Summer Of Opportunity

A summer image for an article about a summer of opportunity

“Losing what we thought our summer would be, just sucks!” I said that to a student a few days ago and almost immediately regretted it. It’s true, the next few months are not going to look anything like we anticipated. No camps, no mission trips, and no fun with our students. With our world in the state that it’s in, we may not get to do some things, but does the summer have to suck? Nope! Not for us, or our students. It may just be a summer of opportunity.

We are all heading into territory that we have never before confronted. A summer during a pandemic. Many of us will either be planning a phase by phase summer or one that is completely virtual. Some of us may even be where I was for a bit and considering a “dark” summer and waiting this thing out until we can get back to whatever is “normal.”

A lot of us have, in the last few months, experienced screen fatigue, the roller coaster of student engagement on our Zoom calls, and maybe even some creative blockage when it comes to our TikTok video content. I have been working so hard against all this and as I look to what the next few months could look like, I realized something.

It’s not about opposition, it’s about the opportunity. This season is filled with the opportunity to completely reimagine our ministries and what we can do this summer for our students. Here are several ideas for each phase of this summer of opportunity.

Phase 1 Summer Opportunity

Continue To Gather Online

What has your online presence been like recently? Why not continue it and make it fun? Play some games once a week and send prizes like gift cards for Uber Eats and Door Dash. My students love food! Gather on Zoom for check-in time, then use the “Breakouts” feature for various things. I am looking forward to some virtual escape rooms like those that are popping up all over the place. Place groups or grade levels into breakout rooms with a couple of adult leaders in each. Give them all the same scenario (or make it a harder one for those high schoolers) and the first group out and back into the main session wins. I thought of rigging it to have my incoming sixth-graders win as a cool way to welcome them into youth ministry!

Creative Competition

Get creative with a weekly competition. This could be done a number of ways on different platforms. Here’s an idea: Ever watch the show “Chopped”? Gather some random food items and put them in boxes. Deliver them to your students with a note not to open until instructed. Set a date and have them watch a video or jump on a Zoom call with you and your guest judges (adult volunteers, pastors, etc.) to give them instructions and a certain amount of time to make a dish using only the items in the box and a shortlist of other optional ingredients that they may have at home. Have them send a photo of their creation (or disaster) to be judged on creativity. Maybe even bonus points if they can get a parent to taste test. It should make for a fun time or even a mess!

Phase 2

Maybe your church, like mine, is working on ways to phase back into things during the summer months. Gathering in small groups in the latter half of the summer may be an option. Consider grade-level groups or what some churches might call cluster groups.

Grade Level Groups are pretty self-explanatory. Plan some fun events that can be fun and done in large or open-aired spaces. Invite one group in the morning and another in the afternoon, giving time between for coming and going. It can even be the same event for a week allowing for your entire group to have the same experience (and less planning for you). You could even have a trusted leader or student per group take pictures from each gathering to send to you, ultimately resulting in an awesome slide show to post at the end of the week, so everyone feels much more connected.

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When you think of Cluster Groups, think of social common interest groups. These groups could be anything from gamers, to TikTok’ers, to coffee snobs, like me, that get together (in small groups of course) (along with a couple adult leaders) and create an accepting, Christ-like community where everyone is Like-minded, cared for, and connected. A lot of our students just want the opportunity to be together, and we can provide that space for them with purpose. A great thing about cluster groups is that they can also happen virtually over a Zoom call or Google Hangouts.

Now, these are just a few ideas that I have. I know that you might have other plans and creative ideas, but our challenge is to take this time as an opportunity and not opposition. There is so much that we are all grieving right now. I am right there with you. Despairing over a lost summer and personal time with our students is valid and affirmed. However, let’s look at what we can still gain. Let’s be hope for each other and our students in this crazy time. I’m rooting for you and in continuous prayer for you, your ministries, and your churches. Let’s band together, share resources, and make our Summer 2020 a summer of opportunity!


Author Brandon Sangster Headshot

Brandon Sangster is a 2013 YMI Graduate with a decade of youth ministry experience in small and large church settings. With a heart for Christ and connection with students, he forges a culture of belonging, acceptance, and affirmation among the students in his ministry past and present. Brandon is married to wife Gianna, dad to 10-year old son Tyson, and serves as the Director of Youth Ministries at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, FL. 


What About VBS?

What About VBS

VBS is a time-honored tradition in churches, and for many, is their single largest event of the year. VBS helps to bring unchurched families into our buildings and allows us to bring Jesus to children during their important formative years. So, what about VBS this year? What are we to do when we cannot bring them into our buildings? 

Some churches are postponing VBS for a later date, in hopes the restrictions will be lifted in time for them to still hold a “somewhat traditional” VBS. 

So what about VBS? Here are some challenges we may encounter in our churches with potential solutions.

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Does your volunteer base rely heavily on retirees who may not yet feel comfortable in a group setting? Consider hosting extra meetings so that each one is a small number of people.

Is your community discussing decreased group sizes? You may need to look at reducing the number of children enrolled in your VBS.

How will you address social distancing? Masks may need to be part of your conversation as well as using tape to mark off areas.

If these considerations leave you thinking that VBS may need a different look this year, you are not alone.  So where does that leave you?

Virtual VBS

A popular option many churches are considering is a virtual option. Consider uploading videos, music, and lessons to a website or social media, and encouraging families to participate at home. This approach, while likely being the simplest, is not without its drawbacks. Many churches are finding that families are not engaging with our digital content at the level we hoped for and may feel overwhelmed with responsibilities in this time. Will virtual VBS be just another bit of digital noise in our family’s lives? Or will it be a welcome reprieve from their day-to-day? Perhaps consider polling some of your regular families in your ministry and see how they feel about it.

VBS in-a-bag

If your church has already purchased your supplies, this may be your best bet. Providing paper copies of lessons, craft instructions along with supplies, and maybe even snacks is another great option to provide the material to families. This option allows for a bit more flexibility for families to complete at times convenient to them and allows for families who may not have a large stash of crafting items to participate fully. You may consider pairing this with some digital content and creating a hybrid model. Uploading lesson videos and music may make more parents feel comfortable sharing the lesson if teaching is not their gift.

