In this episode, Brian and Kirsten share some of their hopes for ministry this fall, reflect on interesting summer stories, and discuss one BIG way you should support your volunteers.
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Youth Ministry Institute original podcast
Brian Lawson: 0:08
Hey everybody, and welcome back to the Making Sense of ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well and your ministry transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson back with Kirsten Knox and we’re here to talk about fall ministry. Kirsten we’re launching in the fall and what we’re recording this some people have already started back to school, some people will start back in a week or two. okay, Kirsten, what do you love about fall?
Kirsten Knox: 0:36
Routine. I love routine. I love the summer, but I’ll tell you, when the fall hit, and kids start going back to school, and I was like, Ah, my normal routine. It was life giving to me.
Brian Lawson: 0:48
Ah I’m ready for pumpkin spice.
Kirsten Knox: 0:51
Ah, there you go. Okay,
Brian Lawson: 0:53
yeah, I’m not burned out yet. You know, it’s been a rave for what, like 10 years now. 15 years? And I’m still not burned out. That’s right.
Kirsten Knox: 1:01
Yes. Because recently at the coffee places, you can get it now in my area. So I don’t know about yours.
Brian Lawson: 1:08
So we just got a whole lot of people who love us and will love me. I don’t know about you, or a whole, a whole lot of people who have now just decided to write me off.
Kirsten Knox: 1:16
They’re questioning your judgment right now.
Brian Lawson: 1:24
So any interesting stories or things happened to you this summer, in ministry?
Kirsten Knox: 1:30
I was trying the I went on a student retreat with our students. And here Okay, so I have been doing ministry in Florida for over 20 years on the coast. By and large, I think all the places I’ve been on the coasts, and I have successfully not done water trips, like, not been beach trips, like I don’t do beach trips as a youth ministry until this church that I work at. They love water, and it’s small. It’s a smaller group. I’ve worked in larger churches, so in larger groups, so I feel like there’s a little bit of a difference, but I’m like, I’ve successfully avoided this unless it’s like a waterpark where there’s lifeguards, because then I feel better about this. And then our retreat we went on has a river with kayaks and canoes right next to our cabin. And then we recently did a boating trip to kick off the new year with our team by our new sixth graders. And I’m like, so in the summer, I have done these, and it just makes me so nervous. I I saw pictures. And I was like, man, they’re like on boats on the ocean. Yes. This is what I say they push pushes my low tolerance for risk. And probably good for like, every time I have to judge is that you know, because I would like to say no to things. Yeah. Because I don’t want there to be any risk. But that’s not fun. And students need risk. And so I’m like, yeah, one of the pastors here said to me, Kirsten, how did you avoid for 20 plus years not doing it? I’m like, because I’m smart. Yes. It can be done. It can be done. That’s right. We have a little different culture here. So you know, you live into the culture. And it’s but yeah, one of the
Brian Lawson: 3:09
One of the things that I got to experience this summer was as a part of the youth ministry Institute, we we work with Episcopal churches here in Central Florida. And so one of the things we do is help them put on and host a mission week. And while we were there, a student who is upper High School, this point in time looks so familiar to me. And I was like, I know, I know this kid from somewhere. Where do I know this boy? And I couldn’t pin it. And then he comes up to me and goes, Brian, and I’m like, yes. No, you okay? You know, yes, I had a nametag on but it was clear he was not reading. And I was thinking…Oh, no. Oh, no. How do I know this boy. And then he goes, anything goes, Hey, you gonna buy us some drinks. And it clicked like, I knew this kid when he was in sixth grade. him in this his friend, we had a snack bar at the time where I was at, and he would always say, hey, come buy some drinks. And in my head, I never knew if he meant like, buy us drinks at the snack bar, or let’s go out for like an adult beverage drink. I never really knew what he meant. But, but so that was an unique experience to catch back up with him. Because they after I left, they moved over to the Episcopal Church in area. And so it was neat to catch up with him. And that was a weird experience to suddenly hear buy us some drinks again.
Kirsten Knox: 4:36
In a different environment. Right. You’re like I didn’t expect that here.
