07: Chris Wilterdink on Faith Formation During Virtual And Crisis Ministry, Rites of Passages, And Creating Safe, Formative Spaces Virtually

Chris Wilterdink form Young People's Ministries discusses faith formation during Covid19

In this episode, Chris Wilterdink from Young People’s Ministries shares his expertise in discipleship with us. He discusses a new insight into how our brains are wired for feedback, the importance of formative and safe spaces in our ministry, and what faith formation looks like now in crisis and virtual ministry. If you are involved in youth, children, or family ministry then you definitely what to hear the insights that Chris has to share with us.

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Ashley : 0:01

Welcome to the making center ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host Brian Lawson.

Brian Lawson : 0:13

Hey everybody, and welcome to episode number seven of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Our guest today is Chris Willard Inc. Chris is the director of young people’s ministries at discipleship ministries of the Methodist Church. Chris’s work includes resourcing discipleship systems and processes throughout the entire United Methodist Church, especially in regards to people in between the ages of 12 to 35. In short, Chris works with leaders across the country and even throughout the world to help them in their attempt to grow disciples of Jesus. In our interview, Chris shares with us a new perspective on the way social media has actually made children and youth more wired for feedback the importance of formative safe spaces in our midst Finally, I have to tell you that I believe our bookkeepers think we are absolutely crazy. Have you ever had to explain weird ministry purchases to your church finance office? I mean, that’s how we feel right now. You see, it’s our mission and our heart to serve you. And after listening to your feedback, and hearing the great work you are doing, we’ve decided to drastically lower the prices of our YMI online courses? We lowered them so low that I’m just waiting for our bookkeeper to calls into their office for a conversation. Anyways, friends head over to why am I online to get your free introductory course and see the new prices that we are offering. We really just want to support you. And that is our ultimate goal. And we really think these courses can help you be the best possible leader you can be in your ministry. Down the show notes will be the link to why my online. Okay, let’s get into my interview with Chris. Hey, Chris, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Really appreciate you being here.

Chris : 2:35

Brian. It’s an absolute pleasure looking forward to it.

Brian Lawson : 2:39

So I was looking at some of the articles that you recently wrote and released. And then one of them you talked about a breakfast club, I believe that you hosted called the doughnut hole. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience?

Chris : 2:54

Yeah, so I was a local church youth director out in the Denver Metro area. And the doughnut hole was a breakfast club hosted. I mean, early in the morning, right? Like I was in my mid 20s, late 20s, when I was at St. Luke’s. And it took something special to get me up and out of bed by six o’clock in the morning, on every Thursday during the academic school year, but I had a really, really awesome parent and volunteer and person who was a teacher at this particular High School. And so she was the staff sponsor for this kind of extracurricular club and then because of that connection, I was allowed to come in and just kind of build a little bit of a community and and host a breakfast with doughnuts once a week, then that’d be a pretty great group. I would never have told the kids this that were there but we kind of used a covenant discipleship model where it was like we we kind of created an accountable discipleship group without using that really awesome language.

Brian Lawson : 3:59

So So for people who may not be Methodist, necessarily it could you just explain what a covenant group is?

Chris : 4:07

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So if there’s one thing that historically, churches in the Methodist movement have done fairly well, it would be those things that we call small groups in ministry today, the historical terms would have been something like classes or bands. And what those were were small groups within a local united or I’m sorry, within a local Methodist congregation. And within that local Methodist congregation, small groups would form based on ages or life stages or genders, and that was because there wasn’t a full time pastor that could be around all the time. And so these small groups would set up covenants or agreements with each other, for how they would try to live out their faith or live out their discipleship or their Christian teaching, during the course of the week of their normal life in between when they would see other during church services on Sundays, and over time, those came to be called covenant discipleship groups or accountability groups, where people would get together and say, Hey, so we said that these are the ways that we want to act as Christians. Let’s check in with each other once a week to talk about how that’s going. What did we do? Well, where did we kind of drop the ball? What do we wish that we did differently? And maybe how can we act differently in the future if we want to really be intentional about be continually forming our faith? So the covenant itself just refers to the agreement that the group would kind of write and hold itself to? And sort of be the centerpiece for those check in conversations once a week? And honestly, in youth ministry, that kind of model, I think is gaining a lot of traction because young people themselves I think, are getting very, very wired for feedback, especially from their participation in social media and having different accounts.

