what you need to minister to students well. Do not feel like you have to do all of these ideas. Pick one or two and go for it. We believe in you! You can engage students beyond zoom.


Kirsten Knox, Regional Director for YMI Florida, was part of the second class to complete the YMI two-year coaching and training class in 2009. She has since been a coach on multiple occasions. Kirsten Knox is married and a graduate of Asbury University with a degree in youth ministry.  She began working in youth ministry in 2000, serving Pasadena Community United Methodist Church for a decade. Click the social links below to engage with Kirsten.


5 WAYS TO STAY HOPEFUL, FRUITFUL, AND PRODUCTIVE IN SOCIAL DISTANCING MINISTRY

5 Ways to Stay Hopeful, Fruitful, And Productive in Social Distancing Ministry

Whether you are serving in youth ministry, children’s ministry, or family ministry, you are now doing ministry differently. The challenges are the same that we face, but each of us is experiencing this time a little differently. Some of us are excited about the opportunity to experiment. There are those of us who are overwhelmed with anxieties. Many of us are missing the face to face interactions with our kids and students.

 

One challenge that we are all facing is – boundaries.

 

Our new ministry environment, combined with working from home and social isolation, is a perfect storm for failed boundaries that lead to increased depression. We in ministry must always have healthy boundaries. I would argue that those boundaries are now no longer helpful but rather are a necessity.

 

Here are five ideas to help you stay hopeful, fruitful, and productive.

 

5 Ways to Keep Healthy Boundaries in Social Distancing Ministry

 

Create A Designated Work Space

 

Working for the home can be an exciting and even novel idea at first. Who doesn’t want to work in their PJs? The reality is that the novelty wears off after a day or two.

 

When you work from home, you are always at work. In your living room, you could be working. Reading your child a bedtime story, you technically could still be at work.

 

If at all possible, set up a space that is your workspace. Space where you can walk in with the mindset that you will get work done. The best part of a designated workspace is this; when you leave that space, you have left work.

 

You do not need a huge, fancy area. A spare bedroom or corner of a room will work just fine. The point is this – you need a place to begin and a place to leave your work.

 

Set Digital Alarms

 

If space is challenging for you to find, or if you have trouble leaving that workspace, then consider alarms.

 

Allot yourself the hours you will work and set alarms. Maybe you set one alarm at Noon for lunch and another at 1 pm. Give yourself a full hour for lunch – do not cut your lunch short.

 

Use your alarms as a way to help your mind shift in focus. When an alarm goes off, telling you it is time to quit, then be done with work. Trust Jesus in this moment. God is still at work even when you need to take a break.

 

Find A Rhythm

 

With everything in the world feeling so out of control, give your day a sense of order and control. Consider developing a rhythm for your day.

 

Wake up and get ready. Be sure to shower, get dressed, and do everything you need to do to feel prepared for a productive day. Walk your dog in the morning and the evening, schedule your exercise and your meals. Spend time investing your spiritual life.

 

Getting fully ready and creating a sense of control in your day will help you stay motivated, positive, and keep you from mindlessly scrolling all day on social media.

 

Stop Comparing

 

Can I be real honest for a moment? Your production level on Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or Zoom means less to your students, kids, and families than you realize.

 

A fancy game might feel great. A well-run Zoom gathering helps. Yet these pale in comparison to opportunities for genuine connection in these times.

 

Most of us do not serve churches with large budgets, fancy technology, and production staff members. It doesn’t take long to browse Facebook groups to see people setting up elaborate computer and streaming setups. That’s great, but it can be expensive and costs you a lot of time. Knowing what these larger churches are doing can make us feel guilty for not creating such extensive setups.

 

You are already spending a lot of time doing usual sermon prep, but now you add video editing, digital game prep, and communicating the many Zoom meeting invitations.

 

Produce the best you can and stop comparing to everyone else in these Facebook groups. Your students, kids, and families value you more than any production.

 

Produce what you can, love with all you’ve got, and believe that the Holy Spirit is working through you.

 

Be Gentle With Yourself

 

You are probably working more now than ever. You probably miss your kids, students, and families. You may even miss your friends and family.

 

Some of us feel overwhelmed by the weight of the current situation while also wondering if we will continue to be employed by our churches in a few weeks. Friends, you are carrying a heavy weight. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the grace that you are likely extending to others.

 

Do what you can, any way you can, and believe that it is enough. Jesus is working, and you are participating.

 

In case no one has told you, you are doing a good job. Keep up the excellent work. We, at the Youth Ministry Institute, are rooting for you! We believe in you. Now, be gentle with yourself and trust that God is working through you.


Brian is the Director of Student Development for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.


03: Savannah Rogers on Recruiting Adult Leaders and Tapping Into an Often Overlooked Resource

Making Sense of Ministry podcast guest Savannah Rogers on the often overlooked resource

 

In this episode, Savannah Rogers discusses the often overlooked resource in our churches and how she has recruited adult leaders. She also shares the way that she cares for and trains her unique adult leaders.

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Ashley: (00:01)
Welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host, Brian Lawson

Brian Lawson – Host: (00:14)
friends and welcome back to another episode of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is episode number three. If you’re somebody who’s in a church and you struggle to find leaders for your ministry, you think you’ve looked everywhere, you’ve asked everyone you know and you can’t find any more volunteers than friends. This is the episode for you. Our guest today, Savannah Rogers brings some great insight into a population that often is overlooked by those of us leaders in ministry. Savannah is a youth minister in central Florida. She went to Florida Southern college and received a degree in religion with a concentration youth ministry. She’s now a, why am I student soon to be, why am I graduate? And although I don’t know for sure, I would guess that she’s a number seven Enneagram and I think you’ll hear through my interview with her that she is very good at seeing potential in people that may be others easily over. Look Savannah, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here. Thank you for having me. So you’re currently youth ministry Institute students and you’ll be graduating in may. It’s been about a year and a half that you’ve been at women. So what are some ways you’ve seen yourself grow in that year and a half?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (01:24)
I think a lot of my ideas of what youth ministry should be or has to look like or needs to look like have like grown and it isn’t just the stereotypical cookie cutter thing that I would think of or a lot of people would think that youth ministry has to be. And it’s just, yeah.

Brian Lawson – Host: (01:44)
What was that like? What is something you thought of that was before?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (01:48)
Um, the typical, you have to meet on a Wednesday or a Sunday night or you have to have young people always in your ministry as volunteers or that you have to play Dodge ball or Foursquare or things like that. Um, that sometimes we do, but also that’s not the big things that define what we do or how we do ministry.

Brian Lawson – Host: (02:12)
What would you say it is now? So we know it’s not those things, right? It’s not just for square Dodge ball. What is it to you now though?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (02:22)
Um, I think ministry to me now is really just focusing on seeing and hearing and loving our students. Um, and all the walks that they come to us in and walking alongside them as they discover their faith and put their faith into action as they grow up and to be coming young adults.

