12: On Re-engaging Students, Balancing A Hybrid Ministry Model, Difficult Students, And More!

Episode 12 of the Making Sense of Ministry Podcast
 

In this episode, Steve Schneeberger joins Brian and Kirsten to discuss your questions! These questions include re-engaging students and families, difficult students, balancing a hybrid ministry model, new pastors, and more! We also announce the winner for our giveaway.

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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: 0:13

Welcome to Episode 12 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. I’m here with the wonderful and only Kirsten Knox and the incredible Steve Schneeberger, welcome, guys.Kirsten Knox: 0:29

Hey, Brian.Steve Schneeberger: 0:31

Hey, Brian, how’s it going?Brian Lawson: 0:32

Good. Good. We are back together. Today we’re going to talk about some of your questions that you sent us and maybe share our opinions and our experiences and, and you can do with you with them what you want and what you will. We personally think they’re great ideas, but we’ll let you decide. Before we get started, we’ve got a little message from our sponsor that Pearson is going to share with us.Kirsten Knox: 0:55

Here at the making sense of ministry podcast, we don’t shy away from tough questions, and we don’t think you should either. Questions are a sign of growth, and it’s a way easier to hear God’s answers when others join us asking those very same questions. That’s why I’m excited for today’s sponsor, the social hub for all your spiritual dilemmas in questions is only a click away with our friends at BeADisciples.com, head over to their website and scroll through their affordable ecumenical accredited, short term online courses, all taught by content experts out there, you’ll be in company of others, where it’s safe to discuss hard questions, if you have questions and are looking to grow, and enroll in the course today and ask away at BeAdisciple.comBrian Lawson: 1:45

Thank you for that Kirsten so we announced the giveaway back in Episode 10. I believe. So it’s been a few weeks, and we we’re gonna we’re gonna give away Kirsten?Kirsten Knox: 1:56

Yes, we have a gift card, a $30 gift card to Amazon that we’re giving away. For those of you who sent in questions, we drew names today. We’re excited to give that away to Reverend Kate Kennedy from New Hampshire. All right. Congratulations. Yes, then Kate, we will send you an email with all the information and your gift card.Brian Lawson: 2:19

Yeah, excellent. And this is why it pays to listen to the Making Sense ministry podcast because you don’t know we might literally pay you Who knows?Kirsten Knox: 2:28

WinningBrian Lawson: 2:29

Friends just so you know, I hope you’re a part of our making sense ministry Facebook group, because next week, we do have a surprise coming there for you. Just as a way to say thank you both for listening, but also for the ministry that you lead and serving. So if you’re not part of our Facebook group making sense of ministry, you need to join today so you don’t miss out on surprise next week. Alright guys, are we ready to dig into some of our questions that we received. Yes, yeah, let’s do it. Alright, so we received a lot of great questions. And if we don’t get to yours today, we will try to get to it and maybe Episode 13 or 14. And also, I’d encourage you to send keep sending those questions to podcast@yminstitute.com. Because the reality is, if you’re facing a situation, or you have a question, I would imagine somebody else out there is facing something similar. And they and they need somebody to ask as well. So I hope you will, we’ll do that you’ll send us those and we’ll do giveaways again in the future. And maybe we’ll do them without telling you because that’s fun. All right. So let’s let’s get started here. I there’s these were so good. So let’s start with with Sarah. So this was from Sarah, and she has to really kind of big, but good questions. The second one I connected with on a personal level. And I don’t know if I have a good answer, but I connect with on personal level. So here’s here’s what she wrote. Here’s something I’ve been struggling with. Digging Deeper when students don’t want to. I have a group of middle school kids that seem hungry to learn, have questions and really seem to be thinking about our lessons. My high schoolers, though, seem resistant to wanting to dig deeper to grow. And it’s frustrating. So how do I encourage them to go further? Or how do I learn to be okay with a thought that they may never get there? So we’re really kind of looking at how we’ve got two groups of students, one who want to grow, and one who seem to not want to? How do you work with those two different groups? And is it appropriate at times to just accept where they’re at? Or should we always be pushing them to grow? I think it’s being asked what do you guys think?Steve Schneeberger: 4:42

I wish Sarah were here with us. We could ask her some more questions about our situation. Now I wonder if those two groups of kids are in the same group if she’s doing a lesson with all of them in the same room. So the middle schoolers are going deep in the high schoolers or not that would kind of turns the tables from what usually we experience because it’s more difficult if they’re all in the same group, right? They’re in different groups, it’s a little bit easier, I think, different groups, you take them where they’re at and move them forward. And, and so that’s, that’s frustrating when you have an older group of kids that you think should be deeper, but aren’t but but I think, meeting them where they’re at, and trying to ask pertinent questions that would allow them to, to maybe think deeply about something, but maybe just being with them, is what they need right now.Kirsten Knox: 5:42

Yeah, I think that to know the clarification, right? Like if they’re together, teaching or not, so I think I would, first I would say, if they’re together, I would think about strategies of teaching them separately, so that you can meet where they are. But when I heard this question, what I thought about was another question, but what does it look like to go deeper? And I think oftentimes, when I first read that I think about small groups or Bible study, right, sitting and talking and thinking about a topic or scripture and thinking about that some students may learn differently, and do learn differently. So thinking about what intrinsically motivates them? Where are those? Where are they those? That’s the question I would ask, and, like, would they be motivated to do serving? And I can use that as the jump board to go deeper with him? Or his community? What is driving them, but to think about, where are they? What motivates them? And how can I use that, to help go deeper, because I think particularly with this generation, some songs, sitting around and just talking can be difficult for them, depending, especially on the group dynamics affect that a lot. So there may be some desires to go deeper that you’re not seeing because of that. So are there some more active ways that you can help them grow deeper in discipleship? discipleship can look differently than just being in a small group and talking about it?Brian Lawson: 7:06

Yeah, that that term deeper, I think, is tough sometimes, because what does that mean? Really? Yeah. And I think we use a lot sometimes, because we’re not sure exactly what we mean. Sometimes, I think, for some people deeper might mean, a better conversation where we’re talking about things of greater significance. For others, I think deeper might mean, theologically deeper, and we’re talking about things that are bigger in scope and picture, and maybe harder to comprehend others that might be more historical facts about the Bible. So deeper, I think, is a little bit of a of a word that is not entirely clear. So. So I wonder, Sarah, for you? What do you mean by deeper? And what is it your ultimate goal is that you’re wanting you’re wanting conversation more? At which point, I think, you know, like the other two have said that, considering whether you’re together or separate, maybe something you need to think about? And also, is the group a type of a group that needs to be moving around? I mean, some people will talk better when their hands are doing something, whereas others will not. And so those are all all considerations that that I think need to be thought through. And how about this? Is it okay to accept a student who doesn’t want to go deeper? And how do you how do you get to the point where you’re okay with that?Kirsten Knox: 8:30

I would say yes, um, that’s hard for me to say yes, because I think it’s hard to accept it. And it’s hard to be in that space. But I really think they get to just drive the direction of their spiritual growth, and that they get to be in the driver’s seat of that. So even though I wish they would want different things there and be in a different space, if I don’t give them space to sit where they sit, then possibly that could be harmful to them. And I think you can give them space to sit there and accept that as well as always providing opportunities for them to move in a different direction. So I don’t want to be hopeless about it. Right. Like, they’re just never gonna get it or that because I think that’s a dangerous place to be. But I think they get to drive that. And then I’m going to provide opportunities and encourage them to walk through that and let them make those decisions.Brian Lawson: 9:26

Yeah.Steve Schneeberger: 9:28

I like that as well. I’d one more thought in terms of a strategy, though, if I could go back just Just a second. I think a simple strategy occurred to me when Kirsten was talking, and then you reaffirmed it, Brian, when you were saying a few things. So Sarah, I think a simple strategy is changing up where you’re meeting with them, doing something just a little bit different. Sometimes knocking folks off balance, helps them engage in a different way. I’ve taken You know, I’ve met kids at a cemetery before and, and done a devotional and experience there, you don’t have to go and do that you can actually just, you know, find a different room in the church building or a different space outside, as many people are meeting outside, and maybe you decorate it differently, or you put something in there that kind of draws people’s attention. And it’s, it goes with your particular lesson. So, so maybe take a little bit more creatively about visually what you’re doing with with your group that might help as well. Yeah, excellent.Kirsten Knox: 10:36

And when talking, the other thing I thought about was changing up just your agenda could also be helpful, right? Because they get kind of in this routine of flow of the night, and there’s some advantages there. But in this situation, I think there could be advantages of shifting that up. And you might find that they’re more open to conversation in a different space. And in that agenda, and I also thought about, what are they struggling with, and what is stressing them out? If I’m looking for places for them to think different, and I’m looking at that conversation, kind of understand where they are, there might help generate just some of those conversations more naturally.Brian Lawson: 11:12

Yeah, it’s like a consistent for me, it’s a consistent attempt to inspire them to want to, to desire to discover more. And, and to recognize, it helped me to recognize that not everybody’s in a place to want to do that, for whatever reason at that time. But if I’m there, and I’m consistently making an effort that at some point in time, that they’ll probably hit something in our life that that makes them want to go deeper in something, or different, to think differently, or more deeply about something. And so that helped me to say, yeah, maybe this student just isn’t at that place right now. But who knows, maybe something in their life is going to cause them to think about something in a in a broader, more significant way. And so I’ll try to be there to inspire that when that time comes. So that’s, it’s a great question, Sarah. I think a lot of people deal with that on in different ways, in different times. But she also has something else, which I think was was pretty good to set also had a had a new middle school students show up to our our first youth group back in person. When I learned he was interested in tending my immediate reaction was not a positive one. Which Sarah, I don’t think you’re alone on that one. I think we’ve all been there before. Yeah. She said, I had his older sister and group for a year and follow them both on social media, I see things that immediately make me cringe political, post poor language, strong opinions that don’t necessarily draw jive with Christian living. They’re outspoken, and this middle school boy is especially known to speak without a filter. So let’s talk about how we deal with students we don’t necessarily want to deal with how do we as leaders view each child as a child of God?Steve Schneeberger: 12:57

Yeah, Sarah, I may be the wrong one that answer this question for you. Because I love kids like that. It’s just like, those kids walk into my youth group. And I think, oh, there’s a challenge, this will be fun, you know, and trying to engage them in ways trying to affirm them. And basically, I’m trying to win them in a weird sort of way. So that it’s the competitive nature of me that maybe kicks in. But it’s also there’s this in the back of my mind, I think, well, this kid may need what I have to offer more than all the rest of the kids in the room. So I need to work a little bit harder here. And I understand, I mean, I’ve had kids that have been really, really super difficult, and that we’ve had to put on plans, you know, in terms of their behavior and all that stuff. And it’s challenging. But, you know, some of the greatest stories can come out those relationships, where were they, those kinds of kids get it, or, you know, later on in life, have some breakthroughs. And you feel like you’ve been part of that process with them. As they, as they, you know, ultimately, God’s who wins them over. So we’re just facilitating that arrangement. So yeah,Brian Lawson: 14:18

Sometimes I wonder to what’s what is driving the things that that bother you the most? Or, you know, maybe maybe there’s reasons for it that are that you just don’t know, and don’t see. You know, I had a student once, who was the guy in the room who was always really funny. You know, you know, that person who always jokes around, which is great, brings lots of energy to the group. And when I needed the game to be fun, he was the go to guy to make it fun. But sometimes for me, that was very difficult when I was trying to actually shift this to a moment of focus or seriousness. And what I discovered as I got to know him is that whenever he was being funny, particularly funny, it actually was an expression of significant depression and other issues he was dealing with it, he didn’t know how to deal with. So the humor was was really wasn’t, was it was a cover so that others didn’t really see. So sometimes I also think that the behavior that drives us nuts, we need to try to remember that it may actually be a symptom of something else.Kirsten Knox: 15:25

And Sarah, I would first say it’s, I just like your courage to ask the question. I think that’s a hard question to ask, because sometimes we don’t want to admit that or we feel guilty about that. So I say, thank you for asking that question. And really just acknowledging that because I think there are those students that are particularly challenging for us. For me, that is when that student then it affects the environment, the dynamic of the whole group, and it’s hard to move like Brian, you were talking about, because of some of that behavior is challenging. And what I have found that has been helpful for me is to do the I don’t know if you’ve heard of the empathy map, but I don’t write it all out. But I just kind of do it in my head. So those things would be to think about, what are they hearing? What are they seeing? What are they thinking, what are they feeling? And what are they doing? And what are they saying. And when I have a particularly hard student, I try to walk through that from their perspective, because it helps me have empathy for them. And that can shift how I interact with them. But it also can help me give them a lot of grace in those situations, and maybe even see some themes. And when you do all of that, like some things will come out, and then it will help you connect with them in a different way. But also think as this is happening as a middle school student, then there’s a lot going on in his environment, or her environment, right. And so to recognize that at such a young age, I think is helpful. And then but also say it’s okay to set boundaries, right? And have that conversation. If it gets really disruptive, then that’s a space you can move into with that student in a loving way. And that is also helpful. But those have been some strategies that have been helpful to me.Brian Lawson: 17:08

So Kiersten, when you set those boundaries? Who do you usually involve in that conversation? And how do you go about doing that?Kirsten Knox: 17:18

Usually, I would have that one on one with the student first. And have that conversation. And really probably try to listen first and understand where they’re at. And then set some boundaries of kind of here, when we’re here. Here are the expectations of how we talk to one another how we treat one another. And give them some of that. And then I’ve also had to, at some point, do that with a greater group. Because it just infected that so not singling that person out. But talking about as a group, hey, let’s revisit when we’re here, here are the expectations here are the standards, so that everyone’s together in that?Brian Lawson: 17:59

Do You Do you ever feel is necessary to pull in the parents in that conversation? Or to communicate that to them? Or At what point do you decide I need to make them aware,Kirsten Knox: 18:10

this is so funny, because there’s some of this that I’m dealing with right now in the youth group that I do part time. And I try not to my goal is not to involve the parents in light. Unless we get there, right? Like, we’re gonna try everything to manage that here. And to do some behavior modification in this space so that we don’t have to get there. And then we may, right, like that might happen. I have a group of boys that are very competitive. And when we play games, and there’s competition, the way they treat each other is just not okay. And we’ve had to shut down some games to be able to say, Hey, we just can’t play this anymore, after we have tried to navigate that differently in that as we were playing it. But we’ve had I’ve had conversations individually with students. Know, your original question to me was, when do you involve the parents, I think once we say, Hey, here’s where we are, I’m going to give them I’m going to tell them the process ahead of time. So I’m gonna be like, when this behavior happens, I’m going to give you a warning and allow you to self correct, right? If that doesn’t happen, then I’m going to ask you that take a seat and take a timeout a plane with so you can have some time to reflect and have some time to get yourself in a different space. And then you can rejoin us. And if that happens enough, then and they’re not able to do that, then the next step is that I would talk to the parents and have that conversation. But I don’t want them to be caught off guard. by that. I want them to know here are the steps. So I think it’s important to say when we have behavior problems, here’s the steps we’re going to navigate through so they know that process on the front end, because when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence, so they’re not caught off guard and then that also I think gives them some control and power in those situations.Brian Lawson: 19:48