Backyard VBS

This is a VBS format I considered years ago to create a more intimate approach. In this format, ask a few key families in your congregation to host a one-day VBS-style event at their homes. Provide each host family with a craft and supplies, game and supplies, lesson (either the lesson components or a pre-recorded lesson to watch dependent on the comfort level of the volunteer), music, and lunch or snack if your budget allows (maybe have pizzas delivered?). 

You can provide the family with a list of children you would like them to invite, as well as encourage them to invite friends who may not be a part of your church. Please adhere to group size restrictions in your area. The host family then chooses a date and time that works for them (or uses a date predetermined by the church) and hosts something like a child’s birthday party. Pre-print church materials to send home with attendees with current worship information, as well as future church programming or calendar. For this option, you can either choose one day of VBS from the curriculum you planned to use or come up with another simple lesson with accompanying craft and games for families to use. 

No matter what we choose to do this year, VBS is certainly going to look different! Remember my friends, do not grow weary of doing good-and you ARE doing good! Our families need the hope and joy that can only be found in Jesus more than ever before. What a unique opportunity we have before us this year, perhaps to minister to new families who never would have come to a traditional VBS.  Sit back and watch the amazing way that God is going to work!


A photo of Annette Johnson, Children's Ministry Coaching Coordinator for the Youth Ministry Institute.

Annette Johnson is the Children’s Ministry Coaching Coordinator for YMI and has served in full-time ministry for over 12 years. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College in Lakeland. After several years of teaching elementary school, Annette entered into children’s ministry.  Now she is a full-time coach, speaker, and teacher. She is married to Kevin, who is the pastor at HHUMC. Annette and Kevin have been married for 17 years and have 5 children.  She loves singing, cooking, playing with her family, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.


06: Kelly Minter on Trauma and Grief That We Are All Experiencing, and How To Help Students, Children and Families

Making Sense of Ministry episode 06 on trauma and grief

In this episode, Kelly Minter, a therapist, 20-year youth ministry veteran, and author of our popular articles on grief joins us for a conversation around trauma and grief that Covid19 has caused everyone to experience. Your youth ministry, children’s ministry, and family ministry are impacted by grief, and this episode will help you navigate ministry during this season.

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Speaker 1: 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 LawsonSpeaker 2: 0:14

friends. A welcome to the making sense administry podcast, episode number six in case you weren’t with us in the last episode I announced that we were launching, why am I online and we launched last week and it’s been received so well. We’re so excited about it. Why am I online is an online learning platform fill with courses designed to help you grow as a leader. Friends, it’s such a great opportunity for you to learn a home. It’s affordable and these are practical courses and to celebrate a launch for very limited time as in maybe just a few days left after we launched this episode, we are offering a free course so I encourage you to follow the link below in the show notes or head over to our website and sign up for your free youth ministry Institute online course. I really think that you’ll be glad you did and I think that the people around you as you start to take these courses will see you grow as a leader.Speaker 2: 1:12

The guest on today’s podcast is Kelly mentor. Kelly is therapist here in Florida, the state of Florida. But more than that, she also has over 20 years of youth ministry experience. Uh, she was involved in getting student leadership voice heard on the conference level in the United Methodist church. Uh, so she is bringing both a youth ministry perspective as well as a counseling perspective to this conversation and to the time that we’re all facing right now. In case you’re curious, Kelly uh, works through elbow tree counseling here in Florida and she is taking new clients and she does take clients virtually. So whether it be yourself or if you know somebody that you would like to recommend or to after you’ve heard this episode, um, I’ll put her contact information in the show notes. Hey Kelly, welcome to the podcast. Appreciate you being here. Thank you for having me. So you’ve recently written several blogs for us about grief. I think we’ve released two up to this point. Uh, we have another one coming and then you also have been working on a video series that is on YouTube, which we’ll put it in the show notes, uh, called ASCA therapist. I’m just curious, what was your inspiration for particularly those videos and when you started releasing them?Speaker 3: 2:31

Yeah, so I, I get a lot of questions specifically from teenagers or families that know me about therapy and what does that look like and what’s the purpose of it. And I was sort of noticing that people have a lot of misconceptions about what therapy is and what the point of it is. Things like, Oh, we’re not going to go to couples counseling because that’s what people with real problems or that’s right before your divorce. That’s when you go, um, my family doesn’t have issues, we don’t need to talk about this thing because my kid will just grow out of it. Those types of things. And it just became clear that one of the things that I could do with my particular skillset is communicate and everyday terms what therapy really is and what would happen. I just kind of had this thought in my head, what would happen if you could ask a therapist anything and they would be honest about their answer. And so I don’t answer anything that I can’t be honest about, but my first one was, what do you really think about your clients? Because I think that’s, uh, something that people think about a lot. What does my therapist think about me? Do they think I’m making a mistake? Are they judging me? That sort of thing. And that’s just not something that you do, but I can absolutely understand why somebody would think you would. So just demystifying therapy and making it an everyday option for people was sort of my goal.Speaker 2: 3:53

In your first video regarding grief, you talked about memes a little bit, which I thought was, I thought was interesting because I’m somebody who really enjoys memes, but I’m horrible at like trying to put them together. So I just don’t. Um, but there’s been so many since, um, we started with the Covidien crisis and the pandemic that have released, one particular comes to mind is the, the one from back to the future where Marty or doc tells Marty not to go to 2020, which I felt less so accurate. Um, but, uh, I was just wondering if you could explain, I think you mentioned that memes are sort of a coping mechanism. Um, I wonder if you could explain that a little bit for us. Um, and maybe also if you have an example of one you’ve seen recently and how that might be sort of a coping mechanism.Speaker 3: 4:42

Yeah. So coping mechanism wise I don’t think means are necessarily a harmful one. There’s, there’s harmful, and there’s not harmful coping mechanisms, but we all need ways to cope with things. Right? And so part of the issue that means address is that we feel really isolated from each other, not just during Kobe, but across the board. And people feel like their thoughts are unique, but not in a good way. You know, my feelings, nobody else feels this way about their life, about their job, about their kids, about their spouse. And then you look out there and someone has actually gone through the trouble to make something that mimics what you feel and you feel, you feel seen, you feel like you’re part of a community, you’re together with someone else that also has those feelings. You don’t feel so alone. So that coping, coping mechanism wise is super important.Speaker 3: 5:37