Brian Lawson – Host: (02:39)
That’s excellent. So shifting gears just a little bit, so you serve I think in the rural context, right? So can you tell us a little bit about your church, the community, kind of demographics? What, what’s your setting like?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (02:51)
So I serve in a rural Southern, um, church and Florida. It’s an agricultural community. I’m very known for the citrus. Um, and all the oranges, there are some families who have wealth. And then there’s, for the most part, a majority of our population would be somewhere around the poverty line, either just above, right at or a little bit underneath. Um, and so there is some wealth in areas, but there’s also a lot of poverty in areas. And so it kind of is a mixed bag of everything, you know. Um, but also it’s very small community, very tight knit. I would say religion and especially Christianity is important in the community. Whether or not church attendance is always happening is remains to be seen. But the idea of being a Christian or having a faith life is something that is important to a majority of the community.

Brian Lawson – Host: (03:50)
So how do you balance out, cause you’ve got a population, you said that’s fairly wealthy or well-off and the population that’s not, how do you balance that out? I mean, when you do events or you go to activities, like how do you balance out those who can pay for it and those who struggle?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (04:06)
Right. Um, so a lot of it is, um, kind of needs based, um, because we do have some families who can outright just pay for things and they do outright pay for things as well as we do have a lot of students who cannot. And that would be the number one thing that would inhibit them from participating in a lot of things. And I just think that money shouldn’t keep you from participating in ways to reach Jesus or find the Lord. Um, and so it, it kind of depends on a case by case basis of, um, what it is. But we overall as a entire ministry tried to curb it. So like expense isn’t something that has to be a worry because a lot of our younger families who are in our youth ministry would be, uh, more on the poorer side. And a lot of the older families in our church are on the wealthier side. Um, and so like, they see that as well. And so they’re very, um, giving thankfully to our ministry and help include that because they also don’t want students to be barred from something, um, because of money.

Brian Lawson – Host: (05:10)
Yeah. So is your congregation mostly older congregation? Is it younger? Is it kind of a mixed, what would you say?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (05:15)
I would say it’s mostly older. Um, I would say maybe there’s a 15% that’s younger.

Brian Lawson – Host: (05:21)
All right. Tends to be a trend. Right, right. We see that a lot. Yeah. So what are some of the challenges you face serving in youth ministry in a congregation that tends to be older?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (05:29)
I think the biggest challenge right away, um, was the fact that there were really no young adults or young people. And so finding volunteers because a lot of older adults didn’t think they could volunteer or that they were able to or, um, were even confident in themselves to volunteer. And so I think that was the most challenging thing to begin with is because they recognize that ministry is important, but they also didn’t recognize where they have a place in it.

Brian Lawson – Host: (06:02)
And so most of your volunteers are older, right? Yes. So what’s your volunteer team like? Can you describe a little bit, how many do you have? What’s the general age, do you think? Those kind of,

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (06:10)
right. Um, so I have a solid team of about six regular people who come weekly and then, um, but in my overall team about 10 to 15 volunteers who at least come once a quarter to volunteer. Um, and the average age I would say for the majority of my volunteers would be mid to late sixties.

Brian Lawson – Host: (06:35)
Really? Wow. So how did you get somebody who’s 65, probably retired or newly retired? How do you get them to volunteer in youth ministry? Cause it’s not typical, right? I mean that’s not what they usually do.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (06:50)
That is not typical. No. Um, so I just looked a lot for people that I just thought were really warm and encouraging and loving and caring, um, which I would think the majority of our congregants at our church are wonderful at. And so just finding those people as well as people who had those qualities but also really saw interest in youth and really saw the importance of youth ministry, whether or not they thought they could fit into that. And I just kind of lapped onto that. Um, I had this one volunteer, she had just retired and two days after she retired, I called her up and I said, I hear you have a lot of free time on your hands now, would you like to be a mentor for our confirmation class? Um, and she was one of our church leaders. She knew a fair amount about Methodism as a whole, as well as our church as a whole.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (07:39)
And she said, you know, sure why not. And she has since volunteered as a mentor for confirmation. She leads a middle school girls, small group for me weekly now. Um, she also helps out weekly with our youth group, has been on a mission trip for the first time in her entire life. And she also went on a weekend retreat with us. And so she has been absolutely awesome and amazing. And she was one of those people who would’ve originally never thought like this was for me. Um, and she just is, I couldn’t imagine having ministry without her.

Brian Lawson – Host: (08:15)
Wow. That’s cool. So what did she retire from?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (08:17)
She worked in the medical industry. She worked in the labs where they do blood work and stuff like that. And so she’d kind of does have a medical background, but she was a supervisor in one of the labs.

Brian Lawson – Host: (08:28)
So she wasn’t like a teacher. She wasn’t like, she hadn’t worked with teenagers probably really all that often. Nope. And you brought her in two days after she retires and says, Hey, come join us. Right? Yes. Wow. So what are the benefits you think of having a volunteer who is 60 plus?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (08:44)
I think there’s tons of benefits. I think they have a lot of depth because they’ve just lived so much more life then your students may have, then you may have, they have a maturity to them. Um, that a lot of times younger adults don’t have. They see things that you may miss just because maybe you haven’t had kids.

Brian Lawson – Host: (09:05)
Do you have a like a situation you can think of that one of those adults saw something,

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (09:11)
right? Yeah. They’re just, they have a lot more caution, um, probably than I do in the sense of like they think of all the factors of, Oh, we’re a little close to the pavement right now. We might have to move a little bit further so we’re in the grass more. Um, and like think those things throughout. When you’re like playing with students you don’t always pay attention to where is the concrete, are we getting too close to the sidewalk or do we need to move 10 feet over more? So we’re more in the grass and like kind of monitoring like, Hey we need to watch this line so that like there aren’t injuries or just looking around and seeing things that need to be picked up here and there that might drop at the wayside. Cause on our list of to do things, they’re at the very, very bottom. I have an adult volunteer who comes in and cleans wash rags for me every, at least every two weeks. And that’s on like the bottom of the to do list that would never get done. But she sees it and so she’s like, that needs to get done. So they notice the little thing and they notice the little things and sometimes it’s the things that you would never think to think of too. Yeah.

Brian Lawson – Host: (10:16)
How does a student receive a 65 year old retiree? Never worked with teenagers. How does a student receive them? Do you think there’s caution on the student’s side? Are they wondering why that person’s here or do you think that they’re excited to have that person there?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (10:35)
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think though our adults who haven’t worked with students for a while are a little bit more cautious than our students are just because they, it’s been awhile if their kids are grown or if they’re not around their grandkids all the time since they’ve worked with young people or been around young people. And so they’re a little bit more cautious because they realize how different it is. But I think my students receive it super well. Um, they love our older adults because it’s kind of like they’re a form of grandparents for them that are right then. And there and they know our older adults care about them and love them and always want to see them and they always want to go talk to them and they share their life with them and they absolutely adore it.

Brian Lawson – Host: (11:18)
Was it intimidating for you being in your twenties to say, I need to figure out how to train or support somebody who is significantly older than me? Was that it was that intimidating for you? What was that like and how did you go about deciding you were going to train them?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (11:36)
Yeah, absolutely. Because I just come from a of a place of I am an, I’m in my twenties and I’m an adult, but I am not like six years old. You have 40 years of experience on me. You’ve probably had kids of your own. I don’t have any. Um, you’ve probably been through this once, maybe twice even. Who knows, especially if you have grandkids. And so it’s like I’m teaching you how to work with students even though you probably could write a book for me of how to learn these things. Um, but I also think my adult volunteers have just been so receptive and so loving and understanding of this as a team effort and we all have something to bring to the table. Um, I never ask my volunteers to be anything other than themselves. I don’t expect them to have like my kind of energy or my kind of personality. So I don’t expect them to move at a different pace. Um, I understand they’re a little bit older. They might move out a little bit of a slower pace, but they’re not expected to be the high energy, the one who’s doing cartwheels down the room, anything like that. If that is who they are, then they absolutely can do that. But that’s not expected of them because that’s not what’s needed. What’s needed is sometimes this slower pace, the calm in the room, the someone you can just go and talk to for a minute kind of adult.