Brian Lawson : 5:59

Yeah, Wow. So that so I don’t think I’ve heard that before that they’re wired for feedback in that sense, and you think social media is contributing to that?

Chris : 6:10

Yeah. And I know that this is a little bit of conjecture on my part, but you know, just hang on for the ride. We’ll see how we go. The reason that people post on those is to get feedback on what they’re doing, right. Like, on Instagram, when it first started, there was that whole we’re taking pictures of what we’re eating sort of phase right where it was like all these pictures of food and you took that picture because you wanted to share an experience that you were having with other people and get feedback from them like oh my gosh, that looks delicious. I wish I was there with you. We should hang out next week. We should do you know, get the likes. Get the hearts get the whatever’s. And so there’s a there’s an element of the accountable discipleship or a covenant discipleship group, where if young people are getting used to the idea of posting what they’re doing or sharing a window into their lives, and maybe during COVID, this is particularly magic magnified, because that’s sort of all we have, right? We can text we can do this online posting, because we don’t get to see each other in person. But I get to share an experience and invite feedback on that experience. And something that maybe the church is still learning to do well, is inviting young people to post the things that are formative for their faith or formative for their discipleship process, and invite feedback or questions from their peers that might not be connected to a church or might have questions about faith or those sorts of things. So yeah, when a young person posts Hey, I’m at the donut hole on Thursday morning, and it’s so great to see these people not only do you get the the likes and the clicks for the delicious looking glazed doughnuts that I provided, or you know, the crazy sprinkle ones that come along with a dozen pack. But it also gives everybody an opportunity to talk about kind of faith formation practices. Again, we would never use that term like with the kids. because they’d be like, Oh, is that what I’m doing? But yeah, I mean, I feel like I could make the case pretty easily that we post on social media in order to get feedback. And if we want to be holistic with our faith formation or our discipleship practices, we have to encourage young people to not be afraid to share some of their journey or some of their questions or some of their experiences in faith on social media platforms themselves because it invites feedback and might reinforce, you know, the kind of behavior that a youth minister or a parent would really like to see. You know, if I post something about me going and serving and I get a ton of positive feedback like oh my gosh, I didn’t even know that there were people in our city that needed that food, or oh my gosh, I volunteered there to through my school. I didn’t know churches did that, too. It’s a really cool, positive feedback loop that I think really feeds a lot of growth in a discipleship pattern or a discipleship process.

Brian Lawson : 9:17

Yeah, I mean, I think that you’re talking about positive reinforcement, right? We’re reinforcing those habits that we hoped to see them develop and grow, becomes part of who they are. Really. I think, you know, COVID has definitely made us realize if we didn’t already know that ministry, virtually has to happen. It may not be permanent. And and it’s not the only form of ministry, right. But it needs to be part of what we’re doing and in youth ministry or children’s ministry, more youth ministry than children but maybe some of the other fifth grade students would have these ministry sometimes looks like encouraging like you’re talking about when they’re sharing something on social that is that is related to faith or it is about their development or their growth. And you comment or you message them and say, Hey, that was fantastic. You are inspiring to me when you post things like that. So if anything this has taught us how important virtual ministry really is. Which brings you back to your story about the doughnut hole. There’s something unique that it kind of taught you about faith formation, particularly in the season we’re in now what what was that that you as you were reflecting on the doughnut hole time that you’re learning about faith formation as a whole?

