Monday, April 23, 2018

Let's Get Established: Author Q & A Tips


Jacob, Jackson, and Lindsey share on their book, "The Universe is Indifferent".
Last fall, a few fellow Wipf and Stock authors invited me into a convo on enhancing their upcoming book signing event. Below were my two cents for Jackson Lashier, Jacob Goodson, and Lindsey Graber, who are some of the voices behind, "The Universe is Indifferent: Theology, Philosophy and Mad Men."  

Book signings are always way more enjoyable for the reader (and extroverted authors) when it is accompanied by a Q&A session. I hope you find this helpful and if you are seeking more marketing advice from an actual professional (#notMe), there's no one who will care more about you and the work to which you have been called than George Kao.  Seriously--the guy is so accessible, soulful and skilled. 

Part 1: Establish Yourself as a Local/Human  

Potential buyers love to support their own. Not only does it fill them with pride to have one of their neighbors doing great work, but they are also naturally more curious about said work because of a prior knowledge of you.

Mingle before and after the Q&A session to assist with this. Humanize yourself a bit. You are not just some Times New Roman name on a cover. You are a Cowley resident who is a: father, husband, daughter, and friend who also frequents Winfield’s hot-spot (College Hill Coffee). Kick-off the Q&A session by sharing your favorite CHC drink or where your favorite writing spots are around town.

Part 2: Establish Yourself as Competent 

This (sharing a CV of sorts) can simply occur in the intro by the moderator, or through a question. In my experience, it feels most comfortable (to all involved) coming from a voice other than the author's.

Remain authentic and humble. A conceited attitude is a big turn-off for potential buyers. (Pardon me as I state the obvious for you today!😉) Authentic marketing happens naturally when one is promoting something that a) he/she was vocationally called to create and b) he/she truly believes in the benefit it will have on the life of the customer. If these things are in place, humility and authenticity come naturally during marketing-like conversations.

As of 2013, there were 1 million books published each year in America (half of those were self-published). So what puts your book on their wish-list this Holiday?


Part 3: Establish this Book as a Must-read 

Donald Miller teaches us to make sure that every moment of marketing passes the “caveman test.”  This teaches that since potential buyers are super-busy, any type of pitch we make (spoken/written) needs to be put in such a simplistic (not synonymous to dumbing-down) way that a caveman could understand it. This calls us to use simpler language. Once you have a potential buyer committed, then you can dive deeper with him/her. Keep this in mind as you answer questions from folks who have yet to read your book.

One challenge for this book will be selling it to the non-academic types. No worries, this can be/should be done!

One selling point for this crowd could be, “According to a CBS poll, MadMen was the 13th most watched show on Netflix. Don’t you hate being in a “show-hole”? Ugh--it stinks! It nearly feels like you broke up with someone (“someone” being those fictitious characters that have lived in your TV for two months). The Universe is Indifferent is a cure for the show-hole that finishing MadMen causes. It gives you a chance to remain in that 1960s advertising world. It gives you a sweet reunion with those intriguing characters that you love to hate.  It allows you to keep on exploring (while experts hold your hand) the many underlying themes of theology, philosophy, gender equality and so on. Why not make your binge-watching a little more prestigious? Why not see how this eye-opening read can equip you for our current political climate? Books are on sale now!”

Part 4: Establish Yourself as a Trustworthy Resource 

In our current political climate, people are seeking out trustworthy resources to help strengthen their views on hot-button issues. You can be this resource.

Share that you are willing (if you are) to come and share at any community organization, class, or book club. Share that this book is only a peek into your repertoire of skills/interests. Share other topics on which you enjoy speaking.

Share your email and social media handles if you have them. These should be verbally shared by you or the moderator, and also placed on a table-tent by the books so people can snap a picture of your contact info. Make contact info very visible, so when questions come to potential buyers two-days later, they can reach out to you. (While social media is important, Maria Forleo teaches that your best marketing tool is your website. Plug it!💪😁💻)

With social media and websites, authors are more available to readers than ever been before, and an author who is interested in being in conversation with her readers will naturally sell more books than those who don’t--especially if the writer is also a practitioner.