Brian Lawson – Host: (12:56)
Yeah. So you mentioned that they might be able to slow her pace, which makes me think of that there might be some challenges to having a team that’s a little bit older. So what are some of those challenges?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (13:07)
So I would think some of the challenges with working with older adults is it’s kind of, it’s not a concern, but you also have to be aware of am are we doing too much also on them as well as the students, you know, making sure if you’re on a long trip or a mission trip, you know, when you’re checking, is everyone drinking water? Are your older adults also getting a little bit hotter and the sun and kind of paying attention to that? Or do they need to sit and take a rest break too? Cause like, like we said earlier, I’m in my twenties and so I don’t need to rest as much as someone who’s in their sixties and who’s worked their entire life needs to rest. And so kind of paying attention to those things. But I think overall the, the struggles or the challenges really aren’t that bad because it just builds community. Um, we have some older adults who walk a little bit slower and I notice kids who will say on back and slow their pace just so they can walk with them. And keep stride with them. And like, to me that just says so much and worth and value, um, as well as the community that we’re building together.

Brian Lawson – Host: (14:11)
Yeah. The senior adults have shown so much love for the teenagers that the teenagers are now returning it. Right. What a great picture that is too. Yeah. And I wonder, so we know that’s doing a lot in the lives of the students, but also wonder what that’s doing in the lives of the adults. Right. You know, how is that transforming them and that experience having a team like you’ve described, what does that taught you about leadership or about ministry or about students, whatever it was that taught you personally?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (14:39)
I think it’s taught me that there is no one person that fits a certain mold that has to be in ministry. Before I worked with a lot of older adults, I probably never would have done it except it was a necessity. And now that I have, I’m like, why don’t more people do this? And like, why did anyone think like they shouldn’t do it? Um, they’re like the largest untapped resource we probably have in our church of people with free time. Um, and who want to spend time with people and still stay active but have the ability to do it. And so it’s taught me that, but it’s also taught me that different people have different gifts and also at no point in your life are you really done serving, um, and continuing your faith and all those different things. Like you’re always doing that. And so we have to continually ask people to serve and to look for those people who are wanting to reach out.

Brian Lawson – Host: (15:39)
Yeah. So if we have a listener who’s thinking, okay, I’m struggling with adult leaders, I don’t have enough, my carnations older, how would you say they should go about trying to get leaders who are retirees?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (15:53)
Okay. I would first number one is just be really observant when you’re in worship times or just fellowship times at large areas in groups, um, with congregants. Cause sometimes there will be people who will stick out to you who are maybe those greeters or you see someone who’s playing with some kids who they’re not their kids or something like that. Or those people who just interact really well and kind of just be really observant to all those who are around you and kind of think to yourself, would that be something we need for our ministry? Would this be something that would be great? Um, as well as talking to senior members of either staff or in your church leaders of who do we have. That’s really great of what you’re looking for. Like if you’re looking for someone who can welcome students on Wednesday night, who do we know that’s really welcoming, that has time, that maybe needs something to do cause they don’t have anything to do yet and would be great to fill this role and ask them, like personally ask them and if they say, Oh I’m too old, or I don’t know, um, you know, talk to them about it.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (17:03)
Encourage them about it. Say I’ve seen you on Sunday mornings welcoming everyone, so I know you can do this and our kids need to be welcomed just the way our older adults need to be welcomed. And I know you could do that. Um, so I’d really love if you partnered with us and doing this.

Brian Lawson – Host: (17:20)
Yeah, that’s excellent. I love that you say you see them and you observe. Because what I would do is I would have a running list on my whiteboard in my office of potential leaders and I would watch them for a few months. And then what was nice is I could go to them and say, Hey John, I’ve had you on my whiteboard for a few months now and I’ve been thinking about you and I’ve been watching you and I see this in you that like you said, you’re welcoming and it, it’d be so for you to bring that to our students. And I know you might be scared or intimidated or might not be something you’d normally sign up for, but would you consider it right? Cause when you have their name on there, you’ve been watching them, you’re showing that you value them already and they’re not even on the team yet. Yeah. Yeah. So they really respond well to that. Yeah. To somebody who is maybe a little confused about their ministry right now, they’re tired, they’re not sure they have enough health. I don’t know what else to do. What kind of encouragement would you give to that person?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (18:22)
I would say it always gets better. I had a person once tell me, um, you can’t quit on a Wednesday. You just can’t. Um, and you can’t quit on a Thursday or Friday or a Saturday or Sunday or Monday or even a Tuesday. You just can’t quit. It’ll get better. Um, it comes in seasons. There are seasons where it is a rock star feeling and everything is clicking. And then there are seasons where you feel like it is an absolute dumpster fire and you are wondering why you’ve even decided this and are you really called? But you are. And it does get better and it gets so much better when you have people around you to help you. And to encourage you and to also carry that burden or the joys that come with it. And when you have those people around you that you can confide in and your team to say like, how can we do this better?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (19:16)
Where can we improve? Um, that just makes ministry so much easier. Even if it’s one person, you don’t need a team of 80 people, even if it’s just one person that you can say, how can we do better next week and talk to that makes it so much easier. I know for myself, I personally think youth group goes so much worse than my adult volunteers would think. And there’ll be like, today was an awesome lesson and I’d be like, really? Cause like so-and-so talked and this happened and you know, a kid licked a plate and they would be like, yeah, but the lesson was really great. And then the other 15 kids were paying attention while those three kids were doing whatever those three kids were doing. And at the end of the day it was a really great day. Um, and sometimes having those people to remind you of those things when you’re thinking, Oh my gosh, this is a little rough right now are absolutely amazing and lifesaving.

Brian Lawson – Host: (20:08)
You know, the thing that strikes me about Savannah’s interview is that she seems to have personally grown from the leadership that she and her students have received from her volunteers that lots of people would have written off. And then the reality is, I’ve had a similar experience at some of my greatest leaders have been 60 plus years old as Savannah suggested. Spend time looking around when you’re in service, when you’re at a coffee fellowship time or a church event, just watch people and look for the qualities that you need and that your students need. Do not let age be something that holds you back from recruiting what could potentially be the best leader for your team and for your ministry. And now friends, we’re in our quick wins segment, the segment where we provide you with a tip that will help you gain a quick win leader covenants.

Brian Lawson – Host: (21:04)
I wonder, do you have a leader covenant or something that you and your leadership team, your adult leaders in your ministry sign to agree on how you’ll support one another, how you’ll support the ministry and how you’ll focus together? These leadership covenants are something that you sign every year and one of the things that I have included on my leadership covenants in the past is that every adult leader will make a valid attempt to recruit one new leader in the next school year. Having this in your leadership covenant will not only help your leadership team take more ownership of the group, but it will also expand the audience of people that you could pull from to be a part of your team while friends. That’s the end of this episode. Episode number three of the making sense of ministry podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please subscribe, share it with your friends and leave us a rating. Help us out as we seek to help you and help others make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley: (22:05)
For more information regarding coaching, consulting, job placement in online courses. Join us at yminstitute.com.