Chris : 10:36

Yeah. Good pun there at the end, who by the way, that’s fantastic. Thanks. Yeah. The I mean, the hook was the doughnuts, right? I mean, it was called the doughnut hole. And the centerpiece i thought was the donuts that I would show up with, but what it really taught me and reminded me of and this is played forward a million different ways in my ministry. Is that it really comes back to relationships that there is value when people carve time out for each other. And and being able to listen to each other and gather you know, whether it’s around doughnuts or any other kind of table or just being able to have time with each other, to invest in relationships, and have honest enough conversations where the next time that you see each other. You remember what you talked about you ask that person, hey, how was that thing and that shows that person they are valued that they are listened to and that they are cared about. And really, that was the centerpiece of the doughnut hole experience. And I didn’t put this in the post itself. But the the staff sponsor and volunteer from my church, who helped coordinate this thing was very, very passionate about being able to create those honest and open listening spaces. Because she was a teacher at Columbine High School the year of the Columbine shooting in 1999. So for her it, you know, not only was this professional thing as a teacher to student, but really in terms of an expression of her faith, and knowing just how important it was for young people to be listened to, and accepted and have a space that could be honest and brave, and that they didn’t have to, you know, put on a show or be dishonest about who they were, or what they were struggling with really allowed, I think, that group to read and become, you know, what it was for the course of the decade that I was serving at that local church.

Brian Lawson : 12:35

Wow. So she saw this the significance of what you’re doing in a different way than most people probably have seen.

Chris : 12:43

Yeah. And because of that, really, you know, kind of went to bat with the school system, to allow the group to be able to happen. And not be a surprise for anybody that is in children’s ministry or youth ministry or, you know, life stage faith Development Ministry. Right now, because COVID, again, to your virtual point, you know, is teaching us that those formative experiences those safe spaces, those brave spaces can happen in person or online. But the point is that they have to happen, they got to be able to be there. And so having people that are passionate about intentionally creating those spaces where sharing and relationship are at the core of all the things, really, really is beneficial. So yeah, huge shout out to Laurie McMullan from back in the day at the doughnut hole.

Brian Lawson : 13:33

So what ways Would you say that this and maybe you’ve already answered but but it may be slightly different what ways would you say this pandemic has or will shape our future understanding of faith formation within the lives of students and children and families even?

Chris : 13:48

Well, if anybody who’s listening is familiar with the work of the fuller youth Institute, you know, I mean, sticky faith came out they really have been kind of banging the drum about parents being the primary influencers of faith with a local church and people that are engaged in relationship with young people as secondary to the role of parents. And I think that COVID and the pandemic response has really shone a light, you know, not only on the academic education system and the important role that teachers play in not only leading students in class, but also preparing and guiding parents and offering support for them to be able to continue that education at home. And I think that’s just multiplied in faith settings where, you know, this experience really is showcasing the need for parents to be actively engaged in the faith formation of their children and their youth. And that doesn’t mean you know, the, the parent needs to be able to identify the best curriculum or the best resource or those things. But again, it maybe it goes back to that carving out of intentional time together. At least I can say, that’s one of the struggles that I’ve had with my own kids. Because as we record this my kiddos are nine and six. And so in this response, figuring out what our new pattern or our new sort of rhythm of life looks like. If there’s something that wasn’t building value or wasn’t meaningful or was not helpful in terms of kind of the faith formation pattern or the discipleship system that you were trying to put in place as a ministry leader, you don’t have the time and energy to do that right now. Because you can’t meet in person, and this can really serve as an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be different and how things need to be able to grow and change. So I would really encourage ministry leaders to look at those things that are the most meaningful in terms of relationship building. And then those things that really build value and make a difference in the life of children or youth or their caretakers.

Brian Lawson : 16:25

Yeah, that’s so good. We had Kelly Minter on episode six, our last episode, and she talked about how, somewhere along the lines, youth pastors got a reputation for always wanting to buck the system, right to go against it and not be organized. And now those very same people, she finds it funny that they’re clinging so desperately to the system, right to the way things have been. Because that’s what we know. Right? But right. But as you’re talking about, you know, maybe this is an opportunity for us to distill down to what is the essence of what we’re doing next. What is the key components? And what really matters? And that’s hard? Because it challenges us, right?

