5 Ways To Personally Navigate This Season

5 Ways To Navigate This Season Title Photo

How will you continue to navigate this season?

March 8 was the first Sunday that many churches throughout the world went online for worship in an effort to avoid in-person worship during the outbreak of COVID-19. As of the date of this article, that was less than 150 days ago. 

In less than 150 days, we have watched the changes in our world in altering states of disbelief and resignation. Disbelief that a virus could make this sort of an impact. Resignation that things we had hoped for are not going to happen. Disbelief that we are in a situation of higher numbers AND more unrest. Resignation that we as individuals have very little say in how things are handled.

It has been nearly 150 days since I first wrote on grief and the difficult season to navigate continues.

Impact On Caring Professions

For those called to caring professions (pastoral, teaching, mental health, medical professionals, etc.), these emotions can hit even harder because we feel them for ourselves and for those for whom we are responsible. We are facing temptation to fight back against them by keeping busy and producing more.

In the time when our world needs caring professionals most, caring professions seem most expendable. 

Two Types

I typically see this play out one of 2 ways for people in caring professions; the sprinting jester, and the workhorse with blinders.

Sprinting jester performs as required, in many different facets. In fact, they are often thrown into unfamiliar situations and expected to perform to their usual caliber, no matter the circumstance. 

The jester is assigned the job of being aware of everyone’s emotions and to play off of them, engaging everyone in distractions. The sprinting jester will do all of these things at breakneck speed, hoping to continue to be needed enough that the monarch would not order their dismissal.

A workhorse continues to work the field in front of them, no matter the conditions. When they are put to their field, they work.

They keep themselves busy with what they can understand and focus on with as little emotion involved as possible. Their blinders help them to not get distracted by change or emotions, but they also prevent them from observing the changing landscape until the required change is directly in front of them. 

It Is About Survival

Both of these categories are about survival. They are both valid responses to the same trauma, which also means that neither of them is wrong.

We are all in survival mode right now, because there is no other way to be. We still don’t know how to do this, which means we still don’t always know how to care for ourselves or others through this. Honestly, that is the problem. We are trying to muscle through this on grit or hustle alone, and not paying attention to our own needs.

The great lie of “hustle” is that it hangs our worth on productivity.

That attitude will steal our joy before we know it is happening because productivity has to look different right now. Everyone’s context is different, but there are some universal things we can do right now that will help us navigate this season in front of us.

Tools To Navigate This Season

Be clear about your motives.
Did you take on that extra role at work because “this can’t go on THAT much longer, right?” Now here you are four months later with extra work and the same, or maybe less pay. Did you decline to cancel that trip because there are people who make you feel silly for being concerned about virus spread?

Look at your current situation and be honest with yourself about the motives which took you there. Motives that are out of fear and guilt will not serve you well.

Listen to your body.
Your body is telling you so many things right now. Not able to sleep at night? Perhaps your brain needs greater challenges during the day. Are you sleeping at night but waking up tired? Maybe your sleep is not restful because you struggle to learn how to shut it off at the end of the day.

Listening to your body and understanding your own needs are key to you caring for yourself right now. If you’ve never done this, here is a simple exercise.

Sit upright but comfortable in a chair, feet on the floor with your leg muscles relaxed. Lay your hands in your lap or the arms of the chair, wherever they are comfortable. Now breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. As you continue to do so, really pay attention to your feet.

Are they relaxed? What do you feel under them? How are your calves? When you try to relax them, where else do you feel muscles responding? Let your consciousness rise up through the rest of your body to your mind, taking stock of every feeling and emotion along the way.

What is your body trying to say to you?

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

Be honest about your limits.
Hear me, friends, it is IMPOSSIBLE to measure your pre-COVID productivity with what you are producing now. You are not the same person you were. Every endeavor will take at least twice the effort now as it did pre-COVID, so stop holding yourself to that level of productivity.

The person who holds themselves or others to the same or higher level of productivity is the person who denies their own emotions and the emotional need of others. 

Get outside.
Yes, it is hot. It’s summer. The sun wakes up parts of your mind that endless video chats put to sleep. Wear some sunscreen and a hat, drink plenty of water, and get yourself some sunshine. 

When you find yourself scrolling mindlessly on a social media app, try this: S.T.O.P.

  • [S]top scrolling
  • [T]ake stock of what you are consuming
  • [O]bserve your motives and what you are getting out of it.
    Is it getting you to a better place? Helping you unplug? Is it out of boredom? Is it creating more of a trap for yourself and your guilt over productivity? Does it make you feel lonelier?
  • [P]roceed. If it is making you happy or fulfilling a need, keep scrolling. If not, find another activity that will build you up. And let go of what other people say because you know you and you deserve to be cared for. 

The thing that people need to understand now more than ever is that none of us are who we were 150 days ago. Use the methods to personally navigate this season. Give yourself room to grieve, take a break, change your expectations of yourself and others. Refuse the “hustle” mindset and invest in knowing yourself better than ever. If not now, then when?

Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida and operates Anchored Counseling. Kelly is currently taking new clients and can be reached via email. 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.

09: Taking Your Questions On Family Devotions, Volunteers, Planning During Covid, and More!

Making Sense of MInistry episode 9_ volunteers, family devotions and Covid 19

In this episode, Kirste and Brian discuss your questions! These questions include family devotions, volunteers, planning during COVID, and more!

Resources Mentioned
Professional Youth Ministry Certification
Professional Youth Ministry Coaching
Professional Children’s Ministry Coaching
YMI Job Board
YMI Blog

Join Our Facebook Group
Subscribe To Content Filled Emails

Find the Youth Ministry Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Brian on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.

Support the show


Ashley : 0:01

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 : 0:14

Welcome to episode 9 of the Making Sense of Ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry transform lives and impact generations. Today I’m here with the one and only Kirsten Knox. Kirsten is our Senior Director of ministry partnerships at the Youth Ministry Institute. And she’s a youth ministry pro veteran and expert. As we all know, we’re beginning our fall ministry and COVID is still here. Everybody feel my pain on that one. We know that’s not what we hope where we hope to be. But here we are. So to help you out today we’re going to tackle some of the questions that you are amazing youth, mystery and soup community have sent to us. But before we get to the questions, are you looking for personalized contextualized support from a seasoned youth or children’s mentor professional. More than that, would you love to take an assessment that will highlight your greatest strengths and the areas you have for growth opportunity for growth? with professional coaching from the youth ministry Institute, we will write a comprehensive developmental profile about you which to be honest friends, no one else has this. This is something that we have that no one else has. You also get monthly coaching sessions with the season ministry professional using the highest quality curriculum. And the best part is that all of it is contextualized for your specific goals, your areas of development and the ministry you serve. We’ll put links down in the show notes for both the children’s and the youth ministry coaching. Quick note friends, we had some technical difficulties were recorded this conversation with kearson I and so my audio quality is not quite as high as it normally would be. So I apologize for that. But I still think the content is great for you to hear. Okay, let’s get started tackling some of your questions. Welcome, Kirsten. Are you ready to tackle some of these listener questions with us?

Kirsten Knox : 2:05

I am. Hi, Brian. Yes. Good.

Brian Lawson : 2:08

Good to hear from you how first off just curious how have you been? And how have you been coping with life in COVID seasons?

Kirsten Knox : 2:16

I think my word recently has been Alright. I’m doing all right, coping with it. But I think for me the last couple weeks, it’s come to this realization that we’re in this for the long haul. And so there’s been a sense of, I would say, at times a little sense of sadness, and thinking through that and trying again, to readjust what I anticipated the fall looking like from my own life professionally. And what does that look like? So there’s just really been this space of trying to figure that out again, I’m like, okay, we’ve been here again, we’re here again. And just adapting today today as things shift and change.

Unknown Speaker : 3:00

Trying to do that it’s a little takes a lot more energy. So I’ve tried to figure out other ways to other things that energize me and putting a little bit more of that in my life because it just recognized so much right now just feels heavy. And like there’s such a drain

Brian Lawson : 3:19

Yes, I agree. And I just heard that there’s a the college football seasons in question. Hall and that’s just heartbreaking for me.Kirsten Knox : 3:31

I’ve listened into some sports talk this morning and the same thing and I was like, I mean, just those kind of things that seems so fall ish, right? Like fallen football to me go together. And you know, I’ve also recognizes what an escape sports is for me. And so just not having it. There’s also right I mean, or potentially not having it is just another sense of loss. You’re like, they just like those just keep coming. Yeah. You know, what’s it

Brian Lawson : 4:00

It’s interesting to me how many things in our everyday life are actually life giving to us that we don’t really realize, you know, going to a movie theater or, or, as you said, having sports to kind of lean into and and sort of help you enjoy moments and not thinking about other things that you’re dealing with. It’s just, it’s, for me, as we now into another season this, it’s just been interesting to see that there’s so many things that we lean on for life, giving moments and to keep us going and energized. And so that’s it. I don’t know what to do with that. I just think that that’s such an interesting thing that I’ve noticed that I hadn’t noticed prior.

Kirsten Knox : 4:41

Yeah, just identifying those right, because they’ve been so common in our lives. They’ve just kind of been there. But I think you’re absolutely right. That makes so much sense to me when you say that, that. Yes. And I think that’s why there’s this sense of sadness and grief that seems to keep reoccurring as loss as well. Those things are gone. Because it’s not just losing football, it’s losing another or whatever that may be just but losing another thing that was life giving, and trying to adjust to that and figure out, cope with that. I think all that right. It’s the continued journey that keeps different challenges coming.

Brian Lawson : 5:19

Yeah, yeah. So, for me, I think some of the stuff that’s helped me going is evening walks. I mean, I know that sounds simple, and everybody’s probably been doing that for a while. But that has been really helpful to me, and then finding moments where I intend to try to focus in with my family has been helpful as well. And so in addition to your regular spiritual formation, stuff that I hope you’re doing all the time, but those are some of the things that have been been helpful to me, and let’s just be honest, spend watching some Netflix.

Kirsten Knox : 5:53

Yeah, I’m like, binge watching TV is never I’m like, I think now maybe I can say that’s a hobby.

Brian Lawson : 6:01

Oh, no.

Kirsten Knox : 6:04

Like maybe moved up. But yes, I think those are important as we walk through this for me, it’s been going to the beach by myself, like just trying to take some chunk of time to just be there that has been helpful and some alone time because we’re so together all the time with and the second has been reading. I typically don’t call myself a big reader, but fictional books that are just fun, right like that I can just kind of escape into the world has been two things that I’m like, Okay, I gotta be intentional about putting this in my routine to help energize. Yes, yeah.

Brian Lawson : 6:44

So before we dive into these questions, I think for anybody who’s listening, we we hope that you’re finding ways to sustain life because you are losing lots of things that help infuse your spirit with life, emotionally and just raise your energy level, but hopefully you’re exploring other things that you can do now, and that you’re taking care of yourself. Because I think that’s the number one thing. And that’s what we we even teach all the time, is that, you know, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t really minister on the people very well. So we hope that you’re doing that. Yeah. So these questions that we are going to tackle are questions that that you have given us or over recently, but also over a few weeks. And if we don’t hit the question that you asked or or we didn’t answer something that you hope we would have answered when this podcast episode ends, then just send us an email to podcast at YMinstiute.com and we’ll see if we can get to your question either in another episode, or potentially we can put it in our Facebook group as well then making sense of industry Facebook group. So this first question Kiersten comes from Justin in, I believe it was Arizona. And this question goes, we begun meeting in person And due to concerns with COVID, we can no longer have live music. So what are some ways we can still include worship in our gatherings? And before we start recording, you asked Kirsten if this person obviously meant that they were going to they were in person activities, but maybe they couldn’t have the worship band, I guess is what I’m gathering. So what you?

Kirsten Knox : 8:23

Yeah, that’s what I thought like singing. So the, I would imagine for him his question, right, what they have said is singing isn’t something we can do right now. So how are we doing worship and filling that spot and that space? Of what? Yeah. You know, in a phrase I’ve been thinking over and over as we kind of re look at adjusting programming and changing things to fit the new environment that we are in is this phrase of purpose over programs. I think it was probably always a good phrase, but it has tended to come up more for me and so when I was thinking that came up, when I Thinking about this question of, sort of, you know, we’ve had this sense of loss of not singing corporately, as they gathered. So how do we, what do we do? How do we worship? So I was thinking, the bottom line of that is what is really the purpose? And what value does that bring to our gathering or our worship? And then how can we feel that same purpose and gain that same value just in a different way?

Brian Lawson : 9:28

Yeah, you know, that’s a that’s a great, great question, you know, purpose over programming. I was thinking a few weeks ago. You know, I’m a huge believer in in your mission, and your purpose, whatever you call it, that you know, what it is that you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it. And I don’t think that that changes necessarily. But I feel like we’re trying to fit programs into something that doesn’t exist anymore. And we’re trying to make, we’re trying to make our programs the purpose rather than the purpose thing, the purpose. And we’re all guilty of this because we want to go back to what’s comfortable, and what’s easy. But yeah, we’re attached to that write those programs, meaning to us, we’ve seen God working through that avenue, right, like there’s an emotional attachment as well as just a lot of memories. And also that’s the way we’ve been wired and somewhat, kind of been trained to do ministry. Mm hmm. Yeah, and I love those moments, right? I love the moments I’ve had with with students, or even in children and worship type gatherings, those have been so unique and special. And then have to say, okay, we need to switch that is is actually difficult for me personally. Yeah. But when I when I first heard this question, I was actually thinking about what what is the root reason why this person Can’t have live music and I came to it was probably the singing. It was probably the physical act of seeing. And so I thought, Okay, so how can we, regardless of whether they should or shouldn’t put, how could we think about a way that they could replicate that and I thought you can’t have everybody sing. So that’s obviously a no go. But I thought about what if they had some sort of music playing over your speakers, or maybe it was on the screen or not, I don’t know. But some sort of music and you gave them something in their hand to hold that they could keep because you for that you will clean after that would just be reflective. So so the idea would be that they hold this item. And they’re listening to the words that so that they’re sort of reflecting on what the words mean. And it could take that it really could kind of move the heart, it’s not going to replace seeing But, you know, it will give them the essence of feeling moved and contemplating what the words are saying.

Kirsten Knox : 12:07

Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. And that back to the purpose right of one of the values of worship is creating that space, where you connect with God and usher you into the presence of God. So I think that right, doing something tangible, because singing is tangible, like I was thinking about similar but didn’t come up with the object part. So I like that because I think that adds that to the next level of, if it’s the singing I can do. Can I have the words up there and even the band play and think, you know, meditate and think silently, those words as they play along? And listen to that if you if you had real common songs, right, people could probably a lot of people could probably could fall, follow along just in some worship songs or hymns or however they’re doing that or just playing a song through YouTube and having it up on the screen and giving some results. relection time for people to do that, I think, yeah, filling out how do I? How do we still meet that purpose and create that space for connection and reflection? Just differently.

Brian Lawson : 13:14

You know, it also brought to mind, things I’ve done where I’ve done prayer stations, and I know lots of people have done this. So it’s not, it’s not a new idea. But I think bringing in some prayer stations can be helpful, you will have to, you have to be strategic about how you do that, you have to make sure they’re not taking objects that everyone else is going to use as well. So it needs to be something that they either don’t touch anything or that they touch and take on their own that keep themselves and that can be spaced out properly. But I think that if you can come up with some prayer station activity, where music is playing, you also get a similar impact as live as music in it and it may even be more impactful, to be honest In some ways, especially if your group has not done it a whole lot, right, but I will say something. Yep. Yeah, I will say and you could probably confirm or disagree with me. But if your group has never done prestations expect it to be awkward and expect it to be confusing for some of your kids. So you’ll really want to explain what it is they’re going to do and the purpose because if you’ve never done presentations, it can feel weird to a person. Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right, particularly those first time.