If you are a book lover or an author, what would you like to see happen at more author Q&A sessions? Please share these thoughts in the comment section! ❤✌💬

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tweets if I Were Not a Minister



As one who serves in a small-town church, I often worry about sharing too transparently on social media.

Will my jesting tone come off in this tweet? (Probably not.)

Will I offend women with pixie cuts with this status? (6 of the 5 will take it the wrong way.)

Will people change churches if they see that I watch (ok--am obsessed with) #SNL?
(Yes, but it's probably those flaky fans who quit watching when Farley and Sandler got fired and still claim that was the "best cast ever". #ImTriggered) 😂

Questions like these have forced my thumb over the delete button many of times, and while this is most likely for the best, I started a running list of these unfiltered tweets.

Once I hit 10, I thought, "What the heck, some folks might get a grin out of these."

So, without further adieu, here are 10 tweets that would have been tweeted (twitted?) if I were not a minister:

  • “Watching Peppa Pig confirms why they lost the war.” #ThingsMyHusbandSay
  • Some people are as pleasant to be around as bitting the inside of your cheek. #boundaries 
  • Sometimes in life, that which you thought was a Mr.Darcy, just turned out to be one hot jerk. #FirthFan4Life 
  • Canceling cable seems to be the new cross fit or vegan trend, “You gave up TV? Wow..." 😜 #OkWeGetIt
  • Rocking my daughter to sleep makes me feel like a club DJ at last call.There's one half-awake/over dramatic person left whose random song request are barely understandable, “one more song peese!? Tinkle ittle stAr? Back sheep,bahbah?Wane-wane? One more song peese!? Just one more?!”
  • First experience of trash talk from a reader on my blog right before I went in for my well-women’s exam. Things can only go up from here, right? 
  • I want to be like the assertive types that take crap from nobody and drink their coffee strong and black. But the truth is that my coffee is often sweeter than it should be, and my sincere joy comes off as passive, unaware and nieve. 
  • There's nothing funnier than your toddler using "I forgive you" in the wrong context. It reminds me of the #AnchorMan scene when Ron says to Veronica, "When In Rome". 

And another version of this Tweet--

  • There's nothing funnier than your toddler using "I forgive you" in the wrong context. I mean, I have never been forgiven so much, well except, you know--Jesus.

And lastly-- 

  • Today's one of those days that I'm so mad I could cuss on Twitter, but I'm too damn afraid to piss off any church members.


If you are like me and are too scared, filtered, or overly-analytical to share transparently on social media, may we be bold when it counts (like on actual issues of justice and mercy) and share the hilarious tweets that were never twitted (tweeted?) below!😋✌❤ 







Monday, April 9, 2018

Mindy, Monty, and Ministry: What Comedians Teach Us on Leadership


While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly (ok--very) obsessed with well-written comedies. So much so, that my friends threw me a shower that was themed Saturday Night Live. There was a “Mom Jeans” skit (written by the blogger, Leah Hartman) and more Chris Farley impersonations than one could imagine.

My utmost respect & admiration is given to comedic writers. Laughter is the sweet fruit of the highest form of happiness and these literary geniuses bare this in a simple sentence. Ha! Just like that, that stressful work memory is now silenced by the sound of one's own glee.

While it has been proven that laughter is healing on a holistic level, today I would like to explore another gift that comedians give us, and this the gift of wisdom in our ministerial leadership.

Source 
After the first 5 years of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (its creator) left the show due to burnout. Want to be sustainable in your leadership? Tighten up those boundaries. 

This can mean different things. To me, it means that I do not talk about volunteer needs when I am off-the-clock unless the person brings it up to me first. I don’t want others to run away when they see me in the bread aisle for fear I might hound them for their time or talent. I also keep healthy boundaries by only speaking on issues that I am “over” (#busychurch) and delegating the rest to the right personnel. This naturally builds up the rest of our team and eliminates some potential miscommunications.  (I won't bore you with thoughts on rest, work, and play, but all I got to say is that Colossians 3:23 teaches us that in everything we do, do it as if we are doin' it for the Lord. So work hard, but play and rest like you are doin' it for the Lord! 😂😉) #ExegeticalHumor

Michaels returned 5 years later armed with stronger boundaries and for forty-plus years now, the show has been killin' it.


