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– And so we are going to get started, and let me just introduce myself real quickly. My name’s Daniel Edmonds, I’m State Missionary for Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. I serve as the Director of the Office of Sunday School and Discipleship, where we look intently, not only at Sunday school and discipleship in terms of discipleship training, but all groups and disciple-making, are those areas that we spend a lot of time in, as well as Vacation Bible school, Bible drills, senior adults, single adults, all those wonderful things. We’re privileged tonight to have one of our Lifeway partners with us, Zac Morgan, who serves at Lifeway as a Student Ministry Specialist. And tonight he is doing double duty. So, if he suddenly has to run inside, and take care-
– Or if we get a special guest.
– If we get a toddler.
– Tip number one in student ministry, be prepared for the unexpected ’cause it’s mostly likely gonna happen.
– So we will just roll with it the best we can, and thank you for joining us tonight. And for those that will be watching the recording later, we’re hoping tonight that Zac can simply share with us some tips that will help us all be better student leaders. So Zac with that, you jump in and take it away.
– Absolutely. Daniel, thanks for having me. We love our friends in Alabama. And so hi, I’m Zac, I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, work for Lifeway Christian Resources out of Nashville. We got a lot of folks all over serving and doing. So Daniel, as a lot of us know, we work where we are. So, live from the backyard to y’all. To say hi amongst the trees here. But tonight some things I wanted to share were some tips, but also a little bit of a framework, I think, for the ways in which we think about the opportunity to lead students in a Sunday school environment, classroom, or small group. I think sometimes we have content, we have curriculum, but having the bigger picture or framework that will help move us from week to week into some of the discipleship process that we’re about, in some of the evangelism hopes that we have for our students that are involved. So I’ve got some slides to share, ’cause it wouldn’t be a good presentation if there wasn’t a visual to keep things interesting. So lemme pull these up here, and we’ll get ready and get going. I’m hit it here, and then we’ll hit play. So, hey, everybody. Okay, so some of the things I wanna share today, we’ve done workshops with other Sunday schools small group leaders on kind of more of an extended afternoon or full days. So I’m gonna hit some high notes, and then I’ll share these slides with Daniel to pass around for whoever might need them afterwards. So, I’m Zac, would love to be your friend on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram if you wanna follow or connect more. So with Lifeway students, we wanna resource the student minister and student ministry program as much as we can. I’ll share some links at the end and some places you can find and connect with us as we do that together. So I wanna start with a quote that gives us a little bit of an image or picture. So one of my favorite entrepreneurs is a young lady named Sarah Blakely and she says that, “Whatever you can think you can create, “you just need to have a clear vision. “Once you have your snapshot, “work on filling in the blanks to get to that place.” And I think for a lot of us serving in student ministry at whatever capacity, we are really familiar with what it means to take a picture. Our students are obsessed with it, and we all live in the reality that there is a mobile world inside of our pocket or purse. And so I think for a lot of us, the idea of an image, a snapshot, or a picture, is really relatable into what we’re trying to present or for our students may be trying to achieve or be recognized for. So I wanna give us some images or snapshots. So if we were in the room today, I would ask you to turn and introduce yourself by sharing a snapshot that’s on your phone that you’re really proud of. It may be a selfie of you, maybe a picture of you and your spouse, or of your kids, or grandkids, or your dogs, or if you like to smoke meat. Yeah. Right there on the background. Are those some of your kiddos for you, Daniel.
– That’s my daughter and two grandchildren.
– Wherever you go.
– So and Maya.