Kirsten Knox : 14:36

And I thought about introducing like, art or even in that space. And you could do that with music you could do another time to think about some of the creative arts dance could fill that space with music, or even spoken word. And could you use some of the songs to do spoken word if you had someone who had that gift instead? But a time really to think of creatively what other form of art Do we have, that we can really put in that space to create those moments, and that space for students or children to connect? Yeah, I love those. That’s great because you actually could have students leaving that because when you lose, when you lose live music, you lose the band also, and a lot of times that students in the band, and so they lose that ability to participate. But what you’re saying is, is you can have other things that still give students a chance to participate, rather than just being observers. Yeah. And I also thought about prayer, like, obviously, we’re like, yes, pray, but different ways of leading students through different types of prayer concert of prayer. There’s just a lot of different creative ways of doing that, which again, creates that space and that reflective time for them. So I think they’re, you know, they’re Several different creative ways to do that. And I would guess that there is a little bit of trial and error, right when you’re trying those things, to try and see what really connects with your students. And really just give yourself freedom. Because I think sometimes trial trial and error can be hard for us as leaders, because we want everything to be home run the first time. But to give yourself permission to say, Hey, we’re in a new environment, we’re going to try some things differently. And as we walk through it, we’re going to find out what really connects to our with our students or children and find things that doesn’t connect as well and maybe adjust and change but really just having that flexibility, but probably more just giving yourself a lot of grace and compassion as you walk through that I think will be valuable. Yeah, absolutely.

Brian Lawson : 16:51

Well, there you go, Justin. I hope some of that helped. And if anybody else has ideas about what you have done, for worship, to help replace in person worship, you know, leave a comment in our Facebook group and help others out. Let them see what you’re up to. Cuz, you know, I should have said this the beginning but we all know none of us have done this before. And so we’re all still we’re all still learning as we’re going. Okay, here’s the next one. This is from Kathy in Illinois. And Kathy is a children’s director. This is what she says, I’m the children’s director at my church. And we have emailed out our family devotions. When I asked families about what I sent out back, like he never received what I sent, which means they’re probably not opening the emails. But how can I get families to do the devotions that I guess?

Kirsten Knox : 17:38

Yeah, we’ve all been there. Yes. You’re like, I get it. I think when I heard that question, the first thing I thought about was the mode of the delivery, right, how she’s delivering them. I would imagine from the question, it sounds like those are happening through email. So the first thing I would ask is, is that the best way for your families to receive it so thinking about Communicate, you know, they will say we need to communicate something seven different ways for people to get it. And that might be a little much of sending out the devotion seven different ways. But I would think of pulling a couple of my families who I think would engage in that if they were opening it and asking them those questions. And what might be an easier way? So is that a Facebook group is that different ways of giving it to them? that that would be helpful so that the mode of delivery was my first thought that that could be the first challenge for them if they’re just bombarded by emails, and sometimes it’s easy to miss emails that that might be difficult for them? Yeah, I was just talking to somebody.

Brian Lawson : 18:44

Gosh, I don’t remember who it was a few days ago. And they were telling me that they really open hardly any of their emails right now. That there’s just so much going on that they just run down their finger down the list and delete them unless it looks really important. They don’t even They don’t even open open them. And so that’s kind of what I was thinking is is that odds are they’re just not seeing them. And so they’re not necessarily top of their priority. Yeah. And I feel like just with email, I’m like, every few years, I don’t do this, but I’m like, Is there a need for me to change my email? Because I feel like so much junk emails, right? That I’m getting all these advertisements of when I’ve gone to the store, and they’ve asked for my email, of course, to give it to them. Like, I just sometimes hate going through my emails. Because I’m like, because there’s so much stuff that I don’t even want to look at that I just delete. Oh, there. I have so many email accounts. Okay. So here’s the question, Kirsten, this is a little sidetrack. But what was your first email account through like, Who was your first email account through? Was it like, hotmail? Was it Netscape? Going back to AOL?

Kirsten Knox : 19:52

Wow. Let’s think i think i think mine was a Yahoo. Yahoo.

Brian Lawson : 19:57

Yeah. Every time I say Yahoo, I still think of that commericial. I don’t want to say hello message Yahoo.

Kirsten Knox : 20:09

came to my I think that was that I know you’re alone.

Brian Lawson : 20:13

Yeah, I think I definitely had an AOL email address and still remember those days but yeah, so go back to the question. I think, you know, I think the purpose and intent here is good. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that maybe like you were saying motor delivery, I would print them out and I would either mail them or take them directly to the house and drop them off. Yeah, I think maybe, maybe you print out like a little make a little box of some supplies that they need. And and the paper papers in them or whatever it is that they have, and give them like two or three weeks at a time. Or what however long it is. Yeah. And again, my phrase for this one right comes back purpose over program. So I would think to if

Kirsten Knox : 21:00

What is the purpose of them doing those family devotions? And maybe that’s awkward for some families, maybe they don’t, maybe parents feel a little insecure about leading them. So thinking through also asking them those questions, I would spend some time asking my families, some of those questions. But whatever that purpose is, what am I trying to get them to gain? What is the value? And are there different ways of doing that? So if family devotions, they don’t seem to engage in that way, doing a bedtime story with children couple times a week where they can log on and do that, or doing a Facebook Live or Instagram Live, or you’re like those different ways of thinking, How do I do that? There might be some other ways of problem solving that that would be helpful. And maybe it’s an activity so is there instead of the devotion that I’m sitting down and reading as a family and maybe part of that is already activities, but is there a game that I could accommodate They could play that I could give them a spiritual truth from that they could talk about as a family. So I think those are other ways to think about if they’re not engaging that way first, is it the mode of delivery? Is it just they’re not getting it? Or is there some intimidation or overwhelming factor that they’re experiencing through that? And if so, are there some ways that I can facilitate that that would help relieve some of that pressure? Because I think, for parents right now, oh my gosh, right. Like, there’s so much pressure for them of going back to school. What am I doing with that? Or like, am I working and my kids are hot, like, they’re just trying to keep their hands around everything. And I just think there’s some things that are just going to go through the cracks because they can’t manage everything. And so am I asking parents to manage one more thing by adding one more thing to them when they already feel overwhelmed? And is there a way for me to do that, that maybe doesn’t feel overwhelming to them. And depending on your contacts, I think that can look very different for parents.

Brian Lawson : 23:05

And if you’re if your school district is, is looking or going back in person versus virtual learning, I don’t know what part of the country or where you’re at listening to this, but I would say, put out some kind of resource or letter or phone calls to parents just asking how they’re doing with the decision, the school district and how they’re managing a stress that they’re feeling about that. Because that is a huge opportunity for a win for you if you just show concern for parents in that moment. Because parents are all over the place about whether the kid should or shouldn’t go to school, whether they’re making the right decision or the wrong decision. Could they be hurting their child unintentionally by either sending them or not sending them. So just for you, a great place for you to sit whether you’re in children’s or youth ministry. is to just be an advocate for the parents, and listen and call them send them a letter, just something to help them feel a little bit more of these this season, I think would be a great win for you right now.

Kirsten Knox : 24:14

Yeah, I think that would be great. I just think parents are now there’s a lot of parent guilt, no matter where you land or what you’re deciding. And so think as leaders for us to think about Yeah, how do I come alongside How do I listen, how to show empathy? How do I just hold that space with them no matter where they’re at? That would be such speak such value and care to them and this season, and recognize that right now, they may not be engaging in a lot of other stuff. Just because right now in this moment, life is confusing and chaotic. And just to be able to connect with them and care for them, I think if I’m right like that would speak volumes to me. I think that would be very powerful.

Brian Lawson : 24:55

Kathy, I hope that helped. Let us know what what you’ve done and what’s work for you. So the next one, we actually received a few variations of the same kind of question. And I actually got these A while ago as well. is we’re talking volunteers now. So a lot of questions about volunteers, like how do we get them to come back after this COVID stuff? Can we keep them engaged even when we’re not meeting in person? And how in the world do we recruit volunteers right now? I mean, those those were all over the place, somewhere from youth, people somewhere from children. Some of the churches are meeting in person in some art. So really, I think the core of the question is, what about our volunteers right now? And how do we continue to keep them and develop them recruit? So when I was thinking about this question, I was thinking about Initially, the recruiting piece, and how do you recruit new volunteers when you’re not seeing people? And I think first off, that is that is just a challenge period. But But for me, some of my strategies wouldn’t necessarily change. And what I mean by that is, normally I would observe people from a distance, I would ask around for good names, and I’d be thinking about them. And I would write their names on my whiteboard. And I would just pray about it about that person specifically and watch them for a while. And then I would approach them individually and say, hey, I’ve noticed this about you. And I think you would be wonderful for our team because of this thing I’ve noticed about you. And I would also have my adult leaders do the same thing as well. You can’t necessarily watch them like you can because you’re not in person. So you can’t necessarily do that. But I think the essence is still the same in the sense that you can ask around for names and then call and just have conversations with people and just say hello Wanted to connect with you. I know you’ve been coming to our church for a while, and I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to you. And I just want to hear about your life and just have a conversation with you over the phone. And so then you’re starting to build and learn a little bit about that person to then decide later. Do you want to ask them to be a volunteer? I, I think the core is still the same. It just might change a little bit how you go about doing it.

Kirsten Knox : 27:22

Yeah. And I think that right intentionality of just continuing to connect with people and build relationships. And it may be that you don’t you’re not utilizing them right now. Like those particular people, but continuing to, to have people that you’re connecting with so that when those needs do arise, you have people that you’ve cultivated that and ask them about that stuff. So they’re kind of ready for that. And the other thing that I think about Brian is there. I mean, in this more virtual world that we’re doing ministry, there are new needs that might have risen in your youth ministry or in your children’s ministry. And so there may be places roles that you didn’t need before that now you need filled and need help with the opens up possibly different types of volunteers. So some may just be recruiting because there’s someone who’s really good at maybe there’s, you’re doing editing and there’s someone in your church, it’s gifted and editing. So you ask them where you didn’t need that before, but now you need it now. So I think it would be wise to look at the next six months, even though that’s crazy to think about, because we don’t, there’s a lot of uncertainty in that. But if I was just kind of looking at where I kind of think things may be or where some of the gaps in the youth ministry with how we’re doing ministry now, even if I know some people are doing some in person activities, so what needs Do we have, and you might have different people a season for different people to come in and serve. Because I think to the other part with prayer, I had a number of parents that serve in the youth ministry and children’s ministry and right now Now, I would imagine for a lot of people, they’ve watched parents not be able to do that, because they just have so much going on. I know I, volunteer youth minister at my church, and I’ve had a couple of our adults that work with our students say, Hey, I’m just trying to manage my kids at home right now. Like, I can’t do all of that. So they have stepped back for the season. So I’m thinking right, like, how do I reengage them? How do I possibly engage new people for those roles? So I think those things are all good questions to think about and looking at where your needs.

Brian Lawson : 29:33

Yeah, I love that. I love the idea of thinking about what the new needs are. I was just talking to one of our board members for the youth ministry, it’s two on Friday, I think it was and she mentioned on how great of an opportunity this is for the church to to engage the artist community right now because there’s so many digital needs. They can help us meet. And so, you know, what if we applied that principle to the youth ministry like we do to the larger church where we’re trying to recruit more digital people, but what if we do the same? I mean, just because you can, as a youth minister or children’s minister, do a live thing by yourself, doesn’t mean you should, right? And Can’t you find somebody potentially to help you and you’re engaging a new person, as for your people that you currently have, and trying to get them to come back? I mean, if you’re talking about coming back in person, I think that you’re always hindered by that person’s comfort level with being back in person. And I think it’s appropriate for you to honor that. I mean, if they’re not, if they’re not comfortable, then I then I think, as a leader, it would be wise of you to affirm that they’re making the right decision for them, and that you believe in them and that you support them in that decision. No way should you imply guilt to the person, because if you do, you’re going to lose them period. Because there will be a day when we come back together, whatever, whatever that is 2025 for all we know at this point in time, but, but, but if you don’t, if you don’t treat that relationship with empathy, then you will lose them in the long run. And so you do have a little bit of your hindered by their comfort level. And so you just need to do your best to honor that. But if you if you’re reopening in person, and you are doing it in a very wise way, consulting lots of experts and people who have been psyched to share with you, and you are specifically trying to keep the protection of the children and of your volunteers as the number one priority, then you can communicate that I think if you communicate very specifically, what you’re doing that might help encourage some of your volunteers to come back Because if I know that a leader is going to have my health in mind, and that they’re doing everything they can, and they’ve laid out specifically what they’re doing, I, personally would feel much more comfortable coming back to volunteer. If I knew those things.

Kirsten Knox : 32:14

Yeah, absolutely. And I think looking at you may have had a volunteer that did several things, right. Or in a night, they did several things, but shrinking kind of their responsibility on me like giving it more in bite sizes, I think also might help people be just we’re in a season of being overwhelmed, and it being chaotic. So I might have been able to count on them for X, Y, and Z. But can you right now just do x, right and giving them a little less to do in specific that I think in that also could help you recruit someone else for that spot. And for those who are still doing very much all virtual ministry I think particularly connecting engaging with students is difficult. It has its own challenges. But also so much needed particularly right now students need that. So utilizing them to kind of make your group smaller, no matter what size you are, how do you make that smaller and give that leader, a group of five or six students? And maybe it’s, hey, every week, can you check in with them? Every week? Can you write them a note or every other week or whatever system that you create, but in a sense of making your groups smaller, so that you have different smaller groups, and I know we’ve done small groups, and youth ministry and children’s ministry forever. So maybe it’s just redesigning some of those responsibilities. But if I’m an adult, and you give me a way to contribute that I feel like it’s going to help students in the season, then I’ll probably show up for that. And if my schedule is all crazy right now, if it’s writing letters, or making phone calls or sending texts, I can slip one here and there for a few minutes that do that in bite sizes. That creates a little bit more fluidity that I think would be valuable for adults and also for sooner?

Brian Lawson : 34:01

Yeah. Well, and even even in children’s ministry, I think that, you know, children’s ministry, small groups may not operate exactly like youth ministry, small groups. But you could still use your volunteer to break down the groups and say, Okay, this family unit is now a small groups. So here’s three families that I just want you to focus on. And as a leader, it might be beneficial for you to send your volunteer like two to three questions to ask that family every week or every two weeks or however often they’re contacting families. Because if I’m a volunteer and you say, hey, Brian, I want you to look over these three families and just contact them and make sure you’re staying in regular communication, encouraging and praying with them. I may not always know what to ask them about. And I may not always know what to say. But if, if my children’s director or youth director sends me a list of questions to say, Hey, here’s the things that maybe you could ask me about this time. It makes me feel more calm. Because I’m going into it with something to say, and somewhere to go. And so for you, maybe you equip your volunteer a little differently than you might normally, instead of small group curriculum, you’re giving them small, small group conversation starters or pieces. It’s not really designed around a Bible story. It’s more designed on emotionally checking in with somebody.

Kirsten Knox : 35:21

Yeah, I think that’s great. Right. I just I think the question we can ask that would be helpful is, how do I help my children, my teenagers or even families feel seen and feel heard? says we’re looking at this new season of doing ministry continuingly to do ministry differently, and how can I utilize my adult leaders to help them feel seen and help them feel heard? Yep. Yep. So

Brian Lawson : 35:51

next, next question. I’m thinking about the fall, the winter and even the spring, right. There’s so much unknown and I’ve said We didn’t get this question directly, but I’ve seen it as a lot of places. What are you doing this fall? How are you going to do it? Really all these questions revolve around how do I plan correctly? for the fall, the winter even the spring when I have no idea what’s going to happen? So as a leader, how do I make those plans? And then how do I communicate them when I’m so unsure myself?

