Four Reasons Your Student Are Not Connecting

students are not connecting

It can be a difficult task to make a difference in a student’s life. Sometimes, it can feel like there are many obstacles that you have to deal with to impact students. While that is true, if your students are connecting with each other, you will definitely find it easier to impact the students in your ministry positively.

If you’ve done youth ministry for any length of time, you have probably discovered that this does not generally happen on its own. So, what are some things that might keep your students from connecting with each other?

Here are four reasons in particular that your students are not connecting.


You Have Not Created a Culture of Fun

I know, I know. “Youth ministry is more than just fun and games.” That is true. But, students most easily step into new friendships and strengthen old ones in fun situations. I am sure you remember this from your middle and high school years as well.

So, be intentional about the games that you play; think them through beforehand. Who is going to enjoy this game? Is the playing field relatively even? Is it fun to watch for those who are not playing or who got eliminated? Are you repeating the same games over and over again?

You also need to be intentional in including fun in your youth ministry events calendar. Make space for students to connect out in the world. Play mini-golf. Spend a day at the beach. Schedule a movie night. Have a silly theme one youth group night. Just be sure to do things your students will enjoy together.

One of the great things about youth ministry is that it puts students together who might not otherwise socialize. Make the most of those times.

Prayer is Not a Big Enough Part of The Ministry

I love to see students develop memories or inside jokes from a game or trip, but that is not a connection that will get them through tough times. Simply having students share prayer requests aloud in the group allows them to be vulnerable in the group. As they do that, others connect to that vulnerability.

Praying allowed shows students that they are not alone in their struggles.

Additionally, students can start to see how much another student cares for them when they hear them pray aloud. I am sure that you have vivid memories of how loved you felt when hearing someone else’s prayers for you. While your students may not articulate or even understand it, hearing other students pray for them goes a long way toward greater connectedness.

You Do Not Have a Plan For New Students

What do you do when a new student shows up and does not have a friend with them? If you cross your fingers and hope they make some new friends, that will probably not work out. At the very least, you need to get some information from them and/or their parents upfront.

What is their current grade? What school do they attend? How did they hear about your ministry? Questions like these can tell you whether or not you already have some students in your group whom they might know or with which to connect.

“You go to __ school? So does Ashley! Let me introduce you to her!”

While this does not guarantee a student will return, it will develop a better culture of connection among your students.

Want a better plan for new students?

Leadership coaching may be just what you need!

You Are Not Doing Small Groups

Some of your students are going to open up more naturally than others. But a lot of your students will find it easier to be open and honest about their lives in a smaller group setting. So you need to create small group opportunities regularly.

This might mean adding meeting times throughout the week or month specifically for small groups. Or it might mean that you plan to have your whole group broken up into smaller groups after your message regularly. Whatever method you prefer, make sure you are creating small group opportunities. Your students will find meaningful connections with each other a lot easier this way.

As your students become more and more connected to each other, you will find that barriers to spiritual growth begin to disappear. Be intentional in connecting students to each other. They will be a lot more likely to stick it out in their faith if they are walking toward Jesus side-by-side.

Skylar Jones serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in DeLand, FL. He has worked in many different capacities since he began serving the church nearly 20 years ago. Skylar is married and has a son. He met his wife at Berry College, in Rome, GA, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys sports, music, long walks on the beach, and anything made by Reese’s. Click the social links below to engage with Skylar.

Teens, Parents, and Youth Ministry Communication

Parent communiction

Teenagers tend to naturally leave their parents in the dark. Should we do the same as Youth Ministers? And how important is parent communication?

When I was growing up in youth ministry (in the ’90s), my parents were both very involved in my youth programing. My mom was the snack lady and my dad was the mission trip guy. They were not weekly small group leaders, but my friends’ parents were. I know that I loved having meaningful relationships with my friends’ moms and dads. Plus, I think my parents appreciated having other trusted parents in the “know” when it came to what was going on in my life. Because of my upbringing, youth ministry and parents go hand-in-hand for me.

Later in life, when I started in youth ministry, the question that all churches and Youth Ministers were wrestling with was, “Should teens be a Mickey Mouse ear to the church, or do we involve parents and the rest of the church in youth ministry?”

I have known Youth Ministers that have chosen to not have parents as volunteers. I have also known those that only relay information about their program to teens directly.

But I have to ask – we all know that teenagers do not have fully developed brains, right? This is not a secret. So why are we trusting the information that we as leaders share with them is getting back to their parents? We’ve all played telephone before – it always gets botched up at the end!

Parents really are such a vital part of youth ministry and it can be a real miss for youth programs that leave parents in the dark. A popular youth curriculum called “Orange” has a strategy for how they market their youth ministry:

“We believe that two combined influences make a greater impact than just two individual influences. No one has more potential to influence a kid than their parent. The average church only has 40 hours in a given year to influence a life; the average parent has 3,000 hours per year to influence a life.”

You want parents not only to be informed about what’s happening in the youth ministry but also want them to root for you. They may even cheer you on for being such an awesome communicator.

So how should you communicate with parents? As a communications major, my line of thinking is always OVER communicate!  Email. Text. Handouts. Social Media. Newsletters. Word of mouth. Phone Calls. Face-to-face gatherings or meetings over coffee.

Need help communicating with parents? Take a look at the impact YMI Coaching can have on your ministry!

They say it takes someone seven different times to hear something before they fully absorb the information. You will still get a handful of youth and parents saying they “didn’t know” or “didn’t hear.” But if you know you have put the information out there multiple times and in multiple ways, you have done your part and can rest your head easy at night.

We, as youth ministers, communicate and let parents into our ministries because we know that we cannot do our jobs well without their support, their relationships, and their knowledge. We are a part of their village helping to influence their teens, not the other way around.

Parents deserve clear and consistent communication from their youth ministers because we are their support system. Consequently, they become ours as well!

Emily Felgenhauer is a graduate of the Youth Ministry Institute and became a certified Youth Minister in 2010. She has been in youth ministry for 14 years between two different churches in the Florida United Methodist Conference. She recently began serving as the Director of Youth Ministry at First United Methodist Church of Lakeland. Emily currently lives in Brandon, FL with her chocolate lab named Cubby.

Meh or Memorable: Welcoming Sixth-Graders Well

Sixth-graders - welcoming well

As a kid, church was a normal part of my life. During the week, I can remember attending children’s choir practice. I remember children’s church on Sunday mornings. I remember Easter egg hunts at the pastor’s house, and Christmas plays in the sanctuary. Mostly, I remember being one of the rising sixth-graders anxiously awaiting the day I could move up to youth group.

The youth room in our church was the coolest in the building. There were brightly colored couches, a ping pong table, and a fridge filled with soda! I couldn’t wait to cross that threshold as a rising sixth-grader!

I honestly don’t remember a lot about starting youth group but I remember feeling shy around the older kids. But I don’t remember the logistics of how things progressed. I remember we had “move-up Sunday.” As a graduating fifth-grader, I received a Bible and that afternoon, I started attending youth group.

As a youth minister, I want to be more conscious of the transition of sixth-graders into my youth group – I want them to be as excited about starting youth group as I was, and I want their experience to be memorable.

Before Sixth-Graders Join Your Youth Ministry

Plug into the Kids’ Ministry

I make it a point to work closely with the children’s minister. We are in constant communication about annual events (VBS, Easter egg hunts, Trunk or Treat, etc.) I try to be a regular fixture and volunteer for all major kids’ ministry events.

Maybe that means being a small group leader for the fifth-graders during Vacation Bible School. Or maybe that means helping lead crafts at the annual Easter fest. After all, they will be rising sixth-graders soon! 

I also try to work a few multi-generational events into our regular calendar. A couple of times a year, we host movie nights for all ages. We host a Parents Night Out – an evening for parents to drop their kids at church for free childcare (provided by adult volunteers and teens from the youth group) while they enjoy a few hours on their own.

Allowing time for the teens and children to interact is crucial in helping ease the transition from one program to another. Events like these allow the teens to practice their leadership and mentoring skills and they allow the kids to engage with the teens in personal and tangible ways.