– That’s your reminder. Like wherever you go, wherever you turn, we carry a snapshot near and dear to us. So I wanna give us some of those today. So a snapshot for me, this is me and my beautiful family. My wife, Karen who’s teaching English stuff. They had professional development tonight at her high school, so she’s working on that. And my two cute toe headed blue eyed boys that are in there, may come out here, hard to know. But next to that snapshot or picture, there’s some words that I’d wanna paint to, some of the narrative that helps to explain why the picture matters so much. So I’m a pastor, I’m a dad, I’m kind of a big nerd. I really am into comic books, graphic novels, board games, video games. But I also have cool things. I ride a motorcycle, and I smoked meat, and we love to go boating and go to the lake. But I also have an interesting piece of my history that at 29, I had a heart episode where the flu virus attacked my heart and I got a free helicopter ride at first, and now it’s been very expensive. But there’s just parts of the story that the picture reminds me of. Some of it can tell and some of it, it can’t tell. And so a little bit as we go through tonight, I wanna unpack some different ministry snapshots pictures that I think may frame for us the ways in which we can do ministry better. So that’s me, that’s my wife of saying hi. And so if you’re at home and you’ve got a picture on your phone or background like Daniel does, maybe that’s a keen reminder for you as well. So the first thing I wanna share is that in your Sunday school class, in your small group, in your ministry, the snapshot that should be in front of us first and foremost, is that of a kingdom expanding ministry group organization. If we are not this, we are not on mission or on picture frame for where we should be headed. So the image that I wanna share, the snapshot that I wanna keep reminding you, is that a ripples on a pond. In the same way that one rock drops it ripples out, I think some of the work that we’re doing in a small group is to create ripples that can be missional or sending. To develop the ways in which we are proclaiming good news or bearing witness. These are the words, and phrases, and reminders that need to be about the work that we’re doing, not just in, are we teaching or how good is the lesson, how much did they connect with the material? But at the end of our time that we have with our students one week, one month, a year, maybe even three to six years, are they on mission being sent out to expand the kingdom? This is the great hope layered over the week to week hope that should remind and inspire us. That a kingdom expanding ministry grows because it is a ministry that starts in the mindset that leads it. So one of our directors been true blood for student ministry talks about that, ministry grows when it’s kingdom expanding. Kingdom expanding happens when it begins in the mindset of those who lead it. One of the things that I think the last year has taught many of us is that we are all experiencing things fresh and new. In the life of ministry for maybe what has felt like decades or so, it felt like those that were leading the ministry were advanced in the ways in which they had experienced life before. But I would wanna share with those that are watching this, that in the last year, we’re all reminded about how beginner we are and how dependent we are on a faith and a Lord that saves and leads. And so we need to be the ones that would model evangelism. I think sometimes we wanna instruct it, we wanna teach it. But for those leading students today, the question that I would ask is, how are you modeling the evangelism or the bearing of witness, the sharing or proclaiming of good news in your own life? How might we minister to connect students beyond the walls of the church? I’m reminded by some of the leaders that I had the chance to work with, and some of the most powerful stories they could tell were not things that they had done, but if things that they were doing. It’s the conversations at the gas station, the coffee shop, the workplace. The ways in which we hope students will learn, need to be manifest or overflowing in our own life and witness. So the first thing that I would share with you is, are you ministering connecting beyond the walls of the church in your own life to share the truth and the goodness of that story with your students week to week. Again, working at Lifeway, there’s great lessons, but I think there are some things that are really formative by sharing of your experience with your students. So we’ll start with that there. The second image or snapshot that I’d wanna share Daniel is that every ministry should be character transforming. I think there is a deep concern for the ways in which we minister to our young people about the quality of their character. Now transforming is not a work that we can produce, but I do think there is an image that helps us be reminded of the role that we play. And so it’s really simple. Everybody’s favorite fitness tracker, whether it’s your Apple watch, your WHOOP hoop or your Fitbit, I think all of us have taken a real interest in the last year and a half of are we tracking our own physical health, or maybe you have a sleep monitor. I have a lot of friends that have gotten really into monitoring they’re sleeping, Daniel. It’s something they’re really curious about. But I think for our spiritual health, our effort to make disciples, it’s a keen image because it gives us the thing that we want, which is just tracking of data. Are our students reading scripture? Are they serving? Are they prayerful? Are they growing? Are they more wise now than before? Are they showing grace and compassion? These are the qualities and characteristics we know to be important and true. It’s the fruit of the spirit that we hope to have in disciples. And so the reminder is that it is a daily work. In the same way that my six year old loves to run in the morning after I’ve been to the gym to check daddy’s rings. He loves to see how far the green, red, and blue rings have advanced. I think we as champions and shepherds for students should be checking in on their spiritual development. Because what we do want for, and from our students, it should be something that is true, even when they’re no longer our students. I think this is one of the ways that we can talk about the disciple-making and the ways in which we’re mentoring, and