Showing posts with label KidMin Leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KidMin Leadership. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

Seeing God in the the Giggles of Your Summer Binge Watches


While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly 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 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.

As Proverbs 17:22 teaches, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Studies have pointed to the healing power of laughter time and time again. A few belly laughs naturally open the floodgates of oxytocin in the brain. This hormone (found in both genders) not only fills one with love and joy, but it is also a bonding agent in relationships. Sharing a good laugh biologically binds us together. Chuckling is a day at the spa for your psyche, i.e. it’s a natural de-stress tool -and it’s way cheaper than therapy!

So if you are seeking some R&R from your vocational ministry, I would like to share with you one of my greatest loves. While the church realm can be a tense place to serve, it can also be quite humorous, and nothing makes that more apparent than the shows below. They each serve up some freshly diced chuckles and some pippin’ hot theology. And if you’re like me, you have an appetite for both.

With this list, please know I am not suggesting the following:

  • The theology presented in these shows is 100% sound.
  • These shows should be watched by your students. Although, they are full of quality clips for sermons or lessons.
  • Binge watching all 5 of these shows before school returns should be a goal.  #challengeaccepted

All of these can either be streamed on Hulu or Netflix. Along with the links to the show’s page, I have added some of their main theological themes. Feel free to add any that I missed in the comment section.

    • Spiritual disciplines
    • Christology (the study of Jesus Christ)
    • Pneumatology  (the study of the work of the Holy Spirit)
    • Communal living
    • The cloud of witnesses of our faith
    • Vocational calling
    • Forgiveness/Mercy
    • Justice
    • Theodicy (the problem of evil)
    • The separation of Church and state #giveuntoceaser
    • God’s Sovereignty

    • Soteriology (the study of salvation)
    • Grace (God’s unmerited favor)
    • Works righteousness (Can grace be earned?)
    • Vocational calling
    • Immortal Souls
    • The religious pluralism of our culture

    • Vocational calling
    • The Domestic Church
    • Stewardship
    • Grace

    • Eschatology (the end of days)
    • Our fallen nature/Sin (The destruction that can be done with the misused power of religion is quite sad in this show.)
    • Forgiveness/Mercy

    • Is this finally a Protestant example?! (yes.)
    • Although this show is laugh-till-you-hurt-good, one specific episode puts it on this list. It is the first season’s fifth episode, called “Godfellas”. This hilariously portrays a praise band forming and the lead trying out for altar boy. Holy Moly! Talk about funny!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

One-Year Anniversary of the Bluebonnet Child Book


A year ago today, the Bluebonnet Child book was printed for publication by Wipf and Stock. I viewed this as an omen of sorts since July 7th is my best friend's birthday. While seeing one's idea printed on paper is exhilarating, hearing folks share of how this lil' book has enhanced their serve to kids truly takes the cake! In honor of this day, I suggest that we all eat cake and that I repost the original PR blog that was shared many moons ago. 

Can you picture a child who has fallen through the cracks? You know--that student who makes your job ten-times harder, but it's impossible to stay mad because you know what darkness awaits him at home? Though we don’t quite know how to address it, there are kids like this in every church and I call them Bluebonnet Children. This is their book, and if you have a heart for kids, this books is for you.

The renowned bluebonnet flower grows in poor soil.  One would never guess this to be true, but the bright, proud bonnet tells no lies.  Not even unkempt soil can keep a bluebonnet from producing its lovely blossoms. People can be similar to the bluebonnet flower.  They too can be born into poor soil with environmental and contextual challenges.  Kids from neglectful or abusive families are called Bluebonnet Children.

We are trained in Children’s and Family Ministry that the parent is the primary faith nurturer.  But what happens to a child who does not have a healthy parent to nourish him?

While it is tempting to leave such work up to the professionals of the courtroom and counseling sessions, the faith community can also play a formative role and act as a supplemental family.  This book offers helpful tools and inspiring stories to catalyze the entire congregation towards action. The tale of the Bluebonnet Child is heavy, but in Christ there is hope.

The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil is a ministerial resource that guides readers to adopt the Triple-A Approach. With this approach, they can become more aware of the child’s story, advocate for her needs, and theologically articulate how the healing power of Christ is at work in her life.  Each chapter is full of concrete examples and educational tactics that are immediately applicable in one's ministry setting. This is an intentionally short work (twenty-four-thousand words) for the busy practitioner. 