Yeah, I think it helps to if you talk to the parents about positive things, also. So you know, anytime you can affirm the parents and their their kids, so that way if you ever have to have a question That’s not pleasant, they’re more apt to listen because you’ve already already been positive about their children in the first place. So I think that’s always a good thing. I do think there are times that you might have a student that pushes your buttons, that the student just knows how to push your buttons and just the right way, you know, probably, all my years of experience, I’ve had two or maybe three students that way that they just know how to get to me. And so for me, in those moments, I actually asked another adult leader who I had significant trust in to be the one to handle that. Student marami, you know, and I actually had assistant who helped me with that for a while, which was great. And that that worked is a good counterbalance. So if there’s just a student, who just knows how to push you just the right way, right away, I would say find an adult leader that you trust, who understand that you guys are on the same page of how to handle things, and have them handle that student. And in those ways, and maybe you’re not the one to disciple that student. I mean, maybe there’s somebody else, a small group leader, somebody who actually needs to be focused more on that student than you. And I think that’s appropriate and okay, because we all have people that know how to push us just the right way.Kirsten Knox: 21:13

Well, yes. And I think the important part, there’s a self awareness, right. It’s really important to have that self awareness, as a leader and then to walk through that. Yep.Brian Lawson: 21:21

All right. So our next one, this is from the Reverend Reverend Kate Kennedy, the winner today, she, she said, I’m wondering if you could talk about ways to lead a hybrid in person online youth ministry program, without at leadings Kids feeling out left out, or youth pastors feeling burned out? In my ministry setting, some parents are eager to have their kids attend in person programming, and are trying to reduce screen time. And others are not allowing their kids to attend anything other than virtual meetings or events. How do you recommend serving both populations without having the program feel kind of lackluster? Or splitting our energy or time too much? Thanks so much. Love the podcast! Hmm. This is a tough one. Let’s just be honest about that. Yes.Steve Schneeberger: 22:10

Yeah. Kate, I’m glad we gave you the gift card, because we may not be able to answer that one. That’s really, that’s really hard. I mean, we’re in a new paradigm right now and trying out new things. And we’re seeing youth pastors burning out and feeling discouraged all the time. And we’re here to encourage them. But yeah, when you’re doing a hybrid, when you have some people online, and some people in person, just by that nature, you’re you’re doing two different things. And they’re going to be two different experiences, and possibly two different results. And, and that’s, that’s, that’s so difficult, and it is difficult for everyone. You’re not alone there.Brian Lawson: 22:56

Yeah, my wife’s teaching, and she teaches in person. And she teaches virtual, and which means it is two different mindsets, it is to even though it’s the same objectives and outcomes, the lessons are vastly different, and the way you go about presenting them, so have four days in one world and have four days in the other, and where it wears out. So I mean, I think this is across the board. For a lot of us, I wonder if you were talking to you, this is I haven’t actually seen this, but I wonder if this would work is if you could if you had a leader who’s been around for a while, who understands the mission or purpose of your ministry, if they couldn’t take on the online portion of it. And then you oversee them. But their focus is the online portion or, or their focus is the in person, yours is the online. Like I wonder if you couldn’t find a trusted leader to try to do that. So you’re not as split. I don’t know what you guys think about that.Steve Schneeberger: 23:52

I know a church that is doing that. And and there are a larger church. So they have some staff that could that could take that but that could be a volunteer leader as well. And so one person is in charge of the all the in person stuff, and then one person is in charge of the online track. And, and so just by virtue of two different kinds of leaders, the experiences are going to be different. And and then everybody’s just said, Okay, we’re going to be okay with that. I think Kate that that’s the key here is that the experience is going to be different, no matter how you try to make it the same. It’s just it just can’t be the same. It’s it’s too difficult to do that. So maybe the advice is to give yourself permission to just have two different experiences and and be okay with that. And if you think about it, the way you worded your question, I think the way I understood it is that you know, parents and kids are choosing which experience they’ll have and and so they know what they’re getting into as well. And it’s not ideal. We all know that this is not an ideal situation, but it’s but we just I think I’m a firm believer in just doing the best that you can and, and leave the rest up to God and, and you’ll be okay.Kirsten Knox: 25:12

Yeah, I think it’s so hard right like what do we have said just a hard space to be in? I have seen when I heard this question I thought about a church that I’ve seen kind of navigate this well, and this has been their strategy. When pre COVID, they met on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, and then when COVID hit in, they had to go all virtual, they did the same, but what they watched was their Sunday morning participation really increase. And so when they have gone back to transitioning, they have transitioned to in person on Wednesday nights. But Sunday mornings, they have kept virtual. Because what they found was they had a lot of kids who wanted to engage, but Sunday mornings didn’t have transportation. And so they could do it online, and they would connect. So that’s kind of been how they’ve navigated going back. And for them that has worked very well, because those are programs that already had different experiences and different identities, right, different purposes. And so they kept those the same. So there’s some of that, that people, it’s familiar, but then kept those one in person and one virtual and their weekly programming. I thought that was I mean, it has worked well for them. So that’s been kind of cool to watch and be a part of, but I thought that was possibly a way to do that that would help you strategize that.Brian Lawson: 26:28

Yeah.Steve Schneeberger: 26:29

I like that care soon, because you’re identifying, you know, what’s working. So instead of like going out of from the, what’s not working angle, which sometimes we can get pretty I mean, I can get in that space pretty easily. But switching it around and saying, Okay, what what is working? What’s the piece that’s working? Let me really accentuate that. So I think that’s really helpful.Brian Lawson: 26:53

Yeah, I mean, really, we’re talking about to a realignment of what we see as successful. I mean, the word lackluster was really sticking with me. And I think that it’s easy for us to feel like all that we’re doing is sort of just mediocre. And maybe it is maybe this first season and maybe that’s the best we can do. Or maybe maybe it’s mediocre when we compare it to when we used to all be together. But that’s not it anymore. And so, so what, what would make us walk away feeling like it was successful? And so maybe thinking through what is it you really feel like needs to happen to be successful, if you can get out of the mindset of what was before and think about where we’re at now. And so I don’t know what that looks like, for for you Kate. But I would say that I think anytime you keep somebody connected at whatever level during this season is success. So anytime you can connect with them and make them feel connected is very successful right now. So I know that seems lackluster compared to what we used to what we do in normal times. But But I just feel like that is success right now. So next one. Thanks for the incentives. Whoo. How to engage families who have gotten out of the habit of church, and ministries because of COVID. And this, this particular question is asking for larger youth groups who have 500 plus youth on their on their roles. So I think we can answer this in two ways. So the the typical church, youth ministry, but then also how would a larger youth ministry handle this? How do we engage families who have gotten out of out of the habit of church?Steve Schneeberger: 28:36

I think it goes back to what you were just saying, Brian, we we recalibrate what our expectations are. So I think I think I know who asked this question. I think she’s a friend of ours.Brian Lawson: 28:49

And yeah this was Emily.Steve Schneeberger: 28:52

Yeah, and so yeah, Emily. Yeah, I totally understand where you’re coming from on this because I know your church know what, what you’re what you’re doing there. And. And so it’s Emily’s been there a while. So she’s had, you know, a level of expectation and success and what that looks like. And so, so you almost I think Emily almost have to wipe all that clean is so hard to do, because you feel like everybody else has the same expectation of you. And I don’t think that’s true. I think we fool ourselves when we think in this time that people have the same expectation as they did a year ago. And, and really, you know, all along all of us in our roles in our churches, were really in charge of defining what success looks like. And so that means you have to redefine it and recalibrate it, then you could do that individually. I think the best approach is to do that with a team of people and say, okay, what’s this going to look like moving forward and then and then when you’re frustrated, you’re measuring against something that’s, that’s new. So in this case, getting everybody back into the habit of coming back and being engaged. My first thought when I read the question was that it’s like this, like starting over again. It’s like you just got there for the first time. And which again, in your situation may be more difficult because you’ve been there a while, but it’s but if you remember that feeling when you got to a church, and oh, everything was new, and you just had to get a group of kids connected. But you didn’t know which kids it would be. You knew that you met these kids and you met their parents, and but you’re really not sure if those are the ones that are gonna stick or not. I mean, I think it’s that it’s, it’s just starting over in your mind from day one, and then rebuilding again. And being okay with that.Brian Lawson: 30:54

Yeah, absolutely. Steve, when you said get a group together, who what kind of, what kind of group? Are you thinking? Are you thinking? Like, church staff, supervisors? Are you thinking like leaders or parents? Like, when you think about that group? What do you think of would be a group to pull together?Steve Schneeberger: 31:10

Yeah, I think of a mix of people, you know, a couple of leadership kids, a couple of your volunteers, you know, folks that are that are extremely vested, and want to see something happen, but, but know that this is a different time. So I’m just talking them through about, okay, how do we revision what we’re doing here? and know what Emily, I’m imagine she’s done that already. So she’s got a group of people, but it but it goes to the, it goes to the metric piece, you know, how do we, how do we define success? We’ve defined success so often in youth ministry by the number of kids that are coming. And that’s I think that’s important, because those, get those numbers equal. Kids, like actual individuals, but, you know, sometimes we need to look at our online success, you know, what’s our engagement? You know, all those metrics that we’re using in social media stuff was, let’s start using those as a way to measure as well. And that way, it’s not so much as all the people that are coming back. It’s really we’re looking at all of the reach that we’re having throughout the community, not just in the people that we see face to face. So it is rethinking all of this.Kirsten Knox: 32:28

Yeah, yeah, I think that’s powerful, redefining what success is, and being able to do that, I love that. And the other part that I think about those teams, Steve, that you just speak about that is so helpful, is that you get to share the burden, right, this burden of this expectations have shifted this burden of people not being as connected or engaged as we would like them. That’s a heavy burden that as ministry leaders we carry, and having those people around, you’re going to help with this strategy, right, like you’re going to come up with the output. But I also think the real powerful please piece in there is just the sharing of that burden. And I’d also think about possibly adding to that team, if there are a couple of those families or parents or students that are disengaged, that have gotten out of the habit that you would like to get in the habit. If a couple of them could be on that team are one of them, then they speak from that perspective. And they help you understand that that person in that group of people in a different way than those who are connected and have stayed connected. And that might be another part of that strategy. That could be helpful.Brian Lawson: 33:32

Yeah, when I think about so this is Emily’s question, but not directly towards her situation at larger churches, but just smaller churches, for instance. I mean, let’s remember, what engagement is, in the first place. Engagement is really human connection. It’s like connecting to individuals. So if you’re in a smaller church, that’s easier, because you can just reach out one one at a time. And I think that’s appropriate and should happen. And it’s easier to get feedback to like, here’s like you’re talking about when it’s small church, when it’s a larger church, I think you have to have a systematic approach, you’ve got to come up with a system of how you’re going to do this. So first, starting with what is engagement, you know, look like for you, and what is it you’re seeking. And then I would say if I was if I was in Emily’s shoes, I think that I would probably break up geographic zones, I would probably say Where are people geographically and break it up into zones. And then I would try to make teams of people who focus in on zones. You know, some maybe two or three, my volunteers focus in on certain block radius, and I would actually map it out. I mean, and I would say, these are the students in this area. We need to engage with them somehow. And think creatively about how each team does that and maybe give them some flexibility. Maybe you maybe you have one team that wants to go do driveway things and maybe you’ve got another team that wants to actually throw a block party within your you know, so whatever it looks like but I think I would try to come up with perfect In a larger context, a systematic approach of how do I go about breaking it down into smaller chunks? Because when you think of 500, that’s just overwhelming for one or two people. So you’ve got to figure out how do I break it down into smaller pieces. And then how do I send people rather than me being the one doing it, is what I was thinking when I think about the larger piece. But again, for me, I always go back to engagement begins with connecting, that there has to be some kind of connection with them. So large or small, that’s always I think, the case, one more thing that may be beneficial to you is to think about how you are writing what is going on when you write. So when you’re when you’re creating a promotion, about an event happening. So let’s say you divided up your students into a smaller group. And so you’re going to have a block party in that community or driveway visits in that area. When you are expressing that that is happening, think about how you’re expressing it, don’t express it in the sense of you’re passing on information, but express it in the sense of why they need to be there. Think about the motivation and why they need to be there and write that into what your your Instagram posts or your social media posts, or your text message. Give them a clear benefit as to why they need to be there. I know that that seems sort of marketing copy sort of cold, but I think that they need to know that motivation as to why they need to be there. So you’re reminding them as to why it’s significant, not because they have to, but because they will actually receive benefit personally, by being there. Alright, um, the next one, a think its our last one today. Emily, we hope we gave you some thoughts on how to proceed, we’d love to hear back from you guys. Also, if you’ve done some of this, or if you try some of it, how it’s going. Because we are in this season learning with you also, as well. So Alright, hey, Brian, here are some things I love to hear some thoughts and collaboration. My Church is getting a new senior pastor. What can I do to start the relationship of right to set realistic ministry expectations? What is the best way to present my ministry to the new pastor? So transitions, which for some, if you’re in a Methodist Church, some of you a few of you, maybe you’re doing that now, many of you won’t do it till July. Other groups and denominations, you know, can happen at any time. So, when you’re going through a transition, what do you guys? What have you done? What do you recommend? Think about?Kirsten Knox: 37:41

