This is a transcript from the video “Youth Pastor Round Table – COVID-19 Resources” from YMlink.
Hey everybody, welcome to a Zoom call with youth pastors from across our state. This is Scooter Kellum with YM Link at the Alabama State Board of Missions. We’re going to come to you giving you a round table through Zoom just to talk about what it looks like in our state, in our youth ministries, and our churches as we do youth ministry with COVID-19 and how much has changed and things like that. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to go around this round table or via Zoom, and we’re going to let everybody introduce themselves. Let you know who they are, where they’re from. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to dive into some questions and thoughts. Hopefully, we can be a good resource for you. Clint, why don’t you go ahead and start us.
Youth Pastor Introductions
I’m Clint Bryant, I’m currently a student pastor at Taylor Road Baptist Church in Montgomery. Evidently, obviously, since this has happened, my role has changed a little bit. I’ve learned a lot about Adobe Premiere Pro and putting together our church’s prerecorded services. We’ve recorded worship services recording our pastor’s sermon. I’ve gotten to become an expert in video production as well.
Hey, my name is Marcus and I’m up at Flint River in Hazel Green, Alabama, almost in Tennessee. I got to say, Clint, hooking horns. I know, I see it, I love you anyway. It’s been an interesting three weeks for us. We’ve had to completely go virtual. We weren’t doing any live streaming beforehand. We’ve tried three different ways. We’ve tried to livestream, we’ve prerecorded, and broadcast Live, and then we’ve gone premiere. All have pluses and minuses. We were part of the big crash two weeks ago that took everybody down at once on YouTube and Facebook through livestream. We’re live streaming our services on Wednesday for our students, prerecording stories, and trying to produce a lot of content for our church to keep people connected. It’s been a learning curve, but it’s been good for us so far.
Well, I’m Garrett, I’m Garrett Davis. I’m at Carolina Baptist in Andalusia and I’m still the student pastor. Even through this, but I do answer all the tech calls from our senior adults. So walking senior adults through YouTube Live and Facebook Live has been quite the adventure recently. That’s what we’re at, we have like to tear it. I mean, like Marcus, we have transitioned from we are completely streaming live now on Sundays and our student services on Wednesdays. As we’re learning this, the majority of our people have really embraced it and they’re looking forward to it. We’ve decided that when this is over, we’re going to have to stop streaming for a few weeks so people will actually come back. But that’s where we are.
All right, I’m Jamie Baldwin, one of your state missionaries who serves in office of Sunday school and discipleship. Our primary responsibilities is training youth and adult Sunday school leaders. I’m not directly connected in the area of youth ministry as definitely as y’all are. But we’re hopefully a resource person for you and we’ll talk a little bit more later on, on some of this. But it’s good to be with y’all. Thanks for allowing me to be with you today.
Jamie works for the Alabama State Board of Missions as he just said, and he’s been a great mentor to me and has helped me a whole lot and we’ve done a lot of things in youth ministry together. I asked him to come and be a part of this because I know he has some things to offer and some things for us to learn from him.
Hi, I’m Denise Andrews from Ozark, Alabama, a small church called Chalkhead. I’m the youth leader, part-time, and like Marcus, we have not been online. I am a retired teacher so I have that much technology education, so tag, I’m it. I have learned how to do a lot of stuff lately, but I’m looking forward to this and appreciate you having us.
Hey, I’m Spencer, I work at First Baptist Trussville, and predominately over high school ministry. And so focusing on how to stay connected with high schoolers during this time. It has been a fun challenge as I’m sure most of y’all are in that boat. As you said, becoming good, the Adobe Spark has been my best friend recently. It’s the image editor to create cool graphics to make us look hip. But I feel like that’s 90% of my job now is looking hip on Instagram. It’s been a transition but it has been cool to see everybody coming up with creative ideas on how to reach students.
Hey, what’s up, everybody? My name is Justin Caton, I’m a student pastor at Thorsby First Baptist Church in Chilton County. We normally have not done livestream or we originally talked about doing stuff like, but I have become a pro of movie. If that’s being a pro or not, but we’ve attempted the last three Sundays to do a livestream. It’s hard to do livestream without the internet as I’ve learned, so it doesn’t really matter how many tools you got. If you don’t have a good internet, it’s not going to work. I, literally, I just got through recording our pastor rerecorded his message from Sunday and it’s loading now and maybe ready by next Sunday. But it’s loading now just because so, yeah, I’ve been at [inaudible 00:06:38] trying to learn how to do livestream but now we’re, since our Internet’s not as great, we are focusing more on like Facebook Premiere and posting things to Vimeo and stuff like that. That’s how my roles changed a little bit.
I am the family life pastor at Spring Valley Baptist in Springville, Alabama, just north of Birmingham. We have discovered first Sunday we live streamed, and we realized that we, in this area, don’t have enough bandwidth to make that happen. We realized that late in the game last week, and so we had to do some things. I’m not having to do the technology side of it. My pastor loves that and is way further in the game with that so I don’t share like the rest of you with that. I called him this morning to say, “Hey, listen, we’ve not done a youth service, but we shot that last night.” I was like, “Hey, can you get this to the website and different things.” I’m not editing, I’m not doing any of that stuff. I am having to create social media type content or whatever, but I’m not having to do any of the video editing or any of that stuff, really.