Chris : 17:07

It’s incredibly hard. And at the same time, like it also doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Like, I know that there’s a ton of different language related to discipleship systems and those kind of pieces out there. But like if if I was to dial it back to action related things like for things, that if I was interested in a young person or a family being able to do together, whether it’s online or in person, and these are in any order, right, it’s not like 1234 or anything like that. I’m just going to start by living Christ’s teachings. Okay. So like, that involves not only being able to get familiar with, you know, the pieces of Scripture and how Jesus kind of called us to act or stories of the disciples, the apostles afterwards, learning about those stories, and then being able to try to live those things out or the lessons from those stories out. So living Christ teachings, because we can live Christ’s teachings then we start to learn when we’re in relationship with others. So we’re doing what we’ve learned about what we think it means to be a Christian or what we think it means to be a disciple. And as we do those things, we do them with other people, whether they’re online or in person. So we learn in relationship with other people. So number two, learning and relationship with others. Okay? Because we’re living Christ teachings, and we’re learning in relationships with others, then we experience God through our actions, right? If I’m doing the things that I think I’m supposed to be doing as a Christian, and I’m doing them with other people, then I should have some holy experiences, where I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, or I feel the presence of God or I, you know, kind of get those warm fuzzies in a group because I’m doing the things that I believe are meaningful. And because of those experiences, I then want to number four witness to those differences in me or the differences in the world because of the experiences that I’ve had, right? And maybe that goes back to the social media thing we’re witnessing then is the storytelling or the sharing of pictures or the sharing whatever. And because I’m witnessing to the differences, then that’s going to make me want to live Christ’s teachings even more. So it kind of becomes a cyclical thing, right? So in a nutshell, living Christ’s teachings, learning in relationship with others, experiencing God through my actions, and then witnessing to the differences that I see in myself in the world because of those teachings. And then it inspires me to kind of go around the cycle again.

Brian Lawson : 19:32

So as we’ve been been talking to youth and children and family ministers around the country, discouragement is rampant right now. And part of it is I think that we’re not really sure how to measure success. We don’t know what it looks like we right now in this season. So thinking from spiritual formation side and what you just described, is there a way that we can know or see if our people are experiencing those things, particularly we can’t see him in person. Do you have any suggestions for what people could look for?

Chris : 20:07

Yeah, that is a great question and a great observation because I completely agree. And I’ve seen it across the board. And some of that is because I think we’re shifting from the novelty of the, you know, the experience being new and us being in like, total react mode, right? where it’s like, oh, my gosh, this is a new challenge. We got to buckle up, we got to do this thing. We got to figure it out. And now, it’s not new anymore, right? It’s sinking in. This is a long term thing. And in a lot of ways, isn’t going to go anywhere, even once we can get together in person again, that the lessons that we’re learning and the online stuff we’re doing is going to be there moving forward. So if you’re discouraged, take heart You’re not alone. Make sure you’re talking to other people that are in ministry in your area, or you know, connect through places like youth ministry Institute and just have a little community where you can talk anyway, off the discouragement piece onto maybe some suggestions. There’s got to be more than just checking in and showing up on the zoom meeting itself. So if I was thinking about that discipleship pattern, and, you know, trying to track as a minute, history leader, what are the children or the youth or the families in my ministry doing because of what they’ve shared together or what we’ve done together? So if I have put out a Sunday school lesson for the week, along with, you know, maybe a couple of challenges to do how many stories do I hear back from people about what they actually did in the challenge or what they learned from doing the lesson itself. I know that that means a lot more effort in terms of kind of gathering that feedback because it’s just, it’s not as natural as being in the fellowship hall with a cup of really crummy coffee, and talking about how Sunday school was. But you got to be able to carve out some of that intentional time to follow up with people. It’s not enough just to be able to provide a resource or a lesson itself. You got to be able to figure out a rhythm and a pattern of doing some intentional follow up with people. And that might even be one on one right like that might be texting. If you’ve got parents that do that. That might be you know, messaging on a social media platform if you’ve got relationships and people that like to communicate that way. But being intentional about asking the questions about what youth and children and families are doing in between the times when they gather, I think is one way to be able to measure success. Especially because I think most of our churches are going to have some sort of vision or mission statement that relates to transformation of some kind, right transformation of the self or transformation of the world, or growing in maturity of some kind. That there’s this group of students whether they were, you know, whatever grade 678, 10 that You know, have gone through somewhere between three months or 12 months or even two years worth of classes, and now can’t necessarily join the church because you can’t gather in person to do a confirmation service and welcome new members. And so that one is so specific and so great about having young people in their mentors or their prayer partners being able to track the transformation that they’ve gone through over time. That I wonder if confirmation materials might provide some sort of a model for ministry leaders to be able to, you know, look at the stories or the lessons that they’re presenting. And ask youth or children how they engage with those stories or how they understand those those pieces of Scripture or church history or new relationships within the congregation. how those are changing and informing their faith and encouraging them to be sort of the the world Transformers that each church wants them to be.