Ah, that’s such a great question. I think hard. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety when you go through that transition. So I’d say first, acknowledging that and just being able to be okay, with Yes, that is a part of transition. And I always felt like when a new pastor came, there was this internal pressure to want to present or to tell them about the youth ministry, right, like I want, in this sense to showcase it. And I, what I had learned later in ministry is and kind of holding off on a little bit of that, but when I would get a new senior pastors go in and really to ask them questions, and seek to learn, versus to tell. And so questions that I would ask as, like, How can I be helpful to you and this first couple months of being in a church? And seeing also how, what is the best way to communicate with you? Like, I want to know, different pastors, like different forms, or different types of communication? So I want to know about that. And then I think another question to ask is, what just drives you nuts? Like when you’re with staff, right? Like you have stuff? What just drives you crazy, cuz I kind of want to know, those things do on the front end, right? Like to know to avoid those. And then I would also ask, how would you like to learn about the youth ministry and what pace because this person’s coming in has a lot, right, they have a lot to learn. And typically, those areas that have more problems get the most attention at the beginning. And so I recognize that they’ve got a lot. So I want them to see me as an asset to be able to help them in that transition. And I’m willing to do that in whichever way is helpful to them. Not and what is helpful to me, right, because I want to go, I have my own motives and internal pressure that I have to navigate. So I want to do that separately, and then be able to go in and for them to see, hey, I’m here to help you. Tell me how I can best do that.Brian Lawson: 39:34

Yeah, I think it’s great asking them what their pet peeves are, right. Like you don’t want to accidentally do those things that just drive them nuts because that puts you on the radar. You know, I think positioning yourself as somebody who’s there to be an ally, and part of a team is always is always beneficial. And and I think that start with the bare minimum of what they need to know with the youth ministry. Like you said, here’s an invite them to let you know what speed they want to learn about it. But at least start with, hey, here’s what we’ve been doing briefly overview, here’s why we feel like it’s been successful for the vision that we’ve got. And we were proud of what’s happening. I also, I also think, inviting them to come and see if at any point they want, and also letting them know though, I don’t expect it, I just want you to know you’re invited. Like, I know you’re busy. So you may not be able to, but just do know you’re invited. Anytime. And so I think an open invitation, but but the clarification that’s not an expectation also is helpful, as well.Steve Schneeberger: 40:43

Yeah, I would, I would agree with both of you on all of those points. And I just add that my experience is that it takes a new lead pastor about 18 months to fully acclimate. So that’s a long time. And and my other note here is that, that they, everybody wants to talk to them when they first get there. So they’re, they’re getting inundated with people who want to get on their radar on their agenda. And it’s overwhelming to them. I mean, you think about how many people they need to learn their need to learn, learn, learn their names, their position in the church, their life stories, all of those things. There’s just a lot, a lot, a lot of things that they need to get up to speed on. So I love the questions that Kirsten put out there and the advice that Brian gave, but just, I guess, to go back to an earlier question is have empathy for the lead pastor, and know that it’s going to be tough. And if they’re not paying attention to you, it probably means that you’re not in crisis, which is a good thing. So move forward with that and and learn that that’s affirmation of your ministry is that they’re not paying attention initially. But But if you know the pace that they want to take it, then then you’ll be able to offer that.Brian Lawson: 42:08

Yeah, Connor, we hope that answered your question. And that’s all we have today. Did you have any last thoughts do you want to share before we wrap up the show? episode?Kirsten Knox: 42:18

I was just like, good questions. And I think many people are asking those questions. So I think it’s great and to recognize, we are in this together. And we get it right. It’s a hard space to be in.Steve Schneeberger: 42:35

Yeah, thanks for asking great questions. And, and just know that we’re, we’re with you, and, and continue to ask those difficult questions. And, and, and if we all share the burden together, I think, I think we will continue to get through this.Brian Lawson: 42:54

Yeah, just remember, when you don’t realize it, even if you feel like things are lackluster, that God is still moving, and God is still working, even when we’re not fully aware of that. So friends, we’re here with you and for you. And also if you would like some more personal conversation, or some guidance or some some development, we do coaching, we have been doing coaching for a long time, and believe that will be fantastic for you and your ministry. So if you’re interested in that head to YMinstitute.com and I think that’s it friends. Don’t forget to join our Facebook group, because we do have a surprise next week, the week of Thanksgiving. So if you’re not part of that, go ahead and join. And until next time, friends, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.Ashley: 43:41

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

5 Ways To Break Through Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome and Ministry

Imposter Syndrome. This is the name that is given to that overwhelming feeling that you are a fake, a fraud and that you will never be able to be close to people, lest they discover the “real” (and clearly less acceptable) you.

Imposter Syndrome is not just bad self-esteem. It runs deeper and can be harder to identify. It is accompanied by thoughts like “don’t get too close to them, or they will know you don’t know what you are talking about.” It can make you feel like a fake in a room full of people with whom you should otherwise be able to be authentic. Imposter Syndrome can encourage you to give up on a dream or a challenge because you’ll “probably never accomplish it anyhow”.

Where it comes from can be narrowed down to just a few places, all connected to our childhoods. If you have parents who demonstrated emotional instability (high praise and abruptly negative criticism), you may be someone who deals with this. Having overly supportive parents could land you in the same boat. If your parents never wavered in their conviction that you could do nothing wrong, no matter what you actually did wrong, you may also find yourself dealing with imposter syndrome. Both extremes leave the child with a lack of constructive feedback on who THEY are because both extremes are focused on the parents’ needs. It leaves the child, and then the teen, and then the adult without a framework of how to understand their own worth, independent of others.

Imposter Syndrome And Ministry

Those in ministry exhibit signs of Imposter Syndrome at an unparalleled rate to other professions, and it leads to a few potential pitfalls:

An unhealthy focus on achievement.

There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to do, right? Or is that just what we tell ourselves? In ministry, it can be easy to DO more and BE more. And since we are doing all of our tasks “for the glory of God”, it can be easy to convince ourselves that our pace and focus is noble. But for those with Imposter Syndrome, the root reason for trying so hard to maintain that pace is because they are trying to be “good enough”. They become convinced that the achievement toward which they are working so very hard will be the thing that finally makes them feel worthy of their titles, or worthy of what others think of them. Finally, they think, I can just stop running once I achieve (insert chosen achievement here).

An unhealthy focus on their public persona.

When we have a large number of students attending our program offerings, we feel accomplished and validated. Especially in the time of COVID, when everything we do is virtual, our exposure to what others in our profession are doing is at an all-time high. It can become disheartening to see another group maintain their numbers or have great luck with creative programming while we know how much of a struggle it is to get our own students to even log on. Because what we do in ministry is so personal, it can be very easy to tie our success in our profession with success as a person. And really, if the students are not signing on, then we are failing them, right? (No, we aren’t, but that’s what “Imposter Brain” wants you to think.)

Unhealthy boundaries and burnout.

For all of the reasons listed above, Imposter Syndrome can lead to ignoring our own families, our own needs, and ultimately burning out while trying to achieve something through our job that is unattainable, at least with those methods. The fulfillment that we have to chase is a fulfillment that we will never catch. Don’t we all want more than that for our lives?

The insidious nature of Imposter Syndrome makes it so that any accomplishment we have becomes further confirmation that we are doing a good job of fooling everyone. The lies we think we have told have been believed by others, and we must lie more to keep up the facade. While we authentically may be talented at an aspect of our job, we find it nearly impossible to believe that to be true.

So what do we do?

For people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome, there can be a few ways to break through that barrier into a fuller, more authentic life and relationships.

5 Ways To Break Through Imposter Syndrome

  • Speak up. Owning the negative self-speak that happens through Imposter Syndrome means breaking the shamed silence and owning your thoughts. Find someone, even just one person, with whom you commit to full honesty. Then, begin to name the thoughts that keep you trapped in this cycle.
  • Separate feelings from facts. Your feelings are important and valid. In situations like imposter syndrome, however, they become taken as facts which negate the empirical facts of the situation. Separating the two will help you to see what is really happening
  • Develop a new script. Your responses, especially internal, toward mistakes or failure can dictate how you see a situation. Remind yourself that failure in a task is not indicative of your worth as a person. Speaking that truth to yourself regularly will go a long way towards believing it.
  • Reward yourself. Setting goals is good, as long as they are achievable and measurable. Set small, measurable goals for yourself and when you achieve them, find a way to congratulate yourself. It doesn’t have to be public, and it doesn’t even have to involve anyone besides you. By celebrating yourself will help to achieve a positive association with your accomplishments, instead of the added pressure of having to keep pushing and achieving.
  • Deny the lie of the hustle. The great lie of “the hustle” is that it hangs your worth on productivity. You do not have to be productive; you only have to be YOU. Which is a highly achievable goal, once you are able to recognize who that is.

Imposter Syndrome can leave us feeling powerless and fraudulent. The good news is that you don’t have to continue to feel that way. For more information about Imposter syndrome, check out this episode of Ask A Therapist: https://youtu.be/M6-aJ9q_yi8


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.


11: On Terrifying Parent Meetings, 2021 Budgets, Should We Require Parents To Volunteer, And More!

Episode 11 of the Making Sense of Ministry Hosts and Guest
 

In this episode, Brent Squires joins Brian and Kirsten to discuss your questions! These questions include “terrifying” parent meetings, 2021 budgets, and should parents be required to volunteer?

In his third decade of youth ministry, Brent Squires is the cohost of the How’d They Do That? ministry podcast, and serves as the Student Ministry Pastor at Bay Area Community Church.

Resources Mentioned
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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: 0:13

Welcome to Episode 11 of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Kirsten and I are back again. Hey Kirsten How are you? Hey, everyone doing good. How are you? Good, good. And today we have a special guest Brent Squires. Brent want to say hello?Brent Squires: 0:34

Hey, everyone. How you doing from Annapolis, Maryland.Brian Lawson: 0:37

All right. We’re glad you’re here. Glad you’re here. Brent is the student ministries, pastor at Bay Area Community Church in, as he said in Maryland, and Britain has been in student student ministry for 20 plus years. I think before we talked, he’s in his third decade is what we decided before. So in addition to his work at bay area, Community Church, Brent is also the co host of a ministry podcast called How’d They Do That, which I strongly recommend you check out I listened to a little bit about it. Brent, want to give us a quick rundown as to what that podcast is all about.Brent Squires: 1:09

Yeah, it’s really just a podcast, kind of interviewing other folks from around the country, both known and unknown, small church, big church, you name it, who are doing interesting, unique, exciting things in student ministry. So we just get to hear a little bit about their stuff. And then we get to steal it, do it ourselves and make ourselves look good. That’s the main motivation for the podcast.Brian Lawson: 1:33

Excellent. I actually listened. I was listening this morning to your interview with Josh Griffin. And so there’s some interesting stuff in there, which I which I enjoyed. Kirsten and I are glad you’re here today, Brent, and everyone, we’re glad to listen, we’ve got some good stuff to share with you. But before we get there, I’ve got a few other exciting things to share. Here at the making sense of ministry podcast, we don’t shy away from tough questions. And we we don’t think you should either. Questions really are a sign of growth. And it’s way easier to hear God’s answers when others join you and asking those questions. So that’s why I’m excited to tell you again this week about our sponsor, the social hub for all your spiritual dilemmas and questions is only a click away with our friends at be a disciple calm, head over to their website and scroll through their affordable ecumenical accredited, short term online courses all taught by content experts, they will be in the company of others where it’s safe to discuss hard questions. And if you have questions, and you’re looking to grow, enrolling course today, and as they say, ask away, be a disciple calm. And the second thing I want to share with you is I don’t know about you, I’ve never met a youth or children’s pastor or minister that doesn’t love free stuff, particularly free money, or in this sense, a free amazon gift card. And so you may know that kearson I have been answering your questions, last couple episodes. And we’re gonna keep doing that. And as a way to say thank you. And also to hear some more your questions, we’re going to give away an Amazon gift card coming up in the next couple of weeks. So to qualify for the drawing, you need to email your questions, whatever they’re about children’s or youth ministry, or what you’re facing in your church, email your questions to podcast at y m institute.com. And, and then what we’ll do is we’ll take everybody who’s emailed us, we will put you in for drawing to win that win that gift card. So no matter what your question is around, send it our way to podcast at y m institute.com. And also, be sure to tell us if you don’t want your name set over over the recording and we won’t say your name. Lastly, at the youth ministry Institute, we have a thorough and proven process to help churches find the best match for their open ministry positions. One of those searches we are currently doing is get ready for this this is this is a big one. We are currently helping the largest United Methodist Church in a country find their next Director of Student ministries for their main campus. And you heard that right. If you’re United Methodist, you probably know about Adam Hamilton, this is the church where he’s the senior pastor at the church has five campuses. And this position will collaborate with a large staff and the main campus which this position will be at reaches over 3500 students. And we’re currently taking applications for that position. So friends, it’s really exciting. I hope that you’ll consider applying and if you’re interested in learning more, head over to our website, why am Institute COMM And you’ll see a banner right at the top of the homepage, just click on that. And that will take you to where a site they’ll give you all the information. So we hope you’ll apply or if you don’t apply, maybe you’ll know somebody that you can send the information to. Because we really want to help help you have this great opportunity and also help them find the best match for their position. All right, here we go. Let’s get into some questions. As I mentioned earlier, we got kyrsten and Britton here with us and Brent, I’m curious, could you just briefly tell us about your call to ministry and and Maybe what has kept you in ministry? over the just a few years that you’ve been doing it?Brent Squires: 5:05

Yeah, sure. No, I appreciate that. It’s my privilege. call to ministry, safe as a young child grew up in a Christian home was a PK didn’t really feel the call the true call to ministry until later in life, actually worked for a number of seasons for the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, and thought that that was my dream job and my my career, started volunteering and student ministry reluctantly, actually was looking for a way to get uninvolved, just because I really didn’t take time in the early stages to build relationships with students. But once I did that, then I felt God called me into ministry, and I couldn’t think of doing anything else. So it took about a year and a half to transition away from the NFL to a small church and about maybe 30 kids at its at its at that present time. And just fell in love with it and didn’t know a single thing was reading every single book. You know, I remember getting my first shiny copy of purpose driven youth ministry by DOUG FIELDS and all every book like that back in the 90s. I read them all, and was just trying to play catch up and made pretty much every most of the mistakes that you can make in student ministry. And then started catching a rhythm and just kind of really felt like that was what what God had called me to do. So I’ve been at three different churches of different sizes, and got to experience a good bit of student ministry. And it wasn’t until, you know, over halfway into my time and youth ministry that I started feeling like I think I’m a lifer. I think I’m gonna do student ministry until I just can’t do it anymore, or until there’s no church in America, that will hire me. And so now I’m 50 years old, I’ve been doing student ministry for about 2324 years. And I’m just excited to see like what God has in the future. So I’ve been able to coach some folks and work with some churches. And, as you mentioned, doing things like our podcast is very life giving, and then just focusing on building the church that God has me out here in Annapolis, which continues, you know, I thought even you know, a year ago at this time, I thought things were kind of on cruise control, but in a really good place. And then COVID happened and now it’s it’s as if every you know, we had a huge building, we have a 25,000 square foot dedicated student ministry building that we just opened a little bit before COVID. And now that’s totally taken off the table, everything that we’re doing is outside. So even with a building with every conceivable toy, and trinket that you could want, we’re not able to use any of it. And so it’s like back to doing parking lot games. And our building sits right next to a major interstate that connects Baltimore, to Annapolis. And so literally truck like semis are going by in the middle of my talks. And it is, um, I’m setting up chairs and on the asphalt. So I feel like it’s my first year of youth ministry again, but in a sense that super in big, big rating. SoBrian Lawson: 8:19

yes. And so you know what the moral of the story is that no matter what size of church, you’re always going to stack chairs.Unknown: 8:25