Source
Tina Fey shares in her book Bossy Pants that the talent must outweigh the crazy (lack of emotional health) in the comedian in order for the show to be a success. 

A volunteer’s vices must not upstage her talents; if so this is a liability to your team and the reputation of your program. A high maintenance teammate can be a huge distraction from the ministry to which God is calling you. Plus, your other teammates will suffer if the majority of your attention is used on damage-control for this one person.

After the second or third apology to parents, you might need to take a page out of my boss's book and ask, “Is this simply a rough edge of this volunteer who is serving out of her gifts and has loads of potential?” or “Is this is a red flag that this teammate is either A) not emotionally/spiritually healthy at the moment to fulfill this role or B) not serving out of her gifts?” Either case calls for an honest conversation. The latter calls for a potential break from serving or some grace-filled redirection towards a different position.

Source 
The birth 😉 of the Mindy Project by Mindy Kaling taught us that when it is heart-work, you don't just survive the hard work, you thrive in it.

Kaling based her show the Mindy Project on her Mom who was an OBGYN. Her show got picked up by FOX on the same day that her mom passed from pancreatic cancer. To say Kaling is close with her mom is the understatement of the century. She considered her a soul-mate. While the grief was insurmountable, Kaling honored her mom's legacy in doing what she was made to do and created an amAzing sitcom.

When you serve in the nonprofit world, it is a necessity (sometimes) that tasks end up on your plate that are not inline with your gifts/passions/job description. I get it, I really do. However, I would be wary of these tasks taking up too much your time, because they will slowly diminish your grit. Doing heart-work (the tasks that our hearts fiercely beat to do) is how we thrive in the moments of ministry that are gut-wrenchingly hard. Like yeast building up bread, time given to heart-work builds up our resiliency over time.

Source
The Dana Carvey Show taught us that no matter how talented a team is, timing is everything for an idea and to make sure that your vision is the same as your supervisor's. 

In 1996, after leaving SNL, Carvey joined comedic greats like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Heather Morgan in starting his own variety show. Despite all of the talent, this show failed due to its crummy time-slot (It was shoved next to Home Improvement. I mean, come on?!) and the big dogs at ABC trying to squeeze Carvey into a different comedic box than he was feelin'. Seriously--there are so many illustrations on teamwork and innovation in their documentary. You have to watch it, friend.

Think long and hard about the timing of your next big idea. Is it being set up for success by its "time slot"? What does this season of life look like for your parents? Your volunteers? Also, communicate this idea to your supervisor clearly and get him/her on board before moving forward (or else, you will get fired after only 7 episodes).😆

Source
The Monty Python taught us that other teammates are sometimes needed to carry another teammate along. 

Many don't know this, but the best actor in the bunch (their words, not mine), Graham Chapman, was an alcoholic. In fact, he was late and often clueless of his lines while shooting The Holy Grail. Throughout this time, the other Pythons patiently loved him through it and helped him reach his potential as an actor. They believed in him and their love paid off as Chapman went on to star as the lead in their next flick The Life of Brian and totally crushed it.

Sometimes, in order to be a healthy team, we have to fling another's arm around our neck and lovingly carry her towards the best version of herself (personally and professionally). Can I get an amen?!  (I feel a sermon coming, I'd better move on to the final lesson.)

Source
Miranda Hart teaches us that vocational callings evolve and that our talents can be used to offer healing to others along the way. 

Where do I begin? I have so much love for this chummy (actress/comedy writer/ author/director/producer/mental health advocate) comedian's work. I first "met" the fabulous Miranda Hart on her sitcom Miranda on Hulu when I was on maternity leave. Watching it was like taking shots of oxytocin--instantaneous joy and warmth. Her work was such a cathartic release for me during this nervous season, that for the next 3 years while my husband worked nights, I would fall asleep to her show. Yep, I have watched Miranda episodes over 800 times--impressed?😋

Arabelle Weir hit the nail on the head when she said that, "Miranda is the sort of performer whose funniness is timeless. Every tiny thing she does is amusing. She'd have been a great "turn" in 16th century England or 1930s vaudeville. She can't not be funny: everything about her – her expressions, her mannerisms, her pauses, even her silences – are funny. It is an unlearnable and rare quality."