Brian Lawson: 4:39
Yeah, so I’m hoping he met snack bar drinks, not adult. Although by this point time, he might mean adult beverages. I don’t really know.
Kirsten Knox: 4:48
Either way, I’m gonna try to give you the same answer here. That’s right. That’s right.
Brian Lawson: 4:53
So yeah, it was good. It was a good time. And so I hope our listeners had a great summer and had some cool experiences and probably some scary experiences and everything in between but but now we’re kind of we’ve shifted to fall right or shifted to fall, which you said love the routine.
Kirsten Knox: 5:08
Love the routine and the fall decorations. You said, I wasn’t thinking that when you said Fall, I was thinking more ministry just not in general. But like, all decorations I have. I have I’m waiting till September 1. This is my deadline. This is my goal. Yeah, I know you’re earlier than that. And I have to negotiate that start date with my husband, so.
Brian Lawson: 5:31
Oh, so Yeah, mine stuff still in the attic, though? I haven’t got it down yet. So I gotta get it down today or tomorrow that hopefully summed up this weekend. And, yeah, so I was, as we were kind of thinking about this episode here. And we were sort of thinking about, like, what, what are some of the things people want? Start thinking about this time of year? Right. And, and we think we’re thinking thatwe all sort of have hopes for the fall, like we want the fall to look like something, we want it to be meaningful. And for me, I know this won’t sit well with people whether snow, but for me, Fall means August through December. But I know people in the North think, oh, that’s winter. But so that’s semester, if you will, that that fall semester, so what is it? What is it we hope for right? And then I’m wondering if there’s some things that we can do? Or think about that can help us land what we where we hope to be? So for you and I wonder what are some things that we hope we would see in student ministry or kids ministry, children’s ministry, whatever we were leading? What would some of those things be that we would? We would hope for?
Kirsten Knox: 6:48
Yeah, I was thinking about that. I think what, what is unique about falls, there’s an energy to fall typically, that’s also in the rhythm of youth and children’s ministry, your high attendance of the year, like that’s when people right, we’re on this restart, let’s restart. And so one of the things that I oftentimes hope for, and I think what we hope for is that we are able to leverage that momentum, like it’s just naturally there. So how do I take advantage of that and leverage that? Not just for the fall, which I want to for the fall? But also can I leverage that for a year? And what is coming? So that is one of the first things I think about? Yeah, yeah, I, you know,
Brian Lawson: 7:28
I often think about, really two perspectives and ministry. For me, there was a time where I did not meet much in the summer with the ministries I was leading. We just people were out of town, we had a few major things, but that was it. We didn’t do a whole lot of meeting. So when it was like that fall for me, was especially early on, was about how do I redevelop these relationships among the people in ministry? Like how what can I do to create an environment that they reengage with one another like they had before? So there’s that that perspective and the other perspective that I would have when I when the ministry I was leading, was active all summer long, was similar in some ways, but slightly different. It was how do I how do I develop upon or build upon those relationships that were formed over the summer? So either way, it was based around relationships. And that was really important for this time of year. I think it’s even more important this time of year than other times a year. But one was how do I foster environments that make it possible for people to reengage with one another? And the other one is, how do I how do I continue that momentum? Right? How do I encourage that and also know that people are going to come in to the ministry who were not there all summer? They had no idea what we did. So they missed all that happened. Yeah, in the summer.