But the difference for me is that, like my pastor asked me Sunday to start at the bottom of the roll for church, and that he was going to start at the top and for me to start at the bottom, and just start calling people. That’s one of the things that is a little different for me in a way that I wouldn’t normally have to invest on that I would normally have to do. It’s been good, it’s been a fun learning curve trying to shoot videos and trying to shoot the content, keeping people apart. Just, yeah, it’s been fun.
I’m Jeremy Montgomery, I’m the student pastor, college pastor, and I guess, education pastor at Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama. We are doing drive-in church. We are still meeting on Sundays, and so my responsibilities have shifted a little bit to parking cars on Sunday and figuring out how to line everybody up so they can see the pastor and tune in on the radio, listen to his sermons. With college, it’s been all the students went home so I’m connecting them all across the state to be able to talk through Zoom and things like that. With student ministry, it’s been finding a platform that my parents can all agree on is a safe platform for connecting students. We’ve been doing a lot of Zoom and a lot of phone calls, a lot of texts, a lot of conference calls back and forth just talking and things. Then just spending a lot of time equipping parents to do a lot of discipleship at home. That’s the the role that I’ve been assuming here lately.
Hey world, it’s Terrance Andrews. I get the pleasure of serving at Westmeade Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama. I’m really just tuning in to Zoom because I haven’t heard anything about COVID-19 or coronavirus, and I just want to learn too. No, really, I get the pleasure of serving on staff with a pretty young staff and they’re all pretty much tech-savvy. The ball wasn’t just dropped on me, we are doing a lot of prerecorded and some live streaming, Instagram, Facebook, all that great stuff, Zoom calls, incorporated into our small groups. Each small group leader is doing Zoom calls with smaller groups, of course, and our Sunday school leaders are also doing individual Zoom calls as they lead out individually too. It’s a time of newness, but thank God for the ability to stay connected with everybody.
Well, I’m Jeremy Jones. I’m the associate pastor of families at Crossroads Community Church in Elmore, Alabama. We have done a variety of things, our Sunday morning services is straight recorded. I’m blessed to have a guy named Kevin Boyer as our worship pastor who does all of our tech stuff and does all the recording. I don’t have to do any of that. Wednesday nights we do a Facebook and Instagram Live combo for our youth worship. We use Zoom calls, we got one tonight with our students, small groups use Zoom calls. We’re pretty much sticking with those three mediums as far as periodic live Facebook Live stuff, but our Sunday morning worship is a total prerecorded. Then Zoom calls as a staff, as small groups in every capacity.
Hey guys, I’m Cleve Mallory, student pastor at East Mont Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Some of the main things that we’ve tried to do has been we’re, honestly, simplify. We were so busy with things and this has helped us peel back some of the layers and find out what was necessary. What are we really needing to focus on? Acts Chapter two, the Apostles Teaching to fellowship, breaking your bread, and prayer. So we’re trying to find things that fit into those parameters. Sunday school, we’re meeting in Zoom calls like several of you have mentioned. Those have been super easy for us to use. Even on a free level, I have a paid subscription, but even our free levels for 40 minutes, our Sunday school classes can gather and we have 53 students this past Sunday who were able to do that.
That was huge for us. On Wednesday nights, I have gone, over the past two Wednesdays, I have done one Facebook Live and I have done one prerecorded that we just uploaded onto Facebook. We’re doing those about the same timeframe as our normal Wednesday night gatherings. We’re seeing some success there, so that’s interesting, and all. For our Sunday morning gatherings, our church is doing a little bit of both. We’re doing live Sunday morning gatherings, but we’re also prerecording certain aspects of that. Almost like commercials that we’re playing at different points in our service that gives our worship team a little bit of a break, it helps the awkward fill in, in between moments. But we’re also recording and stockpiling separate messages in the event that this thing turns for the worse and we are given a shelter in place and can no longer come to the church for Sunday mornings.
We’ve got some that we’re putting on a back bank to roll if the need hits. That may be a way that some of our churches can think through that too is to have some on the back burner. But, man, I’ve learned so much from you guys already. So, Scooter, back to you.
Well, so everybody’s talked a little bit about who they are, and talked a little bit about how their roles changed. Some of them have gotten into some of the things you do in church-wide and things like that. But, at this point, I want us to, I guess, focus more on student ministry, in particular, youth ministry. To the youth ministers out there that maybe are going to watch this or maybe ask him, “What can I do that might work? What can I not do?” Let’s do this, let’s, first of all, start off by what platforms are you using in your ministry that’s been successful. And then what has not worked well?
Let’s just start there, and then what I want to do is we’re going to after we get walk through this, we’re going to look at Adobe Spark, Adobe Pro, some of those things, that you mentioned, that people may not know what it is. Let’s dive in that after we get through this. What’s working, what’s not, just everybody speak and let’s speak into this?
Resources for Social Distance Youth Ministry
Well, I’ll go first. I think the one thing that has not worked so far is emails. Parents and myself included, I have two teenage boys, I get 50 emails a day from school. So I found that the emails I’m sending to parents and students are getting lost in the mix and never happen. The one thing that has worked extremely well for us is Zoom, and I know some of you guys have already said that. But we bring, on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, I bring everybody into a large group on Zoom. Then using the breakout room feature, we break them out into their discipleship groups and into small groups so they can discuss the lesson.