Ok, I will stop bragging about Miranda Hart. (But, here's the link to her show, just in case you want to check it out.😉)

Bottom line--the underlying value of her work is to offer joy and comfort to others. This is shown implicitly through every word she (very methodically) speaks or writes and explicitly in her work with Comic Relief and other causes for mental health.

While serving in full-time ministry comes with its challenges, (That's a whole other comical post.) we get the privilege of joining people in life's most sacred moments. In these times, may we follow Hart's lead and be fully present, and then explosively share comfort or joy.

I am curious to know who your favorite comedians are, please share 'em in the comment section! 

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Molly Just


Rev. Molly Just and Hubs, Kyle
During March, I interviewed four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)

Like a gardener who sets up the ideal greenhouse in which plants can flourish, Rev. Molly Just helps to create the ideal environment for 18-22 year-olds to grow in their faith.  Through covenant groups, classes, capstones and service opportunities, she guides undergrads as the Director of the Discipleship program at Southwestern College (my ole' stompin' ground). While her green thumb is gentle and sensitive towards her Gen. Z bulbs, she shears keenly and prunes with high standards.  I learned much from her interview below and I hope you do too, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

Oh, man! Coming back to serve at Southwestern two years after I graduated was weird in that I was always (and still sometimes am) mistaken for a college student. I have many distinct memories, especially my first year serving in this role, where I would meet people on mission trips or during service opportunities in the community with the discipleship team and would hear “You’re too young to be the pastor here!” I would just smile, and say “I love my job, I am passionate about living out my calling as I lead these students and we’re glad to be here. Let’s get to work.”


What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

A common misconception I observe is that sometimes folks think that pastors have all the gifts – as in, they are there to be the preacher, teacher, leader, evangelist, prophet, administrator, etc. An important spiritual reality that we could live into more as a Church is that pastors are people who are a part of the body of Christ. They are often ordained and called to serve the church or another ministry in that way, but that doesn’t make them better or more gifted than anyone else. The Church makes up the body of Christ and we need everyone, ordained and lay, to use their gifts to keep the body moving and functioning correctly. It’s a team effort always!


What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 
I have strong gifts in teaching and shepherding and it was always my dream to work with college students in a ministerial role that could combine them both. The requirements of my current job beautifully weave those gifts together. I get to walk alongside students during one of the most formative seasons of their lives. I also get to teach some courses at the college and develop different types of curricula which is my jam!


By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

The most important pieces that brought me to my job are still at the heart of it today – formation through covenant groups, sharing testimonies, teaching, and college students. I’ve worked to shape the academic piece of the discipleship program a bit more during my time here, but the true heart of the program has remained the same. I’ve found it’s my job to champion that piece.


During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

During my first year on the job I was informally mentored by so many different people like Rev. Ashlee Alley who (maybe strangely or not strangely) was in my job before me. Ashlee has always been an important mentor in my life and during that first year on the job she always encouraged me and answered questions.

Also, my colleagues and friends, Jackson and Julie Lashier, really supported me that first year and were always rooting for me. My boss, Dr. Cheryl Rude, allowed me to “free fall to fly” and she was there whenever I needed her. The things that people like Ashlee, Jackson, Julie, and Cheryl hold in common is that they know when to listen when to speak and when to celebrate the heck out of you.


What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?

My life that first year had to be incredibly intentional. I was finishing my Masters of Divinity degree and working full time. When I took the job at SC, I realized that my “yes” would require extra care of my time as I sought to work, finish school and maintain good relationships with my husband and my community of friends. Sabbath has been an important part of my rhythm for a long time and it looks similar today to how it did back then – taking a full day off for rest, fun, play, outdoor activities, cooking, having friends over for dinner, visiting family – basically all of the things that give and speak beauty into my life.


Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

I’ve definitely had a few of those moments, I think everyone does at one point or another. Sometimes things happen that are just hard – people make choices with challenging consequences, budgets are cut, or in sometimes I feel inadequate at my job or overwhelmed by the circumstances associated with it. In those moments I’ve learned to be gentle, set boundaries, and to take care of myself. I’ve also had the healthy realization that it doesn’t all depend on me and it would be crazy if it did. I remind myself that Jesus is the one who does the work and I have an amazing team of people around me. I’m here to be a team player.


What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

I always think of the faces of the students that God has called me to serve. Something hard can happen at work, and then I have two amazing seconds with students where they make me laugh, or where I watch them care for each other and I’m reminded that I LOVE them so much. And for whatever reason God has called and gifted me to be with them in this season. They bring me deep joy, which has been an important way for me to know that I am living into my vocational calling.


What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience of question 7? 

I’ve learned that it’s important to have a group of people around you that can help carry both the burdens and joys of ministry. For the last year and a half, I’ve been banding together with an intentional group of 4 other women. We read scripture and pray for each other daily, and we meet weekly on Zoom to talk about how we’re doing and how the Holy Spirit is moving in our lives. This has been THE thing outside of Jesus that has kept me in ministry, I’m sure of it. This practice is a part of what I like to call “digging a deep spiritual well.” I’m a better disciple, wife, pastor, colleague, and friend because I know there is a group of at least four other people that deeply love me for me (faults, quirks and all).


For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Explore it! First and foremost, root yourself in the disciplines of scripture, prayer and meeting together in Christian community. These things will help you figure out how God speaks. Calling is personal in some ways, but it’s also confirmed by the community. Start making connections, and seizing opportunities. Interview someone that has, what you would consider to be, a “dream job.” Ask the people around you to help you think outside the box and confirm your gifts. Full-time ministry as we’re talking about it here doesn’t always = pastoring. It could include non-profit work, academia, or a vocation like counseling. Explore, explore, explore and trust that God works through process, over time and will be faithful to his calling on your life.

Discover more about Rev. Molly Just's ministry at Southwestern College here

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Jessica Bates


Jessica Bates and fam. 

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)


Building healthy ministries for children and youth demands a great deal of intuition and a mighty love for the logistical pieces that create the programmatic whole. With this said, the gifts of Jessica Bates are in high demand on the local church level. I learned much from her wisdom below, and I hope you do too, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

There are lots of things that make ministry work unique or weird compared to ‘normal’ jobs. Ministry jobs are fluid, meaning our work won’t always look the same week to week. I’m a full-time Children & Youth Director, often times my hours of work are being done outside the church walls. I’ll meet students for coffee, go to their games or concerts, and we have them over to our house for meals and games. I’m not in the office or at my desk for 40 hours a week like most people in the world are. But that’s the part of my job that I love. Being outside the church walls with our students and seeing them use their talents to bring glory to God.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

Many people get confused when I tell them that my full-time job is children & youth ministry. Students have asked me what I do when it’s not Wednesday. And my husband gets asked all the time what my real job is. Working with students & their parents is my real job. A job that I’m called to and I believe a job that God created me to do. I know it’s hard for people who don’t work in the church to really understand what goes into this job. Many people think that it’s just a Wednesday & Sunday job, but there is so much planning and strategy, and prayer that goes into those 1-2 hours of meeting time prior to and after. And some of that the students, congregation, and parents might not ever see.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

I’ve always wanted to teach. Growing up I used to play school all the time. So naturally when it came time to get serious about my future teaching was where I was headed. I was a pretty active student in my youth group, and our volunteer leaders let me have a big leadership role. Recently I found my old prayer journals where I wrote countless lessons and devotions over scripture. I guess God had been preparing me for ministry long before I knew that’s where I was headed. When I was a sophomore in high school I felt the nudge towards ministry. It wasn’t until I sat down with my Sr. Pastor that I discovered that I could be paid to work with middle and high school kids. After a lot of prayers and with a whole bunch of faith I took the jump into the ministry world. I’m teaching now, just not in a school.