Kirsten Knox: 8:51
Yeah. And I think that similar is culture, setting the culture because again, it’s that restart, so that relationships and that culture, what do we want? I think about what do we want to develop as this culture? And because there’s new people, as you’ve got to figure out, how am I helping them feel like they’re a part of it, what I don’t want them to do is to like they’re on the outside looking in, because they didn’t have some of those summer experiences, or they’re new. So how to how do we create a culture of belonging for people who have had those and not feel like you know, they’re the those core kids that have been a part of those experience and are excited about what they experienced over the summer, but also those who you’re new sixth graders? Yeah, you’re the people who have joined for the first time. How do you think by the time comes April in May? For me, oftentimes, I was like, well, we’ve gotten a little lacks on some things. Maybe we created some bad habits. The fall is starting to be like, okay, we can restart. Who do we want to be? What does that environment we want to foster? And how do we do that? Yeah. So
Brian Lawson: 9:48
There’s kind of two things I want to ask you a question that maybe we could hit on a little bit this what to what you’re saying. But before that, I wonder if how we think about our language and the way we use our language makes a big difference on whether or not somebody who wasn’t there all summer feels included or not. And, you know, I was just sitting here thinking about like, when we talk about things that happened in the summer, if we’re in front of the group sharing, or if people are talking about it, like, one small example, we sit, we’re sitting in a small group or something, or sitting a Sunday school class with the children and asking them recall, you know, what was your favorite thing you did this summer, and they maybe talk about summer camp. And they share a little, you know, say I love this, they’re not going to share it in a way that a new person would understand. Yeah, you’re going to simply share the thing that they love. So for you, as a leader, I think this is probably a good place to think about our language and think about how we communicate and then say, I know there’s people in this environment that weren’t there at summer camp. I don’t want them to feel like outsider, or excluded. So I’m going to follow up that young person that child’s saying, The favorite thing they loved, and just share briefly with the group. Yeah, we went to summer camp, and we did these things. And that’s, that’s what they’re talking about. And maybe maybe sometime, you could join us. Something that just sort of gives a full picture as to what it is. I don’t know if there’s anything you did or said Pearson specifically like that. But But I just think, you know, thinking through our language in that moment, is a good way to not exclude the people who weren’t there last summer?
Kirsten Knox: 11:20
Well, yes, and framing it, which is what you speak to being able so that it builds excitement for what could come and like what they could be a part of, versus like feeling left out. Like, I think that’s important. And I think if we’re not intentional about that, it’s easy to get sucked into the conversation, because there’s excitement there. And we’re glad about what happened, but being able to frame that. And I think then pulling in those people into conversation. Like, that would be my other is when someone is sharing about all the great, you know, something that we did, then I try to enlink Turn it to someone who maybe wasn’t a part of that and ask them to share about their summer like, what did you do? That was fun? What just so that they have something to share? And to speak to?
Brian Lawson: 12:01
Yeah, absolutely. So the thing I wanted to backtrack on and ask the question is, you know, you and I both have kind of talked about building those relationships or, or rebuilding, you know, so you’re either building upon relationships that were developed over the summer, or you’re rebuilding entirely and trying to help people reconnect, which, in truth at these machines, we tell people every single week, you’re rebuilding relationships, I mean, essentially, that’s what you’re doing. But what are some ways that you some things you’ve done, or that a person could do to help create space for those relationships to redevelop. For me, I think this is where I stay away from on stage games. During this time. I know that people love them, and they have their place, and they can be great and buy onstage games, I mean, the ones where you’re on a stage, and there’s a screen behind you. And it’s, you know, one or two people in the game, or it’s by looking at the screen, right, something like that. I stay away from those right now, that’s not helpful to rebuild relationships. I need something that gets them interacting and moving.
Kirsten Knox: 13:11
So yes, yeah. And I think for me, the fall was always, I spent a little bit more a longer time in the Kinect, in creating space through games, because I’m like, if you’re new here, it’s hard to sit in a circle and just have a conversation. So I recognize that if I can help you bond in that game time, then it’s tees up our small group time. But if someone was to look at our schedule, we would always spend more time in that area for the first month or two. And then it shifted in titling. I mean, I think our students are like, Hey, we’re just having fun, more time to hang out where I’m like, Yes, purposefully, because they want to set that up. So that was, I would increase the time we spent, and also look at different types of games. So I have, you have different types of students that will enjoy different games and connect in different ways. So creating a variety, I think is also important, and sometimes in the same night. So if I lengthen that time a little bit, I might play two, versus oftentimes we have played one for a longer time, that had variety, so that different students could connect in different ways. And different people could be for a better word, the hero of the game, right? The winners because if not, you have the same thing, kids that tend to win a lot. So I want to create a different game that will highlight other people’s strengths, so they can win. So that was the variety and being intentional about that.