7 Ways To Minister In Times Of Social Distancing

woman thinks about ministry in times of social distancing.

You are in social distancing, so should ministry stop? Absolutely not! Here are 7 ways to minister in times of social distancing.

 

Share Joy

 

The air is heavy, and people are feeling many emotions. Share joy with them during this time!

 

Find videos, photos, memes, or other things that can bring laughter, joy, and smiles into the lives of those in your sphere of influence. Share these via text messages, social media, or emails.

 

Please do not share memes, videos, or jokes about Covid-19. You do not know the many ways this situation is impacting their family. Instead, use things from your ministry, cute puppies, or The Office. Help them focus on other things and do not make jokes about the current situation.

 

Comedic relief can bring great joy in even the darkest moments. Use this as a way to minister to students, parents, and your leaders.

 

Host an Online Leader Gathering

 

Many of your leaders may be off work or bored at home. Host an online leader gathering for your people.

 

During your time together, talk about personal things, share about how they can minister during this time, or play a game with them. Give your leaders a sense of community when everything else around them is taking their community away.

 

Hangout With Students But Not In Person

 

Why not hang out with students but not in person? There are many ways that you can connect with students today.

 

Send students personalized text messages. Let them know that you have not forgotten them and that even when they feel alone, they are never alone.

 

Call your students! Yes, call them. It seems weird, and it may be awkward, but give them a good old fashioned phone call.

 

Use Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom to video call several students at once. Most of these services are free and can 10+ people on the call. Why not play a game with them? Pull out the classic games and conversation starters like Two Truths and A Lie, Never Have I Ever, or Good Thing, Bad Thing.

 

Reach Out To Parents

 

Reach out to parents through phone calls, text messages, or emails. Parents are wrestling with their emotions in the midst of what feels like chaos.

 

Set up a video conference for the parents in your ministry. Share ideas of activities the family can do to bond during this time. Share with them questions you hear students asking right now. Just provide a space for them to hear from you as a leader and to air out their concerns.

 

You can be a support for parents, and in return, you will gain allies.

 

Inspire Your Sphere of Influence

 

Use this time to inspire your sphere of influence. Share daily devotions through text messages or social media.

 

Film or live stream yourself giving a message that you planned to share at your next group meeting. Instagram Live is a great way to do this because it is free, and many students will receive a notification that you are live. You may even be able to host an answer and question time this way.

 

Whatever you do, try to give space for interaction. Encourage students to share video responses to your devotions or messages. Ask them to answer your questions in the comments section.

 

Technology has given us many ways to engage our sphere, so use it to inspire them.

 

Invest in the Ministry

 

Social isolation can be an opportunity for you to invest in the ministry.

 

Spend time preparing lessons in advance. Work on your fall retreat ideas. Plan out your games or leader schedules.

 

Take time to evaluate the past year of ministry. Are you working towards your mission? Are there areas that are not moving towards your purpose? What adjustments should you consider next year?

 

Alone time is an excellent opportunity to look at the big picture of your ministry. Use this extra time wisely and strategically by planning and evaluating your past.

 

Invest in Your Spiritual Growth

 

We, as leaders, often fail at investing in ourselves. Use this time to invest in your spiritual growth.

 

Read a book that challenges you. Study an entire book in the Bible. Spend extra time in prayer. Participate in an activity that refuels you. Exercise.

 

You are being forced to pull away from others socially, so why not spend extra time with Jesus. Your growth during this time will help you better minister through the chaos and after the storm.

 

Ministry doesn’t have to stop because of social distancing. We need to consider doing things differently than usual. Who knows, maybe you will discover these new ways can be used even during regular times of ministry!

 

Stay well, friends!


Brian is the Director of Student Development for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.


5 Ways to Hurt Your Ministry In Times of Social Distancing

image of man looking outside during social distancing

It feels that the Covid-19 situation has rapidly escalated, leaving us in ministry unsure about our roles. To help you figure out what you should do, let’s look at what not to do. Here are 5 ways to hurt your ministry in times of social distancing.

 

Pretend Nothing is Happening

 

The worst mistake we could make as ministry leaders is to pretend nothing is happening. We must acknowledge the realities of the situation we face. As a leader, you will need to consider everything you had planned.

 

Should you host that gathering? Should you risk exposure of your adult leaders, especially your more at risk leaders?

 

How about the parents and grandparents – does hosting a gathering of students put them at risk?

 

In times of difficulties, it is crucial that your sphere of influence trust your judgment. Failure to acknowledge and consider the full weight of the situation will quickly diminish the trust people have in you.

 

Avoid Parents

 

For a variety of reasons, we can struggle to connect with parents. At all times, but especially now, do not avoid parents.

 

Parents are carrying their own worries and concerns. Some of them are losing paychecks, wondering if they can provide for their children, and concerned about their individual parent’s health. Use this time to reach out to them – providing pastoral care and support.

 

Many parents will appreciate you for reaching out, but may not show it. After the dust has settled, though, they will see you in a new way. By reaching out to parents now, they will come to respect and appreciate you. They may even see you as one of their leaders, not just the leader of their children.

 

Assume Students Don’t Understand

 

Too often, the world assumes that students do not understand what is happening. Those of us who work with students or children know that they hear everything.

 

Your students are experiencing anxieties right now. They need adults who will sit (via phone call or video call) and listen to how they are feeling about what is happening. They may also have questions and need adults who will attempt to answer those questions. Even if you do not have answers, take the time to research the answer with them.

 

Give students respect. Show them that you see their anxieties and hear their questions. They will be moved by your willingness to sit with them when so many other adults are not.

 

Waste the Extra Time 

 

Don’t waste the extra time. Unfortunately, many of us are being moved into social isolation. Introverts may appreciate the spare alone time while extroverts may hate the alone time. Either way, we have extra time on our hands.

 

Use this time to do extra preparation you need to do. Plan your lessons farther out or spend time thinking about the big picture of your ministry.

 

Or better yet, spend this time focusing on your spiritual growth. Read a book that will challenge you. Spend extra time in Scriptures. Do what you can so that you are ready to go. The world will return to normal eventually, will you be ready?

 

Avoid Using Technology

 

Do not avoid using technology. Technology has given us many opportunities today in ministry that we did not have even ten years ago.

 

We use Zoom for video coaching, consulting, and team meetings. Consider using Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or some other form of video calling to create a sense of community.

 

For more ideas, read our article, 7 Ways to Minister in Time of Social Isolation.

What we are experiencing as a society is challenging many of us. We can choose to waste the time that we have and hurt our ministry, or we can use this social distancing as a chance to grow, do ministry in unique ways, and gain trust with our parents. 

Stay well, friends!


Brian is the Director of Student Development for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.


02: Mike Toluba on Teaching Students Basic Life Skills, Mental Health in College, and the Role of Campus Ministry

Making Sense of Ministry guest photo of Mike Toluba

In this episode, Mike Toluba discusses how our ministries can prepare students for college and the answer may just surprise you! We also discuss the mental health of college students and the role of campus ministry in relation to local congregations.