Brian Lawson : 24:56

Yeah, you know, as you were, as you were talking I was thinking about how do you how do you check in with with people? You know, and I think we’re afraid to make phone calls, but it’s probably a good time to send text messages and make phone calls to parents on a semi regular basis. If nothing else, just to say, I was just thinking about you, and I just wanted to check on your family and see how you were doing right. I mean, it doesn’t have to be complicated. And you’ll get some feedback, I think naturally, through those conversations. Yeah. And then for people who may not know, confirmation, just to simplify it, in the Methodist Church by No, there’s other denominations as well that do similar things is where a student can confirm that they have taken up the faith that their parents have raised them in. In simplest and simplest terms. That’s, that’s that’s the idea of what it is. And it’s really a rite of passage and a lot of ways. So we have some writer passages that the students have missed recently, right. So we’ve got senior graduations and and we’ve wrestled through, how do we celebrate our seniors, I think a lot of people have figured out what they’re going to do by this point. A lot of people are doing drive by graduations and things like that. But you mentioned confirmations, one that we may have missed. We also have fifth graders. So some of us are graduating our fifth graders out or others are welcoming the sixth graders in, which presents a unique challenge to welcome a group in when maybe you can’t even physically be together. So I’m just I’m just curious how Chris, you would recommend maybe somebody thinks about those rites of passages in this season, particularly maybe the fifth and sixth grade one because it’s pretty timely for a lot of us. But why do you see rites of passage as significant? And then what recommendations do you have for us right now?

Chris : 26:47

Yeah, it’s a really, really great question. And since we’re recording in the middle of May, yes, I mean, I hope everybody’s got their graduating seniors of high school 2020 figured out for sure. I’m going to go down the rabbit first, and then we’ll try to pop back out of it to see if we can get some suggestions on where I’m going. But, okay, so particularly in the American culture, it’s hard for a child or a youth to understand when they become an adult in the eyes of the community. Okay. And culturally is just something that with a broad stroke, the culture of the United States does not do very well. Right. Brian, you and I were talking about before we started recording, you know, the ages of our kids. And so that fifth grade graduation going up into sixth grade seems to be a fairly big one these days. Do you know what my fifth grade graduation looked like? Nothing because I didn’t have one. Right either.

Brian Lawson : 27:45

I didn’t have one either.

Chris : 27:46

It wasn’t even a thing. It wasn’t a big deal. The move from elementary school to junior high or middle school, whatever it was going to be. For for youth. Okay, when does a young person become an adult at the age of 16 when they can get a license Probably not, we don’t see 16 year olds as adults, perhaps when they turn 17 and they can go to rated movies. No, there’s still another line that they get across, because they got to turn 18. And then they can you know, register for Selective Service, they probably are gonna graduate high school start to get their first jobs. But do we really look at 18 they can vote, you know, they can do all those things. Do they? Do we really see them as members, adult members of the community? Probably not.