Yeah, I remember saying that to my staff. I remember saying when we, when we close down our old facility, we refurbished a piece of our old facility. And then we added on that with an expansion. And when we were closing that facility down, I remember saying and thank God for this new building, because I’m never setting up chairs again. And the man like I have no idea what 2020 was gonna bring, because now we’re setting up chairs outside in the parking lot on Sunday nights and on Wednesday nights and a lot of them.Brian Lawson: 8:57

Yeah, I’m curious, since I think I asked you in just a moment about customer about COVID. But I’m curious. In your episode, I was listening to Josh Griffin, you kind of talked about a moment where you weren’t sure if you were gonna stay in youth ministry and you were thinking about shifting out into a campus pastor role. So I know we’ve got a lot of people who may be are especially in COVID, thinking about whether or not they’re going to stay in this because it’s been so difficult. So I wonder if you could just share about your experience and how you decide to stay.Brent Squires: 9:29

Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily feeling dissatisfied with student ministry, but our churches, it was growing. We weren’t able, for some of the big holidays, Christmas and Easter in particular, we weren’t able to hold the capacity in our in our current church sanctuary. So we talked about doing kind of a satellite campus out of high school, and it was actually my idea. I said on Easter Sunday, let’s go to a high school rented out and hold a satellite service there. And so our senior pastor said, great, it’s your idea. You’re in charge of it. I was like No, I just wanted I just pitched the idea. I don’t want To be in charge of it. I’m a student pastor. And he was like, nope, go for it. And so we set it all up a couple of months of planning and processing. And, you know, I literally was picturing maybe two or 300 people and 1500 people showed up from our community. And most of them, were unchurched. And so he asked me, he said, I want you to look, we’re gonna, we’re gonna plant a campus there, and I would like you to go and be the campus pastor of it. And that was not necessarily in my plans. I had a short stint of for about three years where I was a lead pastor at the church that I grew up in. And so I had some experience in doing kind of the lead role. But man, I was very content with my student ministry role. And as I mentioned, we were just a year away from opening up this new facility, which I had been, you know, deeply, deeply involved in every aspect of that, and I wanted to see that come to fruition. So the long story short, is I said, I need some time to pray about it. And I went away to a youth pastors retreat. And Josh Griffin from download youth ministry was the speaker there. And I hadn’t met Josh, a couple other times in the past, and I asked, hey, just Can we talk? And can I just get some, you know, just insight from you? And he said, Sure, after that message tonight, let’s grab some time. And we’ll talk. And his message was, it was something to the effect. The title was why you should stay in youth ministry. And are five reasons why you should stay in youth ministry and divorce. It was Yeah. He told me later. Like, I that was the plan before I had talked to you. I didn’t say that for you, obviously. And then every every one of those like five points or whatever it was, like everyone else in the room was gone. And it was just me and him. And God was speaking through him to me. And and so that was my answer. And so I went back to my church, I literally didn’t even drive all the way back from the retreat to my church, I stopped halfway at a Starbucks went in, pounded out an email to my pastor kind of saying, Hey, I feel like the Lord has spoken. And I’m going to stay in student ministry, which he fully understood and supported that. So. Yeah, it was more of just like, Am I really called to this? And is there a next stage? You know, I was 48 at the time. So at 48, is there still room for a 48 year old and youth ministry? Or have you aged out and what that weekend clearly showed me was like, age, it’s not so much age, because you can be old and dumb, you can be young and dumb. You can be old and called. And you can be young and called. So it’s really about calling and obedience to follow that. And so yeah, I feel like the next however many years in youth ministry, you know, to the extent that God can use me, I’d like to, I’d like to feel that I’m going to be available make myself available.Kirsten Knox: 12:53

Yeah. What a powerful experience. I love that. God really shows up in those moments and gives us direction.Brent Squires: 13:00

Yeah, I wish that would happen all the time. And God probably says, I do too. You just don’t pray enough. If you prayed and sought me a little bit more, you’d get more direct answers like that. SoKirsten Knox: 13:11

I love it. Yeah. Well, Brent, the next question we have is primarily for you in it. And you answered this a little bit, but I wondered if you could share a little bit more about what adjustments and shifts Have you made during COVID?Brent Squires: 13:26

Yeah. You know, I’m like everybody else. I don’t have any magic bullets or great answers. I feel like COVID, as I mentioned earlier, was a great creator of a level playing field for all ministries, no matter your budget, your, your facility, your resources, it kind of made, you know, everybody’s either not meeting or meeting in a parking lot. There’s a few states that have been blessed and not been terribly impacted by some of the orders. And they haven’t been as affected by kind of some of the disruptions. But most of us have been what what we here at my church did, I have seven, seven staff that report directly to me, and so we circled up early, and just said, basically, everything is either not necessarily canceled, but it’s all on hold. Like we’re gonna hold it open handedly. For the next year that I’m talking like, March, April, and we’re just going to process no more than eight weeks at a time. Because you know what, first it was 15 days to slow the spread. Well, that was like, what, eight months ago now?Brian Lawson: 14:32

Feels like it feels like 20 years.Brent Squires: 14:34

Yeah, I literally Remember, you know, on the first day that our state shut down, I remember thinking how are we going to get through two weeks of no ministry like how are we going to do that? And you know, like I said, that was back in March. So we looked at just doing eight weeks out and just kind of stuck which is totally against my personality. I’m enneagram three, and so like eight weeks out with not good And that was not, that was not good enough for me. And so we just kind of looked at those eight weeks and planned no further out than eight weeks. And that’s largely what we’ve been doing since then. And then we came up with kind of, I don’t know if it’s a mantra or a game plan, or I called it, just kind of like our post COVID strategy. But like, now, I’m not sure when post COVID is going to start, because it seems like we’re still in COVID. But at the time, I was calling it our post COVID strategy, which was actually pretty simple. It was, first, let’s not forget what our purpose is. Our purpose is to point students towards Jesus. So like every single day, we have to remind each other we have to remind ourselves, we have to remind our volunteers that our role is to point students towards Jesus, which is helpful, because we don’t have to have technology to point students to Jesus, we don’t have to have a building, we don’t have to have a program. We can point students students to Jesus in a variety of ways. And we don’t have to be limited. The second thing was a total rip off from Andy Stanley, I think a podcast I listened to from him. And it was, we want to prioritize a responsibility over authority. So before we all had a lane, and everybody had a job description, and the seven or eight of us on our team, and then we have two other campuses, so the staff from those campuses, we all did what was in our job description. But when COVID hit job descriptions went out the window, because some people, their whole job was tied to a service. And we weren’t having services at the time. So we had to start really prioritizing on what the responsibilities were like what just needed to be done, rather than what our titles were or what our job descriptions were. And that’s that’s, that’s difficult, that’s challenging. The third thing is, we want to focus on solutions, not problems. So in the early days of COVID, even up there now, there’s always there always seems to be a problem that’s presenting itself, like, you got to wear a mask, it can’t do this, you can only have so many kids, you have to meet outside or you can’t. And the problems kept, they weren’t speed bumps, they were becoming mountains to us. And everybody wanted to stop at the problem. And basically, you know, almost call it a day, myself included. And so we had to kind of beat the drum of we’re not going to focus on problems. God is with us, we have a team, the answer is in our team, we just have to look deep enough and hard enough to find it. And that’s been very, very helpful. And then the fourth thing wasn’t originally the fourth thing on the list, it was something a lot more academic. But I felt super convicted that about this, this adding this fourth one back in and taking out the original fourth one that’s just choosing joy. We know the Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. And throughout COVID it’s been a joy, soccer for a lot of ministries that I know a lot of you folks that I’ve talked to and myself included. And so we needed to inject joy back into that. And we couldn’t manufacture that that could only come from his spirit. So those four things have been kind of like our Northstar, if you will that kind of kept us over the past like five or six months really grounded and focused. And we’re gonna hang on to that, at least through January one and see what pivots we make come the other side of this crazy year.Brian Lawson: 18:22

I think that’s great. I really love the I mean, I love all of it. So the Andy Stanley one I caught on that a long time ago, too, right? I remember him saying you walk down a hallway. And you know, somebody who just does their job won’t pick up a piece of trash they see on the grass, but somebody who takes responsibility and ownership for the whole thing is going to pick up trash I see on the ground, even if it’s not their job, because they care about place. I remember him saying that that’s stuck with me for sure.Brent Squires: 18:46

So that’s why I’m out in the parking lot setting up chairs, like, because I didn’t used to do that we had people that did that. And but now it’s like, well, but it needs to get done. And we don’t have volunteers on site at the time when we need to set up chairs. So I can’t be too big to set up chairs.Kirsten Knox: 19:05

Brent how have you seen that impact your team? Because I think walking through that as a team, there’s probably some real benefits that have come out of that teamwork. But how have you watched that happen?Brent Squires: 19:15

Yeah, well, the first couple of weeks, I just kind of shared that. Like it took a couple of weeks for me to form that. So I just thought of different thoughts and like let’s create kind of a strategy for us to have some sort of internal motivation or inspiration, something that we can remind each other again and again. And so then when I formed those four put said we’re going to go with these four, then for two weeks, three weeks, I taught on it at our weekly Monday morning staff meeting. And I just shared why I chose those why they were important and what each one of them meant to us. And I could have continued doing that for you know for the rest of time. But you know what i what I’ve learned and what you I’m sure know both of you is that you never learned something more impactfully than when you have teach it. So now at our staff meetings, I turned the corner and I started saying, Okay, now somebody else is going to teach it today. And so I said, we’re going to reserve a portion of our staff meeting each week to focusing on this, this kind of like North Star concept that we have. But I’m not going to teach it because I already know it, I already have it memorized, like, now I need you guys to teach it, because then you can re emphasize it to the group, while learning it yourself. So now, each week, we just go around and somebody, you know, even if they’ve shared in the past, somebody different shares on it again, and we’re gonna keep doing that. And we can refer back to it, you know, when we see something happen, and somebody doesn’t pick up the trash in the hallway, we can say like, Hey, remember, you know, remember number two on our list, like we it’s not about job descriptions and authority. It’s, it’s about responsibility. And so we’ve been able to catch each other and just, you know, playfully encourage each other to kind of re emphasize one of these points, or we hit kind of a speed bump, and we all kind of like get locked on. Well, we can’t do this, because we’re not allowed to have that many kids or whatever. And it’s like, Well, okay, but that’s the problem. But we’re not going to stop there like, so look, can we break the group into multiple pieces and do multiple events? You know, there is a solution to this, if it’s something that we really feel bad is directing us towards? Let’s not stop short. Let’s think through the problem to a solution and see where we come out on the other side.Brian Lawson: 21:32

Yeah, that’s excellent. So we could just stop the podcasts now. I think I mean, I think, right. That was great. No, I think that, that the student issue there, sounds very blessed to have you kind of leading that and guiding that, because that’s good, good insight. Because too often people do stop at the problems. And then they just say, Well, I quit. But in reality, if you if you spend time, together, dreaming and you’re willing, you’re willing to shift, you can actually find things that are better, likely than you ever would have discovered otherwise.Brent Squires: 22:03

Yeah. And so we had to shift. Yeah, and the first three are actually the easiest three, it’s number four, choosing joy, that actually for me, is the hardest one, because it’s so easy, you know, I can get motivated, but motivate. Motivation tends to be external. You know, like, it’s somebody motivating me from the outside, and I don’t, I don’t need to be I’m pretty self driven. So I don’t necessarily need to be motivated from the outside. What wrecks me is me, so so I need something other than me, I need the Holy Spirit. So the past three months I really been pressing into, Lord, I need more of the fruit of your spirit and like joy, like draining joy, like I need to constantly give me joy, you know, just because there’s, you know, every every other week, like, it seems like our state’s getting a new, you know, we’ve gone forward, and then we’ve taken steps back and what we can do and what opens and what closes. And, you know, here, sitting here at the time, this podcast is being recorded, like, we don’t have any public schools in session, like in person, no school sports, things are largely opened, but not fully opened. And our churches, you know, still We’re at 2500 person church, but we have maybe 300 coming between two services on a Sunday in person. So it can be depressing, it can be discouraging, and man, the joy of the Lord is the strength that I know I have to rely on. So.Brian Lawson: 23:33

Yeah, absolutely. So our friend Allison from Kentucky asked about parent meetings. Particularly she was preparing for a parent meeting and was terrified. And that’s what that’s what she said she was terrified. So she asked what important things should I share at at the meeting? And just from context clues I would gather this is likely her first time ever doing a parent meeting, and possibly her first season in ministry. Really? I would imagine she’s, she’s new. So what insights do you guys have? to that? What what are important things that need to be shared at a meeting parent meeting? In your mind?Kirsten Knox: 24:19

I mean, first, I would say they can be intimidating, right? Especially if you’re new to ministry, and the first time you’re having those, you know, Allison, you feel terrified or scared and be like, Yeah, right. Like it is an intimidating experience. So give yourself permission to be in that space. The one I would say one thing that I would put as a priority is sharing your heart, that sharing your heart with your parents and also the dream you have for what students will experience children will experience when they are there. And connecting that with parents is really important. Man, I think information and those things also have got to be a part of that because that’s helpful. for parents to have that information, but I think it’s really easy as leader sometimes. What is the details, and miss that first part of really just connecting with them? And I would think about as what are leaders that I like to follow? And what makes me want to follow them? And when doing those kind of meetings, kind of framing that and understand and how am I going to be that leader for them. And I think when I know people heart, and they really share that with me for ministry and for things that I value, that that really helps me connect. So I would spend some time on the front end, really doing that, and sharing that passion. And parents will love that, especially when that’s about their kid, because they recognize it takes a village to do this. And they’re intimidated to parenting is hard. So to have someone to walk alongside them who loves their kid and is excited and wants to point their kids to Jesus, I mean, that will help that connection and those relationships.Brent Squires: 25:57