Kirsten Knox : 36:26

Yeah, that what right is so we’re just so used to particularly in the fall, producing our calendar, right, like fall when you start back at school and at Why am I we oftentimes say we would like for you to have a year’s calendar, right? So it just feels time to produce that or that you had been working on it to produce it first, when school starts, and it’s just different, right? And you’re like, I don’t know what two months looks like, what three months looks like. I think first I would think about not having as long range plans and keeping it shorter and people. I think in this season understand that so I mean, I’m not giving you a year calendar, because we really don’t know. But can I give you the next two months or three months? Depending? In your context, I also think it would be valuable to look at your schedule, like if it was a regular fall. And look at that and think, what am I absolutely, I just can’t do right. Like for us, we’re thinking going away, or any of our trips aren’t happening. So it’s, if we were to do anything, it would be local. Right? So what is the normal that I would just automatically say right now it can be, but what is it that we could do if we adjusted it and changed it and maybe that we changed it to do some kind of virtual way we changed it to do with social distancing. And then once you have those programs or events, activities, and I think you can really think about your purpose of what are we trying to accomplish, and how are we doing that with what we have, that we know we can work in, but really again, looking at The purpose so how are students and children connecting? How am I helping them grow in their faith? How am I helping them serve? Right? Like, there may be creative ways to do that. And just reimagining allowing yourself to reimagine. And I would say, don’t do that by yourself. Do that within your teams. So whatever teams leadership team, or people that help make you those help make those decisions for you is walking through that with others, particularly is helpful in planning your fall in this COVID season.

Brian Lawson : 38:33

Yeah, yeah. You know, I would, I’m one who really wants to plan on purpose and plan strategically. For me, I always thought about two things. I was what I really kept in mind when I was planning. I mean, there was others, but there was two primary focuses was one, does what I’m planning, push the mission forward. And the second is how does what I’m planning impact the momentum, and what type of momentum flow do I want? And this may be silly, but in my mind, I always visualize like a, like a line, line chart. But I was never good at math, but anyways, a line graph chart where I sort of visualize like a mountain of momentum and in my head and thought, okay, when is the peak of momentum? And when do I want that in the season? And so for me, that’s, that’s always what, what I did and how I plan. And so for me, I would create two or three different calendars. And I would create a greenlight calendar that if everything goes perfect, here’s what we’re going to do. Assuming COVID is just not an issue, this is this is the ideal situation. Then I would make sort of a yellow, yellow light calendar where we had to do and we can do in person stuff. But it has to be very, very socially isolated social distancing from each other. So that’s very much a concern. And so my events are going to be much more scaled back much smaller. And they’re going to be much very focused on on the purpose of that moment and eliminate any extra programming that’s not really necessary to the purpose. And then I would make a red light calendar, like what’s the worst case scenario? We have to we can’t meet in person anymore, this this fall or this winter for the next several months. So what what does it look like for me then to run a ministry completely online? So personally, that’s what I would do. And when I say this, I would, I would work with a team of people and kind of get their input the leaders and some students and just get input from everybody. And I would make these as in, I would write the notes down on a piece paper for myself. They wouldn’t be published, right. I wouldn’t publish the green, the yellow and the red instead. We’ll just have these so that I felt secure and knowing that I at least have some options. And then I think I would only release, maybe 30 days out calendar. You know, if there’s, if there’s major event coming up, I might let them know, Hey, we’re tentatively playing this one major event, three months from now, just so you know, the dates, but that’s it. And I would only like that I would only release 30 days out at a time.

Kirsten Knox : 41:28

Yeah. And I think you can do that. And everyone is very understanding of that. And this season, right. And I love what you had to say about momentum. Because I think that’s particularly important as we’re in this season, and people are experienced so much loss is really to look at your ministry, your children’s ministry, youth ministry and say, Where is the momentum for us? And how do I leverage that as we walk through this season and really focusing on where there’s momentum And energy, because we need that and people are having such a lack of that right now. But I think that really can help your engagement. So for all of us in different ministries that may look differently, but where is that? And if you would look at your ministry and say, I don’t know, or I’m not sure we have any then experimenting and some ways to create some of that momentum, I think would be valuable.

Brian Lawson : 42:25

Yeah, yeah. And you know, if you can’t have trunk or treat this year, it’s just like summer camp, we you probably be sad that you can’t have it or maybe you won’t be you hate putting it on but you might be sad and the people might be sad that it’s not gonna happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try something new. And that doesn’t mean trunk or treat will never return. Right? It just means right now. And so I would encourage somebody if you’re like, well, I just can’t do my fall big. Either kickoff or as a I had in mind was towards the end of the fall, I was actually in November. If I can’t have that big beach retreat or that big truck or treat, what I would do is say, How do I find something else I can do that gives a sense of moment momentum. Remembering that it doesn’t mean that that’s going to permanently replace trunk or treat that’s not going to properly replace your beach retreat. But instead, I’d still want to capture the essence of that momentum that it creates. And so what is something that we can work on and develop and try to see if we can’t capture that momentum? And you may fail, you may fail miserably at it. It may be an awful events, you may say, Well, that was a big mistake and never do it again. But you got to try. And this is the season to try.

Kirsten Knox : 43:46

Yeah, I think so. And I think people are more forgiving when we missed the mark. Right? Because no one has been here before. And so for us who don’t like to miss the mark or you know, are pretty hard about wanting to succeed and achieve that. Is the season that hopefully, maybe one of the skills we learn is being able to do that better, of taking risk and try new things. Because there’s such more of a forgiving spirit, I think with that and trying things in ministry that people are more open to. And so maybe it gives us some more self permission to be able to do that. I will say with our youth ministry, what we noticed is students love deliveries. That has been a momentum factor. And so what we have talked about is once a month, we want to deliver them a package that they then use on our ministry, not because we’re still doing that virtually, we meet on Monday nights. But I’m like, if we could give them a bag over the weekend, and then I can help utilize my volunteers to do those deliveries and split those up, then they would get a box that would have supplies that we would then use that Monday night. And we get like we don’t we can’t do that every week, right? We don’t have the resources to do that every week. But if they can count on that once a month that they would receive that from us. And then we would have all the activities and they would have the supplies and that creates momentum and excitement that we have seen in the past. They love those deliveries.

Brian Lawson : 45:12

Who doesn’t love to get packages? Right? Who doesn’t? Like packages? Right? And when you say that I just picture putting the most random things in the boxes. So they’re like, Why in the world? You know, am I getting? Gosh, why in the world? Am I getting this sprinkler? Like, what am I gonna do with a sprinkler for for youth youth group like, or, you know, just the most random objects you can think of? Like, why am I getting this dirty old sock? Yes. No. Yeah, it’s it creates right like interest.

Kirsten Knox : 45:46

Yeah, I think I hope we’ll see how this works. But my hope is that it increases engagement. So right, some of the students who maybe haven’t engaged as much as I would like and zoom will be like, Ooh, I’m going to show But for this one, and so maybe, maybe there’s a group, right? That’s our bigger funnel that once a month we see more students at that. That event, which is our regular week, but that ministry night, and then that’s something we can build and have momentum on. So we’ll see how it works. But that has been Yeah. I’m like, how do we create that? in a way that’s helpful? and fun?

Brian Lawson : 46:21

Yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s excellent. I love that idea. When we developed our visitor follow up plan at the Ministry I was at we I really wanted to send big packages to new students. I mean, I wanted them to get these gigantic boxes filled with like candy and the most random things, but I just wanted it to be a box. Because when you get packages, it’s just exciting. And it’s fun, and we financially couldn’t do it. So we came up with other options, but I love your idea of just delivering packages, and then putting random things in it because you’re right. I do think that would pique curiosity and makes sense won’t be like why why did they send me this? Let’s go drop this off, I gotta be there to find out. That’s great. That’s great. And you know, I wonder if you can’t put like a random, maybe you already thought of this, but I don’t know, let’s say you put a cup and all of them and you mark one cup with like a stamp. And whoever gets the box with that stamp when something or Yeah, like a random thing or something. But just thinking creatively, I think is important. And yes, this season is the season to try something new, and to fail miserably. Because really, that’s where you’re going to learn. And I would rather try something new in this season. That doesn’t work, then to have that in a normal season where everybody thinks I should have it all together.

Kirsten Knox : 47:42

I’m like, Dan, right. We’re all we’re all trying this. We’ve never been here before. So we’re going to figure this out together. And there’s the freedom to try new things. I think we need to, to leverage that. And I think another important question that I’ve been thinking about is for us as leaders to ask our families and our children and students, what do they need from us during this season? And that might help us as we look at our fall calendar. Because we’re very attached right to our programs and the way we’ve done things and our traditions, and some of those may stay. But as we’re thinking about it more from the perspective of what do they need from us right now? And just asking that question, I think speaks value when we ask that question to people, and you can ask it a little differently, but getting that kind of information. And that might also help you design what this fall looks like, or possibly the spring is really not do. What do I think families need from me, or what do I think students need from me, but what if they had the opportunity to be able to tell me? Yeah, yep. And really allow that to drive some of what you do and what you plan. That’s good. So as we wrap it up, we’re kind of running out of time. So I just want to ask

Brian Lawson : 49:00

Real quick here says are any, any words of encouragement that you’d like to leave with our children’s and youth ministers or anybody else who’s listening to this episode?

Kirsten Knox : 49:09

Yes, I I mean, I think for us as leaders, this can be a really discouraging time. And more than that a heavy time as leaders and so what I would say is to remember the truth that God has given you what you need to do what He has called you to do. And in this season, what He has called us to do at leaders looks different. And as much as that is stretching for us at times or creates confusion for us at times is just to remember that the Holy Spirit is working through you and will empower you to be able to do what He has called you to do, and that you are making a difference. We don’t see people as often so you may not be seeing the fruit of all of those things, but resting in in the truth that God is using, and most applying what you are doing. And there are ripple effects that you may see some of them but a lot of them you won’t see. So this is the season of knowing that I’m doing these things and I’m trusting you to work through it because here’s what I bank on. That you have given me what I need to do what you have called me to do. And that is enough.

Brian Lawson : 50:21

Well, friends, that’s all we have time for today. Don’t forget to check out the links in the description for professional youth and children’s ministry coaching. Also, if you’re looking for a ministry, job, or other resources, be sure to check out our website, we’ve got a job board and we got blogs on there and other things that could be helpful to you. That’s yminstitute.com. Until next time, friends, I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley : 50:46

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

When Spirituality Is A Struggle

Spirituality is a struggle

Right now, spirituality is a struggle for many of us.

I’ve recently been following Jon Steingard, former lead singer of Christian band Hawk Nelson, on social media. If you know me, it’s not surprising – I follow most of my favorite musicians on several platforms. But it’s Jon Steingard that I’ve followed most closely lately.

Jon Shares His Struggles

In recent months he’s shared a lot in regard to his faith and the struggle he’s been facing. In the first of many posts, he outwardly declared that he’d stopped believing in God – and that really shook me.

Jon wrote, “I’m open to the idea that God is there. I’d prefer it if he was. I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he’s there, I hope he does.”

Since making that statement, he’s shared the thoughts and questions he’s faced as an evangelical Christian. How he could no longer reconcile believing in a loving God when so much evil exists. His questions were deep and quite similar to questions I have wrestled with over the years.

When Spirituality Is A Struggle For You

Most recently, like Jon, I’ve found myself questioning what to do when it feels like God isn’t there. And, as a youth pastor in a local church, it has me questioning the effectiveness of my leadership when I have questions like this.

I’m a feeling person, I like to be moved emotionally. I love when a song hits me a certain way, when goosebumps rise, when I can’t sing for the lump in my throat. To me, that means God is moving – the Spirit is working in me. When that doesn’t happen, and it’s been more often than not, lately, I begin to wonder if my faith is strong enough. If, maybe I’m doing something wrong – if maybe God isn’t really as close as I once thought.

But, I’ve learned there can be danger in relying solely on those emotional experiences.

I recently finished Brant Hansen’s book Blessed are the Misfits. In the fifth chapter – Blessed are the Unfeeling Faithful – he writes, “If I mistake my impression, or my feelings, for the real God, I’m committing idolatry. If I mistake God’s gifts, however profound, experiential, or soothing, for God Himself, I’m committing idolatry. In Scripture, He clearly didn’t want His people worshipping a mere impression of Him. Not because He is distant and unknowable, but because He is ever close. We don’t need to worship images if we have the Real Thing. And the Real Thing does not promise a weekly sensory experience of His presence. Biblically, there’s no basis for expecting such a thing.”

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

It’s in this that I’ve found freedom to keep searching within my faith, to keep digging and learning how to best follow Jesus. Because, only then can I effectively lead my students to be followers of Jesus as well.


In the wake of Jon Steingard’s post, I’ve talked about doubts with my students, sharing some of my own. And I’ve assured my students it’s okay to have questions about God. We’re not meant to have all the answers and God is big enough to handle the questions we throw around. Seeking God’s presence is the very essence of what faith is all about. We believe He’s there even if we don’t feel Him, see Him, or hear Him.

I’ve also found, in welcoming these struggles, and openly discussing them with my students it makes me a better youth leader. It’s in that transparency that my students will learn to open up about their own faith to allow me to grow through their shared experiences.

Sarah Taylor has been the youth director at Gulf Cove United Methodist Church in Port Charlotte, Florida, since 2017. She has a Master’s Degree in Youth Ministry from Wesley Seminary as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She loves books and writing, has a borderline obsession with Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, and loves Cherry Pepsi. She lives in North Port, Florida, with her 14-year-old cat, Milo.

Faces On Zoom: Blank Screens And Ceiling Fans

Faces on Zoom Calls: Blank Screens and ceiling fans - why don't young people show their faces on Zoom.

We’ve all done it, right? You put time, effort, and energy into prepping a virtual lesson for the youth group. You’ve advertised, and you or your volunteers reach out to the students, then you get online early in case anyone drops in to chat. You wait, and soon people begin to log on. You think, ‘It’s going to be so great to see everyone!” You are so excited to see their faces on Zoom!

And then, That. Black. Screen. Or maybe worse, the spinning of the ceiling fan from wherever the student is sitting. Either way, even as you are missing students (because most youth ministries are down about 40% in attendance), the ones who DO show up are not seeming to actually show up. What’s the deal?

Maybe It Is Us

There are a few things happening here that we need to pay attention to. First, as always, our own motivating emotions. Some people get upset and call the student out. Some people click that little button saying “hide those without a camera” so they only see the students who felt like it was important enough to show up. The way we feel about the student without their screen on or without their full faces on the screen has more to do with us than it does with them.

Let’s be honest, even pre-pandemic, putting our time and energy into something that does not seem to engage our audience feels like a letdown. At a time when emotions, stress, and expectations are high, everything is going to feel heightened.

As the leader, you should identify your emotions connected to your response. If it is connected with your self-worth or with the rejection you feel when they don’t fully show up, keep it to yourself and sort through that later.

Once our own baggage is stowed, we can explore the possible reasons a student can have for not wanting to turn on their camera.

Why Students May Hide Their Faces On Zoom

Embarrassment About Their Environment

Being on a video call is an intimate window into a student’s life (and usually their bedroom because they have to find somewhere to be alone). What if they are embarrassed about their bedroom? What if they share a bedroom? They may have siblings that constantly need them or a parent or grandparent that may pop up at any moment? What if things are messy? Or their home life is not exactly how they portray it to be? Or maybe it isn’t what it was pre-quarantine. There are a lot of legitimately triggering things in a student’s life that may contribute to them not wanting everyone staring into their virtual window.


Many of these students are doing virtual school, virtual group hang out time, virtual connection with family members, and then, for a break, they can watch TV or get on social media. There is a great deal of literature out right now that indicates how much more emotional strain video-relating puts on a person in comparison to relating to one another in person. For minds that are not yet fully formed (and are largely ill-equipped to comprehend the consequences of their actions) this strain will be felt much more acutely.