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

The teaching part is a big and important part of my job, but it’s not everything. I didn’t realize that until I got into youth ministry how much of the job is bookkeeping, calendaring, strategy, and event planning.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I didn’t have a specific mentor. I did, however, get connected to a group of youth workers in Wichita that has helped me grow as a youth director and as a person. We meet once a month for worship, fellowship, and to learn from each other. I always leave those meetings feeling ready to face the next hurdle at church.

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now? 

I had several people who stressed the importance of Sabbath in my life. Sabbath day hasn’t changed too much over the years. Every person’s Sabbath is going to look different. Mine currently is filled with things that are life-giving to me.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

I think everyone who does church work has had a point in their ministry where they’ve wanted to quit. I’ve had the thought of maybe I’m not really cut out for this job after a particularly hard night of programming.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

I always come back ready to go after spending time in prayer. I’m really lucky because I have amazing support at the church from our Pastor and other staff as well as parents and amazing volunteers. It’s those people who help me get through the times where I feel like throwing in the towel. And often it’s them who remind me (whether they realize it or not) that this is my calling and this is the church I’m supposed to be at.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience of question 7? 

Ministry isn’t about you. I’ve discovered that when I do things I want to do and not what our students need or what God is guiding me to do that’s when it gets tough and when I start to doubt my calling. I also can’t expect to do ministry by myself. I rely heavily on our volunteer leaders. Many times they are my sounding board as I explore what’s coming.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Do it! The biggest thing that helped me to get where I am are my internships. I worked with a church for a few years and gained so much experience that I still draw on today. Also, find people that will help you to discern your call into ministry. It wasn’t until I went to my Sr Pastor when I was in the discernment process that I learned I could do youth ministry full time. There are so many facets to ministry. So explore them.


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Darci Utt


Darci Utt with daughter, Adah.

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   


My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)


Darci Utt has the swagger of a quarterback at a pep rally and everyone, in her mind, is a valuable part of the team. Over the last six years, she has served in #KidMin, #YouthMin, and #CampMin. She is a dynamic force who leads fiercely while intentionally nurturing those in her care. I learned much from her wisdom below, and I hope you do too, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

It is often hard to describe what we do all day. People automatically assume that if you work at the church you are either a pastor who preaches or the secretary. Many other denominations categorize all of their ministry staff as pastors. So to tell someone you are in ministry they assume automatically that means you preach and visit people in the hospital. Youth ministry is a different job altogether and people often can’t believe we get paid full time to do what we do.

I find youth ministry to be unique in that we don’t have students all of the time. Teachers teach all week and have very little time to plan. Youth ministry is almost the opposite, it is a lot of office hours and a few hours of programming and then the rest is spent out in the community supporting our students and connecting with them where they are. Teachers don’t get to do all of that, and yet we are paid often salaries that are comparable to a teacher salary.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

We really are busy all year. There are weeks that might be calmer than others, but our calendars are full. We often work way more than a 40 hour week. And just because we enjoy it doesn’t mean it isn’t work. I often felt like I had to justify to people that I really was working and my job mattered as much as other people’s jobs that people understand.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

As a student, I fell in love with the Bible. Nothing, in school, made me more excited than learning about the Bible and sharing that excitement with others. I didn’t know until college that there were full-time paid ministry positions other than the pastor, so for a long time I knew I was called to ministry but didn’t know it could be my vocation. I knew I wanted to spend my life sharing the Bible with other people. After a season in camping ministry, I knew I wanted to work with youth on a regular basis, I wanted to keep ministering to my campers after they went home at the end of the week, so I went into church youth ministry to be able to work with the same students on a long-term basis.

I loved to teach the Bible, it was my favorite part of the job!