Resources Mentioned:
Youth Ministry Institute Online Courses
Florida State University Wesley Foundation

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Ashley: (00:01)
Welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host, Brian Lawson.

Brian Lawson – Host: (00:14)
Hey friends and welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast episode number two. My name is Brian and I’m so glad that you are here. I really believe we have some great stuff that will help you lead well in your ministry, but before we get to our content, I want to share a couple of things with you. First, I want to let you know about something coming up soon from the youth ministry Institute. We are getting ready to launch online courses. These courses will help you in everything from developing stronger theology to how do you structure your program to how do I know what to teach? If you’d like to be one, the first to know about when we launch those courses, click on the link in the show notes and sign up to receive emails from the youth ministry Institute online. We are very excited about this and believe it could really benefit you in your ministry.

Brian Lawson – Host: (00:58)
The second thing I want to share with you is that we are really trying to create a sense of community here at the making sense of ministry podcast and in order to do that we would love it if you would join our Facebook group. We’ll put a link down in the show notes. We’d love for you to join that group to share your experiences in ministry, both the good and the bad. What is it you’re doing this working? What questions do you have? Share it in that group. We will respond to as many as we can. We may take some of your questions and put them in our episodes, but we just would love to hear from you and interact with you via our Facebook group. So take a look at that link down in the show notes. Now as we head to our interview, I want to tell you a little bit about our guest today.

Brian Lawson – Host: (01:38)
Our guest is Mike Toluba. I met Mike several years ago and one of the first things that impressed me about Mike is that I met him and did not see him again for several months, and yet he remembered my name. He’s just one of those people that seems to remember everybody’s name all the time. I don’t know how he does it. I wish I knew, but that was the very first thing that impressed me about him. But to tell you a little bit more about Mike, Mike is currently the campus pastor for the Wesley foundation at the Florida state university. He’s been there since 2014 and prior to that he served at Wesley foundations in Georgia and in Kansas campus ministry has been an important part of his and his wife’s life and it played a significant role in their faith development and calling to ministry. Mike is a graduate of Asbury theological seminary and I think that he’s going to provide you with a lot of great insight into both the mental health aspect of college, um, and the things that we need to be aware about.

Brian Lawson – Host: (02:33)
And also how do we handle transitions in ministry? Maybe our perspective in ministry is a little too short. We need to change from looking at just the person’s life in our four, five, six, seven years of ministry that we have them. And instead of thinking about a full life perspective. So friends, I hope you enjoy this interview with Mike Toluba. Hey Mike, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Really appreciate your time.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (02:56)
Oh sure. Brian, happy to be a part of it. One I’ve picked up from you over the several interactions I’ve had with you is that you sort of exude a love for campus ministry. That’s something that obviously has been important to you and you’ve cherished. Uh, so I just wonder where does that, where does that come from?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (03:13)
It made a huge impact on me when I was a college student. Um, I had been a part of a local congregation and really had found a place of real connection and discipleship there. But being a part of a campus ministry group on campus really helped me to explore what it meant to like share my faith with other people and to be engaged in a mission of like reaching a community. Uh, I guess in the local congregation I was a part of, it was great, uh, but it was all about, uh, experiencing community and experience and guide kinda inside the walls of the church. Um, and the only time you really saw people at church or when you were at church and the experience of being on a college campus for me was completely different. Um, you interacted with people a ton outside of the, uh, worship gathering and had opportunities for relationships and community and, and then you were constantly always interacting with other people from classes or work or other activities on campus. And for me it was, it really helped me integrate my faith, uh, to reach my community. Um, and, and campus ministry is also a place where I really felt like God was calling me into full time Christian ministry. And, um, well my wife was a student, she actually came to Christ through campus ministry group when she was in college. So I feel like it’s been kind of part of our DNA as a family for a long time.

Brian Lawson – Host: (04:44)
Wow. So it sounds like it’s been pretty transformative for you when you first went. Is it something that you sought out when you went to college?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (04:52)
Yeah, it wasn’t something I was seeking out. Um, I actually had a friend from my local church that was a part of a Wesley group and they met on Tuesday nights, uh, in a classroom in the fine arts building. And my friend Katie invited me pretty much for a year, uh, before I went. I thought, well, you know, I’m a part of a church and, uh, um, you know, uh, volunteering and leading and part of discipleship groups and those kinds of things. And I mean, do I really need this and do I really have time for it? And, and we were on a commuter campus, so you would have to come back to campus at night to come to the, uh, Tuesday night gathering. But after I went one time and we went out to, uh, eat how local restaurant afterwards I thought for the first time while I was a student in that campus that I had a community, um, really for the first time while I had been in school for over a year.

Brian Lawson – Host: (05:47)
Wow. Wow. That’s great. I like that you said that was her name. Katie is that what you said her name was? Yeah. So Katie invited you for a year before you finally went. I mean the consistency, uh, in the invitation is so important and I think often we give up too early.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (06:06)
Yes. I mean cause I mean, excuse after, excuse her and she wasn’t pressuring me or badgering me, but she just bring it up in conversation cause we would see each other at church, on campus. Um, just this gentle like consistent invitation. Like, Hey, you should come to, um, our Tuesday night group and that would be, I think you would really like it. And I’ve been saying went and uh, and I did.

Brian Lawson – Host: (06:31)
Yeah. Wow. That’s, that’s incredible. So when you think about campus ministry in relation to like the body of Christ in general, kind of what role do you see campus ministry playing and how does it play with local congregation?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (06:45)
Sure, sure. I mean, I think campus ministry has an advantage to engage the imagination of college students in a different way to the local church does a, just because of the presence, uh, our campus ministry has on the campus. Um, often when people come to college, uh, either they’re coming locally from a long distance there, there’s a, there’s a sense of separation, um, between their family or since separation Brooklyn, their local congregation. And so many students that are even already Christian when they come to the campus, it seemed like they just kind of drop out of church or just don’t see the same priority or just don’t make the same kind of time commitment to it. Um, because they’re, they’re kind of in a new world, uh, often for the very first time where they’re making decisions and building their life around the things that they desire the most.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (07:40)
Um, so campus ministry is right in the middle of it. I mean, our actual student center here at the Wesley foundation is right across the street for most of the dorms on campus. So there’s, there’s a, there’s a closeness and proximity that we really have that’s a huge advantage over a local church. Um, and then we spend so much time engaging in the campus and going to the campus to connect with people and to reach out to people and to invite people. And then I feel like that’s just not a reality for a while. Local churches with time and manpower to reach out to the campus in such a like intentional way.

Brian Lawson – Host: (08:20)
You said go actually into the campus. Um, what are some of those things that you guys have done, uh, that you’ve seen work?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (08:27)
Sure, sure. I mean, there’s a lot of outreach that happens when we’re on campus inviting people to an event or inviting people to worship opportunity, those kinds of things. But often the university has, is inviting us to participate in something around, uh, health or our mental health or, uh, our interfaith council was able to have a session at orientation, uh, this past year to answer questions and let people explore questions they had about faith and college and life. And so I feel like, you know, we’re not only going into the campus to, you know, invite people to be a part of campus ministry communities, but in some places the university community is looking to faith communities to help engage with students because you know, it’s a big part of the, you know, the whole experience of growing and forming as a person. There, there is a, even people that are not Christian or not very religious seem to identify in the realm of the Academy that, uh, there is a spiritual component to people’s lives and, and we have an opportunity to speak into that.