I’ll go. I’ll say Zoom, Zoom has worked great for us as well. I know some people had mentioned at one point there was an app called Houseparty that people had drawn out, and I would highly advise against that one. Just because of the safety, there just some dangers I think that go along with that app. One that we’ve worked with, obviously, Instagram Live, in Facebook. If they’re really cool and ahead of the curve, then they’re on Facebook, but if they’re not, then they’re still just on Instagram. So most of our students are coming from Instagram Live if we do those type things. But I would say the thing we use the most is something called Remind. It’s a school app that a lot of people know. I send out links to… we do something on Wednesday nights, we’re calling it living room worship, where we prerecord the worship service and we premiere it on Facebook, Instagram, and do it that way.
I just send the link via the Remind, they click on it, and they’re good to go. They can click on their Zoom link for their Sunday school class and they’re good to go. Just an easy way to communicate with parents and the students in a very fast pace and it goes straight to their cell phone instead of an email.
We’re doing all the things that we’ve all talked about. One thing that has come very apparent this last couple days is content overload. We felt like, I think, we felt like we needed to dive into the deep end before learning how to swim and we were producing content and we were Zooming and we’re doing Instagram and Facebook and yada, yada, yada. The students were so overwhelmed with life change just in general. They were so overwhelmed at the fact that school had just been canceled and no graduation and no spring sports and new life. We were asking them to dive deep into all sorts of different things, so we pulled back. We pulled back, we simplified, but we even simplified even more. I guess, the less is more approach at this moment just talking with some of my leaders even this morning, adult leaders, they said, “You know what, we also got overwhelmed with the amount.”
Because we were producing content for our small groups, for our adults, for our students. We were doing live we were doing Instagram, we were doing recorded sermons. We were doing all sorts of stuff, and just the overwhelming amount that we were involved in, I think, just made a lot of students, in my opinion and what the feedback that I’m getting, pulled back. Those are my two cents.
To play off of Terrance, man, silly stuff like trying to find things that our students can do that is, and really for eternities perspective, useless. But it keeps them bonded, it keeps them together. We’re using Facebook to do a cereal bracket. Since sports got taken away and we always do a March Madness bracket, we’ve made a top 64 cereals and we’re calling it March madness. Every day I update, which I’m getting a little behind right now, but I update a picture on our Facebook and it’s the next round of a different quadrant of our bracket and people are voting in the comments. They can vote on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. But it’s got us engaging on those platforms, and it’s not something that just overwhelms them, and it’s not an emotional thing and it’s not an intellectual. It’s just, “Hey, be here.”
There’s some good little arguments that are coming forth, people are trying to defend Cinnamon Toast Crunch over Froot Loops, and it’s just it’s fun, it’s pointless, but it gets them talking, it keeps them together. So maybe you can think of some ways to do that.
That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on ourselves is we’ve noticed we asked ourselves when this all happened, what are some things that the church does that we can’t do now? One of them is gather together. So we said, “We know our students are missing that community aspect, so what can we do to get them together?” That’s what we’ve been doing through like we will do Zoom tomorrow night, we’ve done Zoom a couple of times. The point of it has just been to get them to share stories, and so I prod and ask questions and we go, “Hey, tell me what’s been different? Tell me what’s changed about your life? What’s changed for the good? What’s changed for the bad?” Then I try to also just encourage them about life, how it’s changed. One of the things we brought up in our first one was I was talking with another friend of mine, and he said, “What about all of this newfound free time that students have?”
We can pray that they would fill it with Bible study, but we know that there’s a lot of time now to form bad habits. I’ve been just talking to them about that like, “Look, don’t let this idle time become the devil’s playground. What can we be doing to fill this time now and helping them stay together?” And just been talking to them about the changes in life since this has occurred?
Yeah, I would agree with what y’all said, I agree a lot with what Terrance said as well. Our kids here in Andalusia, the school sending out messages like every day, the school’s calling with their little voice thing and talking to the kids. They’re actually meeting today to determine the future of what the school is going to do, which they say is going to be online. A lot of what I have personally been calling like, Josh said, I’ve been personally been going through my list and calling the students one on one and I’ve been talking to them. I don’t know about you guys, but a lot of my students just don’t text me back. Maybe they don’t like me, I don’t know, yeah, that’s exactly right. But a lot of times, some of them will, some of them won’t. But so what I’ve started doing is I’ve started calling them. I wanted them to hear my voice and I wanted to hear their voice.
We’ve talked, I mean, the majority of my meeting, my phone calls are like a minute and 45 seconds, “What are you doing? What are you up to?” Eating Pop-Tarts and playing Call of Duty.” “What about your Bible study?” “Oh, I’ve been reading my Bible.” I like to hear their voice, and y’all know this, this has taken a lot out of our kids. Like our kids, every single one of them that I talked to you last week they say, “Brother Garrett, I will not take for granted the fact that we we get to meet together on Wednesdays anymore.” They were like, “I didn’t realize how bad I would miss Wednesdays until we can’t go.” They were like, “I miss your hugs.” I’m like, “I miss your hugs too.” It’s really taken a lot on our kids, and I just don’t want to crowd their news feeds with more videos. There’s so many videos online right now of everything.