Brian Lawson : 28:25

You can’t even rent a car yet. So

Chris : 28:27

right? You gotta wait till you’re 21 if you’re gonna drink, I won’t tell if you’re gonna you know, but legally at 21 you can start drinking. And then 25 right, that’s the car rental one. And you know, we haven’t even talked about some of the soft targets of being financially independent or you know, the expectations of graduating from college or university or getting your first job or you know, getting married, getting a house, those kinds of things. So that line for for a young person to be able to figure out when they’re an adult member is so tough and that’s what I think makes rights Pass in such a big deal for me, within a church setting, I think some of the rites of passage and the ways that you can celebrate young people, as they kind of move up or move into things is to recognize that they have had some growth and some change, and then invite them into kind of that next level of responsibility or leadership or presence, where their feedback is really welcomed and honored. And they get to be kind of CO leaders or co conspirators of the ministry that you’re creating. Okay. At one point, you know it when you’re in children’s ministry, and honestly, in some adult ministries as well, you have to be able to move beyond attendance and checking the box that you’re present in some way. So for me, the rites of passage pieces that I would really look at are how could you celebrate the growth and change of a young person so like we talked about that fifth grade and sixth grade one, this would be a tremendous opportunity because if you’re at a medium to large sized church, you probably have like a children’s staff person and a youth staff person. If you’re at a smaller church that might be the same people or it might be a group of volunteers. But since digital cameras have been around for so long, how cool would it be to have a project where the children’s ministry staff and volunteers and maybe some of the youth ministry staff or volunteers, create a shared photo file Do because they may be looking for things to do, or their parents may be looking for things for them to do. Because they can’t get summer jobs and those kind of things. So yeah, I mean, do it do like a photo and video review sort of a thing could be very, very interesting as a way to welcome. Figuring out ways to do virtual introductions, not only for yourself, but also for your volunteer team could be really interesting and really different as you’re trying to welcome somebody into sixth grade seventh grade whenever your ministry is starting, right? And maybe that could be something as as simple as online introductions and you know, trying to set up a one on one to say, hey, maybe it’s something as complicated as you know, doing almost like the parades and those sorts of things where you drive by somebody’s house and try to drop off some cookies or plastic flamingos or, you know, something just ridiculous. didn’t make it kind of memorable and make sure people know that they’re being thought about

Brian Lawson : 31:58

I wonder if you’ve seen any ministries doing anything that you really just thought they were hitting it out of the park, whether it was about rites of passages, or is about spiritual growth with their families right now. Is there any, any churches or anything you’ve seen done that you’re like, wow, that’s just really good. And I wish more churches did that or could do that.

Chris : 32:25

I think that the most effective churches are the most effective youth and children’s ministries have realized when they’re at capacity of their time and their effort and their energy that they can give. And I say that because you know, in that initial response, and that initial wave, there’s almost like that adrenaline rush of, oh my gosh, we still got to be able to do this. And I can, you know, I can go way above and way beyond for a week or for two weeks, but eventually that’s going to catch up to me right that that sense of discouragement that we talked about earlier. You know, part of that is because the the feeling of burnout and extra work really is real. When all of a ministry has been sort of forced to be virtual and online, it dropped some of the really natural boundaries that youth ministers or children’s ministers and church leaders might have been able to put up around their own time. So self care for those in ministry has has really suffered during the course of the quarantine or the social distancing piece. And then there’s really been this effect of COVID response almost serving like an accelerant for the trends that a church was experiencing. Right. So if a church was doing something really, really well before COVID, they were able to continue doing that thing really well but in a new way. So some of the most effective churches and some of the best church leaders that I’ve talked to, and have, you know, reached a point where they’re able to say, you know, what, we need to be able to dial it back a little bit, where if there’s things that we do well, let’s focus on those things. So if that’s relationship, if that is community building, if that’s doing a shared movie night if that is you know, being able to participate in food ministries in some way where we’re stable, still able to, like collect food from our local churches, and we’ve got one driver who’s willing to go out and then make the delivery to our mission partner, our food pantry partner, so that people can still continue to get fed. Those are the places that really I think are doing well. They look at the things that are important to who they are as a community, and continue to build relationship. And at the same time, have been able to say, you know what, we need to not do this piece right now. Because it’s just taking more time and energy and it is sucking the life out of the other things that really are more meaningful for those things that we do as a body, if that makes some sense.

Brian Lawson : 35:46

Yeah, that makes complete sense. I think that’s a great answer, because I think it would be a huge mistake for a congregation to try to just be what it was before. Whenever we write can come back together. I think that it would be a huge loss. Because this is such a difficult time, but also a time for learning. And and to come out of it and not learn anything would be I think a tragedy to be honest.