Brian Lawson: 14:34
Yeah, one of the one of my favorite. This is not a game. This is the game before the game. Right? This is the pre setup, this was the best for us. I would just tell people to find somebody who has a different shoe than you and they have to go find one other person or you know where you could do a group of two or three people. Three people, and they would all group up or those two people get together. And then I would ask them a question to share with one another Tell, tell tell somebody the worst food experience you’ve ever had, tell that person worst food experience you’ve had. And they would share with one another. And they would tell each other the names, then I’d give them like, you know, two or three minutes to chat, however long I felt like was necessary. And then I would say, Okay, now find somebody who is taller than you, or shorter than you. And, you know, like, I would just give random things. And I would, the more random, the better. And the rule was always you could not go to somebody you’ve already been to. And I would have the adult leaders going around the room and kind of just keep an eye on making sure there’s nobody trying to be sly, which we all know, that never happens, right? No action is introverts trying to find the same person over and over. Yes, but this was all the pregame, this, you know, just I would do that for 10 or 15 minutes, maybe more. And what actually happens is it helps you develop your group, so you don’t have to divide people up because they’ve naturally divided themselves up. And it also makes them interact with one another, hear each other’s names hear about each other. It humanizes the other person to them, you know, so. So that was always so effective for us. So that’s a great thing to do before your game, like if you want to think through about that connection there.
Kirsten Knox: 16:18
So and something to avoid is i is particularly beginning of the year I think, is saying, Alright, gather with two or three people or find two other people or find three other having them self select their groups, because I think at this time, then that really highlights those who feel disconnected. I’m not a big fan of that most of the time. So rarely will I even do that. But particularly I think when you’re trying to help everyone feel like they have a place to belong, because it highlights those who don’t know who to just connect with. Yeah, it’s very obvious not only to them, but this is a group. Yeah, self select is terrible. They just choose the same people all the time. And that just, you know, creates creates students or children who are just left out, and it’s not good. That’s why if you can find a way to naturally break it up or something, then it’s way better. Way better. Yes. So Okay, what else? Are we thinking about the fall? I wonder if we want to go? Well, if you think about your Fulkerson, what’s one thing or two things? I want my adults to feel confident and what their roles. And really that oftentimes means that I’ve set them up to succeed. And that’s an attentional space. I feel like if I there’s so much that goes on in the fall, that being intentional about that, I think is highly important. And also helping them see how to create space for relationships and conversation in the unplanned time. So I that’s probably the other piece is being able for them to feel confident and find out what ways what part of their world are they not feel confident in? And being able to have conversation and equip them that and affirm them? I have one adult who is so good at building relationships, and she doesn’t always see that because it’s just natural to her. So I’m like you do this so well. She’s like, really? I don’t know. And I’m like, yes. Yeah. So affirming them, but also trying to figure out where did they not feel a secure to give them tools to do that. But really, how much time have I spent preparing them for the new year? Versus just preparing the program and the Ministry for the new year.
Brian Lawson: 18:26
Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s actually interesting said there’s a volunteer, volunteer in a kid’s ministry where she serves. And they had recently had their first week back. And she has fourth and fifth grade children. And they’re, they just, the behavior is just insane. In the room, they just, they’re just don’t listen at all. And so I was talking through with her What are some ways that she could address this. And the hard part is the hardest part of all of it is that the actual children’s ministry director does not lay the groundwork for her to be successful. Like that’s the real problem. The core of the problem is that the children’s director does not have expectations laid out does not communicate with parents about those expectations, if there’s issues she doesn’t follow through with the parents like she needs to. And so the kids think they can just run over any of the volunteers there. And that’s a problem. That’s a problem. Yeah, I even think that maybe it’s the beginning of the years, particularly in that kind of setting where you know, you’re going to have a group, that’s a problem. It’s okay to set out the expectations right away and to let the parents know, hey, here’s how we’re going to handle this. We’re going to encourage positive behavior. But when we have issues, we’re going to handle it this way. And then we’re going to let you know.