Yeah, that’s good. I resonate with so much of that. And I’ll just add to that, that I have raised three kids, like all my kids are out of high school and into college, but it is still intimidating. So I can I can empathize with you. That would the person with the question would being intimidated. What I what I would suggest is, here’s what I’ve learned from experience, most parents, most parents will crawl through broken glass to get to somebody that is going to help them or encourage them with their kids. And most parents are willing to do almost whatever it takes including pay big dollars to get their kids to an expert, or someone that has at least more expertise than they do when it comes to their kids. For example, if the kids struggling in math, parents will do whatever it takes or pay whatever it is to get their kids a math tutor. They’ll do whatever it takes to get their kids to soccer practice, even Little League Soccer. And I’ve seen parents hire pitching coaches and the kids ate, you know, like, because they want their kids improve at pitching. You know, they’ll pay big dollars for a piano or violin lessons.Unknown: 27:10

And soBrent Squires: 27:12

what you have to do, what we have to do is look at ourselves, like we are the experts, at least in terms of church discipleship ministry, even if you don’t feel like an expert, you have to view yourself not in an arrogant way. But most parents, most parents do not feel overly confident with discipling their own kids. And I would say the majority of parents aren’t even intentionally discipling their kids. So you come along, and you’ve got great content, we’re assuming you’ve got availability, you’ve got volunteers, you’ve got programming, they probably view you a lot more as an expert than what you give yourself credit for. So lean into that you don’t have to be an expert on parenting kids, you know how to, you know, stop some of the behaviors and things of that nature, you can just refer them to books, and like a Jim Burns type person or, you know, other ministries that focus on parenting, what you can do is be a, an expert on the resources that are out there. And on the discipleship components. And again, if nothing else, you probably are the world leading expert on your church’s ministry. And if they’re at your church, or at least bringing their kids to your church’s ministry, you are an expert. And that will grow the longer that you’re there. And then if you just wait around long enough, you’ll be older than all the parents of the kids in your ministry like I am. And, and then you will legitimately be an expert. Because I was super intimidated might when I first got into youth ministry, I didn’t even have kids. And I didn’t worry about that. Because I thought, Oh, man, I won’t be in youth ministry. By the time my kids are older, I’ll I’m way too smart to be stuck at the level of youth pastor. Two to three years, I’ll be like everybody else, I’ll be something bigger and better. And here I am all these years later. So yeah, you will eventually stay around long enough, out, outgrow some of that and be older than all the parents.Brian Lawson: 29:16

Yeah, I think the core when I was thinking about this is I just imagined somebody who’s younger, probably never, you know, obviously doesn’t have kids. Maybe that’s not even on their radar ever or for a long time. And, and so I remember sitting I mean, being in like a friendship Hall thing. And, you know, there’s parents at tables sitting there looking back at you. And I remember thinking, Oh, I’m even with kids. I guess I have answers for you. So you’re right. I think that that feeling is something that we all experience at different times. And I think no matter how old you get or how long you’ve been, you still can encounter that and I I think it’s important to note, you’ll have some parents who legitimately just want information, they just want a calendar and sign the document and move on. And that says nothing about you andBrent Squires: 30:09

be an expert at providing that. Be, don’t fail in that area. Because if you fail in that area, you’ll lose parents.Brian Lawson: 30:17

Yeah, I mean, just one of the best ways is to have some printed information to give to them. Yeah. You know, I think I said last episode that I had a printed handbook to give to parents when they came for the first time. And it wasn’t because I thought it was necessary. It was because I wanted to make parents feel warm and fuzzy inside. Like, I wanted them to feel that we cared, and that we took what we did seriously. And that stability. Yeah, and that was really the whole intent was to help them see that. And so. So if you guys have said, I think sharing them, sharing with them, where you’re coming from, where your heart is, what your passion is, and that you’re there as an advocate, advocate for them to help them and however you can. Oh, and by the way, here’s some important information that you might need. I mean, I think it can be as simple as that. I don’t think we need to overcomplicate it. And you don’t need to feel like you’re there to tell them how to parent, because that’s not not that’s not the point. You’re just you’re just advocating there for them to help them. So if you can go in there with that sort of attitude of I’m just here to advocate for you, however I can, I think that that might take a little bit of the pressure off of feeling like I have to be something that I’m not. Which, which I just I remember, I think I remember every parent meeting. SoBrent Squires: 31:35

yeah, a little more brutal. In the early years. If you start out quoting experts, then slowly gradually start dropping the credit to who the expert was. And then people will just say, like, you know, well, Brian always says, you just take all the credit for like, sure, expert. Legal, butBrian Lawson: 31:58

I don’t know, either.Kirsten Knox: 32:00

Remember that parents are overwhelmed. They are they’re trying to hold. I mean, they’re trying to wrap their hands around everything. And that’s exhausting. And providing a space where they feel heard, they feel like you’re on their team, listen to I think, largely most of us, but particularly parents felt under heard. So being able to create space where they can share that and you’re just to show empathy and understand I get it, it’s hard, right? I don’t have to have been a parent, I don’t have to be a parent to really be able to say, This is hard. I know you love your kid and you want what’s best for them. And making those decisions is hard. And there’s not always a clear answer, and just really be able to create that space for them. And understanding I think will help parents take a deep breath, and realize that we’re in this together and being able to connect and have you which you will be an asset to their life. And you may not always do that. And sometimes maybe they there will be times there’s conflict or hard situations, of course, but by and large, I think they’re looking for teammates, and if you can present that, then that will be very beneficial.Brent Squires: 33:05

Yeah, I always push back to Deuteronomy six, where the burden is clearly on the parents to be the chief and primary disciple Maker of the student, then I go to a fusions and I talk about how the church is really to be equipped. And you know, so you know, I think, you know, you don’t want to you don’t want to shame parents and say, like, well, you should be doing this, like you’re the primary disciple maker like, but but some parents do need to be told like, this is your job, like you cannot stand before the Lord one day, and try to explain to him why you did not prioritize the discipling of your kids. So you did do need to sound the alarm a little bit. But then in terms of taking the pressure off of yourself, your role, our role is to be the equipment. And so some of it’s very practical, like making sure that you have proper information available that you have thought through the calendar, and you have, you know, permission slips and all that type of stuff. And then some of it is a balance of not overwhelming the parents with 30 emails in one week about different things. But you know, one or two clear concise communication methods is probably about enough. And then just telling them how much you care about their kid, they will love you. If you tell them that you care about their kid, you know, like they they will become your best friend and, you know, maybe even volunteer for your ministry. Because what what parent in their right mind is not going to be the biggest cheerleader of somebody that is working hard to care for their kid and point their kid towards Jesus. So if you do those things, I think it will take some time but you’ll grow into it.Brian Lawson: 34:46

Yeah, one of the things I learned for my wife when she was from teaching was that she makes obviously sometimes had to make phone calls to parents that aren’t pleasant. They you know, they have class something called class dojo now, so it makes it easier but there was a time That didn’t exist. But she also made phone calls that were just positive. They were just nothing other than the rave on on the student to their parents. So I think also, if you can extend beyond your meeting and think how can I also rave about their kids to them at other times would also help. And let’s just be real honest, if you get some parents to show up to your meeting, you’ve already won. Sometimes that’s the hardest part is just getting parents to show up. I’m not against bribing parents to show up, I will give away something to get them to come. I don’t really care. But that’s just that’s the way I operated.Unknown: 35:36

So if they’re a difficult parent, just recommend another church in your town. brag about how great that church is, and how awesome their youth ministry is. And then they’ll leave you and they’ll go to that other church, and then you won’t ever have to worry about them.Brian Lawson: 35:50

And that’s a pro tip. Don’t tell your senior pastor. That’s just a pro tip for you.Unknown: 35:54

Yeah, just make sure they’re not that that parent isn’t one of the biggest tither’s in the church.Kirsten Knox: 35:59

servation to know ahead of time. Yep. All right. So we our next question we saw posted recently in a group and thought it would be good to tackle here is primarily focused in children’s ministry. The question is, should you require parents to volunteer? And if so, how do you present that to the families the first time?Brian Lawson: 36:24

My first response is no. I mean, I don’t mean that to be. That sounds a little callous. But I think it’s hard for me to think that I could require a parent to volunteer, but maybe, maybe. I mean, I guess sports teams do that, right. I mean, some sports teams require parents to volunteer. So I think my gut is just just that that’s probably not the best idea. Because you’re also not not only are you going to potentially upset some parents, but you’re also probably not going to have the best volunteers. I would imagine if they’re, they’re out of obligation.Brent Squires: 37:02

Trust me, you don’t want that. You do not want that. Yeah, I would, I would think the word require is probably too strong of a word. Again, I think, I think your church and your ministries have to build a culture where the staff is not seen, like the children’s ministry can’t be seen as like, well, we pay our tides. And so your job is to watch our kids, you know, because then it’s like pay to play type mentality. And that’s, that’s not what we want in the church require is, you know, to Brian’s point, then you get people that don’t want to be there aren’t loving kids and giving their best, or might not even be Christians. So you don’t want to do that. There’s some there’s a space somewhere in the middle, where you want to build a culture where people your ministry is exciting enough. And people see the vision that you’re not just providing daycare on Sundays, you are discipling kids, and you’re not the primary disciple maker, that’s the parents role. But you’re in a quipper. And you’re there to do function in that role on a Sunday, or whatever your context is. And if you can build a culture where people see that you’re really pouring in the children. And, and it takes a lot of people to do you know, I mean, the ratios have to be, you know, such that you’ve got enough adults to cover kids, for a variety of ages. And if you’re, if you’ve done that, then you know, you, you probably will more than likely have those with a heart towards children gravitate towards your ministry, there may come times, and our church has had to shut down different rooms because of a ratio situation. And people show up with their kids. And they can’t check their kid into that room. And it’s like, well, we’re only 106 or one eight, or like, with small kids, like babies that might be I think, one to two or I don’t know what it is that that’s out of my paygrade. But then it’s just then it is practicality. It’s like, I’m sorry, we just can’t take any more kids because our standards are super high. And some parents have walked away really upset and even angry, but appreciative that the ministry has those standards, because nothing will be worse than walking into a two year old room. And there’s 83 two year olds, and like me and Brian sitting there with all the kids, you know, like, parents would be horrified at that. And so they kind of respect the fact that you’ve got high standards for your ratios and all that type of stuff. So, but require Probably not.Brian Lawson: 39:30

Yeah, I think about there’s the heart of this question really is they just don’t have enough people. I mean, that’s, that’s really, I think the heart of this question. Which, which I think I just advise, I think you need to find a new strategy. I don’t think this requires strategy is going to land you where you want to go. If that means you shut down some room sometimes that may be necessary and is to Brent’s point, I think that actually might speak some level of of credibility to You that You take this serious and that you’re trying to protect to make sure you stay safe. And and I think that this is where you need to get real personal in your recruitment. I mean, you really need to be watching people from a distance and having conversations and asking around, and then individually asking people who volunteer and to consider it. And I’ll see why it matters. We call it shoulder tapping.Brent Squires: 40:24

So you actually, we actually have a profile for who we consider to be like the ideal candidate to volunteer. And, and then as your ma forces you to come outside of your ministry bubble and rub shoulders with the rest of the church. Even if the only reason is you’re doing that is because you’re trying to find people that fit that profile. And then you’re, then you’re trying to build some sort of connection. And saying, like, hey, like, you fit this, even, we even said it like that. Sometimes you fit this profile. you’re the type of person that we’re looking for in ex ministry, would you consider sitting down with me and having coffee and learning about how you can get involved and doing a lot more of that, then you attract the right people, if you’re in a church where you’re having to shut down rooms, because you don’t have enough volunteers, then that means that you are probably growing like you’re you probably have a good number of church folks coming. So there is a most likely a big enough pool of people to pull from, you just maybe have to dig a little bit deeper into finding who those people are.Kirsten Knox: 41:30

Mm hmm. Yeah, I think when you require it has the tone of desperate. And I don’t, I’m not usually attracted to help and volunteer and things that feel desperate, because I’m going to ask, Well, why isn’t anyone else wanting to do this? Right? If they don’t have one, there may be a reason why. And people want to be a part of I want to be a part of things that are successful. But I think another aspect of that is, as you’re recruiting, being able to tell stories of wins, and be an excellent storyteller.Brent Squires: 42:01

Yeah, that’s awesome.Kirsten Knox: 42:03

You want those short stories and that stories that someone else could then repeat. So when they’re sitting in their circles, they can say, Hey, did you hear this cool story about this kid or this volunteer and being able to share that so that when people see things are exciting and successful, they’re attracted, I’m a, I’m attracted to things that are successful, I want to be a part of that. Because I don’t want to miss out. So something, something good is going on there. And I can start that with just a few volunteers start where you are, and start moving in that direction. And see that oftentimes is a long game, not a short game of getting where you want. But I coached children’s minister this week, actually, he’s in her first six weeks there. And the culture that she walked into, was that parents had volunteer X amount of times a quarter. And she said, This just doesn’t work. For me, this is how I’ve done it. And I’m like, correct, right? This doesn’t work. And we work through some strategies of how to how to shift that culture and work through that. But she inherited that and she’s like, yeah, this, I can’t do this. And I’m like, I think that’s the good thing. All right, let’s move in a different space so that you can have different volunteers and that people want to be a part of what you’re doing.Brent Squires: 43:18

Yeah, practically, practically speaking, parents do sometimes come to church to get a break. You know, so in other words, they’ve been some, like, when my kids were younger, my wife was a school teacher. And then we had our own kids. So that really the last place she wanted to volunteer was children’s ministry, because then 24 seven, she was with kids. So many parents are like, you know, I kind of need a break. I’m coming to church to be edified, and to be around big people and stuff like that. So I think to a certain percentage of your children’s ministry should be the parents of your kids. I mean, they obviously have a vested interest. But don’t don’t forget to look at other great sources of volunteers. People who are empty nesters, like they’re super smart now they’ve they’ve learned they made all the mistakes on their own kids have a really wise and and probably enjoy the fact that they could be around kids for an hour or two on Sunday and then leave them and go go back home to their own house. It’s like grandparents. So don’t neglect maybe looking at some of those. You know, and then there’s then there’s the young group of college kids who maybe have more energy to be around like those, you know, rambunctious third grade boys or you know, things like that. So, sometimes people only go to that one well of parents, but there are other places where you can find sources of good volunteers.Brian Lawson: 44:47