Becoming a regular presence for the children and allowing teens to do so will grant the ability to begin building relationships early. In addition, it will allow you to learn the names of those kids getting ready to join youth group and help the kids feel at ease when it’s their time to move up.

Get to Know the Parents

I’m not a parent, but I am an aunt. Watching my nieces and nephews grow up is an exciting and slightly heartbreaking time. I love watching them discover new things! I love watching them grow. But I also wish time would slow down a little. I can imagine parents feel the same way, probably multiplied by ten!

Being a regular presence in the children’s ministry will not only allow you to get to know the kids, but it will also give you a space to get to know the parents. Opening the doors to parents and building relationships with them will help put them at ease as their child is a fifth-grader prepared to move up into youth ministry.

Rising Sixth-Graders Youth Group Preview Day

As the school year draws to a close, it may be beneficial to offer a preview day for parents and rising sixth graders to learn about youth group. This could be a time to allow youth and parents to explore the youth meeting location, to interact with the volunteer team, for the youth minister to share the mission and vision of the youth program, and for parents to ask questions and voice any concerns they may have. This can also be a time to set a starting date for new youth to start attending regular youth group meetings and events.

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Personal Follow-up

Consider the follow-up and personal touches that can make a new youth feel significant. After your preview day with youth-written letters welcoming each sixth-grader to the youth group family. The letter will likely end up in their bible, bulletin board, or book. Wherever the letter ends up is insignificant – what will matter is the statement of value it makes to the recipient.

I think we can all agree, the step from the children’s ministry into the youth ministry is a big one – and not just for the kids. It can be exciting and scary for the kids and the parents. I’ve lost youth in the past by not properly helping prepare them. As Youth Ministers, we can help make that transition easier for the new sixth-graders by collaborating with parents to make their kids as comfortable as possible, by building relationships early and nurturing those relationships as the kids become teens.

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.

Leading With Compassion and Curiosity | Season 2: Episode 3

Josh French on the Making Sense of Ministry Podcast

In this episode, Josh French from Cokesbury United Methodist Church shares how a tragedy in his life lead him to become a better leader through compassion and curiosity. 

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Making Change In Ministry

Making change in ministry blog post

You know the urge. You look around the youth room, your program, or even the team and think – I really need to make changes. But should you? How do you properly time change in ministry?

A Change of Photos

When I started in my position, nearly four years ago, I remember walking into the youth room. One of the first things I saw was a bulletin board covered in photos of kids I didn’t know. There were photos from mission trips from years prior, photos of boat trips and trips to Disney and local water parks. The faces smiling back at me were kids long aged out of the youth program.

Immediately, I saw a change in ministry that I needed to make.

I knew to help move things forward, this board (or at least the photos) would have to come down. I also knew I needed to be careful.

While those pictures may have been dated by a few years, one young person’s face in those photos was still active within the youth ministry. I knew he’d had a strong connection with the previous Youth Minister, and I didn’t want to do anything to fracture that connection.

Those were some of his memories on that board. So, I left it alone for about a year.

When I felt the time was right, I asked the young person for his blessing in taking the photos down. I asked him to help me, allowed him to look through the photos and keep the ones he wanted. The rest we put into box and stored in a closet in the youth room.

It was a minor change. But it was a step toward making the youth room a space belonging to the current group. It gave us a chance to begin making our own memories to display.

So, when is it okay to make changes (big or small) in a youth ministry?

Timing Change

If you are just getting started in a new ministry, it can be easy to start making changes immediately. I would caution against this, for at least six months – maybe even a year.

Giving yourself, and the youth group, that time to grow relationally is critical. It gives you time to get a feel for the ministry and to build relationships with young people and adults.

Listening Well

Allow the young people, the volunteers, and parents involved in the ministry to share their hearts.

Let them share what has worked well in the past (along with why they think it worked well). And let them share stories of things that maybe haven’t worked well. This can be a great time for them to share their thoughts on what changes they’d like to see.

Your Vision For Changes

You can also take this time to share ideas for things you would like to do – whether it’s introducing a new program, a new lesson, or maybe it’s getting rid of an old program.

The key is to allow for open communication for those potentially impacted by the change.

When to Make Immediate Changes

Sometimes, though, waiting isn’t the best option. And sometimes the changes we need to make aren’t major. Sometimes the change needs to be an internal one.

I tend to teach by the Socratic Method. I present a topic, have teens share in reading Scripture, and lead their discussion by asking questions.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve learned that by changing the way I present a lesson can make a drastic difference in how the teens respond. If discussion isn’t flowing, maybe I try lecturing for a time. Or maybe we try a video series for a few weeks. Or maybe we skip the lesson altogether and just spend time together.

Sometimes the change has to be an internal one – an acceptance that, as the Youth Minister, we don’t always get it right.

We have to be willing to be flexible and adapt to the immediate needs of our teens.

Changing Sunday School

Let’s face it, we’ve all been faced with the issue of change within our ministries. Sometimes the changes are big. Sometimes they’re small.

One change I made within my own ministry was to do away with Sunday school. It was a major change I made about a year after my hire.

I’d just read Sticky Faith and felt a connection to the suggestion within the pages. But the ultimate reason was to better allow my youth to be present during worship.

Sunday school took place during the 9:30 worship service. Young people would come to church with their families; their parents would attend worship while we left the church building to go to our youth room. We’d spend 45 minutes chatting, sometimes struggling through a lesson, and then try to make it back to the worship service in time for communion.

The teens would then leave church with their families, sometimes never engaging with the broader church community.

I felt like the young people were isolated. Adults in the church didn’t see the teens regularly, and the young people did little to interact with the broader congregation. So, I made a change.

Primary Purpose of Change

Change within a ministry program should always be about fostering relationships. Priority should always be given to fostering the teens’ relationship with God.

Is the change allowing for growth? Will this change help young people to experience God in a new and personal way? Is the change fostering relationships within the broader church community? Are teens being engaged and challenged in their faith by others outside their immediate church circles?

If I can answer yes to these questions, I feel like the youth ministry is headed in the right direction. If not, well then maybe there’s a change in the making.

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.

Engaging The Talents Of Teens

Have you ever thought that ownership and talents go together? Perhaps the teens in your youth group are just looking for a place to use their talents. And I wonder, could talents be a key to their faith?

If your youth group is anything like mine, you’ve got a hodge-podge of teens with various gifts, talents, and skills. My group currently has one extremely talented athlete whose goal is to try out for every sport her school offers before high school. We have a few musicians in our group – many of them active in their school orchestras. One of our middle school boys loves to dance and isn’t shy about doing so every time a song comes on with a decent beat.

We also have an aspiring chef in our group! He’s currently enrolled in the culinary program at the local community technical college. He wants to go to culinary school after graduation and open his own restaurant.

Considering Our Purpose And Their Talents

Now bear with me for just a moment…

My goal as Youth Minister is to introduce my teens to the gospel. It is my desire to share with them the love of Jesus Christ and to equip them to do the same for others.

That said, it is also my goal to help develop them as young people. It is my goal to support them and encourage them in their individual endeavors. It is my goal to speak affirmation into their lives as they pursue their interests and passions. Giving teens an avenue to explore their gifts, within the scope of the church and ministry, is a great way to help cultivate their spirituality.

Young people will learn through experience, what their faith is about, how to express it, and ways to grow in their faith.

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If I can encourage them to display their talents within the church setting, a young person who feels jaded toward the church may find their heart opening to God in a new and real way. Not only does this give the teens an avenue of expression, but it also allows them to feel invested and valued within the church family – to experience God in a way they may never have before.

Allowing teens to use their talents helps develop them as individuals and helps them learn what worship means. It helps them experience worship in outside-the-box ways, perhaps bringing them to the realization that worship does not just have to look one certain way.

So what are some ways we can open avenues for young people to use their talents within our ministries?

3 Avenues For Young People To Use Their Talents

Youth Sunday

Most of us have led Sunday morning worship with our teens at least once. This is a prime time to showcase our young people, to allow them to help lead worship in intimate and personal ways.