I’ve been phone calling, I’ve been texting, we’ve tried the Zoom thing. We are in South Alabama, it’s a little bit slower here. They’re like, “You got to get the app before you can use that Zoom thing.” Yeah, that’s right, you do. We’re working on that and we’re going to start, last Wednesday, we were going to start a live feed, a youth service, but I had a mysterious illness that put me down for about five days. We had to cancel the live feed, but this Wednesday will be our first live feed. I did a SurveyMonkey with our students, and out of the 40, 45 students I have, 30 of them were planning on watching the live feed. I’m looking forward to this week to see how that’s going to go.
Can I interject something that I learned from one of my student’s Zooms, was that a lot of them aren’t doing any of the extracurricular devotions or Bible studies or anything like that. Simply because they think it’s only going to be a couple of weeks, and we’re going to be back in church and they’re not anticipating a lengthy time. I even had some of them text me later, they said, “Hey, I really don’t mind missing church for even five, six, seven weeks.” That was heartbreaking to me, but it gave me a real insight into I need to continue to preach the gospel so they find Jesus, one, and then, two, that they just they don’t know how to connect, they don’t know how to connect to God by themselves. They’re still very, very baby birdish. They’re sitting in the nest waiting for mama bird to drop whatever food she has found for them into their mouth. They’ve not developed those flight feathers yet to go out forging on their own.
It’s true. I’ll tell you this, when I’ve talked with other brothers in student ministry, sometimes a weakness can be the parent ministry. When I go and talk with folks, I would ask them, “How’s your parent ministry?” We would all, I guess, say it’s at different stages. This has provided an opportunity to build on what Terrance was saying for us to call and talk to parents and pray for them, and to talk with them and then to help them start to lead their students. Because right now the parents are getting more time in the home with their students. Now, that maybe you have someone that’s laid off, they’ve been sent home, they whatever due to coronavirus, we can be encouraging and discipling parents as much as anything to lead these students in their walk with the Lord.
Because, I’ll be honest with you, initially you want to take that burden on yourself and be like, “Oh, no, I’ve got to produce things now, I got to get back in their sphere. I got to make sure I’m doing it for them.” But, guys, we’ve been discipling them for this moment that we can turn them loose and say, “Okay, you’re supposed to be self-feeders now, I’m just going to suggest which tackle you use, but you’re going to have to go out there and fish by yourself.” I think it’s given us an opportunity to let students, let’s see if they can grow in their faith, hold them accountable, and then now we can train their parents. We can disciple their parents to do this in the home.
At Chalkhead, I’d say we did nothing online, nothing. We had church on Sunday and then we had nothing on Wednesday, and I had found Andy Blanks and YM360. He’s done a lot in our association down here, and I’ve done a lot of research. I have a lot of respect for him, but he has something called Youth Group At Home, and he has four live sermons that he’s doing on Wednesday night. He also sends discussion questions. I have said all along in my ministry that I am, beside the parent, I try to stress to they are the spiritual leader, I’m just a helper. I’ve been able to reinforce that but sending these questions home, I don’t email them. I’ll text them the link. I have about 25 to 30 kids, so I can call them individually. I have all the dads in one text thread and I have all the moms in another. I found an article this morning for the dads that was how they can take advantage of this season with their kids and sit at home.
I had one for the moms on 10 things to do with your kids when they’re driving you crazy. I’ve been able to keep up with the parents and to help them. But also we’re doing Andy Blanks, number one, I trusted him and research, what they were doing. I love what he’s doing, my kids are giving me a lot of feedback on it. The parents, I send them just a little game. I tell them just to break the ice with them because mom and dad you’re not my youth leader. So just give them something fun to do, and then they have the video and we have the live broadcast, and then they have questions. What we’re going to do on Wednesdays is I’m going to use the Zoom platform and then we’re doing this, it is so good. My husband’s leading the guys and I’m leading the girls with Define.
With Zoom, I can share the video. We have two videos left, so I’m looking forward to next week. I’m sorry, the week after next, I hope we’re back together. But, yeah, there it is, thanks. We’re going to do the videos through Zoom. I’m going to do it with the girls, he’s going to do it with the guys and we’re just going to touch base. But as far as catching up with them, being in a smaller ministry, I did a blog, I miss your face. Then we all got together on Zoom and then now I’m just contacting each one. Just what we’re doing. But, yeah, with youth group at home, you can go back and get sessions one and two. If you get in a bond or something, that he is doing an excellent job outside of Colossians, and we’re really, really enjoying that.
Something that we’re going to start, the YouVersion app. I don’t know if people are familiar or not, but on the YouVersion app that most everybody has on their phone, there are devotions that you can enter into that are different varying lengths of time. A lot of them are, I mean, they’re all different authors so you need to check and see, but we’re about to wrap one up in the next two weeks that we’ve been doing called Lint, remembering the life of Jesus. It’s done by YouVersion, it’s been great, helpful, it’s a daily, takes 10 minutes. But we’re staying on top of our students for that. But when it ends, we were trying to think of what are we going to do out of Easter, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with these, the ESV Bible makes these scripture journals. They’re paperback and it’s individual books of Scripture that you can buy.