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

By my 5th year in Hesston, I was working with an incredible group of High School students who were incredibly in tune to their call to ministry. Over my 5 years there, cultivating a call to ministry in my students was a part of my calling that I didn’t know before I started. Our youth group time was spent deeply diving into scripture and answering the tough real-world questions they were asking on a weekly basis. This was exactly why I got into ministry and working with them each week was an incredible blessing.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

During my first year of ministry, I didn’t really have a mentor so I went seeking other’s who do the same job. There is a group of United Methodist youth directors that meet monthly for worship, communion, and support. This group became my lifeline and the place I ran to for support. It is always a blessing to meet with this group and just love on each other!

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now? 

I didn’t have one. I didn’t know what that meant and after the first nine months I was incredibly exhausted and didn’t realize it. I went to Perkins School of Youth Ministry in January and took a class on Self Care, taught by Ben Wheeler. His view on Sabbath changed my life. He said that he schedules it as a meeting in his calendar so no one can argue that he has free day. And then he spends that day only doing things that fuel him. I adopted that idea when I got back home and kept a weekly Sabbath from that point on.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

Weekly! Ministry is an all in kind of job. It isn’t a job that you work 9-5 and go home and be with your family and don’t think about again. Students have real lives that they want your help navigating. There are times when their issues are so large that it is easy to get lost in them and wonder if you and they will ever survive. Other times the church politics makes ministry difficult and you just want to leave and go somewhere where you can be done at the end of the day. And sometimes your students just want to play dodgeball and want nothing to do with your lesson and this can be disheartening if it happens on a regular basis, and you wonder, “why am I here, and am I even making a difference.”

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

In order to be in ministry for the long game, you have to really discern what it is God has called you to do, learn to separate your family time from your ministry time, even when ministry is your life, and your life is ministry, there still has to be some separation.

Over time I learned that church politics and students not caring were way harder for me to get over than the crazy chaos that students lives would bring to my door. At the end of a day when I wanted to leave, I would sit myself down and spend time in prayer. Usually, during that prayer time, God would bring back to me the names and faces of the students I was called to be in ministry with, and that would fuel my flame again, and I would march on.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience of question 7? 

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned was not to feel guilty about receiving a paycheck. I worked at a church that was struggling financially and I would find myself feeling guilty for getting paid. Paul addresses in his letters in the Bible, the need to pay the people who lead the church. I took comfort in these scriptures, and then made sure I was doing everything I was called to do, and earning that paycheck.

I learned a lot of tools for dealing with the real world issues that students face, from running away, boyfriends/girlfriends, to self-harm. I spent time working with these issues a lot and learned how to navigate them.

I also learned how to discern when God is calling you to leave. This was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn. I was completely in love with Hesston UMC and when God called me to leave I was heartbroken. I drug my feet on this one, I did NOT want to go. And God finally pulled me away at what felt like the worst time possible. I left behind a senior class in their last semester. A senior class called to ministry, that gave life and fueled my calling in so many ways, and yet God said it was time to go.

The hardest part of this shift was it didn’t include a job for my husband. I moved my family 45 minutes away, to a church filled with students who just wanted to play dodgeball. My husband didn’t have a job for the first two months we were there, and then it was only part-time for a few months after that. We spent a year struggling financially and I struggled with these amazing students who loved God differently than the ones I left behind.

I definitely struggled feeling like I was making a difference. But what I gained was a strength in my marriage that can fight through the desert times, friendships that were deep and life-changing, and the realization that my calling had actually changed from full-time youth ministry to camping ministry.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Honor your Sabbath and find a support system!

Wish to know more about Darci's ministry at Camp Horizon

Have you also thrived the trenches of full-time ministry and wish to encourage others with your story? What are you waiting for--email me! 😊

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Joel Wilke

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke and Fam.