Brian Lawson – Host: (09:44)
So you said the, the campus is reaching out to you to participate, especially in things regarding like mental health and those kinds of things. Have you seen FSU or any campuses you’ve worked with increase their attempts at helping students in that way?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (09:58)
Oh yes, there’s been, I feel like a, uh, a big emphasis, especially at our university right now at Florida state about helping to meet the mental health needs of students was a part of a meeting for health healthy campus 2030. They’ve done this 10 year initiative the last couple of decades to create a vision of what it looks like to be a healthy campus in the next 10 years. We’re just starting a new decade. So I’ve got to be a part of a conversation with other various departments on campus and they’ve seen a huge increase in students self-reporting about stress, uh, depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts sometimes increase as many as 40% of student is reporting, you know, increased growth in these areas. So the university counseling center has doubled their staff in the last 10 years and I think they’re envisioning a, what it looks like to double their staff again over the next 10 years. Um, this try to meet the needs and they identify that they are absolutely overrun. So they, they keep looking for partnerships with other faculty staff on campus. And I feel like that’s a place for campus ministry can offer, um, an opportunity to, uh, help support students maybe in a way that the church hasn’t traditionally done, but helping students work through issues about isolation and loneliness and depression and even suicide.

Brian Lawson – Host: (11:30)
You know, I, I think that there’s always always been that from what I’ve gathered and seen. I mean, when you remove somebody from where they’ve always known to an entirely new context, that alone is enough to challenge a person’s emotional health, um, and mental health. But then when you add, you know, pressures of today. So my, I guess I’m wondering, have seen an, an increase in it as a whole or is it just an increase in reporting of it?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (11:58)
Well, I mean there’s, I believe there’s definitely probably an increase in reporting because we’re removing the stigma about mental health, especially in mind younger generations affiliate. That’s a conversation that young people enter into easily. Now, just last night after our Ash Wednesday service, I had a student come up to me at the end of the worship and say, Hey, can I talk to you about my faith? You know, when worship’s over, I said, sure, and here’s a student that I didn’t know very well. He’s only come to a few gatherings that we’ve had over the last year. Um, and you know, he’s a great student. Um, he is very athletic and it was, you know, very involved in lots of activities in high school, but his high school was in Michigan and he’s moved to Florida and he’s experiencing tremendous isolation and loneliness hasn’t really made any deep connections with anybody in the past year and has had suicidal thoughts.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (12:53)
And here’s this, here’s a student by all accounts at graduation should be super successful to make that transition to college. But because he hasn’t found a community, because he hasn’t, uh, developed those deep formative, have relationships with other people, um, he’s, he’s been struggling and was eager to talk about it. I mean it brought him to tears and just a couple of minutes and we’ve probably had six, you know, very short conversations over the course of our relationship and he’s just anxious to share and to get some relief, uh, from the, from the, uh, isolation that he’s been experiencing. And I feel like that’s more and more common with students.

Brian Lawson – Host: (13:41)
Yeah, absolutely. And I just recently had a conversation with Kirsten, uh, in one of our other episodes where we were talking about a generationZ , which would now be the generation there on your campus and, and even a year or two out of college at this point, what she was sharing with us was that, that all the studies indicate that what you’re describing is, is the largest struggles for that generation. And while it’s still early and they’re not necessarily saying a root cause of it, it does seem to be that they’re so isolated because it’s easy to hide behind screens and it’s harder to make personal connections and relationships. And then when you go to college, which is already difficult anyways, you’ve now amplified the problem. So that’s why I was wondering if you think it’s a, if it’s an increase as a whole or if it’s just self-reporting or it’s both.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (14:30)
Yeah, it’s probably both. But I think technology is a huge part. I mean, what I’m seeing like in residential hall life is people aren’t connecting to the same way to people on their hall because they’re staying so connected with their network of friends that are spread out. I’m all over the place, back home or whatever. University friends are attending. People through technology are able to stay more connected with their, you know, original network of people and have less motivation to make a new network of people when they come to the university.

Brian Lawson – Host: (15:09)
To our listeners who probably are serving a local church, um, some of them may be full time in ministry, some part time are volunteers. So they may feel like at times they’re lacking the skills necessary. What would you say to them if they were trying to work with a student back home who was, um, dealing with these feelings of isolation and depression, loneliness, um, maybe even suicidal thoughts? What, what suggestions would you have for them or do you have any tools that they might be able to use?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (15:36)
Sure. I mean, I think, um, having those kind of one-on-one, um, um, personal kind of care, pastoral kind of care conversations are really important. And when you identify, you know, that there might be deeper mental health issues like having a, a network of resources in your own community of counselors and psychologists and, and maybe other, uh, people that work in arenas around mental health and getting those folks plugged into resources. Because what I keep discovering on campus that, um, sometimes students don’t even know what the resources are. So being able to talk about resources with people and to further, you know, dispel any stigma about mental health or counseling, I feel like is really important. Um, but yeah, a big part of it for me has been just getting to know the students and kind of entering into their world, uh, with them just a little bit. And then helping them see that what they’re experiencing is not something in isolation that many people have felt this way and helping them find the right resources they need.

Brian Lawson – Host: (16:50)
It took me a while in the area that I was serving to find who I thought were counselors and support systems that I would recommend people to. But then once I did, and what I found was that even the church I was serving at would help cover the cost of a few sessions for a person to help get them started. Right. Um, and, and we were willing to do that, but for those who are serving people kind of under 18 when you ha when you, you’ve got parents involved a little more involved too. Um, what I found was that once you make the reclamation recommendation to the student and you try to encourage them that this is maybe a counseling, maybe a good step for you, it was beneficial for me to reach out to the parents, let them know what a low enough without, without violating trust, but enough information partly to break down any stereotypes or stereotypical thoughts they have about mental health. Right. I mean, even some of their, when you say, my child needs to go to counseling, suddenly some parents feel like they’ve done something wrong and, and we want to help them see that that’s not really the case. That’s not what we’re saying.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (17:59)
No, that’s some great wisdom. Brian.

Brian Lawson – Host: (18:02)
So shifting gears just a little bit, are there any life or social skills that maybe aren’t faith related that you’ve noticed? College students tend to lack?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (18:12)
Oh, sure. Yeah. There’s several that come to mind right away from me. Uh, time management’s huge, uh, for college students, especially early on in their academic experience because often they have not had to manage their own time before. And we’re living in a world where there’s so many options all the time that students often feel overwhelmed by all those options and feel compelled to engage as many of them as possible. So that’s a huge one for folks. I mean, I, I feel like budgeting is also big. We’re living in a culture that often, uh, functions on credit. Um, so they just, we just consume all the time and we don’t think about how our, how if we can actually afford that thing that we’ve just consumed. Uh, so helping people, uh, with budgets cause man, the cost of education is increasing rapidly and entry level, you know, kind of opportunities after college stay about the same.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (19:04)
So more and more students are getting in deeper and deeper debt. So anything around budgeting, uh, financial planning, uh, conversation is, I feel like really important for students. And I’m just finding, um, a different kind of, uh, aptitude in students today around like interpersonal relationships. So many of our students seem like they’re intimidated to even start a conversation with somebody. They don’t know that they don’t have like even some of the most basic skills to me about, you know, starting a conversation and knowing how to end the conversation. And so many of our students have said, I just experienced so much anxiety, uh, around that kind of situation. Engaging with a person that you don’t know. So I feel like anything, you know, youth ministries and local churches could do to help prepare students around those things would be a huge advantage. So most young adults as they enter into, uh, college.