The Bluebonnet Child brings a unique voice to the conversation on healing through trauma because it is written from a theological perspective, as opposed to an autobiographical,  or psychological/ legal one.  Its foundation is James 1:27 which calls the Body of Christ to care for the orphan, the loveless and the fatherless.  Unlike similar reads, this book seeks to improve the systemic issues latent within Children’s Ministry programs.  The author is well-versed in developing healthy volunteer teams - the bedrock of a Children’s Ministry system. Regardless of a reader’s prior knowledge of theology, psychology, or educational theory, this book will hold his hand and lead him into the light of this dark work. Readers can also earn CEUs for this book through a two-week online class/book club where they can discuss its contents right along with Meg and others.

So if a kid's face came to mind as you read this, may I encourage you?😌 Don't be intimidated by this dark topic. Don't think that only counselors and caseworkers can make a real difference. Don't think praying as you turn down the other aisle is enough. You are needed, and this book will hold your hand as you extend the other out in hope. 

Get your copy of The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil on Amazon or shop local at Graves Drug Store Online

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Where Jesus Prayed", By Danielle Shroyer: A Book Review By Meg


This scrumtrelescent read will fill you up like Thanksgiving Dinner (minus the Tums). It is a rich dish that covers many facets of the Christian faith. It is hearty in the sense that it is satisfying to those of all levels of Biblical literacy.   With each page, readers are led into a different time and culture by Pastor Danielle Shroyer’s authentically wise and witty voice. She is both a credentialed spiritual director and tour guide.

Upon traveling to the Holy Land with her fellow pilgrims, Shroyer had planned to take a break from her “word-crammed” life.  A desire to do more sensing and less talking filled her as she discovered that “Jesus was more human, more real, more divine and more beautiful” than she had ever imagined. Thankfully this break was short-lived, and this literary souvenir can now be shared with the masses. If one is on the fence about checking out this masterful two-hour-read, prepare to be persuaded.
  • Each chapter is based on a  word or line of the Lord’s Prayer that thematically intertwines with a specific destination on her tour. This makes this book a versatile resource for any small group or sermon series. 
  • Carter Rose’s photography is a life-giving spiritual discipline all on its own.
  • While some might be weary of a boring geography lesson, they can expect the exact opposite. Shroyer has a magical way of getting her readers emotionally attached to each timeline and map that her words depict. She writes, “ The air in Galilee feels...FULL. [...]It’s as if the air had more energy in it.[...]I wonder if that’s because Jesus’ imprint is still here, somehow, as he left behind a trace of his own  life-giving force that even two thousand years cannot erase.” She describes the sea of Galilee as Jesus’ routine commute (Galilee’s borders had been divided into quadrants), “Jesus spent much of his life traversing boundaries. Where others were labeled by place or tribe or religious affiliation, Jesus saw fractured hearts, dismembered dreams, the ache of alienation, hopes faint as a whisper.”
sea of g .jpeg
  • Each chapter drips with mind-boggling facts of our Christian story. She writes of the Synagogue in Magdala that was discovered in 2009. It remained in nearly pristine condition for two-thousand years safe underground. To add to the surprise, it was hidden less than two feet below the earth. Amazing!  The new sanctuary in Magdala, Duc in Altum (“into the deep”) honors all women ( named and unnamed) who had walked with Jesus and led others on their walk as well. This part of the book is truly empowering. Tissues will be needed. 
  • Shroyer would not be doing her job as a Pastor if she did not close the book with a booming benediction, and that is exactly what she does. The final destination on the tour is the Chapel at Shepherd’s Field.  Here where the Shepherds heard angelic sounds, Shroyer sends her readers out with, “You remember that you were made for: praise, and joy, and a heart that delights in the glories of this world and its Maker, Savior, and Keeper. You were made to be loved and to discover that love with boundless overflowing joy. You were made to see stars, to witness miracles, to watch love be born into this world, to proclaim it ever new each morning.” 


Monday, June 25, 2018

An Ode to My Donaghy: The Dance of a Senior Pastor & a Children's Pastor



Like Liz Lemon on NBC’s 30 Rock, I too have been richly blessed by the professional friendship of a suave, very-opposite-of-me mentor who has been in the biz for quite a while. For a decade now, similar scenes of me rushing into his office to be either picked up or patted on the back have occurred. He has encouraged me to: grow my position, use our “company” as a writing laboratory, and to “get a life outside of work so I can survive work”.

Many a meeting have I sat across from him studying his techniques with hopes of one day replicating them. He’s keenly aware of the undertones and red-tape of our faith community. His stealthy strategies never cease to amaze. While he’s much more humble than Jack Donaghy his confidence is rooted in his calling and I feel every church employee should get a cup of coffee with this guy.