Kirsten Knox: 19:53
You know, it adds clarity. Everyone loves clarity. Yeah, there’s a lot of confusion. And I think for us, because we’ve been in it or running it, we feel like it’s clear. It’s great. I think a great question is to ask your new parents and that what, when you are in this transition, what was unclear to you? Where was their confusion? Yeah, we would learn a lot about ministry and our ministry, right, if we would just simply ask that question. But I think that, and I think that’s key to setting the culture of being able to say, here’s who we are, right? You get to speak into your core values into that, create a slide that says those, here’s our, you know, here’s who we are, here’s how we’re going to be together. Because I think students, they want to know the boundaries. And then they will live up oftentimes to what we expect. So if we don’t give them our expectations, they’re going to just do whatever. So that’s, I think, part of that restart. But being able to do that for your adults, I think that’s also key in retention. If not,
Brian Lawson: 20:54
Let me just tell you this, this volunteer has about done and it was, like, you know, the very beginning the year now, she has volunteered for several years. And this is not a new problem, but it’s gotten progressively worse. And this is I mean, this is really a part where that children’s director needs to step in, and take some leadership. Now I tried to give that volunteer some tools, you know, but those tools can only go so far, if the culture is not there in the ministry as a whole.
Kirsten Knox: 21:19
Yeah, I think a great question to ask your leaders, whether they’re first time or they believed for a while is what do you need for me to feel confident in your role here? Yeah, like so that you can say, hey, here’s what I need to provide to set you up for success? Or where do you feel like, we’re not doing that for you? Right, I think you got it’s a it’s a risky question, because you got to be willing to hear what they have to say. But if not, I think, yeah, life is hard. Life is complicated. Why would I volunteer somewhere that’s just adding that to my life? Like, I don’t need that. Right? So if I’m that volunteer, I’m like, soon, I’m just gonna peace out. Because I mean, I’m gonna probably hang for a while because I love students, and I believe in this or children, right. But at some point, I’m like, Oh, this ain’t worth this headache. And I don’t want my adults to feel that way. Right. Like you’re like, and I’m sure times they have. So how do you? Right? Yeah, I think that’s key, asking them questions I would ask questions, is important in that space?
Brian Lawson: 22:17
Yeah, I think it’s really important that we, that we think about what’s going to help us retain the volunteers. That’s so critical. Hey, friends, are you currently serving in a church as a youth or children’s minister, perhaps a family minister, and you want to grow in your leadership, gain some new skills and build confidence? We at the youth ministry Institute offer a certification program both for youth and children’s ministers. And this is designed to help those of you who are already serving to accelerate both your leadership skills and your understanding of ministry. It’s a cohort based program that starts twice a year. And so we are currently recruiting new students to join the next cohort. So if you’re interested, reach out to us at yminstitute.com And now back to the podcast episode. But then, as I think about that, there was another thing I was thinking too, is we talked about community and sort of belonging and how do we make people feel a part of it and rebuild those relationships, I actually want the fall to also be about the people who are not in the ministry. And, and I think sometimes we people land this way, naturally, they think of as a time for evangelism or reaching out or whatever. Which is true. But for me, I, I want our leaders to realize to this, that our ministry is more than just the kids or students that are present. But it’s also the people who are not present who haven’t been in a while, who they haven’t seen since last year. And it’s also the people in the schools and, and the community. And so, for me, like I want, I want us to think about that in the fall, I want us to think about what we design or the or the outreaches we do, or the language we use, or the cards that we send out to people like all of that I want it to reflect the people who aren’t there as much as the people who are there.
Kirsten Knox: 24:13
How did you help your leaders get that mindset? Or have that perspective? Did you do things that help them to see that?
Brian Lawson: 24:21
Yes, and yes, in some ways, like, I tried to design it into the programming pieces. So we had what we called circle games, which were later in the fall. And a big chunk of that was trying to engage new people. The other was at our leader meetings, we would talk about people we hadn’t seen in a while, we’d kind of go through the list and and as Hey, who’s going to follow up with who like, let’s check in with these people and and just see how they are just to show care. So we would do that. But we also would divide up our mission based off different parts of the year. And one of one of our part of our mission statement was that reach component and so we would spend the fall focusing a lot of times on that. And then for us after January was really focused on the discipleship, the Grow part of our of our mission statement. So, yeah, in our training, trainings, meetings or regular meetings, we would talk about that every time. But then we would also try to build it into what we were doing. And talk about it with our students, leaders a lot or even, even in kids ministry, fourth and fifth grade. I think you could talk about this a lot with them like, Hey, who’s not here, who haven’t we seen in a while. You know, Could you could you have one of those kids right? Cards? Somebody hasn’t been there in a bit. I mean, how cool would that be?