teaching, and leading is that we have a deep reservoir of care for them beyond when they’re just students in our ministry. For those that have been serving in a long time in student ministry, the faithful Sunday school teachers of 10, 20, 30 years. There are stories that you can tell about students that may have been a certain way in 8th, 9th or 10th grade is no longer true because of how they’ve grown in faith, how they’ve matured in their faithfulness, and how dependent they’ve been on the Lord and now as a parent or college graduate or of their own kids. And so I think having a deep level of concern, love or consideration for the character of our students beyond just material that we would teach, curriculum we present as really key. The that I would wanna ask or name, and maybe as a new way of doing an old thing, Daniel, is a concern for their spiritual health. So I mentioned earlier that when I was younger in 29, I had a heart episode. So if you are watching this and you have a spouse, that’s telling you to go to the doctor more, the reason is, as I learned not so many years ago, is that going to the doctor is simply a way to check for health indicators, that’s it. So from my brother-in-law who went to med school to learn a whole lot, he researched a lot of things. But to go to your primary care physician is simply a matter of checking how you are this visit against the last visit. That’s it. There’s not a lot of mystery or magic to it. We just wanna know, are things different, how have things changed. And I think for the small group leader, the Sunday school teacher, this is a key role that’s both engaging, helpful, and wise as you monitor the spiritual health of the students in your ministry. Because we wanna care about the total character of our students. And so one of the things that I would encourage you, if you’re watching this as a team or with other leaders or your co-leader, what are the spiritual indicators of health we want to measure in our students. More than just, are they there or not? I think we got really guilty of trying to boil things down to one number, Daniel of attendance. Is Tommy here? Is Becky at church on Wednesday? When pressed we would say, well, we care more than that. We just got it down to one number. I would ask you to expand that out and more than just, if Tommy’s here, did Tommy share, did Tommy prey, did Tommy interact with what we had to say? Was he of serving on the mission project? Did he sign up to go to camp? There’s a ministry wide concern, a church wide concern at some level it looks a little bit like the check boxes on the old envelopes but in some ways is more detailed in that because instead of reporting it to an office, it’s in the life of your small group, it’s in the chart, the Google spreadsheet or Excel spreadsheet for you and your co-leader, for you and your ministry to note the changes in your students, both positive and negative. If Stephanie hasn’t been there in a few weeks, it’s not just that the attendance was down it’s that, is something different in her life. If Billy used to share a lot, and now he doesn’t, what’s different? That creates space for us to ask meaningful, personal relational questions that are rooted in our record-keeping, in our health indicators for the concerns of our students. It lets us know when they’re headed on a trajectory that we can celebrate and encourage, but also allows us to speak truth into their life when things are different. There are conversations that get to happen inside the life of a small group, a Sunday school room that are very sincere, and authentic, and drive students to scripture, prayer, and community when we get to notice the things that have changed. And I think for so many of us at the end of the day, what we want is a deeper relational tie to our students. And so ironically enough, it may come from noticing more details instead of trying to project a bigger idea or a noisier environment. So whatever style of your leadership for the room, I would encourage you after each session with your students to do the due diligence of taking a few notes about each of the students that was there, that asks questions of their total character. How are they growing and developing. This expands out for all of the baseball fans, more than just one metric. We wanna know as much information about our students as possible to better care, shepherd, and mentor them. So every Sunday school group should be character transforming in its concerns and plans. The third thing that I would share is that every ministry, every small group, every Sunday school classroom should have a concern for culture shaping. The world has changed. This was true this last year, and we’ll talk about that. But I think it’s also been very true in the last 10 years. As someone that started a ministry in the early two thousands, the world was very different before every student had a cell phone. The world was very different before everyone had unlimited data to access the entire world. Do you remember paying for text messages, like that used to be a big deal to get a text was a dime for every friend. It was a quarter for every call. And now to be totally unlimited is dramatically different for our students. Our students are living in a culture today that’s creative, funny, socially motivated, and sometimes it feels unlimited. The data plans are unlimited, the possibilities are unlimited, the potential is limited, but it’s also critical. It’s a harsh world to put yourself out there, either in image, voice, writing or otherwise. A lot of students are now much more painfully aware because it’s really easy for people to make comments and criticisms as much as it is for them to create content or creativity. It’s also no longer a monolithic culture. One of the things Daniel that I would share is that it used to be a lot easier to be a youth ministry leader 20 years ago. Cause you could just look in the newspaper for whatever was the top movie or just check a headline for whatever game was most important. But any more in an unlimited internet based world we all have our thing that we’re into, so it’s impossible to keep up with the culture of students because it’s so many cultures. Apart from maybe a Marvel movie, or LeBron James, or the world series, it’s really hard to try to capture the attention of all of your students. But the freeing thing is the students wanna capture your attention by telling you what they’re