What They See, Not What You See

How many times have you had a student cringe when looking at pictures of themselves? How many takes do you think most of them go through before they post a selfie or a TikTok?

As teenagers, they look to others around them to help reflect their own worth back to them. This is developmentally appropriate as they differentiate themselves from their families and become individuals. The pandemic has put a hard stop on that process for them, and the only people they have to help them with those reflections are their families (from whom they were in the process of differentiating).

Seeing their faces on Zoom when they are trying to interact with the rest of the group may just be too much for some of them and it makes a previously safe place become not only unsafe but detrimental to their self-worth.

So what can you do about it? Below are some ideas. Let’s address what you should not do before we discuss what you CAN do.

What You Should NOT Do

  • Do not call attention to the fact that their camera is not on
  • Do not speak to others whose cameras are on more than you address those not on screen
  • Do not make “rules of etiquette” for students in an attempt to change their ways
  • Do not confuse your need for people with their need for people. Yes, you may need to see people. But you are an adult, and therefore your processing is different from theirs.

What you CAN do

  • Take stock of which students tune in but are reluctant to put the camera on their face. Do the same students do it every week?
  • Reach out to those students (and all students). Tell them you appreciate that they are tuning in regularly.
  • Tell your students about something you see and appreciate in them, and make sure it is not physical. Keep doing so.
  • Have a night where no one uses their camera and chat is just audio.
  • Try to create your games around the option to use or not to use their camera. Or, make games optional.
  • Remind the students they CAN hide their self-view during group calls but do so in a way that does not call attention to those who are not using their cameras.
  • Forgive yourself for taking it personally
  • Give yourself, and everyone else a break. You are doing the best you can, and even if you are not, that’s ok too.

Remember, when your youth don’t show their faces on Zoom, it’s not personal. Identify your emotions and use your creativity to meet their needs in these challenging times.

Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida and operates Anchored Counseling. Kelly is currently taking new clients and can be reached via email. 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.

Listen to Kelly’s interview on our podcast – Making Sense of Ministry.

5 Reasons To Change Churches

Thinking about changing churches? Here are 5 reasons you may want to change churches.

We have all been there as youth ministers… attempting to discern when and why to change churches. Hopefully, these ideas will help you to make your decision.

5 Reasons To Change Churches

#5 No Parent Volunteers

Now, many of us might not even know what a parent volunteer looks like anymore. Many ministries look like a “drop-off” your student only ministry. Parents may say, “Have a great time! What time does this thing end again?” Often this can feel like babysitting. This model is not all bad and may be momentarily necessary as you build trust with parents.

Sometimes, it takes more than a year to build up trust with parents to get them to buy-in to your youth ministry, participate in setting goals, and ministry direction. But more so than not, when you recruit, pray, and personally ask the people that you see as good leaders and strong Christian role models for students, parent volunteers will be there for you.

If for some reason, no parents ever want to be involved or even pray for your ministry, then that might be one reason to consider leaving, but not the sole reason to leave. 

#4 No Resources

I know that is all of us at some point. What I mean is, no resources and no hope of ever having any resources. Again, this is a matter of prayer, time, and building vision and direction for your ministry with your students and volunteers. Once people see you are serious, and more importantly, once you align your ministry’s vision with God’s vision for your students, the resources you need will be there.

Sounds kind of ridiculous and outlandish to just be that matter-of-fact, but that’s having faith. I can look back on years when I had a $0 budget or close to it and see how many amazing things students were able to learn and do on limited financial provision from the church.

#3 Better Salary 

If you are in this for the money, just stop reading and go back to school for something else. I truly believe youth ministry is a calling. You should never leave for a better salary, however, sometimes God is prompting you to move. This might be one of the reasons to move on from your current ministry. But, remember your calling, and understand God really does provide everything you need for today. You can take that to the bank!

#2 Malicious Senior Pastor

Most senior pastors are just trying to hold us accountable to do a good job. However, I am not naïve, and I have met many that are spiteful, unrelenting, and harsh even to their staff.

At times God is growing us through trials, but if it ever goes beyond certain parameters, you should not stay in a job where you are feeling belittled, betrayed, or broken down. Behavior that is bordering on abuse is surely a reason to leave or to request help from elders, deacons, or a higher court to investigate said behavior. Do not try to endure this type of behavior for long.

#1 A new call 

This is probably the only reason to really leave your church but it is not the sole reason to leave your church. Being called somewhere else is not the same as being called by God. Your call should be both confirmed internally by the Holy Spirit and externally by people in your life who are trustworthy and mature believers. A new call must be prayed over, thought through, and confirmed both externally and internally before moving.

I hope this list will help you to stay and grow your ministry right where God has planted you. He has blessed me with 19 years in the same place. I know that is not everyone’s story. Sometimes people flee places when things get hard or they feel no momentum, and often it’s not God calling them to do anything except remain faithful where they are. So, next time you are ready to flee, look over this list and see if there are some valid reasons to stay or if you should change churches.

May God forever bless you in youth ministry! 

Looking for a new ministry position? Be sure to checkout our job board!

Are you a church looking to fill a position? Did you know we’ve helped countless churches find the best person for their open position? Find out more on our Job Placement page.

picture of contributing author David Kelly.

David currently serves as the Associate Pastor at New Hope PCA, and he has served in full-time youth ministry for nearly 19 years. At every point in his life, even before working in the local church, David has loved working with students. He is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Journalism and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando with a Master of Divinity degree. David has been married to his beautiful wife, Karen, for nearly 24 years, and they have two teenage children that are about to graduate high school. David’s hobbies outside of ministry involve the outdoors as much as possible, watching sports, and writing for his Dad’s hometown newspaper.

You can read more of David’s writings here.


A photo of young girl asking what do you want to do in their ministry

It’s time to set the annual calendar for the youth ministry. Who do you invite to the meeting- church pastor, volunteers of the ministry, parents? What about the teens within the ministry; did you consider inviting them?

Many have been guilty of believing that the youth of the ministry will not know what they want or need out of the youth ministry. After all, that’s the youth minister’s responsibility, right?

The mindset is that learning the ways of Christ is something that happens to them, not because of them.

Intrinsic Faith Motivation

During the time youth spend within a youth ministry is a time where many teens find a safe space- a place for them to realize their potential, a place to belong, and a place to grow. Being conscientious of the youth’s spiritual needs by asking their input allows them to discover their voice in how they will proceed in their walk with Christ.  

Understanding the youth’s intrinsic faith motivation and personal accountability to their Christian growth by asking what they want to do will hold more merit when you obtain their input. It will also instill in them a desire to be a part of the ministry and lead in the church. When the youth want to attend youth group the ministry will grow because they will tell their friends and their friends will see how they are setting an example of how to walk with Christ. Don’t believe me, from God’s mouth to your ears: 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”


Watching kids play is one of the wonders we adults envy about being a child. It does not matter if they know each other. They just ask, “do you want to play?”, or “do you want to hang out?” And off they go, a relationship and friendship formed on a question asked. 

When we ask the youth “What do you want to do?” we know we are setting ourselves up for a lot of movement- on the go, non-stop motion. I feel tired already just thinking about asking. And, there is also some risk in asking this question. They could overestimate their abilities or their plans could fall flat. These things, too, can be exhausting, but this is the youth minister’s role- to guide them in the faith and provide a safety net. 

Asking the question “What do you want to do?”, will also provide you with insight into the wonders of how youth see themselves by answering the question, “How do I build a relationship with God?”.

It is their youth group and their spiritual growth after all. 


Asking teens what they want to do helps to build relationships in the ministry. Ultimately, we all want to feel that we have purpose and our opinions are valued. By allowing the youth to have input, you are teaching them to be leaders and to be self-accountable to their spiritual growth.

Knowing the why behind what they are doing is going to lead to a relationship with Christ. God wants to have a relationship with his children of all ages. Do you think He does not speak to the youth? “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:5a


How do you begin the conversation to know what the youth of the ministry want to do? 

Fishbowl Ideas

Whenever a teen has an idea they could write it down on a piece of paper, throw it in the fishbowl. Gather them together later and have someone read the ideas aloud to the group so that they can vote on their favorite ideas.

Guided Discussion

Keep track on a whiteboard, sticky notes, etc. of categories of ideas (fun events under $10, fun events over $10, outreach events, Bible study or lesson topics), have the group vote on a certain number of ideas per category, and list the top idea in each category.

Gallery Walk

Create a gallery walk of 3 to 5 ideas from years past and have the youth provide feedback and lead them through a decision-making process. (This website describes how to hold a gallery walk.)

Learn to listen to youth. You need their input. They are quite intelligent and their opinions of the direction of the ministry will grow the ministry spiritually and in numbers. You are developing ministry leadership, and if they feel ownership over the ministry and are having fun, they are going to tell their friends and invite them to participate in the ministry as well. 

Theresa Morris, M.Ed.

Theresa Morris, M.Ed.

Theresa has worked in the field of education for the past 13 years, where she has been the director of a tutoring center, taught grades 1, 5-8, a Curriculum Resource Teacher and Dean of Students.  Currently, she is an 8th grade science and a certified instructional coach through the UF Lastinger Center Coaching Academy.

She is also the host of Friends Talking Education

Theresa has a BS in Computer Information Systems from Columbia College, Orlando, and an MS in Educational Technology from Nova Southeastern University and an MS in Educational Leadership from American College of Education. She serves as a Core Competencies Assessor for the Youth Ministry Institute. Theresa enjoys cultivating relationships and igniting a student’s own passion for education.

08: Jesse Ernst on Starting a Business, Seeing God in All Situations, Time Management, and Why You Need a Local Support Network

Jesse Ernst on starting a small business and more

In this episode, Jesse Ernst, an experienced youth minister, and entrepreneur shares how he and his wife started a small business while they both worked full-time. We discuss how to pursue new ideas in ministry, time management, seeing God’s movement in all situations, and why you need a local support network in ministry.

Join Our Community!
Subscribed to our emails
Join our Facebook Group
Youth Ministry Institute Online – Check out our new Theology 101 course!

Send Brian a question to answer on an upcoming episode by emailing Podcast@YMinstitute.com

Resources Mentioned:
Contact Jesse to speak at your retreat, event, church or to go on your mission trip as a Spanish translator by emailing  jessedernst@gmail.com

If you would like coaching for personal finance, building a budget, dumping debt, wealth building, college planning, etc. from Jesse then visit his Facebook page.

Book mentioned by Jesse – EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

Find the Youth Ministry Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Brian on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.

Support the show


Ashley : 0:01

Welcome to the making center 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 : 0:13

Welcome to episode eight of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Today’s guest is Jesse Ernst. Jesse is a personal friend of mine and part of our local network of youth pastors. And until recently, he was the youth pastor at Liberty Baptist Church. Jesse now speaks at youth retreats and events and has recently become a financial coach. In addition to all of that Jessie and his wife recently started their own business while both working full time jobs. I know it seems crazy, but they did it. I know many of us in ministry have to seek out part time work in addition to our employment at a church. Others of us are working full time while volunteering in our churches, and still others are dreaming of new ideas. is the God may be stirring in our hearts if you fall into any of those categories. This episode is for you. We discuss their story of starting a new business while ministry and how they tackle the challenges of COVID. Jesse then share some of his insights from time management. And finally, why he feels it is critical to be connected to a local network of youth, children or family ministers. We’ll be sure to put Jesse’s contact information in the show notes in case you’re interested in booking Jesse to speak at your next youth event. Before we get to the interview, you may have noticed something though, Jesse has spent his time serving in a Baptist Church. Honestly, his theology is different than my own. But to me, that doesn’t matter. And at the youth ministry Institute, it doesn’t matter. At YMI, we are not afraid of theology. We work to support you no matter what theological stream you come from. And did you know that we recently released a theology one on one course at YMI Online? No, we are not going to tell you which the Is correct what the ology one one will do is give you tools necessary to develop your own theological framework. You’ll begin to understand key concepts and ideas necessary so that at the core of your ministry will be a well developed theology. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then head over to Online.Yminstitute.com. One final thing before we get into our interview, I am looking for your questions, whatever they might be, we’ll be doing a question episode in the near future where myself and several of our YMI experts will tackle the questions you have. So whether question is about a situation you’re currently facing, or an idea you have, or you just need some encouragement. We love to share some insights with you. You can send those questions over to podcast@institute.com or by asking them in our Facebook group called Making Sense of ministry. Okay, it’s time for my interview with Jesse. Hey, Jessie, welcome to the podcast. I really appreciate You’ve given us some of your time. Yeah, it’s good to be here. So not too long ago, you and your wife I think is a year ago or so. started a small business called Claire’s Creperie. And now I want to just let everyone know that you were working full time as a youth pastor, and you had an international student right in your house, and then you also had your wife. She was working full time. Is that right? As a nurse?

Jesse : 3:29

Yeah. Full time. Yes.

Brian Lawson : 3:31

And, and she has she been in the COVID units. Recently. Has she been?

Jesse : 3:35

Yeah, so our local hospital she’s a cardiovascular ICU nurse and so their units a lockdown unit where you’re only allowed back they allow you back. And so when COVID was, you know, going full force, they needed a place that they could lock down so her unit became the COVID unit. So she was she was there in the thick of it. They were using a machine. They don’t A handful of nurses are certified to use and know how to use it. So they were picking up extra shifts and doing everything they could to save lives. And, and, you know, so she saw, she saw some of the worst, absolute worst cases because they wouldn’t put them on that machine and let us they were the absolute worst. And unfortunately, she saw a lot of patients pass, but then there’s been other patients that have just just been so grateful that that they went to the most extreme measures to save their life. And there’s a gentleman who was here visiting and I think he lives somewhere north of here, I’m not sure what state but since pictures of how good he’s done with his grandkids, to the nurses there, and just thanking them almost on a weekly basis, you know, so, yeah, it’s been It was definitely stressful especially especially during the the worst of the worst. Where’s the COVID stuff going on? But she’s, she’s a champ, you know?

Brian Lawson : 5:07

I think I probably speak for all of us when we when we asked you to tell her Thank you. Yeah, for that work. But you but so in the midst of both of you working full time and having, you know, hold responsible as a home, you decide to start a small business, which seems a little crazy when you think about two full time workers starting another business. Right. So I’m just curious, can you guys tell us a little bit about how you decide to do that kind of what was the driving factor? And to some people they might be saying, What are you thinking?

Jesse : 5:43

Yeah, well, we say that sometimes too. But my wife’s family, her mom is absolutely in love with France, and everything French, and I get to say that I do have a wonderful mother in law. I know not everybody gets along with their mother in law. We pick it each other but but I definitely am blessed with wonderful and very supportive. But when they were growing up every Mother’s Day and her birthday, they’d make crepes in bed. Well, they wouldn’t make them in bed, but they make crepes and bring them to her for breakfast in bed, that’s better said. And so we used to do friend vacations or have people over and Claire would make crepes. And everybody’s like, these are so good because it’s a French recipe that she uses. Like, you should open a shop and we we’ve thrown the idea around of doing that when we retire. You know, you’re kind of your encore career, you don’t really need the money, but breaks even it’s something to do to get you out of the house. And so it was just an idea that we talked thrown around but now it’s like yeah, when when we’re in our late 50s 60s maybe we’ll do that. And then in Mount downtown Dora these gentlemen who own quite a bit of real estate down there, bought a couple buildings and, and we’re going to open a marketplace. So instead of having one restaurant in one building, there’s There’s 12 shops in the building that we’re in, and the building behind it has 20 more shops. So just in two buildings, you’ve got some food, some artists and different things and bakeries, just, you know, a mixture of everything. Close, like, I’m just gonna send them an email, just see what they say, like, Okay, sure. We’re driving somewhere, I think we’re driving up to visit my parents or something. And I was like, sure, you know, nothing’s gonna come to this. We don’t know what we’re doing. And she’s like, well, just some, you know, crepes and whatever they had had. They said, yeah, we have 12 spots as before, they bought the second building. And they said, We have 12 spots, and we’ve had 80 applications or whatever. I was like, there’s no way they’re gonna pick us and they called and they’re like, Hey, we really love the idea of crepes. What’s your business plan, like? business plan? So she wrote something out it was like a one page we didn’t have a business plan.