Maybe you have some musicians who can step up and lead the congregation in song. Perhaps the thespians in your group would step out and lead worship with a skit. Maybe that middle school boy who loves to dance can do a freestyle interpretive dance during the offertory!

Giving our teens this kind of outlet helps them to experience worship in new and personal ways. It allows them to take some ownership of how they express their adoration for God.

Youth Group

While youth Sunday seems to be a once-a-year occurrence, youth group happens at least once a week for most of us. Allowing young people to assume leadership of a youth group meeting (maybe even just once a month) is a great avenue for them to use their talents and gifts. Maybe they can write their own prayer, share their testimony, or write a devotion and share it with the group.

The musicians in your group can lead weekly worship for your meetings. Maybe you have a teen gifted in teaching. Allowing them to teach a lesson or preach could boost their confidence immensely!

What about the chef in your group? Why not let him fix a meal for the group! Instead of recruiting an adult from the congregation to supply tacos for your group, help the young chef create a menu and prepare a meal for your group once a month. This allows them to develop their skills, but it also allows you, as the leader, to show just how much you appreciate them.

Service Opportunities

Encouraging your teens to serve the community can be challenging. Focusing on the things that drive your teen will also drive their desire to serve.

That young chef in your group could help organize a community meal! Maybe the dancers and musicians in your group could lead a community workshop for kids – teaching the dances and songs of worship!

Perhaps, as the pandemic ends and facilities open, you can take those skills to a local nursing home. The athletes in your group could become coaches for community leagues. Upward is a great example of incorporating athletic skills, sportsmanship, and faith. They could even get plugged into their school’s FCA program and share their faith journey with others.

The key to engaging teens is to first learn what drives them and then tapping into those passions for the ministry. Teens will take ownership of a program and their faith when they feel they have something to offer. And they have so much to offer!

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.

Long-Range Planning The Right Way

Long-range planning in ministry blog banner

Have you ever tried to do long-range planning, only to discover you get too busy to put that plan into place? Or you worked on a plan, but no one seems to get excited about that plan?

Long-range planning is important – you know this. Many of us can come up with a long-range plan but struggle with actually making that plan happen.

Let’s talk about why, and how you might be able to finally make that plan happen.

Long-Range Planning

Last year was different in that it contained several months where we were kept cloistered inside due to the pandemic – at least that was my situation in the State of Maryland. When restrictions relaxed a bit during the summer, I decided to take my wife and three young-adult children on a mini road trip. 

Nothing big, we didn’t even leave the state. The trip involved driving to all my childhood homes and schools. I wanted them to see some of the actual places from the many stories they had heard over the years. There wasn’t much of an itinerary, so we just started driving.

The long-range plan was to hit about five or six stops along the way and end up back at home. The trip took about three hours. I honestly didn’t think they would enjoy this venture nearly as much as they did, and they genuinely thanked me for planning the day.

What Is A Long-Range Plan?

That’s a very simplistic example of long-range planning. A long-range plan says, “We are here, at ‘X’, and we want to get there, to ‘Y’.”

My plan was, “We’re starting from our house, we’ll stop at five or six spots, and we’ll end up back home.” A long-range plan is very different from a vision or strategic plan.

A strategic plan is an action plan that leads an organization towards a preferable future.

It asks the journalistic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how?

Most youth ministries create long-range plans – “We’re here, and we want to get there.” Few have really thought out or worked through a strategic plan. I highly recommend that such a plan be prioritized.

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However, the task of creating a vision or strategic plan is no easy undertaking, and it certainly shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. Since the goal of such a plan is to point toward a preferable future, creating a vision or strategic plan should involve a number of people with and for whom the journey toward the future will involve.

So, just who should be involved?

Who To Involve In Planning


The classic church answer to every question, right?  However, pointing toward a future that doesn’t take into consideration the guidance of the Holy Spirit isn’t one worth pursuing. 

Proverbs 19:21 informs us, “People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will happen.”

So, before you start any type of vision or strategic plan, begin with prayer, and continue to hold your plans with open hands as the Lord leads and guides.

Church Leadership

Every church has a biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). However, the way each church expresses that biblical mandate can (and probably should) be expressed differently.

A wise youth minister will take into consideration their church’s unique expression of that biblical mandate as they seek to create a vision or strategic plan.

A foolish youth minister will attempt to create a preferable future without ever considering the overall goals, objectives, and strategies of their church leadership.

Involve your leadership!


Youth ministry is a team sport (think football), not a solo sport (think golf). It truly takes a team mentality and approach to create and maintain a healthy and fruitful youth ministry.

Any attempt to approach a vision or strategic plan with a golf mentality only makes the attempt more challenging – and ultimately less fruitful.

When approaching such a plan, it is wise to involve a number of your key volunteers. Include a variety of folks – different ages, backgrounds, years in service, and those with a variety of gifts. The goal is to get different perspectives that help minimize blind spots and generate new ideas.

As it says in Proverbs (15:22), “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”


The longer you are in youth ministry, the more you will realize that you are not just ministering to students, you are ministering to parents and families as well. With that in mind, it is wise to include parents in the planning process.

Parents can provide a unique perspective regarding a number of different areas of ministry. In addition to their perspective, when included, it creates a stronger parent-ministry partnership. 


This might seem silly, but don’t discount the value that students can add to the planning process.

Although limited in maturity and experience, students offer a valuable perspective. They can open a window into the thinking of the audience the youth ministry is attempting to reach.

Not only is their perspective potentially valuable but being part of the planning process can be a tremendous inspiration to them to get more involved in the ministry once the plan is initiated.

As a bonus, you might just be including your future youth ministry volunteers in the process.

There are certainly others that you might want to consider involving in the planning process (former students, someone from outside of your church context), but these five are “musts” for including in your youth ministry vision or strategic planning process.

If the process seems overwhelming, or daunting, it may be beneficial for you to join Youth Ministry Institute’s upcoming cohort – where strategic planning will be part of the conversation. Or you may consider bringing in a YMI staff member to help you with the process – we will help you guide these audiences toward the results that you desire to see.

Whether you seek the support of us at YMI or you go it alone, the key is to get started today. Bring in these audiences and begin creating a strategic plan – you may just be surprised what you can accomplish!

Brent Squires - Author

Brent Squires has dedicated the last twenty-three years of his life to student ministry. As the Student Ministry Pastor at Bay Area Community Church in Annapolis, Maryland, Brent provides leadership and development for three campus student ministry directors. He oversees a staff of seven, as well as almost 100 volunteers at the broadcast campus. His ministry consists of over 300 middle, high, and college-age students representing 30 area schools. He has been married for twenty-nine years, has three young-adult children, and one pit bull. Brent is also the co-host of the How’d They Do That? podcast. Prior to full-time ministry, Brent oversaw luxury seating for the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins.

Ministry Planning For Success & Not Burnout

Ministry Planning for success blog banner

Did you know that poor planning can actually lead to ministry burnout, conflict, and a failing ministry? Planning is more than just a calendar.

My first two years in youth ministry and my experience in planning for the ministry left a lot to be desired. As I moved from being an intern to leading the program on my own, I quickly learned to just fill in the blanks of a calendar with events that had been done in previous months/years.

Our monthly leadership meetings were basically an hour of me sitting at a table with parents and a couple teens from our group, looking at the calendars I had planned and telling them what we would be doing. Parents were not asked for their thoughts and teens never really gave any feedback (mostly because they weren’t given the option).

I left that position convinced that I would never do full-time ministry again. And looking back, I think a lot of that thinking had to do with how those “planning meetings” were handled (or not handled).

I was doing all the work on my own and it had caused rapid burnout within my soul. I was tired.  

When it comes to planning, both long-term and short-term, it really just takes a little bit of time and creativity and a LOT of open discussion with your volunteers, teens and parents.

Long-Term Planning

Planning In An Established Ministry

It can be intimidating to think a year in advance. It can be really intimidating to think two or three…or even five years ahead.