into, it’s a real powerful shift. The TikTok video I wanted to share their, it’s really funny if you watch the notes later. The drummer in the background is having a real rough go on a Sunday as the plant keeps falling over on top of him. But funny videos like that can garner a lot of attention because the world is so hyper specialized in so many niches. So the thing that I would share in this segment is that culture is not some monolithic other, it’s, whatever water we are swimming in today. I think sometimes when we teach students, we try to draw a line between all of culture and all of church. But for our students, they’re made up of many cultures, many organizations, many teams, many tributaries into the river of their life. And so to try and draw a clean line between what’s out there and what’s in here is no longer possible because the whole world is in their pocket or purse. And so for many of us, we’ve gotta find ways to navigate, swim, boat the flow of the river that we’re in. Our students are also this though more than just met with the unlimited potential, they are so entertained, they are exhausted. One of the things that’s coming out in this last year and a half of pandemic is the rise of creatorship. All of the YouTube stars, would be celebrities, TikTok folk, bloggers, vloggers, and otherwise is a meteoric rise of them quitting, giving it up, tossing it to the side because the burnout is real. To be under the microscope 24 and on the clock to create day in and day out is burning our students out. And for so many of our young people, they are living into a constantly entertained, therefore constantly exhausted age. This is probably the most universal thing, Daniel about culture today is that they’re all tired. And not tired like, I just feel bored or lazy or lethargic, but they are just worn out, burnt out. And so the thing that I would share is that you’re probably feeling that too. If it’s universal for our students culture, I know that in this last year and a half, it’s pretty universal for us too. We’re exhausted, we’re frustrated, we’re stressed, maybe sad or even grieving. And I think if there’s a thread of culture, it’s not just all the things that we could make and all the potential that we see as unlimited, but the way which we’re all feeling, the way in which we’re all drained and worn out. And so one of the encouragements that I would give to you as you make entry point week in and week out with your Sunday school class or small group, is that one of the greatest on-ramps into conversation with your students is to name how they’re feeling and understand that they’re feeling may be exhaustion. That may manifest a couple of different ways. It may be them being more quiet or being more squirrely. But I think there is a way into conversation, a way into care, mentorship and connection by naming the feeling in the room that they themselves don’t quite know how to name. I think it was maybe true for a generation that we want it to catch ’em with a connection to cultural relevance. But I think the catch of cultural relevance today is the shared feelings that we all have around the last year of uncertainty, around the last year of conflict, and around the last year of feeling divided at every turn. If your group, your class, your small group environment would be a safe place to express these things, that would be a haven against the rest of the world. That would be an invitation to be loved, and seen, and known. Because more than anything else in this age, they are tired of being marketed to. They want to be heard, seen, and cared for. And in doing so, they’re able to create and make again. We need to teach our students that culture literally is what you make it. Students need space to see that is true. It’s not some great battle. It’s not some great war and living in a world of so many different cultures, niches, interest, organizations, and groups that we get the chance to voice who we wanna be. We get to stand in our belief, we get to shape what we care about. It’s not some other, it’s those of us who are gathered here, which means that they have a great opportunity to be true, be witness, be light for their team, for their club, for their group. This is the ways in which culture is shaped and reshaped for your students that are creative, and thoughtful, and searching, and tired, and wondering there’s real space for them to be creative, to be creators because they’re loved and cared for by you. So I would encourage this way, they need salty courage. In the spirit of Jesus’s words of becoming light and salt to flavor, and change, and transform. How might we empower a maker and creator culture that thrives on words like influencer to find their God-given passion and voice. I know that you want to teach students, but I’m telling you that if you make space for students to find their voice, to discover their God given passion, and then you equip them with truth, with wisdom, that forever will be the group that helps them take root deeply in their faith. And so I would just share this word of prayer and encouragement from Ephesians for you. It’s for this reason I kneel before the father from every name and heaven and earth is named, that he made grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power and your inner being through his spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, Sunday school teacher would be rooted and firm, establish in love, may able to comprehend all the same what is the width, height, and depth of God’s love, to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. That’s the word that we need. That’s the power that drives the ministry that we do. So there are some things I do wanna share Daniel, just that maybe it would be some helpful tips or some thoughts, some tools, but I’ll pause here if you have any questions or if we had any questions from the chat that we needed to answer.
– Okay. I don’t see any questions currently, but that are participating are certainly welcome to enter. We prefer in the Q&A section, any questions you have, although I do have the chat open as well. But one of the things that I couldn’t help hearing quite often, and it’s because we’ve gone through this change in our own office. We’ve had two people retire bring some new folks on board. And ultimately we kinda distill what we do down to the idea that we’re trying to connect people to Christ, community, and the commission. Okay.
– Yeah, that’s good.