Yeah, I wonder if they shouldn’t, you know, if I was in their position, I would get my whiteboard. I had a whiteboard in office, and I would just write down every name I could think of, who is even a potential To ask, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be the right fit. It doesn’t mean I may find out later, they were a horrible idea. But I would just put every name on the board that I possibly could. And I would look at that list every single day. And I would find every opportunity I could to interact with that person for a couple of weeks, probably. So I could learn more about them and then and approach them. So. So our last question for this episode is all about budgets. So we’re, we’re, I guess, gosh, we’re in October now, I kept keeping, it’s still September. So lots of churches either have already finished their budget, or they’re just starting a budget, depending on how your your year runs. So what’s what suggestions do you have to someone who’s trying to put together their budget request for 2021? And this might feel even more strange, because 2020 was so weird. And so the numbers are probably significantly off. So I’m just curious, what would you guys would say, are some suggestions or pro tips that you’d have for somebody in youth or children’s ministry, when they’re thinking about their budget for 2021?Brent Squires: 46:06

Yeah, that that’s gonna be a tough one, just because like, if somebody can tell me what 2021 is gonna look like, then I can tell you how to budget. Sure. But in react, the reality is, we never know what the next year is going to hold. We typically base our budgets off the previous year previous previous year’s growth, success or failure of an event, you know, how things how we evaluated it. So let’s just look for a minute, and then I’ll pass the baton into 2021, as if it’s, it’s just a COVID COVID year, not just a normal ministry year, but there’s going to be disruptive disruptions and limitations depending on where you’re at. So I would go into it kind of leaving a good portion of my budget with some flexibility. You might not have summer camps next summer, we don’t know that that winter retreat, may get put on hold or might not happen. So I think one side of you has your foot on the gas, where it’s like, we’re gonna treat 2021 as if it’s a normal year. But then another side of you has to have like your foot ready on the brake, because you’re going to make course corrections. It’s probably not the year to start too many ambitious programs, or, you know, to start some, a lot of things that are new, I’m not suggesting don’t start anything new. Because there are some things that are going to be COVID specific, that will be new, like we’re running on on site. High school kids can come to our facility and do their online schoolwork here at our facility. So that’s new, I wouldn’t have suggested that, you know, in a non COVID gear like, Hey, if you’re at home school, and if you’re a homeschool, and you want to come here to study do that. We’ll put staff in the room with you to to monitor TV. So. So that’s something new that we’re doing. But pretty much everything else, we’re leaving very open handed, and not starting very many new things. That’s probably those I know, that’s really big. But that’s probably maybe two big recommendations that I would make.Kirsten Knox: 48:10

I think those are great. And I would also add that talking to your supervisor or your pastor depend on who that is, and really understand what is kind of the tone that they’re looking at for budget for 2021. So that you can align under that would be helpful. They may be asking people, everyone to cut a little bit or they may be saying Nope, we’re staying the same, but just kind of understand what being a team player What does that look like? That’s good feel for what that is? And I think Yeah, having the bigger buckets that you have here are thoughts of how we’re going to spend those little ones, but possibly the bigger buckets helps you to be able to pivot when you have to as things change. And there’s a great tool, a book called youth ministry tool. And it’s like a worksheet work. She used to have a desk that’s there’s the old computer desk. When I first used it, that’s how we did this. But I think now that Brian, I think you go online, and they have a giant app for it now from download, and it has great I mean it just step by step kind of lead you through it and you can customize and put your own stuff in. It’s one thing I’ve used for years of being able to do, and then depending on how the culture of your church, I think also with your budget of putting some of your purposes in there or your strategy, as a part of your budget that you submit it the Why is particularly important, I think, and I think it’s always important. It’s something we talk about a lot, but particularly in this season, when the church may be having to make decisions about where they spend their money and see if they understand the value and the why behind it. And you can do that in short, little ways. It doesn’t have to be something big. I think that also if I’m just glancing if I’m on the finance team, or whoever’s making those decisions and looking at your budget. I can see kind of your purpose and your y as long as with the numbers and a real brief way, I think that adds value. And then when I would imagine for many churches, hard decisions are being made during budget time.Brian Lawson: 50:15

It’s good. You know, I think I think the only thing I would add, I think those that was all great is, if you’re new to your church, or you’ve never done this before, I would ask the question and find out from your your leadership or your finance committee, whoever it is, are they going to look at every category? And how each category landed as an under over or on budget? Or are they just caring about the overall number? And I think that’s a bit that’s significant, because if they only care about the overall number, it gives you some flexibility, particularly going in 2021, with so much unknown. So that I think that would be good information for you to know the churches I served at always just cared about the bottom number, did you stay under the bottom number, and that was all they really cared about. And so I think just just have that conversation. So you know, what the expectation is, particularly next year, and hopefully, they’ll even if they go by each individual line, that they’ll have a little more grace than maybe they’ve had in previous years because of everything going so fluid. So, Brent, thanks for being on and Houston as always so awesome to have have us all here together. So friends, that’s all we have for today. Don’t forget to check out the links in the description for more information about anything we shared in this episode. We’d also love for you to join our Facebook group making sense of ministry group. You can submit your questions on there, but remember, we are doing a giveaway. So if you if you want to be eligible for the the giveaway, send your questions to podcast at yminstitute.com. A d until next time, friends, I h pe we helped you make sense of t is thing we call ministry.Ashley: 51:54

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10: Starting A New Job, Trunk or Treat, COVID Policies and the Church Parsonage

Episode 10 - Making Sense of Ministry podcast

In this episode, Mikiala Tennie joins Brian and Kirsten to discuss your questions! These questions include priorities when starting a new job, Trunk or Treat, COVID policies, and more!

Mikiala grew up in South Florida. She started volunteering in student ministry while still a student herself and hasn’t stopped serving students since. Mikiala works in ministry because of her desire for people to truly know Christ. For six years she has served at First United Methodist Church of Stuart and currently has the role of Director of Discipleship and Student Ministries. She lives with her little Yorkie, KiKi Okoye Tennie.

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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 10 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. I’m back here again today with Kiersten Knox, Kiersten Say hi. Hey everyone. And we also have today’s special guests Mikiala tennie. Mikiala is the director of discipleship and student ministries at first UMC steward. She’s also involved with us and our work at the Florida annual conference for the United Methodist Church. And that’s how we got to know her and it’s been a real joy working with her. So we’re glad she’s here to share some insights with us and we think you’ll enjoy her as well. Here at the making sense of ministry podcast, we love tough questions. We never shy away from them questions really are a sign of growth. And it’s way easier to hear God’s answers to those questions when we join in others asking those very same things. That’s why today I’m excited to tell you about our sponsor. Be a disciple calm is a great place for you to go when you’re when you’re dealing with spiritual questions, and you need some friends to help you with that. I’d encourage you to scroll through their affordable ecumenical accredited short term online courses, all taught by content experts. Here you’ll be in the company of others where it’s safe to discuss hard questions. If you have questions, and are looking to grow enrolling course today and ask away at BeADisciple.com Okay, let’s get started. Welcome back again to kearson. And welcome Mikiala. It is so good to have you both here today. So Mikiala, you serve at first UMC Stewart and we found out something interesting right before we started, we found out you live in the church parsonage which is right there on campus. So what is that like? What’s the good and what’s the bad? And what’s the weirdest story you got?Mikiala : 2:06

Oh, man, I don’t I don’t know about the weirdest story. I know that. I mean, it’s obviously a blessing. And wow, the commute you cannot beat that for sure. But yeah, it’s definitely interesting to live in the parsonage. My My house is right next to the church preschool. And so some days I wake up to children screaming. During Christmas, I wake up to Jingle Bells at 7am being screamed at the top of their lungs, speakers, you know, why wouldn’t you scream on the playground? That early in the morning? So yeah, so it’s very interesting. You know, seeing my coworkers the maintenance man walking by when I just want to walk my dog haven’t even had my coffee yet. You know, I call it camp FOMC sometimes because you step outside and you’re like, Oh, hey, boss, oh, hey, coworker, oh, everybody. It’s just like, you know, you’re at summer camp, but forever. So.Brian Lawson : 3:03

So so I have to ask you, because this is this is really important. I think this is important for all of us in different ways. But maybe especially for you. How do you set the boundaries in that kind of environment? I mean, I would, I mean, because I imagine church members just pop by or think, you know, in some ways, their mind is probably like we pay for that parsonage. So we own it. So we can just stop by right.Mikiala : 3:22

There’s definitely some bits of that. But what I found works is really just ignoring, you know, that’s the best way for vendors, like I love you in Christ, my brother or sister. But today is not the day where I’m supposed to answer the door. Especially because I’m in my pajamas. And only I should be seeing me in my pajamas right now. So you know, I’m just gonna stay in my room. My daughter might Mark her head off at the doorbell. But we are in fact not here because we are unavailable to you in these moments.Brian Lawson : 3:59

Yeah, and I think that’s so important for people to know, right to infer ministry leaders, it’s like okay to not always respond when it’s appropriate, you know, when it’s your day off or when, you know, those kinds of things.Mikiala : 4:12

So appropriate. I remember. We were We were planning for our annual pumpkin patch. And somebody’s like, well, since he was so close, why don’t we just put some of the pumpkins on your back patio? And I was like, absolutely not. You will not be putting pumpkins on the back patio so that anytime you need to sell the extra ones. You have to come to my pet. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, that’s not gonna work.Brian Lawson : 4:38

Kirsten you have some some parsonage experience, right?Kirsten Knox : 4:41

I did. I grew up in a parsonage and most of the time it was right on campus. But I was the kid so I don’t think like the boundaries part are people coming up? We did have people that would stop by at different you just never knew different times. You never know when someone was gonna stop by but that didn’t bother me then. So I think as an adult, that would be a lot harder than it was But I just remember like, I wanted to paint my bedroom. And my mom’s like, well, we need to go through the trustees and get that done. And I’m like, Yes. was always the process. But those other things. Yeah. Was it? Did you grow up Methodist? I did. Yeah. So I think I’ve learned because I grew up Baptist. I’m like, Oh, so they really do take that whole method thing very seriously. There is a method, there is a process. And that’s how it’s done. So I keep learning about that.Brian Lawson : 5:28

Yes, there’s a method to form the committee, yes, to form another committee. SoMikiala : 5:36

to talk about the method.Kirsten Knox : 5:40

My mom always used to say to us that we had to be a good steward of the church’s money. So like, turn off the lights when you leave the room or just be responsible, and I always liked it cooler. So in the winter, I would like to crack my window. And I grew up in Indiana and put my fan in my window and blow it in at night so I could snuggle in the blanket. And my mom at some point be like, Kirsten, you have to close your window and take the fan out. And I’m like, why she’s like, cuz you’re causing the heat and oh, how to kick on. And I’m like, like, like, that was a problem, right? I’m like, what makes me so sad? Yeah, she’s like, we have to be a good steward of the church’s money. And I remember thinking as a kid, I don’t know who the Stewart person is, but I don’t like. I was like, she always said, we got to be a good steward. And I’m like,Mikiala : 6:26

who is the steward is not helping us.Kirsten Knox : 6:31

I don’t like to keepBrian Lawson : 6:33

Kirsten, You’re calling me out on being a bad steward here. You know, I’m like, let’s crank the AC down real cold.Mikiala : 6:40

Listen, I’m all about it. I run hot already. So I’m like, I need all the fans on the AC because your girl struggling? I get it. Yeah.Brian Lawson : 6:50

Okay. I’m wondering like, how long have you been there? And and I wonder if you just briefly could tell us a little bit about, like, how you got involved in in ministry? Or how you felt called to ministry?Mikiala : 7:01

Yeah, absolutely. So I’m sitting at my church for six years now. And which has been a huge blessing, because I was just able to graduate the sixth graders that were there when, when I first got here. So that was a huge thing for me. Um, and I would say that, I mean, my call has really just been something that God’s been working on throughout the entirety of my life that I just really didn’t realize at the time. But I’ve been a nanny for as long as I can remember. And I started leading Bible studies in student ministry when I was 16, in student ministry, as well. And so God just kind of was working that out. And I’m always everybody else’s children’s perpetual onto like, that’s my role in life. And I love it. I have like seven nieces and nephews, and God children that I’ve just adopted into my world, because my family taught us that we love big, and we’re just always adopting people into our family. And so to me, you know, that’s ministry as well. And that’s just how my personal life has always been. And so it only made sense for that to take root in my career as well. And so, when I was at summer camp, when I was at the very end of my senior year of my undergrad, that was when I felt the Lord calling me to go back to school, get my master’s in youth ministry so that I could have the tools that I needed in order to minister to the best of my ability to the kids that I was already serving, you know, I was on T to somebody and I was a youth leader to somebody throughout my entire life. And so God really just impressed on my heart to make sure that I was doing the best that I could in those areas. So So then I did it. And then there was ministry. SoBrian Lawson : 8:53

yeah, I love that. I love that. That’s excellent. I love that whole philosophy. In fact, if I guess it was probably about two years ago now, I’ve had one sermon in my whole life where I had a standing ovation at multiple services, which was weird, right? That doesn’t happen in church. First off, so it was strange. But the whole concept of the sermon was about stewardship, ironically. But, but it was about that, that we should constantly be inviters. All right, and that there’s always an invitation, and we’re always pulling up an extra chair to the table, and that we should always had the philosophy. And so that’s kind of what I was hearing describing, and that’s fantastic. So I think we’ve got some questions to tackle. Some of these questions are questions that people have sent us directly. Others are things that that I have just seen in groups, and we’ve heard a question we got from Kyle and he says he’s from New York. I’m not sure if that’s upstate or the city. But he asked a question about starting in his at his church. This is his first full Time position. And he just started, which, you know, first off go you call for starting in the middle of pandemic, you got this. But his question really was like, What was he need to do? Like what are some of the first things he needs to think about? and prioritize is really what his question was? And then I have a follow up that I thought of after I read his question. So here’s what you guys think what would be some of the first things that you would say Kyle maybe needs to focus on or prioritize? I know, kearson, you led a workshop specifically about this. So I don’t know if you have some insights to share?Kirsten Knox : 10:38

Yeah, I was thinking, what I tell people oftentimes in that season is to spend time very intentionally about getting to know people. So to build relationships. In that year, I did teach a workshop on at root and and we talked about prioritizing people over programs. And I think when you first start in a place, you have such this internal drive, to be results oriented, and to do things and to change things. And that makes sense. Because that’s kind of how we are wired. And we want to do that. But always say, hold off on that. And really spend time getting to know people, I would identify groups of people like in your church, your parents, your students, children, who are the influencers in those circles, and really spend some time getting to know them, and asking questions and listening to understand the second part of that is really to understand the culture, I think the gift of being new to places, you have an objective perspective, and you’re not as emotionally attached to all the things that they are. And that’s a gift. But also you have to be careful in that and really try to understand the culture and the whys. And all of how people are attached to the activities, the events, the program, whatever that looks like for them. So really asking questions and listening, I think and showing empathy to wherever they are. Because if you’re new, and that’s difficult, that transition, but it’s also very difficult for them as they transition into a new leader and getting to know you. And they’re really giving them space to feel that in that transition. But I would say build relationships. And even outside the youth ministry be intentional about that, I’d even make the list like Who are those people that I want to make sure I spend time to getting spending time with them, getting to know them asking questions to do that. So they have some kind of strategic plans to do that. And then also, just to be a student of the culture, and getting to know them and their church and all of those things. And I would read this making big changes for the first year. And, as always, that’s kind of why might as a rule of thumb that we tell people I’m like, let’s there’s a safety issue, then right there. There’s some immediacy there that you have a judge into. But other than that, to be real hesitant about coming in and making changes, but more coming in and listening and building relationships.Brian Lawson : 13:00