As Lemon beautifully illustrates, one’s vocation can leave her high on a mountain one minute, then feeling hopelessly ill-equipped the next. A kind mentor is needed to survive this roller-coaster. I know I would have burnt out years ago if not for the confidence, creative freedom, and Michael-Scott-like-wit of my senior pastor.

Similar to Donaghy, Dave would humbly brush off the label of a mentor at first-but for different reasons. There have been times when he denied being my boss when introduced, “I’m a work colleague”, he would say, “a teammate”. I realize now that instead of me gluing my identity to him and striving to write my story as his, he was implicitly nudging me to trust myself more. Who doesn't need this lesson?! Instead of using my days to impress him as the authority in my “real-world” life, he desired for me to focus this energy on impressing the only one worth imitating -Christ.

The time has come, in fact, some would say it’s long overdue. It’s time for an ode to my Doneghy-an ode to my senior pastor. I shall no longer see you as a master and I the young grasshopper. I shall now see you as a friend. Know that whatever type of servant-leader I am in my fifties and sixties will be greatly due to serving alongside you in my twenties and thirties. Before the relationship status is altered, and we become equals, here are the top ten things I have learned from you.
  1. Make the white elephant in a meeting the centerpiece on the table so everyone can get a good look at it. 
  2. Never triangulate between teammates-ever. (DON’T DO IT!) 
  3. Quirky humor has a life-giving and morale-boosting effect at even the most life-sucking, tactical and operational meeting. 
  4. Strive to love (really love) every member of your team, and may your prayer-life be infused with this love. 
  5. Assume the best in people. 
  6. Celebrate your teammate’s strengths, and honor their weaknesses. Realign your expectations of them based on these so they are set up for success.
  7. Make a point to acknowledge the sacrifices your teammates make-in private AND in public.
  8. Know how to intentionally use silence as a tool for powerful conversations or brainstorming sessions.
  9. Timing is EVERYTHING; new programs, funding, the flow of formative worship-it’s everything. 
  10. There is a healthy balance of an “open-door” policy and also maintaining healthy work-life boundaries and you, Sir, wrote the book on it. 


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: An Interview with Myself


Last month, I interviewed four persons who entered into a full-time ministerial position under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years. After many requests (one), I think it's only fair that I answer the questions that I expected others to answer. Asi que, here we go! 

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?

For sure, this is such a weird gig. Only the called survive in this line of work, and not only survive, but thrive! Before I go any deeper into the weirdness of serving on a church staff, I must first express how weird my story is--how weird I am. πŸ˜‚ I am an odd-ball of a case because I have (thankfully) served on the same church staff since I was 18, and I turn 32 in two months. With this said, my story might read a little differently than others.

Ok, back to the weirdness of the gig to which I have been called. Serving on a church staff as a minister is weird because:
  • People consider the weirdest things as "good donations to the children's and family ministry program". Wallpaper, a (new) catheter, and a stack of old photo albums take the cake as the oddest over the years. 
  • It is assumed that you live like an Amish-nun (Not a thing, but a funny image!), and are not up-to-date on the current trends of fashion, entertainment, or technology. 
  • Folks confuse necessary relational methods from a minister with a desire to be their new best friend. 
  • In honor of being nice and in the name of (how they are defining) 'grace', churches sometimes discount (actual) talent and emotional maturity when selecting volunteer leaders. This lack of standards can be a huge liability and end up hurting the entire team/tribe. 
  • Never will there be a place where volunteers have so much power. This can be a good thing (priesthood of all believers and such) if the above point does not happen, but if it does it will take a strong staff to do some major damage control. 
  • Because all of our staff's job descriptions get blurred by our church members, sometimes blame is misplaced. 
  • When you live in a small town, some always think you are "on the clock". It takes years to teach folks how to treat you when you are at Nieves with your family. (What?! Ministers eat chips and queso?! What?! Ministers leave the church?!) 
  • It is so odd that some want their church to grow and be sustainable, but are highly intolerant of the noise of kids and youth in the said church. It's as if they don't see the connection between the two. 
  • Some were raised on translations of the Bible that were somehow filled with typos. Their versions were sadly void of the stories of Esther, Mary, Joanna, and Lydia. I'm so sad for them because they have been misinformed and believe that women can't lead in the name of the Lord. πŸ˜‰ Occasionally running into these folks is most likely the weirdest thing about the gig. (Let it be known though, I preached my first sermon in the Bible belt, was a chaplain on the east coast and serve in the Midwest, and I have never run into this with members of my own tribe.)  These people are out there though, and we really need to get 'em better versions of the Bible.πŸ˜† 
What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct?