Brian Lawson – Host: (20:12)
I mean the interesting about the budget thing. I mean I, I could easily see youth ministries in the senior year offering a few week classes, um, to students in prep for life. I mean it could even be a whole semester where we’re, we’re prepping you for life after, after high school and budgeting is easily one of those, one of those things. And I think creating spaces in your ministries where they are pushed to start conversations with people they may not necessarily know as well. Because it feels like a safe environment, but I’m also being pushed to start a conversation when I don’t know how so local congregations, an honest perspective from a campus pastor, how do you feel we’re doing discipling our students before they go to college?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (21:04)
Right. I feel like many of our students share stories about really taking their face seriously or growing as a disciple. And this in a significant way sometimes for the first time during their college experience, they’re really taking their face on as their own. And I wonder, in youth ministry, I remember him back when I was in youth ministry, one of the things that really made an impression on me was our, our youth minister really had this philosophy of not just building us, um, up as desirables during our teenage years, but really setting a foundation for lifelong discipleship, um, and really modeled that in, uh, his own life and, uh, and the life of his family. And I feel like that’s super important in youth ministry because so many times we’re just so worried about, you know, making sure our students get plugged in and they build some relationships and they’re able to go on our mission trip required tour or those kinds of things.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (22:06)
And, uh, I feel like sometimes those conversations around like spiritual, this one’s, and especially reading and studying scripture and praying and engaging in things like, uh, fasting or service or thinking about things like simplicity, um, in their life, often there’s just not enough bandwidth, you know, in our youth, uh, ministry, um, gatherings for those things. I mean, I, I always wonder what it looks like, especially to take your high school juniors and seniors and to create some kind of discipleship process with them because so many times those folks are trying to, are, are starting to bolt out of our youth ministries when they get driver’s licenses and then they have more freedom and they have more opportunities to, uh, do things kind of outside their immediate family. Um, what it look like to take it. Like, you know, really having a discipleship process for one or two years where you’re really investing in them in a different way. Um, and I mean also we need our juniors and seniors and youth ministries to be our leaders. What would it look like to have a special opportunity for them where you’re pouring into them rather than asking them always to pour out?

Brian Lawson – Host: (23:28)
Absolutely. One of the things that we often encourage is that there’s multiple levels of engagement. So there’s the area that most of youth ministries start and then they kind of just stop there, which is the trying to get students to come right to just hear the message of Jesus and which is important and it’s a piece, but I think we fail when we stop there that we need, we need to create other avenues for those who desire to take on more and seek that out and then expose the new person to it and say, Hey, why don’t you join this? And, and we can try to go a little deeper. So sticky faith, are you familiar with sticky faith? And so that’s been out for I think about eight years now. Maybe nine. Um, I’m just curious if you feel like since that has come out, have you seen any positive in, in your students sticking around, you know, with faith longer or are you still seeing a significant drop off from the transition from high school to college?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (24:33)
Yeah, it feels like there is still a significant drop off. I mean, so many times, uh, at those life transition points, uh, when people are looking for a new Christian community, it’s easy for, for people to kind of fall through the cracks. Um, and I feel like that we’ve seen a lot of that on the transition from college into the rest of young adulthood. We have so many students that were so involved in our ministry, they try connecting with local churches and I fear sometimes our campus ministries are preparing for varying students, for local churches that don’t really exist because everything we do, it’s about kind of meeting the need of the student in that moment and making it accessible and it’s all about them. And when you go into an intergenerational, calm congregation, you know, it’s not all about you. And often it’s real hard to find community unless there is at least some kind of established, you know, adult ministry.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (25:36)
Um, so yeah, I just, I feel like, um, the more and more we can help people during those transition times from, and for me, one of the things that I’ve seen, uh, happen, which kind of, uh, makes us incarnational for me is when like the, the youth ministry staff person or a volunteer or somebody who has had us invigoration which student will help the student, like connect with someone in the next community. Uh, we see that a lot with our students at camp. Um, so they’ll go to summer camp and they’ll meet one of our students and there’s kinda like this, uh, passing of the Baton that kind of happens, like I was a part of a youth group and that, but now I’ve gotten to meet you and know you and when I get to the campus, there’ll be somebody there that I’m ready to be in relationship with.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (26:33)
And I’ve really appreciate youth ministers that have reached out and said, Hey, I have these students coming to campus or, or even youth ministers that have brought, um, their groups campus to connect, uh, with our ministry in some way or, or youth ministers that have come to visit their students, you know, while they are in their first or second semester of college and help them make the connection with, you know, a campus minister or on campus in some way, uh, over a meal or coffee or, or a conversation. But I feel like that that teachable expression of kind of like passing a student from one community to another is very helpful. And I mean they’ll still be people that fall through the cracks, but at least we’re doing, you know, we’re taking an extra step and how trying to help that transition to be as smooth as possible for students.

Brian Lawson – Host: (27:30)
I was at, um, one of the training sessions few years ago. I remember you saying that. I remember you saying you were describing a youth minister who had come to visit. I think it was somebody you knew personally had come to visit up at at college campuses and it’s really kind of a simple idea. Uh, but for me it was profound because I had never thought about it. Sad as that sounds. I hadn’t thought about what kind of impact that was. Um, so over the next few years I tried to do that whenever I could and, and I, I feel like I saw a difference in the students who I would visit versus the students who I wasn’t able to, for whatever reason, I would make them show me where the Wesley foundation was or where they’re going to the group because they know I’m coming. Right. And there’s a little bit of pressure there. Like, you know, Brian’s coming, I better have, I better have a place to show him. But if that pushes them to make, to get into the group to make a connection, then my belief is that group will then, like you said, take the Baton.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (28:25)
Right. I mean, I think often in our age range ministries, we’ve thought of them as a sprint. Like, we’re trying to get people from point a to point B and to graduation or transition and have the best experience they possibly can. Our children’s ministry or youth ministry or campus ministry. But what if we thought of it more like a relay? Um, we’re going to run one leg with them and then we’re going to help make that transition the Baton pass off as clean, as smooth as possible so they can, I can keep running the race. Cause this is a lifelong journey of discipleship.