The first thing you’ll want to do, though, is talk with the teens, the volunteers, and parents involved with the ministry. Let them voice their concerns, desires, and wishes for the ministry. But also let this be a time when the mission and vision of the ministry are discussed.

Does the current calendar help further the mission/vision?
Are there any ways the mission or vision needs to change?

Allow their voices to help you build the ministry.

If you’re new to a position, entering an established ministry, you may want to take care when planning events. It can be best to take it slow when introducing new programs or events. Chances are there are some traditional events that teens (and leaders) have grown attached to.

Talk with teens and leaders within the program to get a better understanding of what they are used to doing. And for a while, maybe keep doing those things – especially if those programs and events have been done for several years.

Planning For A Newly Developed Ministry

If you are new to a position, faced with building a program from the ground up, you may have a little more leeway in planning new events.

When I entered my current position, I had almost total freedom in planning our monthly calendars! The teens and parents were just glad to have a regular program again.

While there was an established schedule for weekly youth group meetings, we had a blank slate for planning. It was exciting to have that freedom – but it was also very intimidating. Working with the teens and parents eased the intimidation and created excitement about what we were establishing.

Learning to accept the help and feedback of those involved in the ministry is crucial. Planning should not be done in a bubble.

Planning And Leaving A Position

It can seem pointless planning for a ministry that you’ll no longer be leading. Maybe it’s even tempting to just cut and run.

Here’s my advice – make plans, but keep them simple.

Gather your leaders, gather your parents, gather your youth, and have an open discussion. The yearly calendar you have planned should be the focus of this discussion – allowing the opportunity for parents and volunteers to step in and continue running things in your stead.

There’s no guarantee that a new Youth Minister will be hired to fill your vacant spot as soon as you leave. In order to make it easier for the ministry to continue without you, have a solid group of volunteers available and a clear set of plans available for them.

Short-Term Planning

You know those monthly planning meetings you have with your ministry team? This is a great time to not only remind everyone of the mission/vision of the ministry, but it’s also a great time to discuss what to do when long-term plans fall through.

Join a 3 month cohort.

Sometimes things do not go according to plan. You may have planned to go bowling. But, what happens when the bowling alley doesn’t have the lanes to offer your group? What happens then?

Maybe you schedule a trip to the zoo to see Christmas lights every December. But this year, only two kids show up and they don’t even really want to go to the zoo. What do you do then?

It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan available. If discussed with your ministry team ahead of time, you will have their support when plans need to change suddenly.

But always, ALWAYS keep open the lines of communication with the parents of any teens involved. Allowing parents to remain aware of a change in plans will save you from angry phone calls from concerned parents when their kids get home, and they discover you didn’t go to the zoo after all (Trust me on this!)

Planning In Community

Remembering to plan in community is critical. I have often fallen into the trap of planning in a bubble, and then I feel disappointed when it seems the group does not respond favorably to something.

One thing I try to do – I AWAYS try to keep the vision and mission of our ministry in mind. And when you’re planning in community, you have a group of people to help hold you accountable to this!

And maybe that’s the greatest takeaway from all of this.

We don’t plan things just so we have stuff to do. I mean, sure, sometimes teens just need time to hang out and be together. But most of your planning needs to revolve around how you can further the church’s and ministry’s mission. If you’re not doing that…how can you fulfill the call to make disciples?

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.

Hiring A New Youth Or Children’s Minister

Hiring a new youth or children's minister blog post

What if you are hiring the wrong person? Where do we find quality candidates that will fit our church’s culture and context? How can we hire someone who will last? How long will it take you to find your next Children’s or Youth Minister?

These are a few questions that come flooding in as you begin searching to hire a new staff person. If you have experienced this as a supervisor before, you probably recall the emotions of that moment. Depending on the fallout that came after the transition, it may be one of those situations etched in your memory.

Give yourself a moment to be still, to be aware of your anxieties, and to prepare yourself for the journey of searching for your next Children’s or Youth Minister.  

As you lead your team and church through this process, it is helpful to remember you are not the only one asking these questions and feeling the weight of the uncertainty that change brings. Likely, you are also navigating the fears and anxieties of the children or youth, families, and staff members regarding who will be the next Children’s or Youth Minister and what will happen in the meantime.

Leading through the uncertainty of what’s next and others’ emotions takes significant time and energy, especially since you also juggle all your other essential responsibilities.

Here are 4 tips on leading through the transition and hiring.

4 Tips on Leading Through Transition And Hiring

Be aware

This is a personal and emotional time for those involved and affected by the ministry. Expect a lot of emotions. First, be aware that you are not responsible for “rescuing” them from the sadness or anger they are feeling. Second, be mindful of the pressure you feel that could cause you to rush through the hiring process.

Give your church and families permission to grieve 

Ministry is highly relational, making it so impactful and painful when transitions in leadership happen. Phrases like “this is hard” will give those struggling with the change the space to feel and process their emotions. Sitting with them in their fears and even sharing some of your own can be helpful. This transition season will also allow you to teach them how to navigate change in healthy ways, which is much needed and valuable skill in our world today.  

Give them a reasonable hiring timeline

The timeline is a critical step in setting this transition up for success. And often, this step is overlooked. The average time it takes to hire a new Children’s or Youth Minister is 3 to 4 months.

Be prepared that people may push back on this timeframe because of their desire to move from the unknown to the known quickly. Therefore, setting this expectation from the beginning of the process will help others manage their expectations and give the process the attention it needs for you to hire well.

To help you explain why the process usually takes 3 – 4 months, here is a resource for you that outlines the steps involved in hiring and the average time each step takes. Sharing all the steps and timelines involved in hiring will increase their confidence in the process and the outcome, plus help everyone exercise patience. 

Create a plan for the hiring transition

Create a team with those involved in the ministry to develop a plan for the next 3 – 4 months. This team will help you on multiple levels. Not only will it help you create a plan moving forward, but it will also give those affected by the transition a voice in the process, a clear pathway on how they can help fill the gaps, and a sense of control. 

We are most vulnerable in seasons of change. Since feeling vulnerable isn’t a comfortable feeling, it is tempting to rush through the process and settle for less than the right person for your church. Resist rushing. Give each step in the hiring timeline the attention and time needed to put your church in a position of strength moving forward.

Kirsten Knox, Senior Director of Ministry Partnerships

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

Recovering From A Lost Ministry Role & Personal Crisis | Season 2: Episode 2

Making Sense of Ministry season 2 episode 2

In this episode, Brian and Kirsten talk with Emily Felgenhauer, Director of Youth Ministries at Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, Florida. Emily shares her experience with losing her ministry job, finding a new future at a large church, and the ways she has faced personal crises.

Resources MentionedProfessional Youth Ministry Coaching
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YMI Job Board
YMI Blog

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Brian Lawson: 0:14

Hey friends, welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast. The podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives, and impact generations. This is Episode Two of season two and I’m back with Kirsten. Kirsten, how are you today?

Kirsten Knox: 0:27

I’m doing good. How are you, Brian?

Brian Lawson: 0:29

Oh, excellent. Hey, I was thinking I was wondering, what are you binge watching right now? I need some more stuff to watch. So what are you? What are you watching?

Kirsten Knox: 0:37

Well, what? We’ve just started binge watching the Avengers movies, which you’ve probably seen those because I feel like no, youth minister that hasn’t seen it.

Brian Lawson: 0:48

No, I’m trying to catch up. But I want to watch them in order. So but Disney plus now hasn’t been order. So it’s perfect that

Kirsten Knox: 0:54

yes, that’s what we’ve been doing. We started that months ago. Like what cuz I think I’ve all of them. I’ve watched maybe two of them. And so we started in order, because I have no real timeline for them, the individual and the Avengers. And then this last weekend in St. Pete, on Saturday was the part one of the parks was doing a drive in, in game, watching the Avengers. And we were like three away from that. So I’m like, on Saturday, I’m like, let’s watch all three of them, and then go to the drive in and watch endgame on the big screen. Right. So this was the plan. So we started mid morning. Little did I know that those movies are long. Like we didn’t get them all done. So we ended up watching it. But we had to watch in game from home because the timing didn’t work for us to be able to go to the driving. But so by the end of Saturday, that’s literally all we did.