This one is the book of Genesis. We’re not going to use it but one side of the page has the text and the other side of the page is blank. It has lines for you to write anything that just God lays on your heart. We’re going to do this, not with Genesis, but with the book of James and we’re going to start it right after Easter. Specifically, because of the way that James is extremely practical, the way that it attacks our false understandings of religion versus really following Jesus and what that ought to look like. I’ve purchased a bunch of those, christianbook.com has got great sales right now. We went through them and purchased a lot of those, and we’re going to make those available to families to get for their students and for the parents. Like Jeremy was saying and everyone else too, I think part of our goal in peeling this back and making it simple is we want to make parents, we want to allow parents and equip them to become the primary disciple makers the way that God designed it.
We know that there are plenty of students in our student ministries that don’t have parents who are capable of that, their parents aren’t believers. But we want to make sure those are going to be more exceptions to the rule. We want to try to make it the norm that our parents expect that if their student is in our student ministry, we expect them to lead their students to follow Jesus and I want to equip them. I love hearing what Jeremy said that earlier possess but that’s an option, that’s what we’re going to be doing. One way to help that so that I don’t just throw them to the wolves and say good luck, is we’ll do a once a week Zoom call for anyone in our student ministry, parents or students, that want to jump in, they can get on that and then we’ll just compare notes and we’ll treat it like a book club in a way.
It won’t be teaching, it won’t be preachy, it’ll just be, “Hey, let’s share together what we’ve walked through together this week in Scripture.” Hopefully, it will encourage our parents to see that this isn’t something that you have to have seminary level training for. It is, “Do you love Jesus? Do you love your kids? And do you want your kids to grow up and follow him?” If you do, then take advantage of this season of life where God has stripped away everything else right now and you can reestablish yourself as a follower of Jesus who makes followers of Jesus. That’s a couple of options there too.
One of the things that we’ve really tried to do is, both with Sundays, we’ve tried to keep that as normal as possible because everything else is not normal in life. For them, everybody’s trying to figure out what the new norm is, and I realized that they’re not in the room. But we do our services the same, we did Wednesday night the same. Last week was spring break, so I didn’t try to overload with content or stuff going on. We played a scavenger hunt, we did a scavenger hunt, an at home scavenger hunt that they had to send pictures in to get points. Then they got like, I called it a COVID-19 box, prize box or whatever, that I delivered to their house. It was all like the practical things that nobody could find. I just went in the church closet and got toilet paper and all that stuff for them.
But what we did was we did that for the whole family because my role is to lead families, and so we did it for everybody. Anybody could jump in, mop, and we made it where parents had to be part of the picture. That they’re taking different things. We’ve tried to do some stuff like that, we’ve tried to simplify like some of the other people have said here. One of the things that I got this from someone that I randomly met who’s a youth leader in Kentucky, and he said that they do Zoom lunches with their students. They just, Fridays, they just send it out and say, “Hey, jump on, let’s all have lunch together.” There’s no work for anybody, there’s nothing that’s going on. They just got to jump on and everybody’s eating their lunch wherever they’re at and they’re talking.
Anyways, I was encouraged by that, but that would be a fun thing. The challenge for me is I’ve been challenging our leaders to make sure you’re still part of students’ lives. But my leaders all have young kids, and because of where they live like they don’t have technology at their house. They don’t have WiFi, they don’t have… so connecting has been harder and I had to go back the old fashioned way, if you will, and make phone calls. And do some things like that, that we wouldn’t probably do otherwise. That’s been really, really good. For me, in this time, it’s been about leading my leaders more than anything else, and help in making sure I’m invested in them so that they’re invested in students, in our children, and in different people.
The things that we’re doing, and I got this from my friend, Cody Henley, he has a parent Facebook group, and we have an Instagram page. Our student ministry has an Instagram page and a Facebook page, but I think I can’t remember if someone was saying nobody’s reading emails, right? We created a Facebook page that’s strictly for parents, and we have a lot of parents that maybe they go to church somewhere on a Sunday morning, or maybe our students go to church somewhere else on a Sunday morning with their grandparents or something. Maybe their church is not large enough to have a student ministry so they’ll come to our church on Wednesday nights. I don’t have any way of really connecting with their parents because they’re not in our church. When you become a member, we get your information, and well you get added to our phone system, things like that.
When I send a lot of my information out, they’re not added to that. So, now, that’s just another way of communicating. I’m going to put a video on there tonight just about encouraging them and letting them know where they can find our Sunday school and our midweek stuff. We’re also we’re doing some student talks as well, where we’ve text some students throughout student ministry and asked them to just share what God is doing in their life. I feel like Garrett there, my students don’t text me back either. So it’s good man, I understand. When I post stuff on our Facebook page or on our Instagram page, man, I may get like 10 likes or something like that. Like 10 likes is a great day for me. But the other day, we had a girl post just like maybe like a five minute video about what God’s teaching her during this season, and it literally went over I think almost 4000 people saw it. People started sharing it, people started liking it, it went way beyond what we ever, ever anticipated.
Students, I think I’ve got a senior right now who’s making a video so there’s a lot of emotions out there about seniors missing a bunch of different things. I’ve got a couple seniors, they’re going to share a devotional about, “Hey, so we see a lot of maybe parent content on Facebook and things like that.” Now we’re going to actually hear from a student about, “Hey, this is how I feel about this,” and things like that. I’m expecting it to be a big thing. Those are just some of the things, we also use GroupMe, that is an app that we use that I have, which we’ve been doing that since day one before all this. That’s a great way, so as soon as I post a video or something, I’ll say, “Hey, get this up, go check it out, go share,” or something like that.