– But here’s kinda the key, we do that kinda logically, and in our office we’re supposed to have conferences. But what we’ve discovered in our own experience, and it kind of came across to me tonight. Sometimes we go into teaching, for example, like we’re doing a conference where we’re dumping content. And what we said is that there is value to conference or content but there’s probably greater value right now in conversation and connection. And so we said, we’re trying to connect people to Christ, community and commission through conferences, conversations, and connections. I don’t want to ever take the content out of a group or a site. I mean, we’re there because he brings us together through his word. There’s where the power is for our lives. But at the same time, we gotta be aware of what they’re experiencing and what they’re going through. And I work with youth and I teach Christian worldview in Apologetics. And I think there is… You really brought out for me the fact that we need to be aware of what’s happening in their life, and then the point you made about, with all that they’re involved in, and sometimes we may view it as frivolous or whatever, that they’re exhausted. And I’ve seen as many kinda put some of that stuff down like you’re talking about ’cause they’re just worn out. So I found that kind of an interesting, a good observation and gave me kind of pause and to think it through moment, even as I go, well, it’d be next Tuesday to teach this group again, to just take some time and say, where are you at? How are you feeling? I mean we’re supposed to be guided by our faith and not feelings. But hey, failings, practice all. And so as…
– It’s a real barometer.
– Our ability to stand on our faith sometimes is because of what we’re doing. And sometimes I think we don’t even realize we’re doing it to ourselves. And so that feeling of exhaustion, maybe they can’t even explain it themselves why they feel that way.
– Bless you.
– I’m sorry.
– Well Daniel, that’s the right word because it’s not for a lack of faith that we have feelings. I don’t think those are in dichotomy. I think feelings are, it’s a physiological response to not being fully able to verbalize our thoughts or our experiences. And so being able to name those, create space for those. One of the things that’s been kind of in conversation on our team in just the ways in which we’re trying to train and equip youth ministers is the ways in which data has shifted, content has shifted. So I’m in my mid thirties and we got teased as the millennial generation that we were like everything was Google. And we didn’t actually learn anything, we just learned how to Google. And that’s maybe true. But I think for this generation and younger, because affecting all of us now and they’ll live with it the longest is that, we don’t even know how to do that because we’ve been so marketed to, so advertise to that comes to us. If I look up something on Amazon and I go over to Facebook, the ad for what I looked on Amazon is there on Facebook. Well I didn’t even search it, I was just browsing. And so the idea that our students would go dig into scripture, it’s not only that I don’t know a framework for scripture, they don’t know how to dig because everything’s always come to them. And so I think for so many of us, like we grew up learning how to, and the next section we’ll jump into, hold a shovel or use rake. But if you’ve never held one of those and the leaves just always disappeared every fall, it’s really hard to make sense sometimes of the tools that we even have to work with. And so I think for a lot of them that, it’s not just like, let’s get into it. They don’t know how to get into it. That’s why starting with what you’re sharing is exactly right. It’s the conversation of where are you? And then from where you are, let’s guide you into where we wanna go ’cause some many of them like they only know where they’re at and they’ve got no GPS or navigation, no Google database that search through. Good deal. Well, this next section is community connection. This is been kind of adapted for tonight. Selfish to share a little bit about, I think the hope of what Sunday school or small group really is, which is a chance, and I love it, this is true through Alabama Baptist to build community through connection. So the first thing that I would share is that, community is grown, not made. Now this for some senior pastors are just, ministry leaders can be a little bit a ruffle because we’re really strong about our value statements and our mission statements, which can make great posters for the hallway. But if they aren’t a part of what we are, then they’re just really pretty on the wall. And so no matter how much we want to say it or name it until it actually gets in the soil of the community, in the garden of the people it’s grown, not just made, you can’t just label it. So again, we could have those as like signs and indicators of where we’re trying to get to, but community is a little more organic than that. Or to say it this way, so during the pandemic last summer, my wife, who is a crunchy, and healthy, and mindful, really wanted to take last summer to garden. So we dug out the beds that used to be flowers and we planted vegetables. So we planted kale, we planted beets, and then we planted strawberries, ’cause she loves kale and beets, and our boys love strawberries. We had a beautiful garden, we had little signs made, we did the netting on top to keep all the bunnies out. And last summer we had kale and we had beets, and we had one strawberry, because in all of our planning and process one of the things that we didn’t take note of is that it actually takes three years for strawberries to peak. That you have to be okay with a few summers of no strawberries before you actually get the fruit of your labor. And I think for a lot of us in ministry, this is a learned lesson as well. That we put in a year’s worth of effort, hoping for the best, committed to the best, preparing our best, but for the life of