Brian Lawson : 7:56

Google it fast.

Jesse : 7:58

Yeah, I think she googled how write a business plan and kind of follow that I’m not entirely sure she’s the, she’s the more eloquent one. So she put something together real quick. And we started looking at our finances because we had some money and savings that we wanted to invest. We’ve been thinking about some real estate options. And so we didn’t have to take out any loans, no debt, anything. We’re like, well, worst case scenario, we do the six month lease, and you know, lose X number of dollars and we lose it and we learn a lesson and, you know, it’s just, I’m 31 she just turned 30 a couple months ago. So it’s not like, you know, we’re taking our life savings at 60 and hoping everything works out and if not, then we’ll never be able to retire. So we figured it was a calculated risk and we went for it, you know, we’re able to sign a short short term lease are our spaces 90 square feet, so not huge, but it keeps the rent down and the overhead low So we’re like, well, we can, we can give it a go. And a really close friend of ours, moved down. She’s, you know, young in her mid 20s trying to figure out life and she’s someday wants to open her own coffee shop. We’re like, well, you can learn with us. We don’t know what we’re doing. But you can maybe you’ll learn what not to do open in your first business. So we just went for it. And we felt like God was opening opening doors. And every, every time we were like, has this the right thing to do, the next door would open. And we prayed a lot about it. And, you know, our goal wasn’t to set out to build a business and make a ton of money, but really to be in the community. And that’s, that’s one of the main reasons we wanted to do it. And one of the one of the really cool things is several of the other shop owners are Hispanic. We’ve got quite a few from Venezuela, a gentleman from Ecuador. And so I get to use my Spanish and talk to them and they’re like, why is this big white guy speaking Spanish. So it allowed me The opportunity to share my story to share you know, I lived in Mexico, why’d you live in Mexico, we, you know, we’re, we’re planting churches and telling people about, about the gospel, you know, and it’s just been cool because it’s opened up a lot of opportunities in the community and with our customers, but also with the other shop owners. And we’ve built some some good relationships there and, and the other day, one of my, one of my friends there, he was like, so what do you guys believe? And I was like, Well, let me tell you, no. And it’s like, God was like, boom, here’s why you’re here. This is your purpose. It’s not to make crepes even though the crepes are amazing. Not no credit of mine, but it’s all credit to Claire. But it’s allowed me opportunities to to just for the next 45 minutes, I was able to just share the gospel with with him. In Spanish. I have a Spanish Bible app on my phone. So I was able to go verse by verse and be like, here’s, here’s the gospel, you know, Jesus loves you, He died for you. We’re all sinners, and there’s a consequence of sin. And, and if we don’t accept Him, then we we accept that consequence, but he took it, you know, so I was able to share the gospel and it’s like, wow, that’s, that’s incredible. And so, notice no decision for salvation has been made, but you know, the seed is planted, and God says, sometimes you get to plant the seed and some other people might get come back and water it and somebody else might get to reap the harvest. But our job our mission in life is to just share the good news. And so that’s been one of the one of the greatest things after the week after Easter, one of the one of the other guys was asking me how Easter when asked them how they celebrated and then we started talking about Easter and the resurrection. You know, so, it is, it is a fun to run a business. There’s a lot of challenges, but It’s it’s not even all about the business. It’s, it’s about what what God’s God’s doing, you know, God’s doing something, and I’m just along for the ride.

Brian Lawson : 12:10

Well, and that’s what I’ve, I feel like I’ve heard from your life as a whole. And the time I’ve known you is that you’re constantly seeing opportunities for Jesus in moments and in situations. And it’s interesting to hear that, in a lot of ways your experience in Mexico has come full circle, you know, and with your language abilities that that you have, because of that, that’s such a great thing. So something that everyone faces, regardless of whether it’s in the church or outside the church, but I know that a lot of people within the church face, maybe because they serve part time at their church, whether it be youth, children or family, or maybe they serve full time, but they have to also get a side hustle to help make the funds meet. Or some of us work full time in churches, but the church requires so much out of us or we give so much that we barely have time. to breathe. So I wonder in the midst of all that you guys have done you must have found some ways to manage your time. Well both of you right individually and as a couple. So I’m just curious how have you guys been able to manage your time in the midst of your full time jobs and starting a business and everything else that you’ve had going on?

Jesse : 13:20

Yeah, so um, Google Calendar, I took this took this course and it was a 12 week course and the the as crazy as it sounds, the thing that’s been most beneficial to my everyday life was how much they emphasize put this in your calendar put this in your calendar, and I’ve got you know, when bills are due and when has you know, I don’t just have our home bills but now bills for the shop and when when my quarterly taxes are due and, and paper calendar, you don’t walk around with a paper calendar.

Brian Lawson : 13:57

You don’t? You don’t carry a desk calendar?

Jesse : 13:58

Nope. And using the Google Calendar has been a lifesaver that’s helped manage, whether it’s youth ministry or church staff stuff that’s not for, you know, the whole church to know whether somebody’s in the hospital or whether it’s Craig shop stuff where there’s our personal stuff, it’s, you know, let’s talk about when when we’re taking vacation and, and stepping back from things and, and a lot of vacations that we take is, you know, with time management and with and with, you know, everything going on, we take a lot of vacations to places where cell phones don’t work. Is there a reason for that? Or is that just how it’s happened? Um, there’s, well, some of it’s both, but it is nice to unplug, not even checking email. cruises are great, no, because they’re all inclusive and you’re in the middle of the ocean and the phone doesn’t work. And so we put it in a safe in the room and don’t worry about it. Last two summers we went and because we had international students, we wanted to see their countries and where they grew up and experience their cultures. So summer of 2018, we went to Macedonia and Croatia. absolutely phenomenal. And it was cool staying in their homes, staying in their hometowns, seeing seeing that through their lens. But also being it’s interesting because we needed to disconnect from from normal life. We probably don’t have a normal life, but

Brian Lawson : 15:35

everyday life, right from

Jesse : 15:37

Yeah, from everyday life. And then last summer, we went to China and in Japan. So some of that is making sure that you take time for yourself helps with the the time management. And that’s I think that’s a huge thing that especially people in ministry, if I can, if I could stress that is stress that I would stress taking time. for yourself and for your family. And, you know, because you’ve been in ministry for a long time, I’ve been in ministry with my family, and then in ministry as a kid. And my parents did a lot of things, right. But they didn’t take time for themselves. And they ended there’s been many times where they’ve run themselves so ragged, and now as an adult, looking, trying to also look out for your parents, you know, you’re like, Hey, you only got to take some time away, not time to go. Do this for this person in this for this person, but time for yourself. And for me and Claire, that’s travel, you know, whether it’s travel with friends, whether it’s travel by ourselves, whether it’s traveled other countries or even within the country. And when we travel, we don’t really relax because we want to go and see everything and explore. But even that’s relaxing to us, like our feet are tired, but our souls are being rejuvenated. So if you’re in ministry, I know We’re not none of us are in ministry for the paychecks because we could make. I took a 46% payout from being a sales manager to go into a youth pastor. And people were like, what are you doing? My managers like, what are you doing? And they’re like, you’ll never make any money in that. I’m like, it’s, it’s about eternity. It’s not about money, but make sure that you budget enough money to get away from your hometown. staycations are great, but when you’re in ministry, and you live in a small town, you’ll run into people and people have needs and they know that you meet needs and that that’s part of our heart and that’s a wonderful thing. But you have to have time for family and time time away as well. Otherwise, you’ll you’ll just burn yourself out. And I’ve seen that time and time again. And and I know that that’s not what I want for me or for my family. So we’ve we’ve made it a point to take, you know, vacation time every single day. year. It’s not always two weeks at once, but sometimes it’s one, it’s got to be at least one full week, way away from, from where you’re doing ministry and for your, for your own sake for your family’s sake. But yeah, especially youth pastors. I know that youth pastors are the are the, a lot of times the catch all. Thankfully at our church that I just was at our associate pastor, he caught a lot of stuff and did a lot of like, you couldn’t put on it three pages of three sheets of paper, all the stuff that he does in a year, you know, from taking care of inspections, to vehicles, to you know, all kinds of different things. He caught a lot of stuff that a lot of youth pastors end up having to do. And I think that’s why a lot of people burn out, or they jump around from church to church to church because they get burnt out and they don’t take that time. And that’s that’s a huge to me. As far as time management. There’s you know, go use your calendar on your phone. But schedule time for yourself and and for your family.

Brian Lawson : 19:05

Yeah. And that seems almost counterproductive, right? You mean for me to manage my time? Well, I have to take time off. Yeah. And that sounds backwards. But But you’re right. Because if you don’t refuel your soul, as you said, then your soul run dry and and ministry is really deeply connected to your soul being connected to Christ. And if it’s running dry, and if it’s if, if you have nothing left to give, then then you will quickly you’ll quickly burn out in ministry. Yeah. And you know, I think I think every person in ministry no matter what their role is, should be using every single one of their vacation days every year. You know, I hope the church church gives you at least two weeks or close to, but you should use all of it. For sure. And if you don’t have two weeks, I would say You need to ask for it. Or you need to make a request to get some more vacation time because it is absolutely necessary.

Jesse : 20:06

Yeah. And for the listeners, I mean, if you’re if you don’t have those two weeks, and your pastor is not taking two weeks, you need to encourage your pastor to take time off too. Because pastor, it’s not just a youth pastor thing, it’s a it’s a people in ministry thing is to we were like, well, we got to serve. And there’s this opportunity. And, you know, I would say most opportunities are good opportunities, but we have to evaluate this opportunity. And if we take every single opportunity that comes our way in a single year or for the next three years, then after that we’re going to be burnout and we’re going to leave and And what about the opportunities that come in the years to come? And so if you don’t have those two weeks vacation, or whatever, whatever they do, like Brian said, asked for it, but also ask your pastor, hey, you know, what do you do to disconnect? What do you do to take time away with your family? And, and you need that and they need that. And the church needs to needs to see that that family is a priority.

Brian Lawson : 21:13

Now, why am I we tend to call that lead up, right lead up to your senior pastor, if they’re not, if they’re not taking time then then look out for them and try to encourage them in that. So you started this business a year ago and then within the first year COVID hits which, which is so it’s been such a challenging season for so for everyone on different levels. But I noticed so you guys had to shut down just like everybody for a little bit, right. Are you doing to go orders the whole time? Not the whole time.

Jesse : 21:47

So yeah, so we started the LLC and all the paperwork last April, end of last April, and then our open date got pushed and pushed and push quite a few times. So we actually opened in October but we’ve been Been working on the business for over a year. And then we open a bit which is busy season here. And so it was October was great even though we’re on the open half of October, November December were great. January was pretty good but a lot of people are on New Year’s resolutions. They think crepes and they think sweet instead of, but we have food, savory crepes as well. And then November I mean February hit and people are getting a little iffy. And then spring break, you know, we have the longest spring break in history, right? So we were we shut down completely for two weeks. And then the next week we opened up on Saturdays only for pickup and to go orders. And you know, our local, our local people who were faithful customers and you know, following our Facebook and Instagram pages and everything they they knew and we were open and they wanted to come support and support local and There’s, there’s thankfully in our area, there’s a good push to support the local businesses. So So yeah, so we opened up for I think it was three or four weeks. I think it was almost an entire month that we were just open on Saturdays. And then during that time, we had to make some adjustments. Right. Everybody did, and and shift make a major shift is his church went to online. Our staff meetings were online. We were working online. I know you and I and a bunch of our local youth pastors in this area. We had zoom meetings talking about All right, what are you guys doing, what’s working, what’s not working. And so everything shifted online. Claire was supposed to go to Kansas City for a business conference. And they ended up doing the whole business conference via zoom. So we hooked it up to our TV in our living room and and she had her business conference. Enter living room and and they were talking about how you have to make a shift you have to make a change in your business and so she said, you know what if I offer credit classes online and so we did got a zoom subscription, started putting putting the message out there and figured out how to take online payments and stuff which we’d never done that. And we used a little bit different recipe can’t give away the farm, right? And one of one of my close friends was like, hey, these don’t taste like they do at the shop or like what’s it is a different recipe. You gotta gotta save some, you know, some secrets to keep you coming back. But that was a big shift. And we had we had some decent local support, but the cool thing was like our family and friends that were in other states who were like we want to come get crepes, but you know, they live in Georgia or Virginia or Texas or all over the place. And we said hey, you know, do a credit Party, a virtual dinner party and so we we kind of pushed virtual dinner parties get together a family and friends that are, you know, we can distance together we had virtual date nights and included like a Spotify playlist with some Date Night Music that they could listen to after cooking together. So we had we had fun with it one of the one of our great classes, we call it crystal clear. And they’re just zoom events are one hour, taught how to make a crepe at home and then how to make a filling and one of them my mom put together with a bunch of my cousins and my aunts and uncles. So it was like a family reunion for me. But, and, you know, we were like, Hey, we hate to charge family. But at the same time, this is all this money is going to pair employees so we didn’t have to lay anybody off. And that was our goal was, you know, through these last three months, our goal was to break even. Yeah, I mean, if you did

Brian Lawson : 25:59

this Well, right,

Jesse : 26:01

yeah, meet our expenses and pair employees and take care of them and their families. Because even in the weeks that we were shut down, we, we decided that and I got this from, from the book entree leadership, Dave Ramsey wrote, If you haven’t read that book, it’s it’s not just for entrepreneurs even though you know, Claire and I have started a business, so we consider ourselves entrepreneurs. But it’s a great leadership book, and he explains, you know, some of the things that he’s done and what’s worked and, and one of the things that that he stressed in there was, he wants to treat his employees as he would want to be treated as an employee. And that’s, you know, that’s a biblical principle do it do to others as you would have them do to you not do to others as they’ve done to you, right, which we often say, well, they did this, I’m going to do this and, and that’s not the attitude but the attitude is do to others as you would have them do to you and, and I was so I thought through that concept, come time to do payroll. And we’ve been shut down for two weeks. And I said, let’s give everybody a half a paycheck. Nobody worked. But, you know, like I said, we have no debt in our in our business and we built up, you know, an emergency fund. And I just felt like that was the right thing to do. And I don’t say that to toot my own horn, but I say that too, to say, you know, there, there were struggles and there were different things, different challenges that we faced, but I’ve, you know, I’ve seen God bless us in in I guess we would call them strange ways. After one class, somebody reached out to me and said, hey, how can I send a tip? And I was like, I can send you a link and they’re like, well, I want to give $100 tip it’s a 1499 credit class and they sent us $100 tip. And that helped us meet payroll that week. And somebody else wanted to do a a class for their their daughter for Her birthday party and that’s exactly what we needed for that week for payroll and, and then the hospital reached out and we were able to help with they wanted to feed feed the front lines program, the local hospital, actually the hospital clerks at so they wanted but they wanted to feed their their nurses and doctors on the front lines, but they wanted to support local businesses in the process. And we were one of the ones that they reached out to so we made 96 crepes one day and delivered them to the hospital. And, you know, it’s just different different things like that, that we weren’t expecting that. We know that God God takes care of us and and sometimes in ways that we don’t expect. So there’s been challenges over the last three months but it’s been amazing to see how God uses different people and just continues on forward. And one of those conversations, you know, the Easter conversation that I had where I got to open up and talk about the resurrection with, with one of the gentlemen who works there at the at the marketplace. It was because it was COVID weekend and that we didn’t have a lot of customers and for 30 minutes, not a single customer came through the door, but for 30 minutes, we get to talk about the resurrection. We talk about the real meaning of Easter, and it’s, you know, God uses those moments to remind you, it’s you know, it’s not about money, I can take care of money. But are you going to take care of these opportunities? And so I’ve been I’ve been trying to be hyper aware of of that and of my purpose. And I know our purpose isn’t isn’t for money. It’s for the kingdom. And God’s been able to use this. The crepe shop as as both of those things take care of needs, but also need Other people’s needs and share Christ with them.