I think at this time. Um, where means get difficult. I think I addressed this in one of the videos at least where it means get really difficult is when it puts another group down in order to make the particular group you’re targeting with the meme feel better about themselves. And that is, it’s just destructive, you know? So, um, but for me, I mean I’ve got a group of friends that I just send means to their, in their memes group in my, in my text messages cause I love them. I think they’re hysterical. I think right now seeing someone else publish something and you’re like, I resonate with that. I feel, I feel like you know me and we’re in the same boat right now is especially important. So I think they’re, I think they’re really good. One of my favorites isn’t necessarily, um, I can clean it up probably, but it’s, it’s essentially that the devil whispered in my ear, you’re not enough to make it through this trial.Speaker 3: 6:30

And I whispered back six feet back, insert preferred expletive here. Um, you know, and I just think that’s so funny because I think that’s, I think that’s one of those things that anybody can sort of relate to right now, whether you’re a believer or not, you know, the idea that you’re not enough and the idea that you can’t do this is just really prevalent in all of our lives right now. And that’s, that’s to do with our levels of expectation of ourselves. But I just think that the idea of empowerment that says, I have a rule that you can not come near me now. And even the government says, so it was just really, I just think it’s really funny. Um, but honestly some of my favorites are the ones where parents are being really real about what homeschooling looks like while they’re trying to work from home. Because I just, man, I’m having trouble. I’ve got two dogs, I’ve got no kids, I’ve got two dogs. And it is sometimes a nightmare. I can’t even imagine how y’all do with kids. Oh my goodness.Speaker 2: 7:24

You said something interesting about expectations. And one of the things that we’ve noticed talking to youth and children and family ministers is there’s a huge amount of discouragement out there. And the first it was they, they were going to try everything and it was going to be, um, fantastic and kind of fun. But then as this has carried on longer, longer attendance has dropped a little bit and what they’re doing now, they’re concerned about how do they reenter that with their programs. So there’s a huge amount of discouragement really floating around. And I wonder, how do we, how would you think that we manage that discouragement and how do we set reasonable expectations for ourselves?Speaker 3: 8:15

Yeah. So I think that one of the biggest things that people need to understand right now is that their expectations for themselves, the reason they’re unreasonable right now is because they’re based on a productivity and a functioning that does not exist. And so I quote Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a lot. He has some really great things to say about what you need and when in your life. And the first two levels are physiological and security and that’s physiological things like your food, your shelter, your water, um, those kinds of things and things. Your body needs, clothing, things, your body needs to survive. And then second rung is safety needs, which is security of your person, security of your stuff, security of your employment and security of your resources, which is really where at this point it hits most people. If you’re not somebody who’s in an at risk category, you’re, we are being told by those in charge that you don’t have to be as afraid of, you know, the potential air around you.Speaker 3: 9:21

Um, but even so, you don’t know where, how much longer is your company going to be able to pay you? How much longer are you going to be able to get the resources that you need? You know, everybody likes to make a big joke about the toilet paper hoarding in the beginning, but stepping back and looking at the understanding of what we were going into, of course people, people were starting to panic for their resources. And so that, that’s what happened. Like that’s just what happened. The expectations we have for ourselves happen on Maslow’s hierarchy, which is love and belonging and esteem and self actualization where we find, um, we, we find ourselves in our work and we find that people telling us we’re doing a good job means something to us and helps to build us up. Right now somebody is saying, you’re doing good job.Speaker 3: 10:09

A lot of us, our first thought is, well you don’t see me every day. You don’t see the mess that I actually am. You know? And we’ve all sort of slipped down these rungs to our processing in level one and level two. And in those areas you don’t have things like fulfillment from your job. You don’t have things like creativity, you don’t have things like problem solving and acceptance of facts. Those are all higher rung processes that are not applicable when you’re very safety of resources or safety of the job or safety of body are at risk.Speaker 2: 10:41

Do you think this calls into question any unhealthy sense of identity we had before this? Like is this exposing any of that do you think?Speaker 3: 10:50

I think a lot of that is yes. Um, I also think a lot of that is shining a light on the actual human need that we do have for acceptance and for love and for approval. But any of our, any of our less than productive self images or processes that we work with in our own understanding of ourselves or understanding of the world has been magnified now. Because when you’re relying on other people to reflect back to you what your worth is and the other people go away. You’re living in a house with no mirrors now and you’re wondering what you look like because you don’t know.Speaker 2: 11:31

Yeah. Wow.Speaker 4: 11:33

SoSpeaker 2: 11:35

you have tied, I think in in part two of our series on grief, I think you tied trauma and grief together.Speaker 4: 11:42

[inaudible]Speaker 2: 11:44

so those who may not fully know, could you maybe give a, a general understanding of what trauma is and what grief is and then how they might be related particularly in this situation?Speaker 3: 11:54

Yeah, definitely. A lot of people will hear trauma and think, well I’m not in a trauma because I have a roof over my head or I have a bed, you know, and, and I have healthcare or I have this, I have that. It doesn’t matter because we’re in a collective trauma at this point. And so one person not having it makes us all fear what we also may not have. And trauma doesn’t have to be a specifically experienced thing by you. It’s something that calls into question your ability to survive something. And so, um, a trauma potentially is defined by anything that causes a deficit or a disturbance in your everyday processing. And the way that it affects you will determine the level of trauma. And that’s something important for you to understand because if they haven’t, if they, we live in a world that understands things incorrectly about, I’d say 85% of the time because it does not you admitting you are in a traumatic experience that when a collective trauma does not take away the pain of people who are being taken advantage of in a, in a much deeper way, you know, it doesn’t, the amount of grief and pain that are out there are not finite.Speaker 3: 13:12

And so you don’t take some from someone else when you admit your own. Right. Um, but there are people who feel, feel guilty and feel bad about the idea of naming this as trauma or naming this as grief because they feel like, well, I’m really lost anything. I haven’t really, you know, I still have what counts like fuck up Buckaroo kind of thing. And that, that, uh, had a conversation with a friend the other day who was like, well, isn’t that just a saying life’s not fair? And I was like, yeah, yeah, that is saying life’s not fair. And so what’s your point? And they were like, well, well, yeah, life’s not fair, so just suck it up. I’m like, right. The implied suck it up is the problem with the statement. Life’s not fair. You can make the statement, life’s not fair and understand that life’s not fair and then feel that pain, feel that unfairness.Speaker 3: 13:56