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)

Camp Horizon Director, Joel Wilke, has served in this ministerial position for eight years. Joel is a rare breed of servant leader for he is both a dreamer and a doer. (Say what?!) I gleaned much from this interview and I hope you do as well, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

No, I wouldn’t say it is weird.  You have to get used to working with people your parent’s age, but that is the case in lots of professions when you are in your 20’s.  However, I did quickly learn in this profession that people perceive you differently when you tell them you work in ministry. My first year on the job as a youth minister, I had a friend of my wife’s come over to talk about her marriage with us because she basically considered me to be a “pastor” or at least “close enough to God” that I would know stuff.  When people hear I’m in ministry, it can elicit all sorts of feelings about people’s history (good and bad) regarding the Church because I somehow represent the entire church!  Funny things people do around me: 1) Apologize for cussing 2) Hesitate to have alcohol around 3)Awkwardly look at me to pray before any meal gathering.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

It’s a year-round gig!  Ministry never stops and sometimes people assume there are times of the year with not much going on, but in my experience, people working in ministry are always too busy.  Ministry is relational, and relationships are organic and take constant upkeep: funerals, weddings, hospital visits, people in crisis, people who need a listening ear...ministry plays a vital role in all of these settings, and they are not easily or consistently “penciled in” or added to schedules.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

I’ve always felt called to serve children and youth. I love being outdoors, and I love the variety of tasks surrounding camp life.  On any given day I might spend the morning working on financial reports and the afternoon testing out slip n slides for summer camp! Camp is a form of ministry that changed my life and strengthened my faith, and it motivates me to keep this ministry strong for others.

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

My role has not shifted much in the eight years I have been in my position.  The things that brought me to camp are still what I’m doing today.  However, this job has definitely matured me in profound ways.  I was always the funny risk-taker, but I quickly realized I had lives, jobs, and budgets at stake.  I still take risks, but they are calculated and well-planned with board member and conference approval, ha!  The nuts and bolts of running a nonprofit can sometimes overshadow the ministry components, and you have to find ways to keep a pulse on what brought you to the job in the first place and where the Spirit is moving.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I had a whole group of mentors that helped me with the various aspects of running a camp.  What made them great was their support and trust in me, even at a young age.   I knew that I could be honest with them, and they created a safe space for me to ask questions without feeling dumb. Many of these mentors came from my site council; I had amazing board members who were invested in the camp and wanted to see both the camp and me thrive.  Also, my entire Wilke family… :)

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?  

It hasn’t changed much, I’ve always made it a priority to carve out time for rest and time with family.  The camp schedule changes a lot from week to week, so you have to be flexible to take your breaks in the middle of the week sometimes when you have a lot of groups coming on weekends and holidays.  Because I live on site, if I’m not careful I can go weeks without leaving camp and it starts to affect me, so I’ve learned I have to be intentional.  It doesn’t hurt that I have a beautiful disc golf course right outside my door!

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred?  

I have never considered quitting in the time I’ve been here.  However, times when I feel like I’ve reached my limit usually come after I have taken on too much.  At one point in time, we were trying to start new programming, trying to streamline office procedures, starting a capital campaign, working on major grounds/facilities improvements, and trying to attend several major conferences all at the same time.  I was running in too many directions and lost track of vision, clarity and purpose.  This is the moment when I have too many balls in the air.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

Whenever I get overwhelmed or stressed, I try to keep in perspective that in the big scheme of things, all I am asked to do is to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8. I’m not in this alone.  This isn’t the first crisis, and it won’t be the last.

Life and the camp will keep going without me.  At the end of the day, I’m just one little ministry, on one little planet, in one crazy vast universe.  And while I know God can do BIG things through us, I also know that all he asks of us is daily righteousness.  The big picture humbles me and restores me.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience above? 

Keep the main thing, the main thing.  In ministry, there are so many different ways to do our work, and the temptation is to try them all.  I am continually refocusing on what is at the core of our ministry and letting go of everything else.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Take some leadership, business and communications courses – in whatever field you choose, a strong ability to work with others, write, speak and review financial reports will serve you well! You can have all the theological training in the world, but if you can’t work and communicate with teams of people, ministry is going to be rough!

Find a couple of great mentors - it can help to have someone who knows your world well, and it also helps to have someone completely separate from your world who can hear things with an unbiased filter.  Both have their importance.

Get out there and try things – God often opens doors through our relationships.  Internships and volunteering are great ways to meet people who can help connect you to ministry settings you are passionate about.

To know more about Joel's work with the formative ministry of Camp Horizon in Ark City, Kansas, click here