Brian Lawson: 1:46

So when you talk the whole, the whole Marvel universe that you’re watching or just Avengers?

Kirsten Knox: 1:52

Well, we started doing the whole Marvel from the very beginning, right? But then because I saw that there was the drive in I was like, let’s skip the individuals. We had three of just the like full group Avengers movies. Let’s watch those, and then go see in game tonight. That was my and I had seen the one I had seen was Civil War. We had both seen that. But I’m like, I want to rewatch that too. Because now I have context where I had just seen that one that was The First Avenger movie I ever saw. Yeah, we did. We did. We watched. So in the end of the night, we had four we watched. That’s all we did on Saturday was watch Avengers movies. Probably a great Saturday,

Brian Lawson: 2:32

probably a great it was what you know, one of the best events we did on spring break was all the Star Wars movies. This was before the three extra came out, you know, so we did all of them. We started like seven in the morning and got done like 11 or 12 at night. And if anybody survived the whole day without falling asleep when we were watching you got a shirt said I survived. So it was it was Yeah, it was good. That was a that was an easy. So if you’re looking for something easy, although I don’t know how well you can get in COVID. But after COVID look for something easy. That one’s easy. So

Kirsten Knox: 3:02

I feel good knowing that you haven’t watched them either, because I have said this to multiple people and I get the look.

Brian Lawson: 3:08

And I think we just lost listeners for this.

Kirsten Knox: 3:12

Did our credibility go down.

Brian Lawson: 3:16

I think so. So who do we have here with us today?

Kirsten Knox: 3:20

Well today for our guests. We have Emily Felgenhauer Yay. I’m excited that she is joining us. Emily is a dear friend of mine. And actually we met through Why am I back in the day I say that like we’re old back in the day. We did the YMI professional certification program to your program and met and have been friends since then. A lot of life together, including vacation, we have vacation together.

Brian Lawson: 3:49

And you’re still friends after this. Yeah, that’s good.

Kirsten Knox: 3:53

Emily has a love for cruises. So I learned I went on my first cruise. We went on our first cruise. So that was fun. But have done life and fun and she’s gonna come share with us today. So excited. Emily, How are you this morning?

Emily Felgenhauer: 4:07

Hey, I’m good. How are you guys?

Kirsten Knox: 4:10

Doing very good.

Brian Lawson: 4:11

Thanks, Emily for being here. We appreciate that.

Emily Felgenhauer: 4:13

I’m super pumped.

Kirsten Knox: 4:15

Yeah. All right. Well, let’s start off Emily, I want to give our listeners an opportunity to get to know you. So to do that, I thought it’d be fun. The first question that I have for you today is tell us about three of your favorite things.

Emily Felgenhauer: 4:31

And I love this question. I love the song from Sound of Music. I’m just kidding. Um, I would say my dog but I don’t think he’s a thing. Can I say wine on this?

Brian Lawson: 4:47

I think so. You know, every church has. Absolutely you can say wine.

Emily Felgenhauer: 4:51

I do love some wine. Jesus’s first miracle. It’s very dear to my heart. Um, I would also say Disney. I love Disney. I’ve always loved Disney. And I would probably also say Sherpa, like the cozy, fuzzy soft material. I’m actually wearing it right now. Yes, like who doesn’t love who doesn’t go buy that material and just want to touch it like it’s really kind of obnoxious and and not very sanitary with COVID. But yes, I do love. Love the cozy material.

Brian Lawson: 5:29

I tell you I have a closet full of sherpa.

Kirsten Knox: 5:33

I’m like you don’t get a lot of opportunity in Florida to wear it for like you bring it out when you can. But that’s why I do blankets a lot. Every time we go to the store, I’m always going to the blankets and I need any blanket like I need a hole in the head. But something about that soft material that is just inviting and cozy. I’m like just looking at it is really 100%

Emily Felgenhauer: 5:53

I totally agree. Yes.

Kirsten Knox: 5:57

I love it. And Disney. Have you done Disney during COVID season? I have I got

Emily Felgenhauer: 6:02

a three day pass back in the fall. And did it within like I think a month. He’s all three within a month. But yes, I’m a big fan of Disney. And it was great. It was less people. I felt like it was definitely more sanitary. And you know, you don’t? I don’t know. It was great. It was awesome.

Kirsten Knox: 6:26

Share with us today a little bit about how you got into ministry. And what made you say yes to ministry.

Emily Felgenhauer: 6:34

So I was a youth your kid growing up, and I was very close to my youth director. And I felt called into youth ministry when I was a teenager. So you know, the appropriate question that you ask your youth director is how much do you make? And she told me I was like bump this I’m not gonna be in ministry, no way no out. So you know, then I went to college, and I majored in corporate communications. But I went back to my church at the time to do an internship. And at that, that summer, the veil was torn. I saw real people from my pastors, there was drama, there was politics, and decided, again, church work was not for me, which is interesting, right? So then my second, my senior year, my second semester, I was looking for jobs in Daytona Beach area, because I was in college in the Chicago area. And I wanted to be in Daytona. My three older brothers were down here, I have two nephews, they were young at the time. So I was looking at communication jobs, and a youth director position popped up on my job search that was looking for good communication skills. And I it was a definite Holy Spirit moment. You know, I know, some of us can say we’ve had a few of those moments. And that was definitely one the Holy Spirit came into my dorm room and I was crying. It was very powerful of me feeling like, Am I enough? Can I do this? And God saying, Let me do this. And I just want you to be my instrument. And so I applied for the job knowing I was gonna get it at that very moment. But I waited three months, just like churches do they take forever to hire people? And so I just waited and I and I knew and so I started august of 2007. And the Daytona area. Yeah.

Brian Lawson: 8:33

I love that sense of like, holy trepidation, almost that you described, like, uh, yeah, I’m going to do this. But I’m also like, kind of don’t want to, but I’m also a little scared too. But I also don’t feel like I can. But I know I need to. Yeah, I get that.

Kirsten Knox: 8:50

Having that such that moment, right, I think would be helpful once you get into ministry? Because I would imagine there. I mean, for all of us. There has been those moments when you’re like, Can I still do this? Should I be doing this, like those hard times in ministry and then be able to lean back in to? I know, God called me to do this. I had this moment. And just to confirm, in those moments of insecurity, are those moments of toughness, just to have that power? Yes. What was the waiting like three months that? I mean, when you feel so strong about something then have to wait, I think

Emily Felgenhauer: 9:26

that just be really hard. I know, I actually accepted a position in downtown Chicago for Salvation Army. And I worked for them for two months while I was interviewing for the Daytona area church. And I was offered the position and then I turned it down. Because I was like, I don’t I don’t know. And then like, I mean, it was another Holy Spirit moment of like, you idiot. You need to call them back. You need to accept it. So then I moved. I moved in July. So yeah, I’ve been in ministry for 13 and a half years.

Brian Lawson: 10:01

Wow. flies, huh.

Kirsten Knox: 10:04

Yeah. I know when you say them like, Oh, this agent when we think about how is this possible? Well, Emily, today, we had you on one things we want to talk about is it’s been a hard season for youth ministers and children’s ministers or for anyone in ministry and talking about when you feel knocked down, how to get back up again. And you have a great story about what God has taught you through that and your experience through that. So would you share with us an experience that you’ve had about getting knocked down and what the healing process was like for you?