Or you can say life’s not fair and so suck it up and move on. And that’s where you stop someone’s process, right? So when grief comes in, we’ve lost so much. The understanding of what we’ve lost as a collective, as a society, and the understanding of what we’ve lost personally will continue for months, if not years after this. And that’s not to make people feel discouraged. That’s just to be realistic about our expectations. It will be things that continue for years that we don’t realize it’s connected to this until it becomes obvious. And at that point then we’ll deal with it. Cause people’s processes are different. But the grief, the trauma that we’re experiencing, the trauma that we are currently in as a collective, we are grieving the loss of security. We’re grieving the loss of safety. We’re grieving the loss of safety of the very air we breathe.Speaker 3: 14:51

You know, and you can’t put a timeline on that, but the idea of, so everybody’s heard of the stages of grief, right? Talk about that all the time. And it’s generally understood to be a linear thing. And unfortunately it’s just not, there’s a lot of different models out there. But for me, I subscribe mostly to the seven stages, which is a modified Kubler Ross model for you psych people out there. And it starts with shock because there’s a period of, wait, what? It, it doesn’t matter if it’s conscious, it doesn’t matter if it’s subconscious, there’s always a period of wait, what just happened? What’s going on? And then there’s denial, which denial is active, it’s active clinging to the understandings you had before the grief hit, right? So if it’s someone who passes away, you’re actively clinging to the idea that maybe they’re not gone.Speaker 3: 15:49

Um, if the situation that we’re in right now, people actively clinging to the idea that it didn’t hit teenagers or I’m not as Matic or immunocompromised, so I’ll be fine. So would a desire to jump back into normal if you will be. You think a form of denial? I think it’s a form of denial or of bargaining. Um, I think that cause anger comes right after denial in the, in the linear equation of it. Anger will come right after because that’s a floodgates opening of all your emotions. Cause denial is denial of your emotions. Denial is denial of your fear of your frustration of your, I don’t know, joy at the fact. You don’t have to go into your office every day, whatever that is, whatever that emotion is, um, you’re, you’re holding it back because to accept the emotions and to express the emotions mean means you’re starting to move towards believing this is a thing, you know?Speaker 3: 16:39

So then you got anger, which is where everything comes flooding out and anger is a protective emotion. And so, um, anger is not, not actually a primary emotion. It’s a protective emotion. It’s a very, very important one that we all need to be in tune to you because it protects you. It’s protecting another emotion. And so when you feel anger at something, if you have a ability to take a step back and what is the anger protecting me from, you know, what, what am I not feeling in order to feel the anger. But then you get into your bargaining, which is the best description for bargaining over her bargaining that I’ve ever heard is seeking in vain for a way out. And I think that in vain part is so, so important. And I think that’s that order or the denial is where the, the idea of rushing back to things of getting back to normal and getting back to where we were before because it’s not, it’s not, that’s not a thing. That’s not an option. We will never not know what we now know. We will never not watch governments around the world and depending on where you stand, maybe our own fail there. People in the way we’ve watched it, you know? Yeah. And going to be a collectiveSpeaker 2: 17:50

change in how we even approach contact with others. I think some people will be very upfront and obvious and they know what they’re doing. I think though, there’ll be subconscious changes that some people don’t even realize, especially in the United States. I don’t think we’ll ever look at mask wearing the same again because I think we used to always think of as for other countries, um, and now and which has probably a prejudice in its own self. But um, but now it’s suddenly here, right? And it’s this thing that is a new realitySpeaker 3: 18:22

and that’s one of those things that I think people who are super angry about wearing masks are super angry about the restrictions that are still out there. Um, or people who aren’t angry about it. It’s so easy to get angry at people who don’t deal with this. The way that we deal with it, you know, because we see that whatever it is, people who are dealing with the situation differently than us, the different is a threat because we’re processing in level one and level two and everything that does not look the same as threatening. And we don’t respond to threats the same way. Right now we can’t because the threats are more real than they’ve been, are real on a very different level than really they’ve ever been before in almost any of our lives.Speaker 2: 19:06

So to understand grief a little better, to help us make sure we, we know how to recognize it, um, probably within ourselves and also the people that we’re leading and serving. Does grief have sort of an age range or do you think that are, you know, children that are four or five, six, seven years old experience it. Um, and, and if so, what would that look like? Do you think of a child?Speaker 3: 19:32

Yeah, so I think it doesn’t matter how old you are. Um, I, I tend to view grief similarly to how I view love. Um, you can grieve to the level of your own life experience. You know, um, you can love the level of your own life experience. Why do we look at love differently as we get older? And it doesn’t mean that love before that wasn’t real. It means it was different cause our life experience and life understanding was different. And I think the same is true for grief. A child, a, any child who’s able to feel emotion, is able to feel loss and is able to feel grief, they will exhibit it very differently than even a teenager would. Um, or even an elementary school age child would. But our understandings at that age, as, as babies, as toddlers, as elementary school folks, even middle school people, you’re really looking at an understanding of the world through the lens of your parents or your caregivers.Speaker 3: 20:32

And so anything that is exhibiting itself in the parents is going to be seen as scary, um, and as a threat until they understand it, until they can, can give it a shape, you know? And so for a lot of kids that looks like, um, I have a lot of friends who have toddlers who stopped taking naps all of a sudden stop taking naps. They’re like, I don’t understand why. I’m like, it’s, I can explain why for me to explain why to you. And I actually had this happen the other day. I tried to explain it to a friend of mine. They’re like, Oh, I think they’re just growing out of it. I’m like, okay, that’s, and that’s fine. But also that’s probably not actually what’s happening. Um, they’re reacting to what’s happening around them because they are also in tune with it. And while it hits on a different level, because as you know, a picture of five-year-old has only had five years of experience on this earth, but something that is impacting four months of a five-year-old’s life, that is a higher percentage of that child’s life than a 40 year old.Speaker 3: 21:37