a 6th grader, 7th grader, 9th grader, sometimes it just takes Daniel, three years. And so I think the encouragement of the community that you’re forming is to be reminded that it’s grown, not made, and to be faithful and consistent in what you can keep up with. And so it’s true that Paul’s language to plant to water, but it’s God that brings the growth is a keen reminder in a season where it feels like a lot of what we had planted and done either felt reshuffled, harvested or reaped by somebody else. And so it’s a keen reminder I wanna share in this season. But I do think that there’s things that we can do. I do think there’s connection or tools to help us grow. So God may give the growth, but if the nature or metaphor of our Sunday school group, small group or ministry is a garden, I do think connection are the tools that foster healthy growth. And so this is really scientific and this is really well researched. But Daniel, the tools like a good garden are really simple. The tools that you have to use are complicated, like a phone call or consistent messages, or comments on posts or video messages to your groups, or gathering times. That these are the things that are promoting, stirring up, tilling the soil for good growth in your Sunday school class. I think about a 3rd grade Sunday school teacher that I still remember by name today that called every Saturday afternoon, every student in her class, to leave a voicemail on the tape recorder at home and just say that she was excited to see us tomorrow in class? Did we have any questions? Here was our key verse. It took her 35 minutes every Saturday. But Mrs. Kennedy made sure that every student in her class knew that for her Sunday morning started at Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. That may look a little different in 2021. But for you, as you lead your group and connect with your students, it may be the phone call on not Sunday that helped get them ready or connected to Sunday. This is the same for messaging. One of the things that we shared earlier, obviously 2020 has marked a new chapter in administering in north America. 2011 is the year that every students seem to get some version of an iPhone. And so it’s easier now than it’s ever been to connect with your students between Sundays. And so if you as your ministry don’t have a plan to minister as much between Sundays, Wednesdays, as you do on Sundays or Wednesdays, then you’re missing one of the key tools to connect and grow your ministry. Students love being thought of. There is a plan that will work for you in your ministry. It’s the same as comments on Instagram or Facebook posts. You don’t have to follow everything that they follow, but to hear that you thought of ’em when they share about a change in life or relationship or celebration is a powerful way to connect the dots from a Sunday morning classroom to their online world and culture. Same for video posts and messaging, I think they would be a powerful reinvention for a Sunday school teacher or leader to send a short video message either through email or whatever you have for your ministry approved messaging service to let them know you were thinking of them, and here’s something that you wanted them to think about this week. Our students are living in a visual and video age. You don’t have to start a YouTube. You don’t have to figure out what TikTok is. This simply share through a medium that they love and understand how much you understand and love them. And then finally gathering times. We do this on Sundays, but even more special might be the times that are non Sundays. It’s the cookout at a friend’s house or cabin. It’s the fishing trip, it’s the lake trip, It’s donuts on a Sunday off campus with pastoral approval that helps solidify away from the classroom how important that class of people really were. Again, a lot of things that you could do, the encouragement that I would give you is that, like a good tool to use them strategically and not frantically. Only hammer nails and only rake leaves. And so for your ministry, which connection tools are best used for which setting in your ministry. You may have a group of students that could care less about a lot of things, social media. That doesn’t mean they don’t wanna hear from you through media messages. You may have students that are really hard to track down at certain times of the week, but if you can create a structure or a strategy that has quarterly gatherings to celebrate and build a calendar around, that might be a special time to connect. They may struggle to wake up at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning for Sunday school, but it’s easy enough to record part of the message on your phone to send them to reach them when they may be still at home. So again, there’s a lot of things that you could do, but I think in this season with a co-leader, with your ministry team, with your youth pastor or education pastor, this is a chance to think strategically, not just, what are we gonna say? What are we gonna teach? But how are we going to reach with these tools to connect to foster a healthy community for students to have faith conversations that would expand the kingdom, transform their character, and shape culture. So Daniel it’d been super great to share with you tonight. You can learn more from lifeway.com/churchon for some digital resources, for folks that are interested in that. And then we have some fun podcast stuff as well, for those that are listening. So a student ministry podcast by Lifeway has been in team. My buddy Chad and I do a weekly show called Youth Ministry Booster, where we asked some of the heartfelt questions about what it means to lead in ministry. And then @lifewaygirls is the Instagram account and then blog for all things related to ministering to the young women in your ministry. Or you could follow @lifewaystudents on Instagram, Facebook to learn more for the ways in which we can serve you, equip you, and resource you as you lead students in student ministry.