We communicate to the entire group, the GroupMe. Then another thing, Zoom is really good, we also use Google Hangout. We’ve started using that for our D groups, and we’re using right now Media. I think right now it’s free. I’m not sure about that, but I think I saw we’re right now Media is free. So we’re going through, and it’s a great resource like we’re going through Colossians and we’re watching Louie Giglio’s Colossians thing, so our Colossians study. They can watch him teach it. We’re reading the same verses every day throughout the week, and then on Sundays we’re talking about it.
A Reminder About the Importance of Relationship
I know our world has changed. I know 9/11 changed our world but this I think is going to change our world, especially, in youth ministry and young adult ministry more than anything else has in my lifetime. Thinking about that and thinking about where you guys are today, and man, y’all have shared some great stuff that’s good. But somebody hinted at it a while ago, Terrance, Garrett, I think both of you did. We need to be sure… there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in my 40, 45 years in ministry, relationships. While we can’t go see these student right now, we can’t be right there with them, that phone call, that personal touch, there’s nothing that can take the place of that. These are some great ideas, but we have got to have that personal phone call. I agree, they’re not going to reply to our text, we got to call them on the phone, “Hey, how are you doing? How can I pray for you?”
We’ve been doing a series of just calling pastors and staff, and it has amazed me at how appreciative they were. Because those students don’t know if you text everybody in the youth group, but if you call them, they know you’re not talking to anybody else right now, you’re talking to them. That speaks volumes for them. While we’re doing all this, which is great ideas, let’s be sure we do that personal touch or that personal phone call. Since we can’t visit them right now, that personal contact is, I think, is great.
The digital world is so overloaded we can bump our space into the analog world for a while and students are like, “Wow, I didn’t even know my phone would make a phone call.” But they do love hearing.
One thing we’re doing for Easter, to that point Jamie, is we’re going to mail every single one of our students an Easter box so that the US Postal Service will give you free shipping boxes if you have a verified address with them. We got a whole bunch of boxes from them. I went to bulkcandystore.com and ordered a whole bunch of candy in bulk. We’re going to load up the box with some of that Easter stuff you put in a basket and just some other goodies, some coloring books and do some fun things. We’re going to ship those out to our students. I’m not spending any of my budget money on anything right now, so I just redirected it towards shipping stuff out to them. Just one of those ways that we can personally contact them without actually being there in person.
Well, that’s great wisdom and you’re right. In your 45 years of ministry, we can look back to that was what Jesus was about, was making was relational. That goes all the way back, and so relationships are key. All of these are great, great ways of doing that. I guess, Marcus, talk to us just a little bit about into the world of maybe, I’m assuming you know about the Adobe Pro and Adobe Spark and some of those. Can you just talk to us a little bit about those as comprehensive of any of those things that so people who might not understand that could share, could understand a little bit?
Video Editing, Graphics Creation, and Live Streaming
I started with Spark, somebody showed it to me not long ago, and so I’ll make graphics. It’s super simple, you can upload your own images on there, you can even if you have… if you have a student ministry logo of some sort, you can upload your logo, and it’ll create a template based on that. So you can create your own color scheme, your own thing. Each day if you want to do an Instagram portrait or Instagram something or if you want to a slide for your church service, you can do all kinds of stuff on there. I’m going to try to show you a quick… I did this yesterday. You can tell I did it because it’s not very good but if you… so like I played around with this, this took about five minutes to do. Some of you are probably like, “Yeah, we can tell.” But it is just basic things to try to be able to get the word out.
Now, as far as logging in, there’s a free version as well. If you just type in Adobe Spark, you can get certain types of free settings and stuff like that. But if you upgrade to the Adobe package, which if you have proof presenter… or not presenter, but Photoshop or some of those other Adobe applications, usually, this one’s included with it. Check, make sure your church. If they are on that, then you probably already have a free subscription to it and you didn’t even realize it. Just play around with it, super simple, and you can make things look pretty cool.
Another app that I want to throw out that you might be aware of, Marcus, is Splice. They also have a free version and a paid version 299 a week gets you unlimited access to every feature that they offer and it is beautiful for making videos straight off your cell phone. You don’t even have to have a computer.
I’ve seen a lot of guys who are just using iMovie right now on your phone. There’s, oh, the trailer park and the different things to advertise stuff that’s going on. Trisha is doing a lot of ours in Premiere, especially, like our stories that we’re putting together for quick stuff. There’s so many easy options and most of you guys are probably in the middle of figuring those out, especially, on your phone.
Since we’ve switched to prerecorded services on Sunday morning, I needed something a little bit more capable than iMovie because we’re throwing in lyrics and we’re cutting together so many different scenes and multi-camera stuff. I’ve been using Adobe Premiere Pro. There’s definitely a huge learning curve to it, more than iMovie or anything else. But once you get the basics figured out, it is a super capable platform that can really set things apart from other platforms.
Okay, so what is free that you’re using that has been most effective? Zoom, there is the 40 minute version that’s free, GroupMe is free, what else? Facebook Live, I get a lot of the social media platforms but if you are a youth pastor who didn’t have any of this and you maybe right now you don’t have a budget or you got a freeze on your account, what would you recommend to them?
