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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