– All right, Zac, we appreciate that. I wanna give a couple of minutes here before we close to see if any of our folks that have joined us, have a question that they wanna ask, just enter that into the Q&A. And again it’s kinda like we’re tracking in some of our same thoughts on both conversation and building community and what does that mean and what does that look like. And one of the things that I can help, you probably know this it’s… I exited my teenage years a couple of weeks back. I also exited student ministry a couple of weeks back to say the least, but there are some threads that continue to run in. And one of those things is if you wanna be in student ministry, you gotta connect in more than on Sunday morning, 9:30 to 10:30. And back in the day when I was in student ministry, one of the things I demanded of anybody that would teach is that you had to do more than just teach on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. You had to engage some way shape or form. If you could go to the ball game where they’re going to be, if you could be where they’re gonna be or not, you could text, you could call, you could do something to say, I’m here for you beyond Sunday morning. And in that is really how you began the process of building a strong community connections. They knew they had somebody talk to you. And I kinda measured personally, some things to say, am I being effective in that area? And one of the little things was when I show up where they are, did they come to me and introduce me to their friends or did they try to fade into the background hoping that I didn’t see see them there. Because if they would come to me and they would introduce me to their friends, then it says that I’m a part of community and I wanna bring somebody else into that community. And so that was always a good measure. And I would watch… And even the environment where I teach youth now is more, you could say a professional environment, like your wife teaching at school, that’s where I teach Christian World View and Apologetics. And this past year, one of the students sent me. I can’t remember if it was text, email, but he reached out to me and contacted me and said, “Several of us in the class “play on this soccer team, and we would be honored “if you would attend one of our games.” And so I thought, well, if I go, will they even notice or it’d be kinda like, yeah, we noticed, but I don’t want everybody to know that’s my teacher or anything else. And it was really quite refreshing. One that they saw me, I guess, almost as a student minister to them rather just a teacher at school that they would even invite me. So I was kinda honored that they invited me to come. And then when I was there, they made known and came up and talked with me after and again, expressed appreciation that I would care about who they are outside of the classroom. And my son was a soccer player, and I think they detected that I might even know a little something about soccer and I do. I don’t know how to play it but I follow it enough to have conversation with them. And so even that one little thing opened up some space, if you will, in class and outside of class to have meaningful conversation with those three young men. So I think that’s a key thing that you hit on that’s been one of those threads all the way through, from way back in the day when I was a student and in student ministry and even to today. That I was…
– Well I sometimes we say Sunday school, so we can just throw in the word teacher, but as much as I could inspire and equip to minister or mentor might be a far greater work.
– Yeah, I think we do narrow our scope. And so that was one of the things that I did in student ministry when I sit down with Sunday school teachers, I said, we’re goin to begin to take the shackles off because you have this mindset that the literature is what you teach when in reality, it’s a student. And what you teach that student is the Bible and you teach it as much by how you interact with them and live the truth as anything else. Like you’re talking about the teacher that was most impactful for you. That was the teachers that were most impactful for me were the ones that I saw in their lives how they live out the truth that they were conveying to me. I saw in their lives, how much they cared for me because they would show up in my life. And then I remember a guy that went on in student ministry in a very large church in Alabama, I grew up in Nashville, but there in Nashville, he made the comment. He said, “You know, your dad attended “more of my baseball games than my dad.” And I thought for a moment how curious it was that he would make that comment. But then I apply that truth into student ministry. They know you care ’cause you show up where they are, you show up in their lives. So what happens beyond Sunday morning has meaning to you related to them. So I appreciate you kinda bringing that out tonight too. Let me check something real quickly.
– I think we had a question from John, come in.
– John has got a question. Do you suggest small groups to be curriculum based like using the gospel project or discussion-based like questions based off a message? Sermon based, I guess.
– Yeah. John answered that question. I think either way is fine. I would probably say whatever’s consistent for the philosophy or strategy of your church. I know one of the benefits of gospel project is it is for all ages. So if you are doing gospel project kids, students, and adults, there’s some continuity there across the generations. I think more than anything, it’s being able to provide something weekly that would point them to scripture that would deepen their understanding and would be open enough that could, like Daniel and I were sharing earlier intersect with some of the conversations they’re already having. And so that’s one of the things that I think whatever is presented or taught or bought would be flexible enough for students to bring their questions to it, as much as the content is brought to their questions. And so if you’re a church that loves to tie up all the groups connected to the sermon series, I think that’s great. Or if you have kinda another through line or thread line of curriculum, like gospel project, it’s also good. Whatever a teacher feels competent and prepared to share is excellent.