Brian Lawson : 30:03

I love I love that phrase to be to be hyper aware of God’s movement, right to be hyper aware of what God is doing in and around me and through me and in God’s kingdom. And I think that would be so important for ministry leaders to always be looking for individually and personally in your life, but but also in the ministry as a whole. Right? How do you be hyper aware? In this situation, whether it’s things are going great or things are difficult, right, what you’re describing is a very difficult and challenging season. And yet your awareness, you were able to see God’s movement in it. And I think oftentimes, we need to help people do that. I mean, in some, I feel like a lot of times when in my ministries that I’ve served, part of my role was simply to help others see God’s movement in their life, because they just they, they were so blinded by the challenges and the things that faced that it was hard to see God in those moments.

Jesse : 31:00

You know, we can I like the phrase, you can make excuses or you can make a plan. And that’s part of part of what we do with our businesses, you know, we can make excuses, oh, this is hard. This is difficult. This is challenging. We can say, all right, well, how are we going to plan to overcome and, and beat that obstacle? And then look back and be like, not look at what I did. But look at how God brought us through this. You know, and I think, at the end of 2020, we’re going to look back and, you know, people are making jokes about, you know, back to the future, don’t set it to 2020. But somebody was saying, I don’t know if it was a podcast where I heard it, but it was talking about how we’re, we should look back at 2020 and say, I’m stronger because of it. Not looking at all the negativity, and you know, but it takes some awareness. It takes some, some drive some some perspective. I think that’s the The word I’m looking for is perspective of God, doesn’t chap promise that things are going to be simple for us or that they’re going to be easy, but he promises to take care of us. You know? So, yeah, it’s just having having that perspective. And, and I know that there’s a lot of times where I don’t have the right perspective, but and I regret those times, but it’s the times that I get to look back at where I had those conversations where I was like, I know that God opened this door, it’s not because I’m super special, or I’m this or that or the other. Because God opened the door and helped me realize, hey, there’s an open door, and I’m handing it to you. It’s about you know, Pat a ribbon and put a bow on it. Take this opportunity, it’s a gift. So it’s like I said, not because I’m super special. But I’m, I’ve been, I’ve been trying to be intentional about being aware of what God is doing.

Brian Lawson : 32:58

So you have started You know, you started Claire’s crepes, which was great, which was new. And then you have started a couple things yourself. And you were forced in this season to come up with these digital events and other ways because you wanted to take care of your employees, what kind of wisdom or thoughts you’d want to share with somebody who’s looking at starting something new, right? Whether it’s new for ministry, or they’re looking to start something new, that they’re passionate about. Or it’s just starting ministry in person again, in a different way, which feels new. What kind of wisdom or insights would you would you give to them?

Jesse : 33:36

Yes, I think one of the biggest things is if God lays something on your heart, do it. I know that sounds like I’m oversimplifying, but God gives us all passions and desires. You know, I’ve mentioned that Claire and I have a passion for travel and we have passion for missions. And through the transition of transitioning out of out of My position as a full time youth pastor, we’re transitioning into youth evangelism and and the opportunities that God will bring there. And back in 2015, I had the opportunity to go to Argentina for 10 or 12 days and speak at a camp and absolutely loved it. And that’s really one of my passions is you know, and we got to travel we got to see a new country and meet new people and, and, and experience a new culture and, and all of that, but God gives us passions for a purpose, not just so that we can do it. I wish I could do this. I’m really passionate about it. Well, if you’re passionate about it, you haven’t played it on your heart. Go give it a try. And if you if you mess up, and it’s not the great success that you envision and you to use a human word, if you fail, fail up. Okay? And what I mean by that is just because you fail doesn’t mean that God didn’t allow it to happen. Just because you fail, in our view doesn’t mean that it wasn’t. It wasn’t right for that season. It just means that, you know, maybe it was just for a season. And I think God gives us gives us passions and desires. And when we follow those passions and desires with him in mind, in obedience to Him, He will bless it. I think of, you know, right now people keep asking us, Hey, what are you doing? And I’m like, well, youth evangelism, but nobody’s meeting. So right now. I know that God put this on my heart and I know that it was it was him, not me. And then two months after I turned in my notices at the church COVID it everything shut down and cancel, like, oh, we’re not meeting or we’re not sure what we’re meeting and like, okay, God, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m just gonna trust and I felt like Felt like Abraham in Genesis, who was 75 years old when God says, All right, come on, let’s go. He says, Come on, let’s go. And Abraham’s like, wareness I don’t worry about it. Let’s go. Right? And he says, Just Just follow me and I will show you. And any tells Abraham, I’m going with you. And that’s one of the things that I think that we have to to remember and, and really latch on to is we’re going with God. We’re not going on our own. He doesn’t say, hey, I want you to go do this, that seemingly impossible task, good luck. You know, he says, I’m going with you. When Moses was was facing Pharaoh and and he’s like, man, I can’t speak I can’t do this. I can’t. He says, I’ll be with you every step of the way. He told the same thing to Joshua. He was with Joseph when when his brothers betrayed him and it was sold into slavery and he could have sat there and wallet in his in his not knowing what the future holds. But he’s like, God God put me here for a reason. And he had a great attitude about it. And so I think when when we have a passion, we have a desire, even if we don’t know all the answers, that’s okay. God knows the answers. So we just have to step out in faith and follow and do it do what we can and put in the work. But, you know, if we pray for rain, but we don’t take an umbrella, then we didn’t believe it was actually true. So, you know, pray for rain, but walk around with an umbrella.

Brian Lawson : 37:29

This show is really kind of geared towards people in children, youth and family ministries, particularly ones who might feel overwhelmed. underprepared sometimes, which to be honest, I think, as all of us, no matter how long we’ve been in ministry, right. So I just would like to give you a chance, what kind of encouragement challenge or insights Would you like to leave our listeners with?

Jesse : 37:54

I would say one of the biggest encouragement is just keep going. You know, we we talked earlier about taking time for yourself. And that that is that is super and hyper important. And that’s one of the, that’s one of the things that I definitely say is super important is taking that time taking some time away from ministry and from the job. And I hate to say the job, but there are parts of ministry, when you work in a church, when you’re cleaning carpets. And when you’re setting up chairs, that stuff feels like a job. It doesn’t. You know, the ministry, the stuff that we’re passionate about is being with the people. But there’s, there’s a job that’s attached to it, then you have to take time away from that. But there were times two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, where I wanted to throw my hands up and quit, you know, and it would be like a week or two or three weeks or sometimes a full month where you just send a little bit of a funk and you’re like, Huh, I don’t know, maybe maybe I’ve missed the call or maybe I answered the wrong call picked up the wrong number. God was calling somebody else for this. And so I would just They keep going. Because every time I was I was on the verge of wanting to quit phone ringing and it in a teenager would call and have a great conversation, you know, and be like, I’m struggling with this and, and, and I’d be like, Oh, yeah, that’s my purpose. Oh, yeah, forget about that stuff. I was just discouraged. I was just whatever. Sometimes it is just putting your head down and keep it going. Sometimes it means Hey, I need to take a sabbatical. I need to take a break before I break. So those are those are two of the things is this keep on keepin on knowing that discouragement will come. But one of the best things that I would say especially youth ministers, and Brian gets credit for this is you need a network of other youth pastors of other children’s pastors or whatever position you’re in. You need a network of other people in your local area. We meet once a month, Brian and I and a bunch of other guys in our local area. meet once a month, and we don’t. We don’t sit down and talk about doctrine because we have Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists and non de noms and Lutherans and. And guess what? We would probably disagree on some things. And that’s okay. But that’s not what we’re there to talk about. We’re there to encourage and and lift it lift each other up. And in the last, I don’t know, I guess I’ve been going for about two and a half years. Brian, that sounds about right. Yeah. sounds right. In the last two and a half years. That group of guys has been, like rock solid for me. Sometimes it’s those Thursday morning meetings, and sometimes it’s in between meetings, like two weeks later, somebody pick up the phone and call and it’d be right at the right time. Or that should be text over be like, hey, God had you on my heart. I’ve been praying for you. And it’s and it’s having that network and why is that important? Well, because those people who understand what you’re Going through those are the people who understand that that type of ministry that style of ministry regardless of denomination or blah, blah blah. Brian’s been where I’ve been. Daniel has been where I’ve been. Alex’s has been where we’ve been we’ve been where Alex has been, you know and so we know Alex is struggling or anybody is struggling we can be like, Hey, man, I went through that two years ago. This is what what helps me you know, maybe I can encourage but that network and that that support which has been huge. And so if you’re, if you don’t have that, that support and that network you need it. If you’re new into ministry, find it find people who’ve been been there done that we’ve got guys in our group who’ve been in ministry for a few months. We’ve got guys in our in our group who’ve been in many industry for a few decades. And it’s it’s having those people to talk to and it. There’s always somebody above and below, not that we’re ranked, but somebody who has more experience than someone who has less experience. And you can go to the people with more experience and ask them questions in that that’s uplifting and encouraging. And then when you get to impart what little bit of you know, I haven’t been in youth ministry as long as Brian has. But the ministries I’ve been in have been different, you know. So when somebody came to me, and it’s like, Hey, can we have lunch? Like, absolutely. And I got to share what I knew, you know, and I don’t claim to be an expert in anything. But there were there were things that I had done and experience that this person needed to hear about, and guide us that, you know, so don’t put ministry in a box. Sometimes we put ministry in a box and we lock it into the four walls of the church and we lock it To the members that go to our church, and that’s not what we’re called to, we’re called to the nation’s, you know, and if I get to encourage somebody who’s ministering at another church, that’s, that’s amazing, you know? And it’s, and when I get to call somebody who’s has some experience, and I’m like, Hey, I’m struggling with this, and I know that you were a couple years ago or you’ve been through this situation, what did you do in that network? And those guys are just, just amazing. I would say it’s it made, it made the last two and a half years so much easier. Just having that, that support system.

Brian Lawson : 43:41

One of the things that has always inspired me about Jesse is that he sees the opportunity in almost every situation in ministry. This is a skill we need to develop. We need to learn to see the opportunity. And we need to learn to see God’s movement in every situation, so that we can help others also see that Please share this episode with your friends on social media. Leave us a rating and review. And friends. I hope this episode encouraged you. If you are dreaming about something new, maybe this episode inspired you to dig deeper into that dream. But more than anything, I hope in some small way, we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley : 44:20

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

Give Yourself A Break

Give Yourself A Break - a man resting

I do not know who needs to hear this but give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can, and that is more than enough.

Are you finding it hard to be motivated to do things right now? Do you feel like the things you are doing are not good enough?

Do you wonder why the things you do feel less fulfilling?

Are you someone who previously did not exhibit signs or symptoms of depression and now you are wondering if you do?

Are you sleeping irregularly or even sleeping at all?

(If these are you, you may want read part 1 and part 2 of this series grief.)

Saying yes to any of the above questions is not necessarily good or bad, like many things in our lives right now it is simply just what it is. We are beginning to recognize the changes in ourselves from pre- quarantine to during quarantine, but we have not yet let go of the expectations from our pre-quarantine persona. We work really hard to keep ourselves busy, or get down on ourselves because we are not doing what we “thought we would do”. But holding ourselves to the standards to which we subscribed two to three months ago is an inappropriate action and has some pretty negative consequences.

Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow was the son of Jewish Immigrants from Kiev, and he grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He went to school to become a psychologist and later taught at some prestigious institutions. But the thing for which he is most known is “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. He listed the human condition in this way:

  1. Physiological needs: These include air, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, and reproduction. The things our bodies need to survive.
  2. Safety Needs: Security of body (knowing you/your body are physically safe), security of employment, security of health, security of resources.
  3. Love and Belonging: Friendship, intimacy (emotional and sexual), family, sense of connection
  4. Esteem: Confidence, feeling like you have achieved something, respect, status, recognition, being comfortable with yourself
  5. Self-actualization: The desire to become all you can be. This includes creativity, morality, spontaneity, problem solving skills, acceptance of facts, and lack of prejudice.

(Just a small caveat before we go on. Maslow’s structure here is not based on science, but on observation of the human condition. Also, it tends to be heavily western influenced, meaning that while the first two steps are virtually universal, the next three could be in different orders depending on the culture to which a person subscribes.)

For many of us, we were operating regularly on a level 3, 4, or 5.

Where You Are Now

Right now, most of us are at 1 and 2. And how could we not be? When we now live in a world where physical touch is prohibited except in our own home, where our jobs are in jeopardy because no one knows where the money is coming from, where our liberties which we assumed are threatened, and we are forced to relearn all of our ways of connecting, how exactly would we continue to affirm ourselves, or seek out esteem, or continue almost any of that which came before? We are living on the line between before and after, and it is not normal. The standards to which we held ourselves before quarantine are no longer appropriate for our level of functioning. So, give yourself a break.

Maslow’s theory is depicted as a pyramid. While that is not an unreasonable depiction, it does insinuate that these things happen in a distinct order. The last three levels can be much more fluid than the current layout appears, but the first two are very static. We need the things our body necessitates to keep going, and then we need reassurance that it will not (and cannot) be taken away from us. And, most of us do not have that assurance. Even if your job is rock solid, we are told that we potentially cannot trust the air. Why else do we need facemasks?

Friends, it makes sense that we do not want to do the things we used to want to do. It makes sense to feel more at risk than we used to. It is even understandable to feel like (gasp) a failure. When we are holding ourselves to standards that are no longer appropriate for our level of functioning, we are going to feel like we do not measure up…because we literally cannot.

So what do you do about it?

We need to check our motivators. Ask ourselves regularly “What is motivating me to feel this way?” and really listen to the answers our body gives us. When we feel down on ourselves, go back to the 10 minutes before the feeling began. What did you do? Who did you talk to? What did you see or experience? Are the understandings to which you are subscribing (and then applying to yourself) products of before or products of now?

Letting go of the operating expectations from before and learning to live in levels 1 and 2 is, I believe, the last part of the grief process for many people. Because those understandings of our worth and function are so grounded in those expectations, letting go of them may mean letting go of the lens through which we see (and understand) ourselves. Once we are able to do that, however, we can find our way into the “after” with a new (if not improved) understanding of our needs, and the needs of those around us. 

We are doing the best we can, so give yourself a break!

Want more, listen to Kelly’s interview on our Making Sense of Ministry Podcast!

Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida and operates Anchored Counseling. Kelly is currently taking new clients and can be reached via email. 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.

07: Chris Wilterdink on Faith Formation During Virtual And Crisis Ministry, Rites of Passages, And Creating Safe, Formative Spaces Virtually

Chris Wilterdink form Young People's Ministries discusses faith formation during Covid19

In this episode, Chris Wilterdink from Young People’s Ministries shares his expertise in discipleship with us. He discusses a new insight into how our brains are wired for feedback, the importance of formative and safe spaces in our ministry, and what faith formation looks like now in crisis and virtual ministry. If you are involved in youth, children, or family ministry then you definitely what to hear the insights that Chris has to share with us.

Join Our Community!
Subscribed to our emails
Join our Facebook Group
Youth Ministry Institute Online – Grab your free course before time runs out!