Well, one thing that our church has been using that most of the people, students, and adults have been recommended is we tried Facebook Live but one thing everybody kept asking for was for us to go over to YouTube Live so that they could stream it off on their TVs. But even our senior adults was like, asked, “Could we go to YouTube Live?” We ended up having to order some software to do that but this past Sunday, our watches were way higher because we went on YouTube Live this time. I know that’s a free service there, but that’s just what everybody’s preference has been. They’re getting away from Facebook Live and trying to go more toward YouTube Live.
Well, and I would ask, I know one of the questions that I’ve been asked and we’ve had a good discussion about is how many of your students… well before this world, Facebook, to do Facebook Live, but I know some of you have geared your students towards Facebook for the aspect of Facebook Live. But for you, is YouTube better than Facebook for that reason or your students on Facebook or what?
We did Facebook Live and then I just put it on YouTube, so we covered both bases. Not at me, but of our pastor’s messages on Sunday morning, because we start out with Facebook Live, and like Garrett was saying, that older people don’t have it or maybe some of the younger. But we’re also going to do that when I start doing some things I’m going to do other than midweek. But we’ve gotten, like Garrett said, just a Facebook Live we had so many but then once we put on YouTube, a lot, a lot more people have more access to it. That worked for us.
I might be the oddball out of the bunch, we use Vimeo and that way, we can just take the link. They don’t have to have a subscription or anything like that, they can just see the link. We upload it to our app for the church, the Facebook, Instagram, everywhere. Just drop it and then go, they don’t even have to log in.
We’re the same, Garrett was just talking about having to buy software. If you’re looking at doing something on YouTube, you’re going to need an encoder. OBS is a free software that you can use to go to YouTube. For what we’re seeing with some of our folks is the YouTube app is on your Firestick or your Smart TV, and this is more than just a couple of week thing now. So people are going down and turning on their TV and open up their YouTube app, and in casting the service on their main screen. For us, there’s we saw a migration specifically this week of people, less people on Facebook Live and more people on YouTube Live. We’ve made our youth service available on Wednesday nights on YouTube. I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for our guys to do it. I’ll just show, yeah, show you guys this real quick.
I made a URL that linked to a landing page, so our website is frstreaming.com/live, and that links to our landing page on MailChimp. MailChimp is a free service as well, and so this landing page is free made in MailChimp. I haven’t updated yet today, I’ll do this. Our Youth Night Live, here’s the deal, here’s the link to our stream on YouTube and then here’s our link to all of our huddle groups. On Wednesday nights, traditionally, when we meet in person, I’ll teach and then our groups will break up into small groups and talk for a little bit. I’ve tried to keep some of that stuff as normal as possible and you go to our student ministry page slash live, you can get a link to our YouTube and then all of our kids can find their huddle groups on that one spot. That’s been a way for us to funnel them into where they’re going.
This page, you’re saying through MailChimp is free?
Yeah, this is just a landing page, and a lot of you guys are probably already using the email portion of MailChimp. You can create a landing page, and each one of these is just a link that goes to wherever you send it to. Like here’s to our service last week and I won’t play it for you. But one of the things we’ve also done as well, so this afternoon when I enter all the stuff in the landing page and put our groups and stuff in for tonight and our link for our service tomorrow, we’ll share that on Instagram and on Facebook. We challenge our kids to invite people to come with him to share that and to tag us. We will we spend the first 15 minutes… Cleve was talking about his madness still, we’re doing Marvel Madness, and so we’re doing a challenge with the movies.
We talked about that last week, but the very first thing when we kicked off, we picked a person who had shared our stuff last week, and we sent them a pizza. They had a pizza delivered to their house during service and it was a way to encourage them to share the information that we were putting out for our service. It’s just another way to connect. We’re all doing it in different ways and trying to figure out what works for the different age groups that we work with as well. That was one that was really good for us and so we’re going to do that again this week.
Well that’s awesome, I think it’s that’s what I wanted to get some good brain power around on Zoom so that people could see and hear from and not go, “Oh, well, they got people from this area or people from this church or from people with the full time job or this or that.” But I wanted to get all of us around and be able to talk.
Yeah, I forgot to mention this a minute ago under, and I mean, I love working together with a team. Anytime we can use somebody or each other’s resources to do this is great. But tonight at 6:30, all of our little youth pastor network is meeting in town, First Baptist Andalusia has a really nice green room set up. We’re going to get together and we’re going to have a live service. One of the youth pastors is going to lead music, one of the other youth pastors is going to lead a service. We’re going to broadcast that live for all the students. Scooter, the ones you met, all the students that were at our United Be Now this past weekend are going to have the opportunity to see a live feed service. Each week, we’re going to change it up. One of the weeks I’ll lead a service and so on.
Maybe it’s where you guys can partner with other churches that have not… like our Internet’s slow here where we’re at, we’re in the country. But, in town, they’re getting plenty of speed that we can do stuff like that. It’s been we’re excited about partnering with other people and bringing our resources together as well.
That’s good. That’s really good, and I think it’s cool for your students to be able to see that. I guess, my last, what I was going to say before I give you a couple of announcements of YM Link stuff is this. If you have one statement right now that’s, I guess, sustaining you through the new, through the challenge, through this, what would it be?
Statements of Encouragement
Stay the course, love your students, stay true to God, be obedient, be faithful in the waiting.