We are not all like Hilary Faye in Saved or Ned Flanders in the Simpsons. Most of us are genuinely caring people (and I thankfully serve alongside these types). Some of us are not socially awkward.  We are normal people who are capable of feeling the full range of emotions. We have hobbies, vices, friends, and families. We have a work hat, and a mom hat, a wife hat, and a friend hat. And at our best, we know when to wear each one and when to not.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? 
  • The ability to advocate for the church's role as a supplemental family to kids of troubled homes
  • The opportunity to encourage others (of all ages) in their gifts and empower them towards action
  • The love of building strong teams
  • The excitement of exploring the relationship between neurology and spirituality              I have always loved learning about the brain, and one gets to do this a lot through lesson planning or motivating different types of personalities on a team.
By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place?

Thankfully, I now get to do even more of this type of work than I did when I was first hired.

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

I was most likely guilty of having too many 'mentors', and by 'mentors' I mean people who I wanted to impress so that I would feel better about myself. So, they weren't really mentors at all, just lil' signs of my emotional unhealth at the time. (Yes--I'm going to make up a word and leave 'unhealth' right there for the moment.😁)

Thankfully God has worked wonders in my heart over the past 14 years since I entered into this church family, and looking back I would consider 4 persons as true mentors to me when I was a mere rookie.

My boss, Dave, has always encouraged a healthy work/life balance for me. And since I came out of the womb a workaholic, this voice was greatly needed. Another strong one over the years has been Rev. Ashlee Alley, my campus minister at college. She was an awesome mentor because she was never afraid to speak the truth in love, and she was very self-aware/self-disciplined. I would also say that the way we are wired is a tad bit similar.

Dr. Michelle Adler was another one who was fierce in the secular classroom and in the religious #KidMin realm. She also carried out her calling as a mom with great conviction and honor. Her compassion for kids with special needs was always inspiring to me, and her confidence was contagious. When I got to Bethel Seminary, I met Dr. Denise Kjesbo who is a powerhouse leader in children's ministry and she models being an academic and a practitioner very well.

All in all these 4 were great mentors to me because they had seen me at my most confused, most emotionally unhealthy and loved me through it. I think they might even still like me. πŸ˜†

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

Jo Saxton teaches that "Sabbath is not the absence of activity, it is the presence of peace." As a high-energy extrovert, the permission this grants is so freeing. Don't get me wrong, my mornings are incomplete if I don't make time to meditate, pray, study and journal, but my limit of introspective time is 3 hours.

With this said, my ideal day of sabbath rest is taking time to be outside (running, walking, collecting sticks with my daughter) and being in conversation with some of my favorite homo sapiens.  I also love going to antique stores or playing board games. These two things are oddly refreshing to me.

Unlike viewing Sabbath as something I honored one day a week (which I used to), I now view it as something that needs to be part of my daily routine. I take 20-minute power-naps 6 days a week and have a tight schedule that intentionally involves times of playing and resting. Unlike when I first started out in the church, my mindset is now to play and rest much harder than I work. And by doing so, my work is much more focused and fruitful. This mentality will also sustain me in my career/calling much better than my old one.

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? 

Yes, there have been days that I felt I was in the wrong gig, or that my efforts were all in vain. These days come about when an idea was moving way too slow or an incompetent, emotionally unhealthy volunteer was getting way too much say in how the ministerial work was carried out.

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

My secret for success? I care way less about certain things now. Yep--some things that used to really ruffle my feathers (Ya know, parts of the whole political game of doing church in a small town?), don't even bother me anymore. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings are forms of practicing healthy boundaries.  I am very picky now about what I do with my emotional and mental energy. It is truly all I have control of in my life, so I cherish it. I choose to focus my energy on the areas of the church to which I have been called and I don't let the others steal my joy. I just don't care anymore. πŸ˜‚

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

Nurture those friends that love you as a 'you' and not as a 'minister'. Make time for these persons at least twice a month. (yep-no more, no lessπŸ˜‰) If you are married, give your spouse a break and don't always talk about church-work. You are a fun person, you really are, and your spouse deserves that version of you (and you do too).  Work will be there tomorrow, and there is nothing to be gained by ruminating over it while you fold bath rags. So for now, talk about the next episode of Sneaky Pete and eat ice cream together after your daughter is asleep.  Also, read these books on vocational calling. And above all else--make time each day to simply let God love you. #SpiritualDisciplines

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! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰) #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 πŸ˜‰ 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).πŸ˜†

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?πŸ˜‹

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.πŸ˜‰)

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, 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! πŸ’ͺ✌❤

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?πŸ˜†)


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! πŸ’ͺ✌❤

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?πŸ˜†)


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! πŸ’ͺ✌❤

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?πŸ˜†)

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