Send Brian a question to answer on an upcoming episode by emailing Podcast@YMinstitute.com

Resources Mentioned:
Youth Ministry Institute Online – Grab your free course before time runs out!

Find the Youth Ministry Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Brian on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.

Support the show

Ashley : 0:01

Welcome to the making center 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 : 0:13

Hey everybody, and welcome to episode number seven of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Our guest today is Chris Willard Inc. Chris is the director of young people’s ministries at discipleship ministries of the Methodist Church. Chris’s work includes resourcing discipleship systems and processes throughout the entire United Methodist Church, especially in regards to people in between the ages of 12 to 35. In short, Chris works with leaders across the country and even throughout the world to help them in their attempt to grow disciples of Jesus. In our interview, Chris shares with us a new perspective on the way social media has actually made children and youth more wired for feedback the importance of formative safe spaces in our midst Finally, I have to tell you that I believe our bookkeepers think we are absolutely crazy. Have you ever had to explain weird ministry purchases to your church finance office? I mean, that’s how we feel right now. You see, it’s our mission and our heart to serve you. And after listening to your feedback, and hearing the great work you are doing, we’ve decided to drastically lower the prices of our YMI online courses? We lowered them so low that I’m just waiting for our bookkeeper to calls into their office for a conversation. Anyways, friends head over to why am I online to get your free introductory course and see the new prices that we are offering. We really just want to support you. And that is our ultimate goal. And we really think these courses can help you be the best possible leader you can be in your ministry. Down the show notes will be the link to why my online. Okay, let’s get into my interview with Chris. Hey, Chris, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Really appreciate you being here.

Chris : 2:35

Brian. It’s an absolute pleasure looking forward to it.

Brian Lawson : 2:39

So I was looking at some of the articles that you recently wrote and released. And then one of them you talked about a breakfast club, I believe that you hosted called the doughnut hole. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience?

Chris : 2:54

Yeah, so I was a local church youth director out in the Denver Metro area. And the doughnut hole was a breakfast club hosted. I mean, early in the morning, right? Like I was in my mid 20s, late 20s, when I was at St. Luke’s. And it took something special to get me up and out of bed by six o’clock in the morning, on every Thursday during the academic school year, but I had a really, really awesome parent and volunteer and person who was a teacher at this particular High School. And so she was the staff sponsor for this kind of extracurricular club and then because of that connection, I was allowed to come in and just kind of build a little bit of a community and and host a breakfast with doughnuts once a week, then that’d be a pretty great group. I would never have told the kids this that were there but we kind of used a covenant discipleship model where it was like we we kind of created an accountable discipleship group without using that really awesome language.

Brian Lawson : 3:59

So So for people who may not be Methodist, necessarily it could you just explain what a covenant group is?

Chris : 4:07

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So if there’s one thing that historically, churches in the Methodist movement have done fairly well, it would be those things that we call small groups in ministry today, the historical terms would have been something like classes or bands. And what those were were small groups within a local united or I’m sorry, within a local Methodist congregation. And within that local Methodist congregation, small groups would form based on ages or life stages or genders, and that was because there wasn’t a full time pastor that could be around all the time. And so these small groups would set up covenants or agreements with each other, for how they would try to live out their faith or live out their discipleship or their Christian teaching, during the course of the week of their normal life in between when they would see other during church services on Sundays, and over time, those came to be called covenant discipleship groups or accountability groups, where people would get together and say, Hey, so we said that these are the ways that we want to act as Christians. Let’s check in with each other once a week to talk about how that’s going. What did we do? Well, where did we kind of drop the ball? What do we wish that we did differently? And maybe how can we act differently in the future if we want to really be intentional about be continually forming our faith? So the covenant itself just refers to the agreement that the group would kind of write and hold itself to? And sort of be the centerpiece for those check in conversations once a week? And honestly, in youth ministry, that kind of model, I think is gaining a lot of traction because young people themselves I think, are getting very, very wired for feedback, especially from their participation in social media and having different accounts.

Brian Lawson : 5:59

Yeah, Wow. So that so I don’t think I’ve heard that before that they’re wired for feedback in that sense, and you think social media is contributing to that?

Chris : 6:10

Yeah. And I know that this is a little bit of conjecture on my part, but you know, just hang on for the ride. We’ll see how we go. The reason that people post on those is to get feedback on what they’re doing, right. Like, on Instagram, when it first started, there was that whole we’re taking pictures of what we’re eating sort of phase right where it was like all these pictures of food and you took that picture because you wanted to share an experience that you were having with other people and get feedback from them like oh my gosh, that looks delicious. I wish I was there with you. We should hang out next week. We should do you know, get the likes. Get the hearts get the whatever’s. And so there’s a there’s an element of the accountable discipleship or a covenant discipleship group, where if young people are getting used to the idea of posting what they’re doing or sharing a window into their lives, and maybe during COVID, this is particularly magic magnified, because that’s sort of all we have, right? We can text we can do this online posting, because we don’t get to see each other in person. But I get to share an experience and invite feedback on that experience. And something that maybe the church is still learning to do well, is inviting young people to post the things that are formative for their faith or formative for their discipleship process, and invite feedback or questions from their peers that might not be connected to a church or might have questions about faith or those sorts of things. So yeah, when a young person posts Hey, I’m at the donut hole on Thursday morning, and it’s so great to see these people not only do you get the the likes and the clicks for the delicious looking glazed doughnuts that I provided, or you know, the crazy sprinkle ones that come along with a dozen pack. But it also gives everybody an opportunity to talk about kind of faith formation practices. Again, we would never use that term like with the kids. because they’d be like, Oh, is that what I’m doing? But yeah, I mean, I feel like I could make the case pretty easily that we post on social media in order to get feedback. And if we want to be holistic with our faith formation or our discipleship practices, we have to encourage young people to not be afraid to share some of their journey or some of their questions or some of their experiences in faith on social media platforms themselves because it invites feedback and might reinforce, you know, the kind of behavior that a youth minister or a parent would really like to see. You know, if I post something about me going and serving and I get a ton of positive feedback like oh my gosh, I didn’t even know that there were people in our city that needed that food, or oh my gosh, I volunteered there to through my school. I didn’t know churches did that, too. It’s a really cool, positive feedback loop that I think really feeds a lot of growth in a discipleship pattern or a discipleship process.

Brian Lawson : 9:17

Yeah, I mean, I think that you’re talking about positive reinforcement, right? We’re reinforcing those habits that we hoped to see them develop and grow, becomes part of who they are. Really. I think, you know, COVID has definitely made us realize if we didn’t already know that ministry, virtually has to happen. It may not be permanent. And and it’s not the only form of ministry, right. But it needs to be part of what we’re doing and in youth ministry or children’s ministry, more youth ministry than children but maybe some of the other fifth grade students would have these ministry sometimes looks like encouraging like you’re talking about when they’re sharing something on social that is that is related to faith or it is about their development or their growth. And you comment or you message them and say, Hey, that was fantastic. You are inspiring to me when you post things like that. So if anything this has taught us how important virtual ministry really is. Which brings you back to your story about the doughnut hole. There’s something unique that it kind of taught you about faith formation, particularly in the season we’re in now what what was that that you as you were reflecting on the doughnut hole time that you’re learning about faith formation as a whole?

Chris : 10:36

Yeah. Good pun there at the end, who by the way, that’s fantastic. Thanks. Yeah. The I mean, the hook was the doughnuts, right? I mean, it was called the doughnut hole. And the centerpiece i thought was the donuts that I would show up with, but what it really taught me and reminded me of and this is played forward a million different ways in my ministry. Is that it really comes back to relationships that there is value when people carve time out for each other. And and being able to listen to each other and gather you know, whether it’s around doughnuts or any other kind of table or just being able to have time with each other, to invest in relationships, and have honest enough conversations where the next time that you see each other. You remember what you talked about you ask that person, hey, how was that thing and that shows that person they are valued that they are listened to and that they are cared about. And really, that was the centerpiece of the doughnut hole experience. And I didn’t put this in the post itself. But the the staff sponsor and volunteer from my church, who helped coordinate this thing was very, very passionate about being able to create those honest and open listening spaces. Because she was a teacher at Columbine High School the year of the Columbine shooting in 1999. So for her it, you know, not only was this professional thing as a teacher to student, but really in terms of an expression of her faith, and knowing just how important it was for young people to be listened to, and accepted and have a space that could be honest and brave, and that they didn’t have to, you know, put on a show or be dishonest about who they were, or what they were struggling with really allowed, I think, that group to read and become, you know, what it was for the course of the decade that I was serving at that local church.

Brian Lawson : 12:35

Wow. So she saw this the significance of what you’re doing in a different way than most people probably have seen.

Chris : 12:43

Yeah. And because of that, really, you know, kind of went to bat with the school system, to allow the group to be able to happen. And not be a surprise for anybody that is in children’s ministry or youth ministry or, you know, life stage faith Development Ministry. Right now, because COVID, again, to your virtual point, you know, is teaching us that those formative experiences those safe spaces, those brave spaces can happen in person or online. But the point is that they have to happen, they got to be able to be there. And so having people that are passionate about intentionally creating those spaces where sharing and relationship are at the core of all the things, really, really is beneficial. So yeah, huge shout out to Laurie McMullan from back in the day at the doughnut hole.

Brian Lawson : 13:33

So what ways Would you say that this and maybe you’ve already answered but but it may be slightly different what ways would you say this pandemic has or will shape our future understanding of faith formation within the lives of students and children and families even?

Chris : 13:48

Well, if anybody who’s listening is familiar with the work of the fuller youth Institute, you know, I mean, sticky faith came out they really have been kind of banging the drum about parents being the primary influencers of faith with a local church and people that are engaged in relationship with young people as secondary to the role of parents. And I think that COVID and the pandemic response has really shone a light, you know, not only on the academic education system and the important role that teachers play in not only leading students in class, but also preparing and guiding parents and offering support for them to be able to continue that education at home. And I think that’s just multiplied in faith settings where, you know, this experience really is showcasing the need for parents to be actively engaged in the faith formation of their children and their youth. And that doesn’t mean you know, the, the parent needs to be able to identify the best curriculum or the best resource or those things. But again, it maybe it goes back to that carving out of intentional time together. At least I can say, that’s one of the struggles that I’ve had with my own kids. Because as we record this my kiddos are nine and six. And so in this response, figuring out what our new pattern or our new sort of rhythm of life looks like. If there’s something that wasn’t building value or wasn’t meaningful or was not helpful in terms of kind of the faith formation pattern or the discipleship system that you were trying to put in place as a ministry leader, you don’t have the time and energy to do that right now. Because you can’t meet in person, and this can really serve as an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be different and how things need to be able to grow and change. So I would really encourage ministry leaders to look at those things that are the most meaningful in terms of relationship building. And then those things that really build value and make a difference in the life of children or youth or their caretakers.

Brian Lawson : 16:25

Yeah, that’s so good. We had Kelly Minter on episode six, our last episode, and she talked about how, somewhere along the lines, youth pastors got a reputation for always wanting to buck the system, right to go against it and not be organized. And now those very same people, she finds it funny that they’re clinging so desperately to the system, right to the way things have been. Because that’s what we know. Right? But right. But as you’re talking about, you know, maybe this is an opportunity for us to distill down to what is the essence of what we’re doing next. What is the key components? And what really matters? And that’s hard? Because it challenges us, right?

Chris : 17:07

It’s incredibly hard. And at the same time, like it also doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Like, I know that there’s a ton of different language related to discipleship systems and those kind of pieces out there. But like if if I was to dial it back to action related things like for things, that if I was interested in a young person or a family being able to do together, whether it’s online or in person, and these are in any order, right, it’s not like 1234 or anything like that. I’m just going to start by living Christ’s teachings. Okay. So like, that involves not only being able to get familiar with, you know, the pieces of Scripture and how Jesus kind of called us to act or stories of the disciples, the apostles afterwards, learning about those stories, and then being able to try to live those things out or the lessons from those stories out. So living Christ teachings, because we can live Christ’s teachings then we start to learn when we’re in relationship with others. So we’re doing what we’ve learned about what we think it means to be a Christian or what we think it means to be a disciple. And as we do those things, we do them with other people, whether they’re online or in person. So we learn in relationship with other people. So number two, learning and relationship with others. Okay? Because we’re living Christ teachings, and we’re learning in relationships with others, then we experience God through our actions, right? If I’m doing the things that I think I’m supposed to be doing as a Christian, and I’m doing them with other people, then I should have some holy experiences, where I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, or I feel the presence of God or I, you know, kind of get those warm fuzzies in a group because I’m doing the things that I believe are meaningful. And because of those experiences, I then want to number four witness to those differences in me or the differences in the world because of the experiences that I’ve had, right? And maybe that goes back to the social media thing we’re witnessing then is the storytelling or the sharing of pictures or the sharing whatever. And because I’m witnessing to the differences, then that’s going to make me want to live Christ’s teachings even more. So it kind of becomes a cyclical thing, right? So in a nutshell, living Christ’s teachings, learning in relationship with others, experiencing God through my actions, and then witnessing to the differences that I see in myself in the world because of those teachings. And then it inspires me to kind of go around the cycle again.

Brian Lawson : 19:32

So as we’ve been been talking to youth and children and family ministers around the country, discouragement is rampant right now. And part of it is I think that we’re not really sure how to measure success. We don’t know what it looks like we right now in this season. So thinking from spiritual formation side and what you just described, is there a way that we can know or see if our people are experiencing those things, particularly we can’t see him in person. Do you have any suggestions for what people could look for?

Chris : 20:07

Yeah, that is a great question and a great observation because I completely agree. And I’ve seen it across the board. And some of that is because I think we’re shifting from the novelty of the, you know, the experience being new and us being in like, total react mode, right? where it’s like, oh, my gosh, this is a new challenge. We got to buckle up, we got to do this thing. We got to figure it out. And now, it’s not new anymore, right? It’s sinking in. This is a long term thing. And in a lot of ways, isn’t going to go anywhere, even once we can get together in person again, that the lessons that we’re learning and the online stuff we’re doing is going to be there moving forward. So if you’re discouraged, take heart You’re not alone. Make sure you’re talking to other people that are in ministry in your area, or you know, connect through places like youth ministry Institute and just have a little community where you can talk anyway, off the discouragement piece onto maybe some suggestions. There’s got to be more than just checking in and showing up on the zoom meeting itself. So if I was thinking about that discipleship pattern, and, you know, trying to track as a minute, history leader, what are the children or the youth or the families in my ministry doing because of what they’ve shared together or what we’ve done together? So if I have put out a Sunday school lesson for the week, along with, you know, maybe a couple of challenges to do how many stories do I hear back from people about what they actually did in the challenge or what they learned from doing the lesson itself. I know that that means a lot more effort in terms of kind of gathering that feedback because it’s just, it’s not as natural as being in the fellowship hall with a cup of really crummy coffee, and talking about how Sunday school was. But you got to be able to carve out some of that intentional time to follow up with people. It’s not enough just to be able to provide a resource or a lesson itself. You got to be able to figure out a rhythm and a pattern of doing some intentional follow up with people. And that might even be one on one right like that might be texting. If you’ve got parents that do that. That might be you know, messaging on a social media platform if you’ve got relationships and people that like to communicate that way. But being intentional about asking the questions about what youth and children and families are doing in between the times when they gather, I think is one way to be able to measure success. Especially because I think most of our churches are going to have some sort of vision or mission statement that relates to transformation of some kind, right transformation of the self or transformation of the world, or growing in maturity of some kind. That there’s this group of students whether they were, you know, whatever grade 678, 10 that You know, have gone through somewhere between three months or 12 months or even two years worth of classes, and now can’t necessarily join the church because you can’t gather in person to do a confirmation service and welcome new members. And so that one is so specific and so great about having young people in their mentors or their prayer partners being able to track the transformation that they’ve gone through over time. That I wonder if confirmation materials might provide some sort of a model for ministry leaders to be able to, you know, look at the stories or the lessons that they’re presenting. And ask youth or children how they engage with those stories or how they understand those those pieces of Scripture or church history or new relationships within the congregation. how those are changing and informing their faith and encouraging them to be sort of the the world Transformers that each church wants them to be.