Emily Felgenhauer: 10:43

Yes. So I was at my first church, in the Daytona area for three years, and was doing great was doing great at that church, we had tripled the amount of students in that amount of time that I was there. Our parent program was huge. We had gotten a Daytona Beach area, youth ministers network started while I was there, that meant monthly support was great. That was when I was in YMI were those two years, it was really, really powerful. I, I really, I really thought that that was going to be where I was staying, because my family was over there, and all that kind of stuff. And then, unbeknownst to me, I was brought in by the staff parish committee, and told that they were giving me six weeks to find a new job. And that I was I was going to be let go. And that was beyond devastating. It was very, very hard. Just a very, very tough, I was told, I, you know, I learned a lot of lessons at that time I was 25 years old, I was still figuring out who I was as a person. I mean, I listen, I’m 35 still trying to figure this lesson out. But at the time, I, I, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I was faced with that in this conversation that I was playing favorites with families. And that that was really difficult on students and parents. And I had kind of like a poor attitude that was happening around the church staff, I was having some difficulties with some other staff people. And I had been late a few times to work. And that was a really important thing. And so those are, those are things that I was given some warnings on. But it I I was not aware that this decision was coming to play. When I was told that I had six weeks to find a new job. And they were very willing, it was during the summer. So they wanted me to continue to do ministry by going on mission trips that had already been planned to help with programming help get them off their feet after I left. And in return, they were going to allow me to do all the interviews I needed to do during that time to find a new job, whether it was going to be with a church, whether it was going to be long distance, anything like that. And so that was kind of the caveat of giving the six weeks. And in that six weeks time, we were also it was I was asked to keep it a secret. So I couldn’t share any of that information with any of my friends and my family. Well, in the church, my personal family knew. Um, so that was, that was huge. And so I apply, so I called Steve Schneeberger. schnee love him,

Brian Lawson: 13:53

which is our executive director,

Emily Felgenhauer: 13:55

and I called Kathy Rexroad, who was my coach for YMI and just just FYI, I had just graduated from YMI in April, and this happened in June, this was a couple months later, like talk about ultimate failure, you’re like, I just got certified. And, you know, the church just paid for me to go through this. And here I am being let go. I mean, like, talk about, you know, and and the question got brought up in this in this conversation of me being letting go, um, are you maybe you need to analyze if you’re really called into ministry. And that was, I mean, it was just, it was such a devastating conversation. And so, I called Steve and I called Kathy and I told them what happened, and they were both floored, obviously, because I was not aware that this was coming either. And so I asked Steve, I was like, please send me all of the job descriptions, like all anywhere that you know, like Texas. I mean, I applied to Texas, I applied to every open job in Florida. I applied back in Illinois, Indiana. And I had several interviews. Well, anyways, one job that Steve told me that was available at in Florida, was Hyde Park, United Methodist in Tampa. And he said, but don’t go out for that position. You’re not going to get it they only hire well seasoned youth directors and you know you’re you’re probably not gonna I mean you can go out for but you’re probably not going to get it you will you know you’ve only been in ministry three years and just got fired. Don’t don’t go out for this so you know me being the the smart cookie that I was at the time I was like, I’m applying to everything girlfriend needs a job. And it was by Kiersten This is on it. This is honestly, this is awesome. I’m curious, and I were super tight, obviously. And so I was like, Oh, she’s in St. Pete. I’ll you know be in Tampa Lola. So I applied and I did several interviews for a lot of churches and literally two days. Two days before my last day at this church in Daytona. I was hired at Hyde Park. And churches don’t work fast. And this was like, within like a five week span. I had done several interviews, and I got hired at Hyde Park. So I gotta tell you that phone call to Steve Schneeberger?

Kirsten Knox: 16:24

I bet you called him back to tell him like

Emily Felgenhauer: 16:29

so I called Steve and I was like, guess who got the position at Hyde Park? And he was like, You are kidding me, Emily. I never would have bought it. Like so anyways. Yeah. So yeah. And you know, for those of you who don’t know, Hyde Park Hyde Park, has has been a large congregation, and they had conference for the United Methodist Church in Florida. And and it really honestly felt like a Cinderella story to me, like rags, rags to riches in a sense of just feeling like not worthy. And not good enough. And, and also, I had mistakes like, I was not, it wasn’t like I was some victim. I mean, I had some learning to do. And then this church was like, well, we’ll, we’ll take you and we’ll train you to be a leader. And anyways, 11 years later,

Brian Lawson: 17:26

you’re still there

Emily Felgenhauer: 17:27


Brian Lawson: 17:30

So I’m curious. Man, that question of Are you sure you’re even called to ministry in the midst of that moment? How did going to Hyde Park and and getting that position which Steve had told you probably wouldn’t be able to get how did that reaffirm or or challenge that statement that that was made to you about your call to ministry?

Emily Felgenhauer: 17:58

I think it goes back to my dorm room. And that Holy Spirit moment. I mean, I’ve had, I’ve had a few in my life, like maybe three. And that was a huge, powerful moment. And I knew in that moment that it was me and God in my senior year college, like I was praying to Him and I said, God, I’ve made mistakes at this time I had already gotten. Listen, I am. My story is crazy. I had already been suspended from college. I was, anyways, I drank when I wasn’t supposed to Lola. And so I was like I am, I am a unfit person to lead ministry. And I just felt like God was saying, girlfriend, do you not see all of the people in the Bible? Y’all are screwed up all of you. So, um, but I will say my first year at Hyde Park, I went to counseling for a year, because I was really dealing with failure and just fear of connecting with people because it was such a huge loss to, to, to say goodbye to those families who I had grown so close to and so um, I mean, it took it took time to heal, for sure. Yeah,

Kirsten Knox: 19:19

yeah. And being able, I just think of God’s goodness, when you share that. And I remember walking through some of that with you. And so here and you tell him tell the story just puts me back in those moments, but I think about God’s goodness, and making that calling such a moment for you that was preparing you for what was to come right in moments when it gets hard and moments, not only if I question it, but someone questions that, to me, like being able to do that and just the goodness of God in that moment. And then the courage that you had to be able to apply for Hyde Park, I think, right, that’s courageous in the moment. I mean, you talk about in a sense of handy to jobs I’m applying everywhere. But I still think it’s such a statement of courage to be able to do that. Particularly when someone you admire and been in ministry for a long time says I think that’s probably not a good idea. So I just love that as part of Your story, those themes that you see.

Brian Lawson: 20:16

Yeah, I also think it’s important for people to remember don’t don’t say no for other people, right? I mean, put it out there and let them say no. So I mean, you don’t need to say no, it’s for them. So I love that is great. I think that’s a that’s a chunk of wisdom there for people to hold on to. For sure. Yeah.

Kirsten Knox: 20:34

And Emily, you talked about going to counseling and working through the grief and that healing process? And I wonder, even today, are there? Are there ways that that experience still affects the way you do ministry? Or maybe not? In some moments, though, your thought process like how does that still affect you today? Or does it still affect you?

Emily Felgenhauer: 20:54

It’s funny, I, I still carry this fear of getting fired again, which could happen. I mean, this is, there is no guarantees in anything. But you know, anytime that I make a mistake, I usually call my supervisor and I’m like, oh, you might have to, you might be getting phone calls about this, I’m so sorry. Or like, you know, if I’m being told by my supervisor, or pastor like, these are some things that we need you to work on and get coached on. I take it very seriously. Like, it’s not something where I’m like, Oh, well, you know, what, like, no, it’s very serious, because I know what the consequences have felt like, and uprooting myself and the devastation of of leaving very quickly, a ministry because they were told on a Sunday that I was leaving, and I was gone by Wednesday. So that’s how quickly that transition happened for those families. So they didn’t get a huge, proper goodbye. And also at the time, I wanted to set up the next person up for success, and the person who did succeed me is still there. So you know that that was important, too, is I didn’t want to bad mouth, my situation either.