– And I would say, add this, even if you use gospel project, one of the parts of conversation and connection that we’ve been talking about is go ahead on occasion, even as they come in, unpack what they’ve heard in worship. Because by you taking notes in worship you’re valuing that worship experience and also giving them a chance to be able to say, well, yeah, I heard this and I struggle there. What did they mean? So it kinda shows value in worship experience. So I would create some margin, again, some space to have discussions about things that they’re hearing, including the sermon. Good, John has a follow-up. What’s the best way to get your teachers and leaders to attend a training? Oh, God bless you, John. None of mine show interests each year when I plan one.
– That’s great. John, I would offer, find ways to inform them before they come and to create an experience for the training in person. The shorthand that I would share is that a meeting without food is not a meeting. And so we were doing so one of our trading outlets is an online kind of cohort model called Youth Ministry Booster, and so this year’s theme is Ministry Equations. And so we have a fun little, like first of the year fact sheet or like formula sheet, like a cheat sheet you’d have, and like geometry class. And one of the formulas is that a ministry minus food equals not, or a meeting minus food equals not a meeting. I think a lot of folks, again, we live in a time where it’s very easy to deliver content. I would deliver the content ahead of time and make the meeting a space for fellowship and conversation. But don’t present at the conference, record, all the things you wanted to share in a short little video on QuickTime or Zoom or whatever, and then have the meeting be fun and fellowship, and food, and games. Things that they can’t digest on a podcast in the gym or in a long email that they may or may not read. They’ll remember the meeting as experience. If it’s just meeting as content, they may not come. But let videos and email and podcasts train them, and then you form community when you get gathered together.
– Yeah, I think I’d say excellent. You kinda put things in context when they come. ‘Cause you can provide that training for them. And I am… Well one of my mantras through the years is, friendships are forged over food. And one things I wanted to be with my teacher…. And then by the way, that’s biblical, they went from house to house breaking bread together, eating with And one of the things that I tell people in student ministry, remember, there’s really three rungs that you’re working on this. And one is leadership, number two is parents, and number three is the students. And you need to build relationships with all three equally. And so I think sometimes we look at our teachers like, okay, here’s what you need to do, go do it, rather than I actually care about you and value you as a leader. And I wanna hear from you and input and that kinda thing. So yeah, I appreciate bringing that back. And apparently John appreciated that too, that insight.
– People who turn down free food we’re probably not on your team anyway.
– You gotta question their heart right there.
– But truly though, like if you’re planning a meeting and aren’t planning coffee or food, then like, I mean again, it’s another level of like, this is how much this matters. It’s the same for like churches that have big training sessions without childcare. Like if you want ’em there, let’s all commit to be in there or whatever. Especially in a world, that’s one of the things we tell our youth pastor is like, don’t have all your parent meetings in person this year, offer some late night Zoom calls, do a parent meeting at 9:00 p.m. when all the kids are asleep and the house is quiet, that’s a lot easier to make than one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon rushing out of church.
– We can take advantage of some things that are always there.
– Use the tools.
– And then John and Zach, I’ll tell you… Again, this is the old dog talking because training is what we do throughout the years. But I used to say in my local church, look, you can come to the meeting or we can sit down and have lunch together and you can hear what you should have heard and we can have a conversation we should have had at the meeting. But by the way, if we do it at lunch, I’m picking the restaurant in your paying. So you can come eat my food. I’m eating your food.
– Yeah that’s good.
– And I never had to do that, they kind of got the point. If I didn’t think this was a value, I wouldn’t put it on your calendar, I wouldn’t ask you to commit to it. And I don’t try to overdo it. It’s not gonna be a weekly thing like we used to do way back in the day. And so the other thing is to keep in mind, we’re disciples who are making disciples. And a lot of times, people say what should be the content of the meeting? It should be about making disciples. And relationship is huge in making disciples. You can’t help somebody take the next step in the journey if you don’t know where they’re at. So I liked that, that you brought it out. And John is liking the Zoom parent meetings.
– 100%, 100%.
– I think that is a great idea. It gives them opportunity to join in and be a part of that. And again, you can hit all three rungs. One of the things in student ministry, we focus only on the students. We gotta focus equally on the leaders and all the parents as well, ’cause they are our key partners in this. And if we drop the ball there, we’re gonna be in a world of hurt. And whenever you leave, you leave nothing behind. So that’s key. Well, hey, Zac, we’re about out of time and I just wanna say…
– It’s been great Daniel.
– John for your good questions. John, that’s been fun and I’ve enjoyed being with Zach. And hey, give the boys a hug and say, y’all did great
– Will do, I’m gonna go check on them inside.
– They stayed inside, and although it might’ve been funny if they’d come out.
– Well, maybe we’ll see it, they’re probably tired.
– But thanks a lot, appreciate it.
– Thank you for your leadership and this time. John, thank you.