Chris : 36:11

There’s I’m not gonna remember the source of it, but there was a for a while a movement called stump ministry. And it was based on the, you know, the Scripture, they’re talking about the branch that was come gonna come from the stump of Jesse, where there was sort of this like family that had been so important but chopped down, and yet there was the opportunity for new life. And it really is going to be a new life moment, you know, we’re going to feel used up and ready for transformation. So it’s a tremendous opportunity to let the old things fall away and embrace something new. And I’m agreeing with you 100% it would just be a genuinely missed opportunity to go back and just try to do things like you did before because it’s got to be new. It’s got to be different.

Brian Lawson : 37:00

Yeah, yeah, so constantly asking yourself, what is it we’re learning in the season? Right? What are the things that I’m personally learning? In my own faith? What am I learning about students and families and children in their faith in this season? What am I learning about how we communicate? And as you talked about earlier, what are the essentials of what we need to do? Right, what things can fall away and what is it we really need to stick with? are all good things to be asking ourselves and trying to learn right now? I think that it would be wise of us to survey the people within our ministries, to some extent. don’t promise anything in your surveys. But at least get some feedback to understand how they’re feeling and what they feel about your plan as of now, knowing is probably going to change anyways.

Chris : 37:53

Yeah. And and how they felt about what you’ve offered so far. Right? Like, you know, how are you feeling? With this online Bible study that we’ve been able to, you know, kind of scramble together, is it doing what you want it to do? And if not, okay, I know, I know it took some energy to make it happen. But if it’s not meeting a need, then it’s okay. Move on do something different. Yeah. And don’t get stuck in that, particularly for the timing of things. I know, we haven’t talked about that a lot. But like, you know, I work with a lot of churches that sort of have a really set schedule, right. Like Sunday school is Sunday morning and youth group is Sunday evening, and then there’s the Wednesday night thing and when you’re not gathering in person, do it at the time that works for people, you know, I mean, it could be Tuesday morning at 11 o clock. Let let everybody sleep in like they need to and then zoom in while they’re still in their pajamas. It’s okay. So you know, even being as creative as you can be with those simple things about when this stuff logistically happened. When are people the most available, and the most excited to be engaged in a process or in a class or in a conversation. Those are the times that you lock into. You don’t just have to do it on Wednesday night. You don’t have to do it on Sunday morning. It can be any other time. So, so be creative and things that might have been previous limitations as real fixed boundaries now.

Brian Lawson : 39:19

Chris, you’ve given us so much to think about and so much good information. What final encouragements or insights Would you like to share with our listeners? Okay.

Chris : 39:34

So final insight. Thank you back back to what really is the primary task of your church or of the church? And how does that apply in your ministry if you’re a children’s minister, if you’re a youth minister, the primary task I think, of a church is to make disciples okay. And so just remember what that primary task is. All the things that you are doing are for a young person and their family, to be transformed into a world changing disciple of Jesus Christ. So as you reflect, as you get discouraged as you get encouraged as you have the ups and downs in ministry, during the COVID response, or really any other time, remember what you’re doing it for you are doing it because you were transformed. At one point, there was something in your own faith life in your own discipleship that clicked and that made sense. And you’ve had a lifetime of moments that have put you in charge of a ministry where you get the incredible opportunity to help a church make disciples. So my word of encouragement, boiling down everything else that we’ve talked about for the last hour would just be to say, look at those things that you do that are meaningful, that are easy that are great for you and great for your church and Ask how it helps make a disciple while you do it. And if you do that, the rest will really start to fall into place because disciples make more disciples. disciples are in relationship with other people. disciples, see the needs of their communities and then want to engage because God is giving God who wants to connect with the community and move among the people in the streets. So dial it back to that primary task. Think about making disciples in every decision that you make. The rest will start to flow and be great no matter what shape it takes.

Brian Lawson : 41:35

What a great interview, Chris was an amazing guest and you can just sense he has a deep passion and heart for discipleship. I loved when he said you get the incredible opportunity to help a church make disciples. Wow, friends. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate things, keep it simple. You have been given the gift to serve Jesus through the church. You been given the gift to impact the lives of students, children and families. Be encouraged and keep up the good work. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving us a review, share this episode with your friends and join the conversation over at our Facebook group. And until next time, I hope we help you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley : 42:23

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