Kirsten Knox: 22:16

Now which show right and those moments, you understand that and want to do that, but also that just takes the last self control because it’s painful, and walking through that. And then at Hyde Park, you’ve had multiple supervisors, right in your time there. How does this experience and thinking about getting a new supervisor I would imagine that is then again, another wave of emotion of happening to navigate that as you go through those changes, what have you learned about changing supervisors,

Emily Felgenhauer: 22:42

yeah, changing supervisors, it’s not Yeah, great wisdom and advice as you walk through that. What have easy. So you get comfortable Finally, you get in a groove with somebody, and then, you know, they move on, or they they go up the ladder, or you know, whatever have you. And that has been challenging. And I think what I’ve learned is the first year of any kind of change, whether it’s, you’ve changed a job, whether you’ve changed a supervisor, the first year is just going to stink, it’s not going to be wonderful. And so knowing that it’s there’s going to be uncomfortable moments and knowing that it’s important to communicate, communicate your needs, communicate the things that you really like about what they’re doing, how they’re supervising you. You know, remember, and YMI they always talked about leading up and you have to communicate to your supervisor what works and doesn’t work. And so it’s been hard. I’ve had some tough years, like my old supervisor, not my current one. She and I had a really tough first year when she came to Hyde Park. And she left and like, I mean, it was she, she ended up marrying me when I when I did get married. We were so close. We’re still very close. So relationships can change. You just got to give it some time. you learned about getting back up? So you talk to us a lot about the getting knocked down? And what’s that? Like? And I feel like for me, I have felt that as you have told that story, and I imagine that for our listeners, is that such a story that resonates even if it’s not that same story, but the emotions of that but what have you learned about getting back up? So getting back up I think takes me mirror of being really honest with yourself of what what got you here? How did you participate in getting you down it wherever situation you’re in? And you’re you’re welcome. And my thing is, is like I tell myself, girl, you’re welcome to have a pity party, but we’re not gonna stay down here long. Like you can have it. You can go there you call your best friend and you have that pity party. But then we then we got to move, we can’t stay there. So getting back up, I think takes time of what feeds my soul. Like what are things that really inspire me to be better to do better? To get out of a nasty headspace, for me, it’s Disney music. I know. It’s pathetic. I’m 35 like girlfriend, but it’s true.

Brian Lawson: 25:26

Disney’s in our house a lot so that we’re not looking down on you. We had Disney Resort TV on our Spotify playlist last night. But you have children, Brian. But no, this wasn’t for them. It was for my wife and I let’s be real.

Kirsten Knox: 25:39

Brian’s like, Yeah, when you talk about the Disney, yes.

Emily Felgenhauer: 25:43

And you know, getting outside and walking, I’m not a huge like, gym, gym person, I don’t really enjoy it. I mean, I’ve done it, blah, blah, but I really enjoy walks. So going out and walking and getting fresh air getting new perspective. You know, getting in your Bible really like getting a good devotional, whether it’s from the Bible app, whether it’s literally just opening up scripture, having quality prayer time, which is also what I do when I walk, and how to get back up is a process. And there’s a lot of patience that you need with yourself, and know that it takes time to grow, you don’t grow overnight. And it’s it’s really letting the spirit lead you into the new way that that God’s taking you.

Brian Lawson: 26:39

So requires a lot of bravery. I mean, I think whenever you’re facing those situations, going into those unknowns about yourself and about where you’re going, whatever that looks like. And not knowing where the destination is, can be can be scary for a person who’s questioning their call. I can just imagine, you question that, because you’re asking the question or because someone else asked you the question. You don’t know where you’re going to land on that answer. And that’s, that can be a scary a scary thought. You mentioned that you had to sort of really become self aware about the parts that you needed to own in the process. How did you figure out what those parts were? Because I think it’s easy just to be down on yourself, and then name a lot of things that maybe aren’t really completely you. But then the opposite is true, a person can take no ownership. So how do you find you know, what really is? Okay, these are the parts I should grow in? How did you do that? Or how would you recommend somebody going about learning that about themselves?

Emily Felgenhauer: 27:39

Well, I think you have to look at the stages of grief. I mean, that’s really what you’re going through, you’re going through grief. And part of that is being defensive. And you know, in the very beginning when something happens to us, and we get knocked down. Whose fault, is it? Because it’s certainly not mine. You know, I think you I think you got to go there. And then it’s, it’s really, who do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with? Yes, people? Or do you surround yourself with people who do challenge you? And that you can ask those hard questions with and, you know, kearson, I’ve been friends for so long that oftentimes, you know, I would even ask your son like, what, what do I need to learn from this? Like, what or I think, I think hearing from a loving person, and asking those hard questions from someone who has good communication skills, who can do what I call the Oreo, where they can say, like, Emily, you’re so great at these things. Maybe there’s some ways that you can work on this stuff in the middle. And then but don’t forget, you are a child of God. You know what I mean? Like, having some beers is pretty good. So good at that, yes. But I think it’s really important to have those people in your life to help you recognize and then when you hear things, to really take that to heart, and to say I want to grow, I don’t want to stay stuck. And I don’t want to be a victim. And I want to be somebody that other people can look up to. And I want to be an instrument of God.

Brian Lawson: 29:17

Yeah. Yeah, I think, you know, hopefully you have those friends like that. But I know not everybody does. I know one of the big shows we hear a lot about is youth or children’s ministers struggling to make friends outside the congregation that they serve, which creates its own challenges. So hopefully you have friends like that. But but if you don’t I you know, tell our listeners that this is where a great counselor can come in, come into play or, or some sort of professional coach or something. This is where you can see those sorts of avenues if you especially if you don’t have those friends that you feel like are good at the Oreo. Yeah. So

Kirsten Knox: 29:53

Emily, when you talked about getting back up, you named four things that I think are just pivotal for us and I want to recap those. One is the self awareness right and having the ownership of your situation. And the second one, identifying things that are life giving for you and that is inspiring those coping skills as well as just what helps move you forward. Then having patience. And then the fourth one was healthy growth takes time of those four, which one do you say for you just innately is easier of those steps and which one is more challenging for you.

Emily Felgenhauer: 30:27

So I would definitely say that challenging is patience. I am not good at that. I’m so not good at that. And God continues to put situations in my life, to try to help me to do patients, it’s so hard. Um, but I would say probably the thing that I go to the most. And that’s easiest is how to get back up. I’m an enneagram. Seven, if anybody is into the enneagram. And the shadow side of the first of all, the enneagram. Seven is an enthusiast I love to be enthusiastic and have fun. That’s where that’s my sweet spot. But the shadow side of that is pain. You really do not want to sit in pain, it is painful to be in pain. So Oh, I think my easy one is to figure out how to get out of pain, which is the coping mechanisms what what can get me out of the rut?

Brian Lawson: 31:27

Well, that’s excellent. And we thank you so much for sharing for your story, because I know you hear somebody feel like I hear all the time of people losing their, their their ministry jobs, whether they were let go. Or maybe it was even just a financial decision of the of the church and those kind of things. And so I know, there’s a lot of people who go through this kind of this similar types of situations in those transitions, so

Kirsten Knox: 31:53

I just think it resonates, right. Like it just resonates on many levels, professionally, as well as I think personally, as you think about as Emily shared about what she has learned and how she moves through that it’s not you can apply that on all different situations that you face. And I think that is just very valuable. And it’s good to be reminded, especially in this season, when I think we’ve faced a lot of uncertainty, it’s been a hard season, a season of grieving. And you can even use these as we continue to navigate this pandemic, and what does that look like and taking care of yourself emotionally, which is very helpful. I have one last question for you. How has this learning these things of how to get back up or even just the experience of getting knocked down? How has that been valuable for you in your life.

Emily Felgenhauer: 32:45

So you know, the story that I shared with you, there was a happy ending. And that is not always the case when we get knocked down. And that is not always Everyone’s story. And, to that I’ve had several things in my personal life that have been devastating. In the last several years, I did get married. And within my marriage, I had three miscarriages, and had to learn a lot about about grief in that way, about loving something and hoping and being so excited. And then it being taken away and taken away and taken away. And learning. What if my life doesn’t include this picture that I so badly wanted. And then after that, I went through a divorce. So your picture changed again. And that also has been a devastating journey. I’m, I’m almost, I’m almost a year out from having separated from my ex husband. And what I know, even though I’m still going through the healing process of that divorce, that what I’ve learned from my miscarriages that have been a little more separated year wise, is that time does really heal. And it’s okay to still have moments of mourning. And it’s okay to still have hoped for a different outcome. But the thing is, is that I know who holds my future. And that comfort is undeniable. And knowing that, that I belong to God, and that he has chosen me to be in such a time as this, and why in the world did I have to go through all of that stuff. And I know that it’s going to be a part of my testimony, it’s going to be a part of, you know, it may not be a Cinderella story, much like my job situation was 11 years ago, but I know that I still feel loved and I know that God has shown up for me in big ways this past year. And, and he’s going to continue to and so there’s a lot of hope in that but I would say for those who are in In the midst of real knocked down, whether it’s career wise, whether it’s personal, that it’s okay to be to be feeling very emotional, it’s okay to feel defeated. But to do everything that you know when your power to not stay there, and whether it’s a counselor, whether it’s a friend, find the things that gets you up, and just know that God loves you unconditionally, and that you are not alone. And that he is walking with you, and he does see your heart and He is with you.