Yeah, you know that. I mean, that’s kind of you kind of touch base a little bit on my follow up question, because I think we all probably agree that being very careful. And making those changes that first year is really, really important. Because you don’t know what kind of landmine you’re going to lock into. I mean, you may accidentally change something that someone that was beloved six years ago brought in, and it’s been held on to for all that time as if you’re holding on to that person, you may actually walk into that, I walked into a situation where I played a game of bill of a beloved youth minister who had passed away while doing the job. And I played that game, not knowing that I was actually bringing up wounds. And I was only there for three weeks, you know, at that point, so I then had a lot to deal with. So you never really know how something got to that point. But the quite the question that fall of that I have is how do you gauge when it’s appropriate to make a change, particularly like in that first year? Because we all know, we probably have lots of things we want to change, like, Oh, yeah, that this would be great to change. And this would be great. But we have to hold off on those. So how do we how do we gauge when it actually is appropriate to make a change within that first year? Mikiala, I don’t know what would? What do you think about that?Mikiala : 14:17

I think, um, I agree with Kirsten, in that, you know, that first year, try really hard not to touch anything in that because my thing is, you have to go through as many first in a season as possible so that you just have proper context period, about what you’re dealing with. And so we always try really hard in our lives to make sure we have as much context as possible before we make decisions and that that goes towards ministry too. And so for me, the only reason you should make changes is if you just do not have the resources, if whatever is happening, and is just not long term, and sustainable for you as a ministry leader for The volunteers who are trying to help make it happen, then go ahead and make that call. But at first, as much as possible, try to just keep things rolling, because people are going through that transition, because you do need to learn what’s going on and how people feel about certain things and where they’re at spiritually, like, there’s so many things that go into that. But I would say you want to still set yourself up as a new person for success as much as possible. So if there’s something that’s completely draining you as a resource, if you can’t be in two places at once, which is my constant struggle in ministry, then make a call, so that you can actually pour as much as you can like, to the best of your abilities, you know, don’t, don’t shoot yourself in the foot right off the bat. So that would be the only guidance I have in terms of making one call.Kirsten Knox : 15:50

I think that’s so good, right? Like if it’s about resources, I remember when I one of the churches I served in, I was there only a few weeks. And before I got there, they were in the process of renovating the youth room. And one of those steps was getting new carpet. And I mean, and they had very old carpet, and had some rat issues. So like changing carpet would be very important to know. And so we’re in the midst of doing that, but I came in like, as that was happening, it was already set to happen. Like I didn’t make any of those decisions. But the carpet got changed in the youth room, after I started just a couple weeks. And I remember this Sunday after we had high schoolers very upset about this change. And I like I really didn’t anticipate at one because it wasn’t a change that I a decision I made. But I think they were just so sensitive to change in their fears of what might change. And this is the real safe place to them and a place that they value and they got disrupted, even on a very minor, it was a safe place to put a lot, I think a lot of that anxiety and those feelings. But I remember that just as I was like, I didn’t see that coming. And so we had to have that comfort, but you should know about the carpet. And I’m like, I really don’t think your value is on the carpet being changed. And so set up that opportunity. But I think there’s those things really to be aware of, and if if there’s something a change that has to be made, I mean, I think working with your team, and then if they feel motivated to make that change, or if it was a change that was already in process, and you come into it in a place they were already moving in that direction, then I would think you can walk through that. But even that to be very careful. And doing that. And communicating would be very helpful as you walk through that.Brian Lawson : 17:38

And so many interesting stories are wrapped around the flooring of places, right? I went, we were doing a renovation in one place I was and and I went on vacation. And when I went on vacation It was supposed to be there’s like a cafe area and it was supposed to be like the concrete stained floor. I come back. And a trustee had made a decision to put down like this tile laminate stuff that looked like cheese it. I mean, it really looked like cheeses. And his response was, well, it’s the same color as what you were gonna get with stained concrete. I’m like, No, it’s not. I was gone for like a week and I come back. And it’s completely different. The plan is completely different. And so then the teenagers all walked in, and I called it the cheese at floor and assumed I picked it and I was like I had nothing to do with.Mikiala : 18:24

That’s what you get for leaving. How do I tellBrian Lawson : 18:26

you? I tell you? Yeah. So I, you know, I think you got you guys were right on and really maintaining consistency that first year to understand the culture. But there are moments where change is necessary. But you need to make sure that it’s not just you making it because you want it. You know, it needs to be something that actually has a legitimate safety concern, or serious reason behind it. And I would say pull the team behind the decision. And if you can get your team to make that decision rather than you. That’s always better because then it’s it’s a collective group that they decided that you support. particularly early on that’s that’s really important. I know I had an issue with some bands. When I first got a church, there was two bands, and they were competing together. And I found out that they were separate band worship bands because the brother and sister weren’t getting along. So they started to separate. So it was toxic from the beginning. And the whole thing. They were like one band thought they were better than the other and it was just not at all the culture we wanted to create. So So we, we in that first year, merged them into one band, and I did get some pushback. And if I were to do that over again, I think I would do some better communication and pull in the team a little bit better on that decision. But so a few weeks ago, we hosted some more digital gatherings. Those, for those who don’t know are where we basically host zoom calls for youth and children’s ministers where we provide some encouragement and a place to ask questions and community And in case you don’t know, we are starting some cohorts, these are eight week intensive cohorts that will start on the day, this releases will start two days after. So, if you’re hearing this on the first day or so this is released, I’d encourage you to check out those cohorts, we’ll put the link in the show notes. But anyways, during the digital gatherings, particularly with the children’s ministers, trunk or treat came up. And then I think that the CDC has also come out with some guidelines, saying that trunk retreats are sort of high risk events. For whatever reason, I’m not going to sit, argue whether it’s right or wrong, I’m just just telling you what, what they have said. So I’m curious if you guys know, like, what what are your churches doing? Are they doing this event? Have you heard of any churches who are looking at alternatives? Just curious what our thoughts are on this group about about that? Yeah,Mikiala : 20:55

it’s definitely a tough spot to be in, you know, just being in the middle of a pandemic. But I know that churches in our area are looking at doing more drive thru type of things, where you know, you invite families to still decorate their cars, and then they can have the kids drive through and see the trunks. And then at the very end is when they’ll get their treats. Like in a goodie bag, they can pass that over without too much physical contact, and all that stuff. So I’ve heard of that being done. And others just having families decorate their cars at home, and then send in videos and pictures so that they can be put in the Sunday worship experience so that everybody can see might just be a fun family activity together. But then the church gets the benefit of seeing the different ways that people are creative. I think for student ministry, one of the things we might do is just maybe an outdoor Movie Night, something like that. I haven’t told my kids that yet. So nobody tell them because I don’t usually like to say things ahead of time. But make sure we post this on your ministry page. So they see Yeah, thanks for that. Right. So, so yeah, we’re just trying to think of different ways to remain safe, but still try to celebrate the season and have a little bit of fun. It’s definitely a hard spot to be in, though.Kirsten Knox : 22:19

Yeah, so true. I heard this one idea at our digital gathering that I thought was really good. This children’s minister talked about, they were still going to have their congregation decorate their trunks and spread the cars out. But then they’re going to take the students or the children, and they were kind of like a parade or like a like kind of like a runway, they would walk down in their costume one by one, and people could see them in their costumes. And then they still have that. And I was like, that is so cool. Because they get all that attention. And here, I’ve had this costume and everyone gets to see it. And then at the end, they would have their goodie bag that they got to have, which I was like, that was really cool. When I heard someone talk about also, like, oh, if you could add, like a place where people could get pictures, and be able to add that to decorate it so they can take some pictures with their costumes before they walk through the parade runway of decorated cars. I thought that was a really good idea.Brian Lawson : 23:16

Yeah, I remember that one that was stood out to me, Kristen. And I think I think you can do that in a safe way. I mean, I think that so I tend to be so I was joke that I was a germaphobe by the students. They all said I was germaphobe. to them. I was I think maybe the most adults, I’m not that much. But to them especially I was well kearson might disagree. But um, so this obviously whole situation puts me on high alert. But but so when I was thinking about that i thought you know that in concept is so great. But how do you do that with people screaming? So because right, the screaming is part of the issue, potentially. And so I thought, you know, if you space the cars out, well, like you mentioned kearson if you really make sure that they’re spaced far enough out both directions, and between vehicles. But then potentially you also could give them like little cowbells like I give everybody count some other noisemakers that’s not screaming. And then then here’s the clever part, I think, put speakers out with crowd screaming from the speakers behind the cars. So it sounds like people are screaming and then they’ve got all these, you know, noisemakers so and then you just send kids down, you know, with space between them. And I think you could totally do it and would fill like, I mean, just like the NFL and like the sports are doing where they’re putting in fake audience noises. I mean, we could you I think you could totally do that. And kids, I think would love that. So yeah, that parade stood out to me too. When I heard that.Kirsten Knox : 24:43

That’d be great. Yeah. And then I also heard, I was looking on Facebook and someone had talked about the Great Pumpkin parable. It’s a book for how to research that cuz I’m like, I don’t know what that is. And so they talked about doing storytime and creating that space for that and an evening or maybe watching In the Great Pumpkin movie into an outside movie, like you had mentioned. So like, I think there are a lot of different ideas to think about what to do, I would just say, talk to your leadership. And each church is navigating this differently. And make sure whatever you do is really communicated well to your supervisor as you’re thinking about it, but also works within the guidelines that your church has set up so that it’s consistent in whatever you do.Brian Lawson : 25:26

Yeah, yeah, that’s great. That’s great. So I would say if anybody knows some great things they’re doing for trunk or treat, or they’ve seen some great ideas, maybe they’re not doing it, or even for student ministries. I know lots of people do pumpkin patches, and people are trying to think through that. I would love it if you guys post that in the making sense of ministry group and share that because I know there’s other people who could really use your ideas. And we think that collectively, as a community is where the best ideas are found.Mikiala : 25:54

Absolutely.Brian Lawson : 25:55

Yeah. So this next question, I actually saw this posted in a group that I’m a part of, you know, we’re all part of these different ministry groups. And I thought this was a great question for, for people to hear answered. And the question was, do you keep notes after each week’s lesson or gathering about, like, what could use improvement? And also, do you keep notes about the kids or students? And so that was the That was the question. I don’t know the full context of the question. But that’s what they were asking. So. So What do y’all think? What do you do?Mikiala : 26:30

Yeah, I am, I, I’m more so keep mental notes in terms of like the lesson after teaching one, we’re always our own worst critic. And so that kind of just sticks with you, you’re like, well, that bombed That was terrible. So just keeping that in mind for the next time that you have a speaking engagement. So I don’t necessarily keep written notes about that. But I definitely keep notes on my students. And one of my favorite parts of a meeting that I have, is when I sit down with our ministry, small group coach, her job is to, to encourage our volunteers and our leaders. And so she helps in that regard. And so we sit down together, and we look at the list of students that we have in our ministry, and we just talk through them, you know, what’s this kid got going on? How do we be in prayer for this student? And, you know, what? How long has it been, since we’ve seen the students face and what’s going on in their life? What can we do to reach out to them, and I love that because it it, it makes the ministry smaller in the sense of you getting to know what’s going on with your kids. And when you can write those things down and keep track of different things that are going on, then you’re able to, to build on more of that relationship. Versus You know, when you have youth ministry, and everybody’s coming at you at once, it’s really hard to keep track of what’s going on with everybody and all that. But if you take the time after the fact, once the craziness has died down, and really sit down and think through and remember different things about different students, and even what’s going on in the lives of the leaders, and how we might need to offset some of the leadership help, because they might be going through something at home, you know, just really trying to help make things work? Well. That’s a really important part of what we do.Brian Lawson : 28:11

Yeah. So you said you have a ministry, small group coach, is that right?Mikiala : 28:14

Yeah. What is what isBrian Lawson : 28:16

that role? Is that a volunteer? Like, how did you get to that?Mikiala : 28:19

Yes, it’s a volunteer role. So our ministry is, is small group lead. And so when you ask the question, Well, how do you disciple students? Our answer is always well, we disciple them via small groups. And so our small group leaders are the most important part of our ministry. But when you get to a point where you have 13, small group leaders, we know that it’s impossible to really be a great mentor of more than eight to 10 people, you know, so I have my admin volunteer who’s fantastic. I don’t know where I’d be without her. But she kind of took on more of a role of pouring into those leaders, as well, so that those leaders can pour into the students, we have to be very intentional about how we disciple our leaders. And so we work together to make sure that we do that to the best of our ability, so that that’s modeled for them. And they can in turn, do it for the kids. So Wow,Brian Lawson : 29:15

excellent. I love it. That’s a great position. If you don’t have that. You should get that. Yeah, it’sKirsten Knox : 29:20

so good. Yeah, I hadn’t thought about I don’t think I’ve ever written them down like cat notes. Afterwards, I did a lot more of the mental notes of after teaching the lesson. But I also would say, asking some of your small group leaders or whoever has other adults, that’s been a part of you teaching that lesson and getting their perspective is always helpful when you’re trying to decide what what really well, what could we do differently and their perspective because, yes, I think we are our own worst critic. And so getting other people’s perspective can be very helpful. Sometimes it takes some courage to ask that question to other people, right? Like, you got to be ready for that. But I would say if you’re a note taker, and document kind of stuff documented and all that stuff is kind of the way you are wired and would be helpful, then, yeah, keep those notes. But yes, the most important part is then communicating that with the people that are there serving those students. So how you do that, we oftentimes, I would do one on ones with my small group leaders. And that would be a time when we would talk through those kinds of things with their students. Because there are times I received information or new things that were going on that they may have not always gotten, or that they did in small group that I didn’t know. So being able, there are different ways to do that. But creating an avenue where you can share that information before and after, even before programming or after, for us small group leaders were there and having that kind of time to touch base with them. And communicating with them was always helpful. But having that, but I’m with you, Brian, I love this coach idea. And being able to do that. That’s great. Yeah,Mikiala : 30:54