Kirsten Knox: 25:37
Yes. I had a student once they like, Where? Where is so and so I haven’t seen them? And I’m like, I don’t know. Do you want to reach out to them? Yeah, I was like, because the expectation was that I would do that. Right, which I will and do, but I’m like both of us. Good. Right? Like it’s just not of helping them see if I can I can be a part of this solution, and be a part of reaching out, not just the adults and not just Kirsten.
Brian Lawson: 26:03
Like what you mean, this is a ministry that kids can actually participate in? Yes, you can be a part of it. Yes. Isn’t this exciting? You know, another way you could do that is like when you got into your classrooms or small groups, whatever your setting look like would be to if the kids had phones, text all the people who’s not there, right, like who’s normally there is not there. So you know, encourage your leaders to hey, you know, Samantha is not here. Let’s let’s texter everybody texts all at once. And let’s just say how much we love her miss her. And hope she’s doing well, you know, something like that. So then their phone blows up with all these messages.
Kirsten Knox: 26:40
Yeah, great way active ways to have them be a part of that. Absolutely. Absolutely. So there’s so much more we could talk about with the fall. Is there any last thing that you want to hit? Or do you kind of feel like we sort of gave a good baseline? I think we did a good baseline. And I wonder, Brian, what is? What do you least look forward to in the fall? What’s the challenge or hard thing? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I have a I have a very specific one to the context where I was last.
Brian Lawson: 27:12
I hated parking lot fundraisers. So we were in an area that had festivals. And we had prime parking several lots, we had three lots around our campus. And we as much as I hate it, it was a great fundraiser. I mean, we produce 1000s and 1000s of dollars in over a weekend. I think by the time I left is like 15 to $20,000 we’d raise in the weekend. I mean, it was insane. But it was so, so much work. And I was out in the sun all day. And I’m like, I’d go home like I’m just I’m done. I’m just beat. And then you’d have church Sunday morning, when you go to that just exhausted, I hated that. He’s. So that’s very specific to my context. But in general, if I was to think like, what was the thing as a whole? I think the hardest part for me, was trying to be creative again. And what I mean by that is, you know, after you do it for so many years that like, Okay, I got to come up with something new again, or we have to rethink this retreat again, you know, and that always got a little tiring, I think. So I would lean heavy on students and other people to contribute to that. It took me a little while to learn to do that. But, but early on, when I wouldn’t learn to do that. That was That was exhausting.
Kirsten Knox: 28:29
Yes. And a lot of pressure. Right? It feels like you’re just carrying versus learning how to carry that together. Yeah.
Brian Lawson: 28:37
What about what about you like what was your least favorite?
Kirsten Knox: 28:40
I knew you were gonna ask me that question next. And I was like, I I don’t know I can come up with an I feel like I dislike because like a parking lot fundraiser. Yes. But for us, in my that was bring. Spring is always harder for me than fall. Okay. So I was like, what don’t I dislike about but I would affirm the Create you like trying to create it new and make it fresh. And I too have learned to build ideas, people around me and those creative people. For us. It’s one of our pastors and like, I was like, What are we gonna do? And like, she just comes up, she’s like, boop, boop, boop, boop boop of them. And I’m like, Okay, well, let’s harness which ones I like. I love this and then being able to do it. So I mean, I would affirm that but I was trying to I don’t know if I had a specific I know, I’m the one that asked the question, but that’s okay.
Brian Lawson: 29:33
Perhaps we’ve also like, put our toe into something that should be a future episode, which is about the power of brainstorming and how do we do that well, with our teams, you know, pull that together, but but that will be another episode. Yeah, sounds good. Yeah, so friends, we hope you enjoy your pumpkin spice whatever it is pumpkin spice, you know, drinks or pumpkin spice cough drops. I don’t know what it is. But, you know, we hope you enjoy it and your fall decorations and most of all, we hope We’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry
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