Brian Lawson – Host: (28:58)
If I’m a leader in a local church and we’re trying to keep young adults connected to the congregation, um, what suggestions would you have for me? Um, should I start a worship service? Should I start a meeting group? What kind of things do you think I should do to try to help keep them connected in my context? Or is it, should that not be the goal? Should I be trying to do something else instead?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (29:24)
Well, I think, um, finding some continuity and relationship is really good. So, you know, I, I’ve seen, uh, some local churches, uh, do special things for students kinda throughout the year. So maybe they’ll send up a care package at the beginning of school or the or and midterm or finals week that just say, Hey, we love you, we care about you. Um, and often if you do that at the end of the semester before they’re coming home, then you can share like, Hey, we’re having this a special gathering at Christmas time or we’re having something over the summer. I had a, a youth ministry friend that, uh, every summer, uh, kind of in the, at the beginning of August before students would go back to campus, he would plan a retreat with all the former youth ministry, uh, students that were now in college and help them have a time of connection together and, uh, spending time together cause all those folks that scattered.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (30:18)
So it was part like renew group, but it was also part, um, kind of inspiring them to, um, experience Christian community and find places to discipleship, uh, into the next year. Uh, and it became kind of an annual thing that would happen in each summer. Um, and I just think, you know, anytime we can help, you know, students feel connected to their, uh, local congregation, uh, is a great thing. Cause sometimes some of those students will return, uh, to their home communities, uh, for the longterm. And that’s great. But often in the world we live in today, many of those students are not going to return. Uh, and they’re going to be looking for Christian community after college and our places. And if you can help continue the relationship with them until they find their, their next community. Um, that’s kind of another example to me, but passing the off that Baton really well.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (31:19)
Um, so one of the things I do is, you know, especially all over the, the state of Florida and kind of throughout the region of the Southeast have like learned about some places for students to really connect after college, um, uh, through a local church or, or discipleship group or something. And it just requires a little bit of research so that I have places where I can say, Hey, when you’re moving to that city, there’s a great church or a great couple of churches that you need to check out. And here there are, here’s their website, here are gathering times those kinds of things, uh, to help them, um, to help make that transition a little bit easier for them. Um, and I wonder if local churches could do the same, you know, here here’s a, a church, uh, and these places across the state or across the country that, you know, have a very similar philosophy of ministry and kind of a missional focus as we do. And this would be a great place when you moved to that community and just kind of having a little bit of research done and being able to, uh, suggest or recommend places to students on the other side of college as they transition into their, their next, uh, community. I think it would be a really helpful thing to,

Brian Lawson – Host: (32:35)
I think what I hear you saying is there needs to be a slight shift. Our perspective, you know, you mentioned this race that instead of a sprint, it’s a marathon, right? We were looking at a longer perspective of their life, which sometimes is difficult. You know, we, we spend these years building relationships with these students and we, we hope they come back, but then the realization they’re not coming back to moving on. Sometimes it’s hard for people to let go, but you know, but, but that’s where we need to have sort of a kingdom perspective, right? We’re, we’re caring more about the kingdom than our local congregation and this person. We’re trying to help them connect in that kingdom, wherever that is. And so I think there’s a little shift that needs to happen in a way, a lot of us think about this, and this may be a great place that, that like Facebook groups becomes a great tool when you, well, you don’t know a region, you might be able to ask people in that area, Hey, we’re looking for this kind of kind of place. Do any of you have any ideas? Right. So it’s a great starting place.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (33:38)
Yeah. Well, earlier this year I did that with a group of campus ministry. I knew from Texas that has student that was bad move, uh, to a city in Texas and was kind of looking for a church that kind of, uh, shared some of the values that our Wesley foundation did. So I asked friends that I knew in Texas, Hey, do you know any churches in this area that valued these things? Um, and, you know, give us your inputs if we can share that with people. Yeah. We often think of ourselves as individual congregations, but we are part of the body of Christ. And the body of Christ is a global movement of God across the world, uh, for the goodness of the kingdom. And yeah, expanding kind of our Christian worldview to go outside the walls of our church, which I feel like I learned that on campus when I was a college student for sure.

Brian Lawson – Host: (34:32)
Yeah. That’s all. That’s hard. Uh, but it’s important and I, and I think it’s necessary for, for, um, our young people in ministries that we serve. So I’ve got one final question that I, that I tried to ask. Uh, everybody we have on the podcast as we come to a close, what words of encouragement or wisdom, uh, would you like to share with a leader in a local congregation that wonders what kind of impact they’re having on students right now? Sometimes it feels like you’re not really sure you’re doing much or if it’s really mattering. Um, so what kind of words of encouragement, wisdom would you like to give to them?

Mike Toluba – Guest: (35:06)
Yeah, I love Jesus, a parable of the sower who goes out to sow the seed. Um, and the job of the sower is not to uh, be so focused on the kind of ground that seed falls in, but to be, um, very diligent and broadly sowing seed, um, cause the more seed that the sower, um, distributes, the more opportunity there is for life and growth. Um, and I know it was frustrating cause we pour ourselves out and we try to plant seeds in people’s lives. We try to love them and pour into them and sometimes they fall away from the face. But my encouragement would be to keep, to keep sowing, to keep growing, um, because you never know who will be impacted and at the depth that they will be impacted. Um, I’m so glad when I was a teenager, there was a youth minister who was in his mid thirties that invested in my life, uh, and it could have been for nothing.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (36:22)
Um, but it made all the difference for me and really changed my path from a place where I was far from God to being a place where I was, what God was very close and began following Jesus and her to call the ministry. And, and, and, and just, you know, thinking if you, as a youth minister, you and your local congregation, if you can make that kind of impact on just one person and they would make that impact kind of impact on just one other person, how the body of Christ would grow exponentially across the world. Um, because really for me, discipleship kind of happens person to person, one person at a time. And I would love to be a part of a disciple making movement that was bigger and broader. And that’s my hope and prayer for my life and my ministry. But I’m going to start one-to-one.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (37:21)
Um, and if I can make, I can make a kingdom impact on one purchase life, you know, each year, then they’ll make an a kingdom impact on one person’s life each year. Then I feel like the kingdom of God will advance across the world. Um, and I want more. Um, but I, I take a lot of, um, encouragement just from that reality. If I can make an impact on one person and they make an impact on one person, that will be amazing. I mean, you know, Jesus goes after the lost sheep and it’s only one. Um, but there is a celebration in heaven when that one lost sheep come home. Uh, and that’s one of the biggest encouragements to me and an encouragement that I would offer, uh, the people in local churches all over the world.

Brian Lawson – Host: (38:14)
Wow. Excellent. Mike? Hey, I’m, I’m inspired so I’m going to go impact one person. Okay. Alright. Hey Mike. Thank you so much for giving us your time and your insights. We really appreciate it.

Mike Toluba – Guest: (38:28)
Well, thanks so much for the invite to be on the podcast.

Brian Lawson – Host: (38:31)
I love what Mike shared with us. I love this perspective of thinking as ministry as a way of passing a Baton as a relay race, which then brings me to our quick win minute. As I think about our ministries, I wonder if you’ve thought through your transitions, I wonder if you’ve sat down with your children’s minister or if you’re the children’s minister, if you’ve sat down with your youth minister and talked about the transition from fifth to sixth grade or whenever you make that transition. Have you thought about both the physical act of the transition but also the emotional and spiritual components of that, and then I wonder, have you thought about your transition from high school to college? How are you going to support that senior during that transition? In that graduate? I have really found that the best thing to do is to stay connected with those seniors, those graduates for at least six months to a year and try to try to check in on them occasionally.

Brian Lawson – Host: (39:29)
For me, that always seemed to make a significant difference. So friends, don’t wait until transition time to think about transition. Stop. Take a moment and consider all aspects of the transition that your student will be going through because remember, ministry is more than just the season you have them, but it’s instead about looking, like Mike said, at a bigger perspective about a relay race where we’re passing the Baton on to others. Well, friends, that’s all for our show today. I hope that in some small way we have helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. If we did, please share this episode. Subscribe, leave us a rainy, help us help others, you and others make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley: (40:16)
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