Brian Lawson: 35:52


Kirsten Knox: 35:53

I love that so powerful. And I hear you just talking about leaning into your identity and our identity in Christ in those moments and what hope and power comes from that. So what ever you are facing the power of your identity in Christ. It’s just really that bedrock that we can stand on that firm foundation no matter what. so powerful. Thank you, Emily, so much for coming and sharing your story and having just helping us learn through you and what you have experienced, but also the courage and, and the wisdom that you have shown today. We really appreciate that and grateful for

Emily Felgenhauer: 36:29

Well, thanks for inviting me.

Brian Lawson: 36:30

Yeah, absolutely. All right. So we’ve got some questions that that we try to answer questions at the end of every episode, a couple of them, we got two specific things we’re going to focus on. So Emily, if you’re willing to stick around and talk through these with us, the three of us will try to give some answers to these. Let’s start with the first one that we received from Connor, was how do you use food in your ministry? At which events? Do you feed your students? Do parents make the food? Do you bring it in from a restaurant? And then finally, you know, how is COVID changed the use of food within your ministry? I don’t know about you guys. But my default answer prior to COVID was always yes to food, if you can afford it. I mean, that was just like default, I would find a way to put some kind of food in the room. Because Well, we all like a good like good food. So I don’t know, what do you guys think? How has that changed? And what are you guys doing now? How do you determine whether to bring food or not?

Kirsten Knox: 37:35

I would say I mean before COVID, right? Like food? I always Yes. I mean, if you can put it in there, right? Brian, I’m like you there’s something about breaking bread together that just builds community posts. COVID are in the middle of COVID. That has been a challenge, I missed that part. And we started going back in person in the last couple months and doing that differently, but finding ways to do that creatively. And for us meal, we did a meal together every week together. And we’re smaller youth group and our parents would bring that in each week, they would sign up for a different, different sign up for a different week to bring the meal. And we would do that. And we have not been doing that that is something that has, we’ve taken that out of our schedule. So justed what we do during this season, so I missed that piece of people bringing that in. And I will have to say in small small groups, we have done some where our high schoolers have met and had a meal together or done something. So we’ve done that more out than people bringing in in. And that has been helpful, but I do I missed that piece. One season when I worked at a church, they we had a commercial sized kitchen. And we had someone on staff that did the food and hospitality. And so that was easy, because you’re like then I just don’t have to order pizza. Right. And we were a size that people bring in it in would have been difficult. So that was a blessing. We enjoyed that piece. But I would say yeah, now we try. We’ve cut that out of most of our weekly programming, and missed that piece.

Emily Felgenhauer: 39:09

Yeah, I would say for our youth ministry, we always had food, we had bags of chips pack wider. And then like for actual programming, we bring in food to you on a flat KFC coming would have to like pay $5 to eat, you know, and then we’d always have candy at the end that we would hand out for we would do a challenge and at the end, and if the kid voted correctly, they got candy, which is the only thing we’re currently doing now when we do get in person which is once a month. We don’t have any food. We ask them to bring their own water bottles, but we do hand out candy at the end as they’re leaving. Because then you know, why not? They’re going home.

Brian Lawson: 39:59

That’s right. Yeah, I mean, I think that if it’s not if it’s not necessary, there’s no reason to expose your leaders or yourself or your students to COVID just because you feel like you have to have food at your event. So if you know if the students have had dinner before, after or they’re going to have it shortly After your programming, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have food right now in this season, give it like, like Emily said, or Kristen give it to them to take to go like take home with them or something. But if you’re at a church that’s struggling with a budget to, to have snacks for your children or your youth, particularly in youth ministry, we always had a snack bar because we had a really low budget for the number of students we had. I mean, significantly low. And so we had to find other ways to, to fund it. So we we had a snack bar, because we had students from 130 till eight o’clock. So we had him for almost seven hours. And so they were hungry, obviously. But but that snack bar actually, even though we charge next to nothing funded our visitor gifts, and it funded, I mean, some of the games we did, you can charge the minimum price and still have a little extra money there that you can invest back into the ministry. So I think short answer is probably avoid food right now give it to impact as a take. But we all believe in food whenever we can do that again. Yeah. Okay. The last, the last question we’re going to hit this time is not necessarily a single question. But I think it’s all over the Facebook groups. I’ve seen it everywhere. And I’ve heard people asking what what are we doing for Lent this year? If you’re at a church that that participates in Ash Wednesday, in the season of Lent, what are your guys’s thoughts on how people could do that this year and isn’t even relevant, really, this year? Any thoughts?

Emily Felgenhauer: 41:49

So for my church, you were kind of traditional that where we actually still have Ash Wednesday, and we do recognize Lent, for the liturgical year, and so we are still primarily online, I mean, we have in person services underneath a white tent on Sunday mornings, that maybe 40 people are coming to. But online, we can have over 1000 views on a Sunday morning, live with us. So with that, what we’re doing is we’re going to have a drive by come up and get ashes on your head on Ash Wednesday. And then we’re going to have a family kit that they can take home with them that will have devotions that they can do as a family together activities that they can explain to their children and youth about what is Lent, why are we doing it? And primarily, the purpose of it is to let go of something, which is the season right now of COVID. What are some things that we need to continue to let go up to remember God, and then what are something that we want to add to our life in order to get closer to God. So it’s really right now about building our parents up, to set them up for discipleship at home with our children and youth.

Brian Lawson: 43:08

That’s great. That’s great. I love that.

Kirsten Knox: 43:11

Yeah, and I love just giving them the tools to be able to do that. I think glint hits us just at a perfect time. And where we are in the pandemic, I was sharing the other day that I just feel like the new year, I just have this energy right here, like it just naturally comes. And this blondeness that I have felt has been odd for this season. And then thinking about Lent, perfect time for me to think back through what are things that I want to add and take away to help me in during the season, but also to give some life giving in places. So that has been just think for us to think about is comes at a great time. Like, I feel like in the beginning of the pandemic, I did a much better job of doing the things I needed to do to get through this. And then I’ve kind of let that lacks, though, horribly, some of my emotional blindness is I need to do that. So like, do those things that I think remit lent reminds me of that. And I love that idea of just doing it with your family. And then because ashes are gonna be different for a lot of people doing that this year.

Brian Lawson: 44:18

Yeah, I think lent this year could potentially be significant for, for people in a way of remembering and acknowledging mortality in ways that we never had before. Because I think that that’s something that as a society, in a world, we’re all acknowledging, at a deeper level than we ever have in our entire lives. And so that could be a significant focus of Lent this season for your church, I would say try to line up your ministry with whatever the church as a whole is doing. So if there’s any way that you can line up your teaching, or your focus with what the pastor is doing would be very beneficial to the families. And I also wonder if if you’re at a church that has the capacity or the ability, if putting out some short, very short 32nd two minute half videos, on reflecting on these things of Lent would wouldn’t be beneficial that you can put in your Instagram stories in those sorts of things, just to put it on the forefront of the minds of your of your teenagers and families. But yeah, those are great suggestions. Thank you all so much, Emily, thank you for sharing your time with us and your story and your heart. I know it was meaningful to our listeners, and I know they got a lot out of it. Friends, I’d like to remind you, as always, if you have questions, please feel free to send them into or post them on our Facebook group, the Making Sense of Ministry Facebook group. And if you’re in need of coaching or you want some support, we we have short, short cohorts that we launch on a regular basis. We also have coaching, individual personalized coaching that we hope you will consider. And until next time, friends, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.