Right. So it feels longer to them because that’s all they know, you know? And so in some ways, some of them are processing this as more extended than older people are, you know, because that’s the lens they have to see it through. But for a lot of them it looks, it looks like more clinginess for some kids. Um, it looks like tantrums. It looks like arguments. It looks like, um, confusion and sensitivity and sleep disturbance. That’s what it looks like in a lot of kids. Yeah. Um, and then we get into teens. You’re really looking at things like lack of interest in things around them. It looks very similar to depression, which is hard. I think for a lot of people right now is you know, where’s the line? When do I know if my child needs serious help or if this is something that’s going to go away. You know, once things get back to normal at phrase that is so elusive because it doesn’t exist, but that’s fine. You know, it’s different. Yeah. Which is everyone’s favorite phrase right now, right? Yep.Speaker 2: 22:49

To the leader or that has kids at home or to the leader talking to parents.Speaker 3: 22:54

How much ofSpeaker 2: 22:57

their own grief should they allow their kids to see do you think? Because if it’s feeding, if it’s feeding from the parents into the kids,Speaker 3: 23:07

what’s the balance there for the parent?Speaker 2: 23:12

I have to imagine the parents probably carrying it around with them all the time anyways. So what would you suggest for them on, do they allow their kids to see that? Do they try to manage how much they see of it? What would you suggest to either the leader who has kids at home or they’re working with parents who have,Speaker 3: 23:30

yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s really important. This is a really interesting time. Um, a really opportune time to start talking to kids about feelings and the way that kids understand their feelings, the way kids understand their emotions is through the lens of those in charge of them. And so it’s, it’s not, it’s mostly parents, most significantly parents over anybody else in their lives, but teachers, um, leaders on TV, their youth leaders, any of that, they understand it through seeing someone older than them deal with similar emotions and what they do with that, you know? So I think it is important to have some sort of check in time with their, with their child. It’s a touchy kind of a thing because it depends on what your relationship was with emotions before this started because you have to address that. If you didn’t really talk about emotions, you didn’t really show a lot of your emotions or a lot of your troubles to your children before this. And now it’s on, you want to sit down and have, you know, heart to heart conversations with about it. They’re unlikely to be really open to that idea initially. Um, but consistency is really important. If you decide if as a, as a parenting team or a leadership team, you decide that you are going to have regular check-ins. Having the regular check ins, whether it’s responded to or not is what’s going to make those safe places for people to check in. So for instance, parents, um, you could do aSpeaker 3: 24:54

daily, might feel like a lot daily, might be a lot to start out with, but every other day, you know, at this time we all just kind of sit around and have a safe space to talk where it’s not going to have repercussions for later. You know, um, where, you know, the kid’s not going to say something like, well, I just kinda phone did it on my test the other day. And then the next day when you’re talking about their homework, you bring that up. You know, what’s brought up during that time. Can’t be used later as ammo to get people to motivate. Right. That’s just not ever do that. No, not at all.Speaker 3: 25:28

I just don’t, and that’s the thing, that’s something that I see on a regular basis in, in, you know, family who, families who try to have shared times and stuff and kids who are like, I’m not going to do that because I’m not going to give them ammunition for later, you know? So during this time they’re going to be super heightened to that. But going first in sharing times, you know, I just want to talk about what you’re feeling. Um, I talk a lot about the feelings wheel and that is such a good tool for all of us because some people are raised without knowing what their emotions are, you know?Speaker 2: 25:57

Yes. And you know, I actually had never heard of that prior to you mentioning it. One of your videos. So I looked it up and you know, I’ve, I don’t think I’ve been the worst person at identifying emotions, but I definitely had room to grow. And I think if anything that will show that to me.Speaker 4: 26:16

Hmm.Speaker 3: 26:17

It’s, it’s really helpful now to start now to recognize that our emotions have purpose and our emotions have names, you know, and, and giving them a name, it, it essentially. Okay. So you’ve heard that the story of Rumpelstiltskin is common and true to the psyche on so many levels. I can’t even explain. You’re stuck in a situation. You’re looking for something to get you out. You have, you know, a magical that you can’t name and you do what they want you to do and then you get out of it. Right? But you’re stuck. That is the cycle of all of us in our emotions. That’s how that works. And so giving Rumpelstiltskin his name, you know, and identify takes his power over you out, but still recognizes that that is a significant part of your life, you know? And so it’s the same with emotions.Speaker 3: 27:05

That’s how emotions work. So the emotions wheel. My favorite one, I think we’re going to link in the description, right? Um, this one I’ve printed out and I have copies of it in my office and a copy of it on my wall because, so the center section has very common names for emotions. And what you do is you look at those and you pick one and then the, the pie shapes and the circle are color coded. So then you go to the second rung of that color and you pick one of those words in the second rung and then you go to the third wrong and pick any of those words in the third wrong. And it’s almost like a like a three layer to your emotion. It’s getting through your first, second and then to your third year core layer of where something came from. So you might be angry about something, but in reality you’re embarrassed. But you needed that thing laid out in front of you to say, Oh, I’m actually embarrassed about this and I feel I feel not good enough in this area. And so it came out as anger. I get that. NowSpeaker 2: 28:02

one of the things that we teach leaders is self awareness is really important. And I think this is even during normal times, right? So not during what’s going on right now. When you walk into a situation and you feel something inside of you, um, you need to know what that is and you need to know where that comes from so that you manage it so that it doesn’t control your response to whatever the situation is it’s going on. It’s, it’s like a self check before you go into the situ. Um, and so when I saw that wheel, I was like, wow, this is really great to kind of help leaders, uh, with, with their own development to pinpoint where those things are coming from. Um, and potentially an event that, that I would imagine has, they’ve experienced that maybe contributing to her.Speaker 3: 28:49

Yeah. And that’s, and that’s the thing, people don’t always know where their triggers come from and you don’t always need to, but there’s reasons why people are just doing something that seems super mundane and then they’re covered in a wave of embarrassment or sadness or whatever it is. You know, that the feeling is connected to something in their past. But once they know what the feeling is, they’re able to address it better and they’re able to handle it better. And when you can handle your emotions and face the reality of the fact that you have an emotion and it’s okay to have an emotion. Oh my gosh, is it okay? We all do, right? Like we all have emotions. So it’s fine. It’s what we do with it that makes it good or bad.Speaker 2: 29:30

Okay.Speaker 3: 29:30

And what we do with it that makes a difference to those we leadSpeaker 2: 29:36

knowing that, um, it’s a traumatic experience for everyone knowing that it’s very likely that every single one of us are experiencing a level of grief. Um, how, how best would it be for them to go about serving those that they serve?Speaker 3: 29:51

