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.
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?
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
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?
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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,
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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