I would also add, Kristin, you just reminded me now that we are trying to figure out how to do ministry in the pandemic. And with COVID. Our ministry, we’re working really hard at trying to do like hybrid ministry, kind of like the school systems where you have online ability to come to youth group and in person ability to come to you through. And so what that means for me is that because we do that via zoom, I now have a recording of the lesson that I’ve taught. And so it’s really painful. But it’s also really helpful to just watch your lesson and go Okay, so I can work on that I can work on that. So yeah, it hurts, but it’s good.Kirsten Knox : 31:32

Yes, I would say too, and there were times that they would pick out things that went really well, that I wasn’t really always good that scene because I could tend to see where I thought I could do better. And the critique part and missed the part of what was really good. And what really went well, and having them speak into that off the created space for that. For me at times, it was also very helpful.Brian Lawson : 31:56

Yeah, I think for for me, so I didn’t take notes weekly. But I would say probably every month or every couple months, during our leader meetings, we would ask, Hey, how are things going and do a sort of informal evaluation. And then, at the end of every school year, we did a really significant evaluation for primarily as we were thinking about the next year. And so we would do that every year. And then when we would have big events, so like, let’s say we had a fall retreat, or if you had like trunk or treat, you know, you have a folder with all these files, potentially in it, maybe it’s a digital folder, or maybe it’s a physical folder, I would go through within just a couple days after it was over. And I would write down all of the real wins. Like all the things that we love that went really well. And then I would also write down the things that were opportunities, right things that could use some improvement. I stole that opportunities, language from Target years and years years ago when I worked there. But But then I would just, I wouldn’t even think about anymore, I’d write it down, put that piece of paper on top of the folder, in it. And then so when I open it the next year start planning, I’ve got that those notes to look at from the previous year, because I know I won’t remember unless I have those notes. So that’s what I would do for for events. The depending on the number of students, I think you have or children. The how you do notes about kids or students specifically may change, you know, when you have only 10, it’s pretty easy to kind of keep track of that yourself. When you get to 2030 4050, whatever number, it becomes significantly more difficult. And so we we invested in Planning Center, which I know lots of people are familiar with. And we we ultimately started using that for notes on students. The kind of notes that went in, there were things that we thought that their next leader might need to know. So when they transferred to a new leader, also in there were significant life events that we thought were important to remember. Or if there was an incident or safety issue, we also would put that in there. And then also if we had to contact the parents for both positive but also negative reasons, that was all in there. And that was really helpful. I think the important part of that is that our leaders had access to most of that information, at least the people in their small group. So you really have to train your leaders on how to use that information and how not to use that information. And I also I think we had this may not be the right term, I’d have to look back but like a nondisclosure agreement or like confidentiality agreement that that they signed every year that says you got to understand this information does not leave these circles in these places. So I was that’s how we we ultimately ended up doing it. Just we got to a place where we felt like we needed to have it in a database somewhere. So that’s that’s how we did but however you find the due notes, I do think having notes are important. Just however you go about doing that I think can can vary. Because, as the other two have said, it’s, it’s you guys have said it’s important to, to evaluate, even if it means watching yourself from a zoom recording. painful as it is.Mikiala : 35:11

struggle is real, my friend.Brian Lawson : 35:13

Yep, yep. Okay, so the last question I actually receive from autumn and Jonathan, but also other people, and I’ve seen lots of people asking this question. And it’s about COVID policies and waivers. So should they have COVID policies at their church? I’m assuming about the youth or children’s ministry specifically? Do they publish them? Do they not? And do they need waivers for the kids and students? First off, I’ll say before we answer, we’re not lawyers. So don’t this is not this is not legal advice. And we don’t pretend to be that, but what do you guys think about about COVID policies? And do we publish them or not? What are your thoughtsMikiala : 35:59

with them with that disclaimer, like I’m gonna circle back to at the beginning of this conversation, we started talking about our friends, the trustees, and all the different committees that churches have. And so as a ministry leader, I totally feel like this is an opportunity to lean into exactly what those committees do best and what they are there for. And so whatever denomination you are, whatever your church has set up, lean into those leaders who work in that, you know, they want to make sure that the church is safe as a whole. And therefore, your ministry as a whole is safe. And so if there’s a way for you to ask those questions to them, I know because I work at a church that falls under the United Methodist conference, we get a lot of our guidance from the conference. And then it goes directly to our senior pastor who answers for I our entire church. And so I’m constantly bending his ear and saying, Hey, what do you think about this? Like, those decisions are not just me and my volunteer team? We do the ministry side of things, and how do we have a great event? And how do we minister to students, but when it comes to those safety issues, I need to hear from those people who do that on a larger scale. And so you know, find out what those rules are. And then you ask them, Do we post it, do we not because they have to figure that out for the overarching church. And so whatever the church is doing as a whole, that you guys come as a ministry, you fit in within that, and you make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to stay safe. So, so yeah, I would just kind of like, get in line with whatever the church is doing, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, or be the one that has to be at the forefront of making those decisions. Find somebody who can make those decisions with you and for you in that regard.Brian Lawson : 37:47

Yeah. And that really shows support of the church as a whole, right? I mean, when you do that, you’re saying you’re also submitting to authority of other leaders in the congregation, which then also makes you seem as a team player, as well, absolutely. You know, which is always good to project to the other people on staff and to the other leaders in the church. AndMikiala : 38:05

safety is too important not to be a team player about, you know, we don’t want to go Freewheelin and, you know, get into trouble, because we didn’t think about something, we got to have so many bases covered. So it’s important to ask all those people about those things.Brian Lawson : 38:19

Yeah, absolutely.Kirsten Knox : 38:21

And I think what also would be helpful to I would add is that your different age levels are doing it the same? I realize in all contexts that might be difficult in some places more than other. But yes, lean into your church leadership. And that’s the decision that not just you make the off though, it would be helpful if everyone was doing that the same way. And so that families who had children and teenagers knew what to expect and can navigate that and some cohesiveness would be helpful.Brian Lawson : 38:51

Yeah, yeah, we had a lawyer. Well, so he’s, he would not fall under this type of law. But his recommendation was always don’t publish a policy, unless you are 100% gonna stick to it. You know, it’s better to just not have it published. Now. I’m not sure how we all feel about that, how leaders feel about that. But from a legal perspective, he said, it’s better to have nothing published than to have something published and not follow it. And so I would say whatever you’re going to do, if your church publishes it, and you publish it within your ministry, just make sure that that whatever that is, that it happens. And to be honest, that’s really great for communication and for people to feel safe and to trust your leadership anyways. Right? When you do what you say you’re going to do, it really makes a significant difference on how how people feel about you and the ministry and the trust that they put in put in you. Do you guys think? Yeah. Do you guys think waivers are necessary? I mean, what are your thoughts on waivers during COVID? I mean, I personally think that maybe it falls under your general waiver.Mikiala : 39:59

For part I mean, I think it depends on what we’re talking about, like we as a church had to have waivers for our volunteers for those who would be coming on to the church campus, specific to COVID. But that was just something that came straight down from the conference. And we just had to abide by that. They didn’t give us instruction in terms of waivers for the students, I’m sure if we wanted to, we could implement something, but we just kind of took that direction. And we just had our leaders sign those. So it depends on the context and what you’re trying to accomplish. I feel likeKirsten Knox : 40:32

I’ve known churches that are doing waivers and churches that aren’t. So again, I would say, lean into your church leadership and let that be a decision that they make and that you are in line with. But also, I mean, personally, I think COVID is something right, we’re learning to live in, I always wanted to say when it’s over, I’m not sure that’s ever gonna happen. So being able to put it in your waiver with all the other stuff that you have in there that releases the church of liability, there might be some simple ways of doing that. I mean, I know for us, when we would have those waivers we use that when we went off campus, we didn’t always have a waiver for anytime, right? Someone showed up for a program that they had that. So I think there’s some logistics, to like, work through and think through, but as long as you’re, I would say, be in line with your leadership and then create a plan that’s workable, and that everyone is on the same page would also be helpful as you work through that.Brian Lawson : 41:28

Yeah, you know, I bring up Disney again, because you know, my family’s slight Disney fanatics, but but when you walk on on their property, they just have a sign out. I mean, it’s just, you know, basically, it’s the waiver published on the sign that you acknowledge these risks just by being here. And so maybe it’s as simple as your church just puts out a puts out a sign somewhere that says, By being on campus, you understand these risks. And, you know, we’re working hard, obviously, to mitigate them, but at the same time, they’re still there. So, yeah, like these two have said, just think about, just think about your church leadership. And what it is that they would, would have you do, I think, working together, and being cohesive in your communication, and what you follow is really important. So I think we’re kind of closing up our time together. Do you guys have any kind of last thoughts that you want to share? Before we close out this episode, with our listeners,Unknown Speaker : 42:24

I got just brought one of my favorite verses to my mind. And so I would just love to share that for everybody who’s listening. It’s Romans 15:13. And it says, “may the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And that’s just my prayer for all the listeners. We are operating in very strange times, but we serve a God who gives us hope. And that’s what we can operate out of. And so that’s my prayer for everybody as well.Brian Lawson : 42:56

Excellent. That’s beautiful. Yeah,Kirsten Knox : 42:59

I would say what I’ve been thinking about a lot this week, shared a little bit about it at rooted is that God isn’t wasting your efforts. And that has just been something I have been meditating on and thinking a lot about. The things look differently, not being in person or as we used to be, I think sometimes we don’t see the fruit or it doesn’t look the way we would always like but just to remember that the the care, the compassion, the love, that you are giving students and families that God’s not wasting that and even if you don’t see the effects of that God is using that. And that is powerful.Brian Lawson : 43:35

Excellent, thank you both so much. Well, friends, so that that kind of brings us to the end of today. One thing we’re going to put I’m gonna put down the show notes as we were talking, I thought this was important. Our friend Kelly Minter has written several articles for us that we’ve posted about mental health. And she also played a significant role in the workshops at this last conference. But she’s also taking new clients and she’s been in ministry, she’s been in youth ministry, so she understands a lot of what you’re facing, and may be a good person for you to reach out to. So we would strongly encourage you, anytime, but especially during this season to reach out to a counselor of some sorts during the season. If you don’t know one, I’m gonna put a link down to where she’s at. So that you can look look her up and, and I know she can take clients no matter where they’re located because she can do this on zoom. So we would love for you to check that out. Also down in the description, I’m gonna put a link to our Facebook group, which is the Making Sense of Ministry group. Really love to have you in there and involved and sharing your ideas and comments. But also, you can submit questions for the next podcast episode. And I think soon we’re going to do a giveaway for people who we choose your questions for. So watch out for that. And until next time, friends, I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.Ashley : 44:53

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3 BIG IDEAS FOR CONNECTING WITH YOUR STUDENTS

If you’ve listened to your students for any length of time, you might easily feel that you don’t have anything in common with them. You might find connecting with your students difficult. And, as quickly as youth culture is changing, it’s really hard to keep up. I mean, did anyone ever fully explain what the word “yeet” meant? By the time you figured it out, no one was saying it anymore.

If you’re focusing only on cultural trends, then it will feel impossible to keep up. But, fortunately for us, there are lots of different ways to establish connections with our students. Here are 3 big ideas for connecting with your students in meaningful ways.

3 Big Ideas For Connecting With Youth Students

BE WHERE STUDENTS ARE

Your students are definitely going to notice you going out of your way to see them and spend time with them. So, as you plan out your schedule, be intentional to spend time in the spaces that students are already occupying. Here are a few examples.

School Lunchrooms

Depending on school policies in your local area (especially with regards to COVID), this can be a very easy way to connect with students. When students interact with you in their school, it helps them see that you care about them beyond their participation in youth group last week. You are also more likely to meet some of their friends you have not met and gain a better sense of what’s really going on in their lives.

Extra-Curricular Activities

This goes beyond showing up for a lunch because you probably have to take the time out of an evening or weekend to show up at an extra-curricular activity. A lot of students will recognize that and be sure to come talk to you if they know you are there. And make sure they (and their parents) know that you are there. It also gives you an onramp into a future conversation with them – “Hey, your team was great at the game last week! How long have you been playing basketball?”

Social Media

As an adult, I feel like I spend a lot of time that I’m on social media rolling my eyes. But it is so helpful for me to see what my students are into and how they express themselves. It is also really helpful to be able to send out a reminder about an upcoming event. They are a lot more likely to see it than they would an email. But, be sure that you’re on the right platforms – think Instagram and not Myspace.

Ministry Relationships

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

You cannot pour into all of your students equally. But you can invest in a few students at a time in very meaningful ways, so it’s a good idea to create a space to do that. Choose some to join your student leadership team (even if you do not have one yet). Take one or two students out to lunch 2-4 times a month to work on discipleship. Form a creative team to help you brainstorm event ideas or set design for an upcoming sermon series. However you do it, invite students to participate in ministry.

BE AUTHENTIC

Students may not be great at remembering to shut the van door even though you have already told them 8 times, but they can definitely tell when you are not being authentic. So don’t put pressure on yourself to be something you’re not. They do not need you to act like them; they need you to show up and be real with them.

Make sure to talk about some of your struggles when you preach. If you have small groups in your ministry (and you totally should), that is a great place to be a little more vulnerable than you can be in front of the whole group. I’m not telling you to share every struggle you have, but make it clear to students that you don’t have all the answers and need the Lord just like they do.

BE INTENTIONAL TO INVOLVE OTHER ADULTS

You only have so much space in your life to connect with students. But even if you have all the time and space you need, you’re just not going to connect with some students. Odds are, though, that there is another adult in your ministry who might be able to.

A great way to begin creating a culture where your adult leaders connect with students personally is through small groups. This helps adults take ownership of particular groups (middle school boys, high school girls, etc). Having a system in place like this helps naturally connect new students with an adult other than you right away.

Developing positive relationships with your students’ parents will also help you better connect with your students. When you connect with parents, they tend to tell you when their kids are struggling and need prayer in certain areas. They’re also going to be more likely to send you a text message about an upcoming extra-curricular activity in their kids’ lives, or a problem at home.

Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of connecting with your students. You don’t have to be a cultural expert or even listen to songs in the top 40. Connecting with your students isn’t difficult – just be sure that you are doing some of these things and you’ll definitely see some of your relationships with your students strengthened. And, strong relationships help lay the groundwork for trust and the important kingdom-work you are trying to accomplish in your ministry.


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.


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?

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.

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

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!

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Transcript

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.”

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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.

Transparency

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.

Overload

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! 


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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.