I’d say find ways to have fun, man. There’s so much bad news going on right now, fun ways to make them laugh. I have no dignity, and my wife took my man card a long time ago so I’m up for anything. I’ve done TikTok videos, Cousin Cletus has joined us. Just find ways to have fun.
I think for me it’s the reminder that your church’s mission isn’t to host a service. I think a lot of times when we’re in our regular programming so much goes into that service. But youth ministries are the innovators of taking advantage of the other 167 hours we have a week. We’re the ones that are usually at schools, at games, spending so much time with our kids. That doesn’t change when we’re away from them. Our mission isn’t just to get stuff online for them to watch but find ways to connect with them.
A journal, journal during this time. That’s a discipline that I struggle with at times, but I see the value in it right now and in trying to encourage our students. Write down what God’s doing, write down how you’re feeling, write down what you’re praying for, and use this as a catalyst moving forward. That a year from now, 10 years from now, 20, 30, whatever, you look back at this season of your life and go, “Man, look what God did through me, to me for His glory, for His kingdom sake.” It’d be great to be able to reflect on that I think.
The word that I’m using constantly is being intentional, and like what Cleve was saying too, you don’t grow spiritually on accident, you have to be intentional about it. That’s for me, I’m not just screaming that to my students and things like that. This is a great time for me to be super intentional about growing in my relationship with Jesus too. I think using the season for intentionality will be great.
Well, this might sound weird, but don’t let this time be a time of laziness. I know that’s what everybody’s saying, but there’s the temptation during this time when we’re not meeting and we’re not doing this to get lazy and not to work and not to work as hard. Just we got to work just as hard now as we were working beforehand. Just like all of y’all been saying, make sure you’re spending time with the Lord with yourself. But also you’re working hard to still reach our students. Because, like I said, it’s easy to say, “Well, they’re not here. They won’t answer my text, I’m just going to sit in my office and play Tetris.” We just got to stay busy. Just keep working.
It’s just to enjoy time with your family. For me, Sunday mornings have been wonderful. We sit in the house and we worship together, and Sunday mornings are crazy for me. So I’m enjoying my time and my daughters are 15 and 17, so I know I have just a few years and they’re out of here. For me, it’s been cool to really get to hang out and spend some time, intentional time, with them.
Yeah, mine are 28 and 29 now, so I, of course, praise God this didn’t happen before. But, yeah, like you said, Jeremy, take advantage of it. But my one thing would be also take advantage of getting the parents back in the right role. I thank God, there’s so many resources out there, but just encouraging your kids but also your parents. I’m just I’m really trying to see the positive in this in that being that we can give that role back to the parents, and then us be their helpers.
Yeah, mine is just, man, keep on sharing Jesus. Whatever way that looks like, we’ve seen it all through history. People have had to do it different ways, in different times, and just keep on sharing. We were blessed, we got to see a person give their life to Christ this past Sunday. I would just say whatever form, whatever way you’re doing it, keep on doing.
Mine has been the pursuit, keep pursuing Jesus and keep pursuing the people that God’s entrusted us to lead. That’s what I’ve told our leaders, that’s what I’ve told our students, that’s what I’ve told children, it’s what I tell my kids. That we’re not going to stop walking with Jesus, stop doing our quiet time, and just keep pursuing the Lord.
Well, that’s good. For me, it’s just I guess we have been in a little bit of a perfect storm and we got two new babies the day before all this broke and my wife just started a new job. So we are just in a little bit of an interesting place, and so I guess for me mine has just been trying to trust in the Lord that He is good and survive. I know that I want to thrive, but right now I’ve just been trying to survive and tried to do, try to minister to people knowing that I don’t really know how. Sometimes I’m sitting there going, “I know that I need to do this, I know that I need to do this. I know that I need to be in this place.” But I look forward to times like this so that you guys can make me laugh and just getting to talk youth ministry because I love youth ministry so much.
I just want to say thank you for your time. Thanks for letting us do this. Thanks for making me laugh. I do want to give a couple of updates to those around the state or anybody that watched this is this. There will be no youth pastor conference or retreat going on in April clearly. We are still evaluating but our mission trip in Birmingham. But as of right now in this moment, Super Summer Alabama, July 6th through the 10th is still on as well as Speak is still on at this moment. For any of you that might your camp got canceled or anything like that, that you’re not able to go to, just know that if you need to get a weekend getaway that’s affordable, $35 to come to speak and get Ed Newton, David Signs, Jeff Myers as well as we got RNC Worship is going to be with us at this point. We’d love for you to come and be a part of that.
Super Summer Alabama is a great week of camp, and as of right now, we are still there. We’d love to, if you have any questions about any of that, what that looks like, if we canceled the event or anything like that, feel free to give me a call. Feel free to give me, shoot me an email, and we’ll make sure that we answer those as best we can. We’ll be getting the word out about Wildly Gone Mission Birmingham as well. But as of right now, the joy of being Alabama Baptist is that we’re not trying to make money off of these events, we’re trying to provide you an opportunity and resource. Because church is a gift through cooperative program, we get the great opportunity to do this together.
I appreciate all of you, thank you for your time. Thanks for all that you do, and thanks for those who might be watching this. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for staying true to the gospel. Thank you for trying to reach students, and in the church in the midst of this time. We love you, have a good day, and we will talk to y’all later.