So I think one of the things that is most important right now for us to understand is the, it goes back to the discouragement portion that you were talking about earlier. We feel discouraged because of people’s lack of engagement, but people’s lack of engagement is simply assigned to us about what is going on in their lives. And so if people aren’t engaged, man, is it hard to keep this in the front of our heads and ministry? But it’s not about us. It has nothing. It’s just not, it’s not about us. It’s about what’s going on in their lives and what do they need right now. And remembering that it’s not a personal attack on us if people are not engaging in our programming right now. Um, and remember that people are very confused at what they need. And so you are not, I say this to some of my better friends that aren’t going to take offense to the statements.Speaker 3: 30:53

I’ll just say it to everyone. Listen to the podcast, right? It makes sense. You’re not actually God and you’re not actually Jesus. And that reminder is important right now because there is not a way to solve what is happening with people. And we want to, we want to solve it and want to fix it because number one, it makes everything back to normal and we feel more comfortable. And number two, it gives us a sense of purpose that we are missing right now because nobody’s really sure what their purpose is at this current moment. And to do that is to put our needs in front of theirs. Right? So keeping what you do in check is really important. And by that I mean check your motivation before you do something. If you are doing a senior celebration, are you trying to keep it as close to what you normally do? Because that feels comfortable for you? Are you trying to do it because that’s what makes you feel like you can still recognize this milestone, these kids’ lives? Are you doing it because they need that? And you’re helping them to get that? Like what are you doing and why are you doing it? And if it’s, if it’s a satisfying needs in our own lives, that’s not necessarily wrong, but you need to be realistic about what you’re trying to accomplish.Speaker 2: 32:07

Wow, that’s such a great question to be asking because you’re right, I think that there is a level of people doing things to make it feel normal. Um, and, and at times that might be what people need, but not always. And often I think right now it’s not what they need. Um, it’s, we need it more than they need it. And, and I think that that’s an important question to ask ourselves. So we need to ask ourselves the motivation, right? What’s the motivation behind this? Um, would you say we need to,Speaker 3: 32:40

the things going on within ourselves for sure. When we think about the motivation, that’s where things start to come up for ourselves. Motivation is, you know, um, I want to stay important in these kids’ lives. If we’re that real with ourselves, Oh, that’s going to bring some stuff up. You know, what’s going on in me that I, I want to be significant in these, in these kids’ lives. And am I not getting fulfillment other places because I, and so I need this fulfillment here, or is that an okay feeling? Those kinds of questions come up. And the problem is there’s not a lot of forums to have those conversations right now. And so that’s kind of, that’s kind of where we get ourselves stuck, right? Is we don’t have the time. Even for some reason in this current situation, our pace is still less than manageable.Speaker 3: 33:26

And so we don’t take the time to really process those things and see what it is we’re trying to gain versus what is it we’re trying to give. And you need to gain some things and you need to give some things that’s balanced and um, but, but identifying what those are and who you’re trying to get a gain for and whether or not you’ve heard the needs from that person is really important. And I mean, I will admit that this is something that’s gonna be a little bit easier to do. The smaller your group is honestly, because if you’ve got 40 seniors, you’re not really able to sit down and talk to each of them individually. Or maybe you are. That would be fantastic if you could, but it’s less than realistic to assume that you’re going to sit down with each of them personally and have that conversation about what do you need to celebrate this milestone so that you can move on to your next one. Because that’s part of the thing right there. They need in the things that we’re doing right now, we need to be able to normalize our emotions and normalize our current functioning in order to move on to whatever is next.Speaker 3: 34:27

But the idea in the beginning I think from a lot of people were let’s keep things as normal as possible. Let’s keep doing what we were doing before, keep things, you know, keep things structured and that sort of thing. And that made sense to everybody in the beginning and now we find ourselves at a place where you know, that might not apply because what does school look like in the fall for college students? What does it look like for high school students? What, what happens in the fall, you know? Or what happens the summer when the normal things we Mark our summers with aren’t going to be there. And what do we do with that? Because you can’t keep making things normal in a world that is no longer normal.Speaker 4: 35:04

Right?Speaker 3: 35:05

Like at that point, you’re cleaning to the past and you’re encouraging other people to clean to the past and not proceed into the future. So that’s not helpful anymore, you know? And so the best answer, the absolute best answer would be to sit down with each of those students and ask, you know, help them to figure out what it, where it is they’re at and what their processing is. And, but those conversations, making spaces where you can just kind of talk about feelings and you name feelings and you encourage other people to name feelings is a great step towards helping to understand what is next. Somewhere along the line, youth ministry got um, a reputation reasons. Ministers and youth ministry got a reputation for not being structured and that reputation could maybe help us at this point. It’s interesting to me to see people who really, really, um, bucked structure cling to structure.Speaker 3: 35:59

Now like it’s a life raft. You know, like you didn’t want anything to do with structure before, but now you’re like, I have to have structure. Like, no, you have to have structure. That doesn’t mean it’s what your kids need, you know, um, and paying attention to both is important, but really giving space for things to happen is important right now. Um, because it’s not just about programs and it’s not just about getting kids from point a to point B anymore. The discipleship paths and stuff that we have laid out that those can’t apply right now. And that’s not to say don’t use them, not say they’re not important. But right now the more important thing is how are people internalizing and processing what’s going on so that wherever we’re going next, they are healthier. They are prepared, they are maybe more in touch with themselves. You know, that they are able to see the creation that God has made in them and that they are able to, they know they’re able to stand things cause they stood through a storm.Speaker 2: 37:07

I love that you say to give them space and that programs aren’t the answer right now because I think that that is so important for people to hear right now. So often the people who get discouraged is because their students aren’t attending their zoom meetings or their, their live program that they put on Instagram or something of that nature, which can be fun. I think for my girls it’s been important for them to go to zoom meetings where they could talk to friends and have some sense of community and laughter and joy and that’s great and has its place. But the answer is not that you know the, the answer like you have said is, is the listening and is that the help them process what is happening around them and within them. And I think in the church we make the mistake of thinking discipleship has only education.Speaker 5: 38:03