Brian Lawson : 24:56

Yeah, you know, as you were, as you were talking I was thinking about how do you how do you check in with with people? You know, and I think we’re afraid to make phone calls, but it’s probably a good time to send text messages and make phone calls to parents on a semi regular basis. If nothing else, just to say, I was just thinking about you, and I just wanted to check on your family and see how you were doing right. I mean, it doesn’t have to be complicated. And you’ll get some feedback, I think naturally, through those conversations. Yeah. And then for people who may not know, confirmation, just to simplify it, in the Methodist Church by No, there’s other denominations as well that do similar things is where a student can confirm that they have taken up the faith that their parents have raised them in. In simplest and simplest terms. That’s, that’s that’s the idea of what it is. And it’s really a rite of passage and a lot of ways. So we have some writer passages that the students have missed recently, right. So we’ve got senior graduations and and we’ve wrestled through, how do we celebrate our seniors, I think a lot of people have figured out what they’re going to do by this point. A lot of people are doing drive by graduations and things like that. But you mentioned confirmations, one that we may have missed. We also have fifth graders. So some of us are graduating our fifth graders out or others are welcoming the sixth graders in, which presents a unique challenge to welcome a group in when maybe you can’t even physically be together. So I’m just I’m just curious how Chris, you would recommend maybe somebody thinks about those rites of passages in this season, particularly maybe the fifth and sixth grade one because it’s pretty timely for a lot of us. But why do you see rites of passage as significant? And then what recommendations do you have for us right now?

Chris : 26:47

Yeah, it’s a really, really great question. And since we’re recording in the middle of May, yes, I mean, I hope everybody’s got their graduating seniors of high school 2020 figured out for sure. I’m going to go down the rabbit first, and then we’ll try to pop back out of it to see if we can get some suggestions on where I’m going. But, okay, so particularly in the American culture, it’s hard for a child or a youth to understand when they become an adult in the eyes of the community. Okay. And culturally is just something that with a broad stroke, the culture of the United States does not do very well. Right. Brian, you and I were talking about before we started recording, you know, the ages of our kids. And so that fifth grade graduation going up into sixth grade seems to be a fairly big one these days. Do you know what my fifth grade graduation looked like? Nothing because I didn’t have one. Right either.

Brian Lawson : 27:45

I didn’t have one either.

Chris : 27:46

It wasn’t even a thing. It wasn’t a big deal. The move from elementary school to junior high or middle school, whatever it was going to be. For for youth. Okay, when does a young person become an adult at the age of 16 when they can get a license Probably not, we don’t see 16 year olds as adults, perhaps when they turn 17 and they can go to rated movies. No, there’s still another line that they get across, because they got to turn 18. And then they can you know, register for Selective Service, they probably are gonna graduate high school start to get their first jobs. But do we really look at 18 they can vote, you know, they can do all those things. Do they? Do we really see them as members, adult members of the community? Probably not.

Brian Lawson : 28:25

You can’t even rent a car yet. So

Chris : 28:27

right? You gotta wait till you’re 21 if you’re gonna drink, I won’t tell if you’re gonna you know, but legally at 21 you can start drinking. And then 25 right, that’s the car rental one. And you know, we haven’t even talked about some of the soft targets of being financially independent or you know, the expectations of graduating from college or university or getting your first job or you know, getting married, getting a house, those kinds of things. So that line for for a young person to be able to figure out when they’re an adult member is so tough and that’s what I think makes rights Pass in such a big deal for me, within a church setting, I think some of the rites of passage and the ways that you can celebrate young people, as they kind of move up or move into things is to recognize that they have had some growth and some change, and then invite them into kind of that next level of responsibility or leadership or presence, where their feedback is really welcomed and honored. And they get to be kind of CO leaders or co conspirators of the ministry that you’re creating. Okay. At one point, you know it when you’re in children’s ministry, and honestly, in some adult ministries as well, you have to be able to move beyond attendance and checking the box that you’re present in some way. So for me, the rites of passage pieces that I would really look at are how could you celebrate the growth and change of a young person so like we talked about that fifth grade and sixth grade one, this would be a tremendous opportunity because if you’re at a medium to large sized church, you probably have like a children’s staff person and a youth staff person. If you’re at a smaller church that might be the same people or it might be a group of volunteers. But since digital cameras have been around for so long, how cool would it be to have a project where the children’s ministry staff and volunteers and maybe some of the youth ministry staff or volunteers, create a shared photo file Do because they may be looking for things to do, or their parents may be looking for things for them to do. Because they can’t get summer jobs and those kind of things. So yeah, I mean, do it do like a photo and video review sort of a thing could be very, very interesting as a way to welcome. Figuring out ways to do virtual introductions, not only for yourself, but also for your volunteer team could be really interesting and really different as you’re trying to welcome somebody into sixth grade seventh grade whenever your ministry is starting, right? And maybe that could be something as as simple as online introductions and you know, trying to set up a one on one to say, hey, maybe it’s something as complicated as you know, doing almost like the parades and those sorts of things where you drive by somebody’s house and try to drop off some cookies or plastic flamingos or, you know, something just ridiculous. didn’t make it kind of memorable and make sure people know that they’re being thought about

Brian Lawson : 31:58

I wonder if you’ve seen any ministries doing anything that you really just thought they were hitting it out of the park, whether it was about rites of passages, or is about spiritual growth with their families right now. Is there any, any churches or anything you’ve seen done that you’re like, wow, that’s just really good. And I wish more churches did that or could do that.

Chris : 32:25

I think that the most effective churches are the most effective youth and children’s ministries have realized when they’re at capacity of their time and their effort and their energy that they can give. And I say that because you know, in that initial response, and that initial wave, there’s almost like that adrenaline rush of, oh my gosh, we still got to be able to do this. And I can, you know, I can go way above and way beyond for a week or for two weeks, but eventually that’s going to catch up to me right that that sense of discouragement that we talked about earlier. You know, part of that is because the the feeling of burnout and extra work really is real. When all of a ministry has been sort of forced to be virtual and online, it dropped some of the really natural boundaries that youth ministers or children’s ministers and church leaders might have been able to put up around their own time. So self care for those in ministry has has really suffered during the course of the quarantine or the social distancing piece. And then there’s really been this effect of COVID response almost serving like an accelerant for the trends that a church was experiencing. Right. So if a church was doing something really, really well before COVID, they were able to continue doing that thing really well but in a new way. So some of the most effective churches and some of the best church leaders that I’ve talked to, and have, you know, reached a point where they’re able to say, you know, what, we need to be able to dial it back a little bit, where if there’s things that we do well, let’s focus on those things. So if that’s relationship, if that is community building, if that’s doing a shared movie night if that is you know, being able to participate in food ministries in some way where we’re stable, still able to, like collect food from our local churches, and we’ve got one driver who’s willing to go out and then make the delivery to our mission partner, our food pantry partner, so that people can still continue to get fed. Those are the places that really I think are doing well. They look at the things that are important to who they are as a community, and continue to build relationship. And at the same time, have been able to say, you know what, we need to not do this piece right now. Because it’s just taking more time and energy and it is sucking the life out of the other things that really are more meaningful for those things that we do as a body, if that makes some sense.

Brian Lawson : 35:46

Yeah, that makes complete sense. I think that’s a great answer, because I think it would be a huge mistake for a congregation to try to just be what it was before. Whenever we write can come back together. I think that it would be a huge loss. Because this is such a difficult time, but also a time for learning. And and to come out of it and not learn anything would be I think a tragedy to be honest.

Chris : 36:11

There’s I’m not gonna remember the source of it, but there was a for a while a movement called stump ministry. And it was based on the, you know, the Scripture, they’re talking about the branch that was come gonna come from the stump of Jesse, where there was sort of this like family that had been so important but chopped down, and yet there was the opportunity for new life. And it really is going to be a new life moment, you know, we’re going to feel used up and ready for transformation. So it’s a tremendous opportunity to let the old things fall away and embrace something new. And I’m agreeing with you 100% it would just be a genuinely missed opportunity to go back and just try to do things like you did before because it’s got to be new. It’s got to be different.

Brian Lawson : 37:00

Yeah, yeah, so constantly asking yourself, what is it we’re learning in the season? Right? What are the things that I’m personally learning? In my own faith? What am I learning about students and families and children in their faith in this season? What am I learning about how we communicate? And as you talked about earlier, what are the essentials of what we need to do? Right, what things can fall away and what is it we really need to stick with? are all good things to be asking ourselves and trying to learn right now? I think that it would be wise of us to survey the people within our ministries, to some extent. don’t promise anything in your surveys. But at least get some feedback to understand how they’re feeling and what they feel about your plan as of now, knowing is probably going to change anyways.

Chris : 37:53

Yeah. And and how they felt about what you’ve offered so far. Right? Like, you know, how are you feeling? With this online Bible study that we’ve been able to, you know, kind of scramble together, is it doing what you want it to do? And if not, okay, I know, I know it took some energy to make it happen. But if it’s not meeting a need, then it’s okay. Move on do something different. Yeah. And don’t get stuck in that, particularly for the timing of things. I know, we haven’t talked about that a lot. But like, you know, I work with a lot of churches that sort of have a really set schedule, right. Like Sunday school is Sunday morning and youth group is Sunday evening, and then there’s the Wednesday night thing and when you’re not gathering in person, do it at the time that works for people, you know, I mean, it could be Tuesday morning at 11 o clock. Let let everybody sleep in like they need to and then zoom in while they’re still in their pajamas. It’s okay. So you know, even being as creative as you can be with those simple things about when this stuff logistically happened. When are people the most available, and the most excited to be engaged in a process or in a class or in a conversation. Those are the times that you lock into. You don’t just have to do it on Wednesday night. You don’t have to do it on Sunday morning. It can be any other time. So, so be creative and things that might have been previous limitations as real fixed boundaries now.

Brian Lawson : 39:19

Chris, you’ve given us so much to think about and so much good information. What final encouragements or insights Would you like to share with our listeners? Okay.

Chris : 39:34

So final insight. Thank you back back to what really is the primary task of your church or of the church? And how does that apply in your ministry if you’re a children’s minister, if you’re a youth minister, the primary task I think, of a church is to make disciples okay. And so just remember what that primary task is. All the things that you are doing are for a young person and their family, to be transformed into a world changing disciple of Jesus Christ. So as you reflect, as you get discouraged as you get encouraged as you have the ups and downs in ministry, during the COVID response, or really any other time, remember what you’re doing it for you are doing it because you were transformed. At one point, there was something in your own faith life in your own discipleship that clicked and that made sense. And you’ve had a lifetime of moments that have put you in charge of a ministry where you get the incredible opportunity to help a church make disciples. So my word of encouragement, boiling down everything else that we’ve talked about for the last hour would just be to say, look at those things that you do that are meaningful, that are easy that are great for you and great for your church and Ask how it helps make a disciple while you do it. And if you do that, the rest will really start to fall into place because disciples make more disciples. disciples are in relationship with other people. disciples, see the needs of their communities and then want to engage because God is giving God who wants to connect with the community and move among the people in the streets. So dial it back to that primary task. Think about making disciples in every decision that you make. The rest will start to flow and be great no matter what shape it takes.

Brian Lawson : 41:35

What a great interview, Chris was an amazing guest and you can just sense he has a deep passion and heart for discipleship. I loved when he said you get the incredible opportunity to help a church make disciples. Wow, friends. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate things, keep it simple. You have been given the gift to serve Jesus through the church. You been given the gift to impact the lives of students, children and families. Be encouraged and keep up the good work. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving us a review, share this episode with your friends and join the conversation over at our Facebook group. And until next time, I hope we help you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley : 42:23

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

Schools Are Out: Protecting The Most Vulnerable

Schools are out: protecting the most vulnerable children

Whether schools are out for summer break, or as we are experiencing in this current situation where a pandemic has caused the untimely closure of schools, the consequences experienced by kids may be more than you would expect. The educational, health, and safety impact of school dismissal can be especially significant in some of the most vulnerable of our children.

While the academic component may seem fairly obvious, the health and safety aspect may not be. When kids are not in school, they not only miss critical structured learning opportunities, but they also miss out on having basic needs met like having a guaranteed breakfast and lunch. These meals may be the only food that a child sees in a day. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that almost half a million households in Georgia experience food insecurity, leaving schools as a mainstay in nutrition delivery for so many of our kids. 

Maltreatment & Abuse

While schools are out, kids are also missing out on important connections with trusted adults, which poses a real opportunity for cases of suspected maltreatment and abuse to go unrecognized, and thus unreported. Georgia law [OCGA 19-7-5(c)(1)] deems certain people as mandatory reporters. The law requires that these individuals, based on their job description, training, and their role in interacting with children and families, report suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment. For a school-aged student this may be a teacher, counselor, school nurse, and even a member of the cafeteria staff, a security officer, or a school volunteer. [1] 

Recently, the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), the agency responsible for receiving and following up on suspected child abuse reports, indicated that reports of child maltreatment from school-related mandatory reporters comprised roughly half of all reports during the first two weeks of March 2020 (prior to the closure of schools due to COVID-19). The statistics from the last half of March 2020 (after schools were closed statewide) indicated that reports from school-related mandatory reporters declined 90%.

I would love to think this correlated with a decline in cases of child maltreatment. My nursing background, and honestly common sense, tells me that this just is not the case. We know that an increase in stress, such as the stress of economic uncertainty and serious health threats that are being universally felt, increases the cases of abuse and maltreatment. So, what can we do to support the most vulnerable kids?

Supporting The Most Vulnerable

Stay Connected

Keeping in touch with children and families from your community and faith groups is important. Your connection is a way to know what is going on with them and gives you the chance to respond when needed. In our current reality of social distancing, get creative on how to connect when we cannot be together physically. Use Zoom, Skype, social media platforms, and even the old-fashioned phone and mail system to stay connected.

Seek Training

It is imperative to be able to recognize signs of suspected child abuse and maltreatment- know the signs, know the stressors that may exacerbate unsafe situations at home, and know who to reach out to when you recognize these. Prevent Child Abuse Georgia (PCA) offers free online training opportunities and resources to community members and families and can be accessed on their website: http://preventchildabusega.org/.

Know Where To Find Resources

Finally, be aware of where to find resources for families when needs are identified. Public Health departments (located in every state), the United Way 2-1-1 community referral line, the PCA Georgia caregivers support helpline (1-800-CHILDREN), and https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/ has a list of other national and state child welfare organizations and a list of each state’s child abuse/neglect hotlines. These are only examples of the many community resources that can help children and families meet basic needs. 

Schools being out can be a time of uncertainty and instability for many kids. Community and faith leaders can help ensure that these children and families remain connected, cared for, and protected against threats to their health and safety. 


USDA Food Security In the United States (Federal Site)
Child Welfare Information Gateway (Federal Site)
State of Georgia – Family & Children Services (Georgia Site)
Prevent Child Abuse (National Site)
Prevent Childre Abuse (Georgia State University)
Georgia Department of Health (Each State Has a Department of Health)
United Way (National Site)

Sara Kroening

Sara received both a bachelor’s and Master of Science degree in Nursing from Clemson University and has also earned a post-master’s certificate from the University of South Carolina. She is certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Family Nurse Practitioner and is a certified Asthma Educator. Sara has been a nurse for over 19 years and has practiced in the areas of acute pediatrics, endocrine and diabetes, and public health among others. She resides in Peachtree Corners, GA with her husband and two daughters.