Mmm, okay.Speaker 2: 38:04

Because this, this is discipleship. This is teaching them about the ways that they’ve been made and understanding themselves. And by understanding that, I think that they’re also understanding more about faith and about Jesus. And in reality, how you help them through this and guide them through this is going to make it easier for you to talk to them at greater depth about Jesus later. Right. Because they’re now going to have this positive association with you that they want to hear more about what you have to share with them. Right. So, so I personally, I think it is discipleship, but we get stuck in this loop of feeling like we have to have a program and we have to have a lesson and it has to be a certain way.Speaker 3: 38:48

Yeah. That plan that, that like 52 week plan that we are all encouraged to put in place, which is not bad. That’s not a bad thing, but that didn’t leave room for a pandemic that destroyed everything that we assumed was Holy about youth ministry. Right, right. Absolutely. Absolutely.Speaker 2: 39:06

The idea behind this podcast is that sometimes ministry doesn’t make sense that things are overwhelming or we’re confused or maybe we just started and we’re trying to figure things out or we’ve been doing it a really long time and this pandemic has sort of just made nothing makes sense anymore. Um, so what, what kind of encouragement would you leave for our listeners?Speaker 3: 39:26

Yeah. I think the biggest encouragement I have is that you are the expert on you and that’s the only expert you have to be. You’ve lived with you your whole life and you’re the only one who has. Um, and so if you’ve got a gut instinct about something, your, your insides are telling you to take a break on something or to push forward on something. Listen to yourself, trust yourselves as much as you can. Continue to trust yourselves more because wherever we’re going, we’re going with who we have with us right now, which is us, right, which is yourself and there’s not running that. Um, which sounds a little scary, I think maybe less than encouraging sometimes, but honestly that’s a beautiful thing because you are, you are able to do what you’re able to do at any more than that you’re not responsible for. So trusting yourself and letting yourself off the hook a little bit. Maybe a lot of it depending on who you are would be my biggest, um, statement for people right now.Speaker 2: 40:29

Well, I really enjoyed that time with Kelly. I hope friends that you heard that, um, that first off, why am I, and personally I believe that you are also, all of us are experiencing a level of trauma and a level of grief right now. It might look different for some of us and we might, um, show that differently. But we need to be aware of that and to be a good leader for those around us, we also have to lead ourselves well. And that means that we have to handle this thing that we’re dealing with this trauma and this grief. And I also hope you see that the kids, the students and the families that you serve are also experiencing a trauma and grief right now. And so I hope that as Kelly said, you consider what your motives are as you’re planning in the future, especially in the near future.Speaker 2: 41:19

Thinking about, uh, you know, why am I really doing this? What is my hope and desire for this thing that I’m planning right now? And is it for me or is it for the S for the students and families and children? And I think maybe that’s a question we always need to ask, uh, that we should always ask ourselves what’s the real motivation and driving factor behind every decision that we make? Sometimes I think we’ll find an answer that, um, that we love and that we know we’re genuine. And then other times, if we’re real honest, I may not be an answer we really like. Um, but it’s a good habit and something we should consider. Well, friends, that’s all I have for you today. I hope this show was encouraging for you. I hope it challenged you maybe a little bit and maybe made you think about things slightly differently. If you enjoyed this episode, would you please leave us a rating and I would love it if you actually wrote out a review. I read every single one of those and I would love to see them share this with somebody you think who would benefit. Don’t forget to snag your free youth missions to online class before. Um, the, the offer disappears. Don’t miss out on that. And until next time, friends, uh, hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.Speaker 1: 42:34

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

What If Students Are Struggling More Than The “Norm?”

What if students are struggling more than the norm blog article.

In youth ministry, your mission is to promote the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being of all youth under your wing. And now, during a global pandemic, which has forced the world to shut down and become shut-in, and while your job may look 100% different than it did six weeks ago, your mission is still the same. It is understandable that students may be struggling more than the “norm” during this time.

CHALLENGES UNIQUE TO YOUTH DURING THIS TIME

  • Social isolation has dramatically increased over the last six weeks
  • Screen time has dramatically increased (you know the stats on screen time – decreased attention span, increased anxiety and depression, increased chance of obesity)
  • Social Media use has increased (pseudo-connection with an increased chance for bullying)
  • Teens can be reluctant to verbally process, share feelings, and ask for/accept help
  • Home life might be tumultuous at best for some youth, and now they are forced to stay there
  • Big life plans (summer trips, camps, graduation, college, etc.) have been put on hold or cancelled
  • Possible acute or long-term financial instability/ food insecurity
  • This might be the hardest thing they have been through to-date, and no one in their life has ever experienced anything similar

We will all feel the weight and effects of this pandemic for years to come, and we will all process in our own ways. However, teens who are already at-risk for depression or suicidal thoughts/ideation need to be monitored and cared for closely and in unique ways.

How do you know if one of your youth is struggling more than the “norm” right now?

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION / SUICIDAL IDEATION OR THOUGHTS

  • WITHDRAWING
    This may be hard to monitor while not in-person, but if a teen is withdrawing from activities that usually bring them pleasure, this could be a sign of depression.
  • VERBAL SIGNS
    Teens may tell you or a loved one:
    • “I just don’t think I can live like this anymore”
    • “I don’t want to live like this anymore”
    • “My family/this world will be better without me”
    • “Everything would be easier if I were gone/dead”
    • “I just can’t see a future anymore”
  • PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
    • Bags/dark circles under eyes
    • Lack of sleep // sleeping too much // unusual sleep patterns
    • Cutting marks on arms/wrists
    • Inability to focus
    • Rapid weight loss or gain // Loss of appetite
  • GIVING POSSESSIONS AWAY
    If a teen begins giving away their favorite possessions, they may be looking for ways to have their friends and family be reminded of them after they are gone.

While we all hope to never be in a situation where we are on the front line of helping a teen through the darkest moments of their life, we must be prepared that it is always a possibility – especially now. Here are some ways you can help:

ACUTELY OR ACTIVELY SUICIDAL:

The following information is taken from the community-version of the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating scale (C-SSRS). If a teen says or does anything that makes you think they are actively suicidal, act quickly and calmly:

  • DON’T BE AFRAID to ask the following:
  • Have you wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?
  • Have you actually had any thoughts about killing yourself? If the loved one answers “yes” to question 2, ask questions 3, 4, 5 and 6. If the person answers “no” to question 2, go directly to question 6.
  • Have you thought about how you might do this?
  • Have you had any intention of acting on these thoughts of killing yourself?, OR, You have the thoughts, but you definitely would not act on them?
  • Have you started to work out or worked out the details of how to kill yourself? Do you intend to carry out this plan?
  • Always ask question 6: In the past three months, have you done anything, started to do anything, or prepared to do anything to end your life?
  • REMEMBER: In these crucial scenarios, SAFETY outweighs CONFIDENTIALITY; depending on the state in which you practice youth ministry, you may be a mandated reporter.
  • ASK the teen to tell their parent/guardian, or state that you would like to tell their parent/guardian – but between the two of you, someone has to tell them.
  • BE PREPARED – Have the home address(es) of each youth easily accessible in case you have to be the one to call 9-1-1.
  • ENCOURAGE them to seek the help and advice of a counselor, therapist, or a supportive stranger by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). If a traditional talk therapist sounds intimidating to them, try Music Therapy, Art Therapy, or any other Creative Arts Therapy – research has proven these modalities to be effective for teens who are reluctant to attend talk therapy.

OTHER WAYS TO CARE FOR TEENS WHO ARE ANXIOUS, DEPRESSED OR ISOLATED:

CHECK-IN
Weekly or even daily personalized and individualized check-ins with at-risk and/or all youth (phone calls, texts, email, Zoom calls – whatever is THEIR preference is best).

ONLINE OFFERINGS
Offer online get-togethers as often as you can for your youth. If they are struggling, they may not attend each one; but knowing they have the option might help them not to feel alone.

Youth Ministry Online course on how to develop as a leader.

New to ministry?
Don’t let your leadership show it!

CARE PACKAGES
Snail mail, 3rd party delivery (Uber Eats, Door Dash, Amazon etc.), or even front-door drop-off. Leave encouraging messages, a Bible if they don’t have one, snacks, whatever you think would make them feel loved. (For more ideas like this, see our article on Reaching Students Beyond Zoom).

ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION
Not only with you, but with their friends, family, and others in the youth group. The more that teens can feel connected and not alone, the better!

GO OUTSIDE
Encourage your youth to go outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D whenever they can! This change of scenery and the physical benefits of being outside and getting exercise can help all of us take a much-needed break and even change our thinking and perspective!

MUSIC & ARTS
Encourage active engagement in music listening and music-making, creating and enjoying art – this can emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically benefit our brains and bodies!


YMI blog author and music therapist Mallory Even

Mallory Even, LPMT, MT-BC, is a Board-Certified and Licensed Professional Music Therapist. She earned her degree in Music Therapy at The Florida State University, and has owned her private practice, Metro Music Therapy, which is based in Peachtree Corners, GA (NE Atlanta), for over 12 years. Mallory has a heart for using music to serve others, both professionally and personally, and has been a worship leader at various churches in Florida and Georgia throughout the last 20 years.


You can contact Mallory by sending her an email.


Grief In Times Of Trauma

Grief In Times of Trauma photo

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

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

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

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

Our Own Pain

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

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

Is it common? Yes.

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

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

Youth Ministry Institute Online helps those struggling with ministry.

Are you struggling in youth ministry?
I does not have to be that way.

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

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

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

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

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

Tips For Dealing With Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida 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.


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

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

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

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Ashley (00:01):

Youth Ministry Institute Online on what your ministry may be missing.

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

Brian – Host (00:13):

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

Brian – Host (00:59):

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

Steve (02:08):

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

Kirsten (03:00):

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

Brian – Host (03:46):

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

Annette (03:54):

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

Annette (05:15):

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

Brian – Host (05:43):

they’re sleeping on your Kirsten.

Brian – Host (05:48):

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

Steve (06:39):

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

Brian – Host (07:56):

Oh, absolutely.

Kirsten (07:57):

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

Brian – Host (08:19):

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

Kirsten (08:45):

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

Kirsten (09:27):

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

Kirsten (10:13):

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

Brian – Host (10:59):

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

Annette (11:27):

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

Brian – Host (12:18):

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

Steve (12:26):

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

Annette (13:23):

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

Annette (14:17):

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

Kirsten (15:21):

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

Kirsten (16:06):

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

Brian – Host (16:49):

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

Steve (17:50):

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

Steve (18:34):

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

Steve (19:18):

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

Kirsten (19:53):

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

Speaker 4 (20:36):

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

Kirsten (21:25):

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

Brian – Host (22:07):

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

Brian – Host (22:55):

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

Steve (23:29):

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

Steve (24:23):

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

Annette (25:55):

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

Annette (26:54):

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

Annette (27:41):

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

Kirsten (28:34):

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

Brian – Host (29:39):

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

Steve (29:51):

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

Steve (30:50):

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

Kirsten (31:30):

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

Kirsten (32:26):

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

Annette (33:25):

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

Annette (34:17):

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

Steve (35:38):

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

Steve (36:31):

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

Brian – Host (37:31):

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

Kirsten (38:40):

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

Steve (39:22):

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

Annette (40:31):

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

Brian – Host (41:34):

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

Brian – Host (42:25):

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

Ashley (43:40):

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

Dealing With Grief

Dealing With Grief - An article

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

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

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

Dealing With Grief Clouds

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

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

Can you see the problem, though?

Acknowledging The Possibility

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

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

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

Dealing With Grief

You Cannot Fix Them

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

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

Understand Your Motivations

Be aware of your motivations for what you do.

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

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

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

Ask Them

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

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

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

Dealing With Grief Is Possible

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

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


Kelly R Minter is a 20 year veteran of youth ministry, and an RMHCI in the state of Florida 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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve: (04:10)
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annette: (27:25)
Absolutely. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO ENGAGE STUDENTS BEYOND ZOOM

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

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

How To Engage Students Beyond Zoom

Write Them A Letter

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

Youth Ministry Institute Online on engaging more students in your ministry.

Struggling to get students to
show up to youth group?

Create a Mind, Body, and Spirit Challenge

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

Utilize A Group Messaging App

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

Have Personal Conversations with Them

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

Deliver Goodie Bags

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

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


Kirsten Knox, Senior Director of Ministry Partnerships

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


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

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

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

 

One challenge that we are all facing is – boundaries.

 

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

 

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

 

5 Ways to Keep Healthy Boundaries in Social Distancing Ministry

 

Create A Designated Work Space

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Set Digital Alarms

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Find A Rhythm

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Stop Comparing

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Be Gentle With Yourself

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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