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Healthy Pastor Relationships During COVID-19

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Video Transcript:

Scooter Kellum

Well, and I wanna thank all of you for what you’re doing. Pastors, I know that this is different and it has been uncharted territory in a lot of ways. But I’ve been watching and paying attention and just wanna say what a great job you’ve been doing. Thank you for leading, thank you for continuing to have a kingdom impact. And, even though it may look different, I’m very thankful for that. Thank you for you student pastors, family ministers, for your impact as well. I know that this is not an easy time, and all of our roles get a little different. It’s easy sometimes to focus on youth or to focus on families or to focus on this or that, but we’ve kind of had to come together in our churches. And so, I want you to, if y’all will just talk a little bit about how your role has changed in this time, we’ll start with Clint. And, so, Clint, just talk about how your role has changed from before and then through COVID-19.

Clint Bryant

Well it changed slightly, I was already kind of doing tech-related stuff, but we really had to ramp-up with this because we’re doing pre-recorded services. So we record our worship ahead of time, record Pastor Daniel’s message ahead of time, edit all that stuff together and premiere it on Facebook Live and YouTube. Training senior adults in how to use Zoom has been a fun task as well, so, really just ramping up the tech side of my job is, really, how it’s changed a lot.

Josh Meadows

So, I have the privilege of not having to do much of the tech stuff. Brad is great at it and loves that stuff, and so we also have to pre-record everything and so for our stuff for Wednesday nights, I have somebody else who’s doing that, and then, actually, Brad does a lot of that stuff for Sunday morning. And so, some of what’s changed for me is I think I’ve called more people on the phone from the Church Directory than I’ve ever called, and shame on me. I’ll just publicly say that, shame on me. I should’ve done it. It wasn’t that I don’t have relationships, our church is small enough that we have relationships with most people, but that’s been one of the major changes, is just, for me, is investing in all generations. And so, I think that’s been great, that’s been something super that’s come from all this. I’m usually the idea guy, and Brad and some of the other people are the people who have to make all that happen, ’cause I don’t know how. So.

Cody Hensley

So, mine’s been, as far as my adjustment, has been a lot of just trying to be open to whatever’s needed around the office and around the staff. And so, for example, sometimes James will holler at me and say, “Hey, I need a little help bouncing ideas “off this sermon, and I need some help “trying to figure out how to tie in these sermon points “to get them into our homes.” And so, for example, something that we’ve started doing with our services is introducing a take it home at the end, where we take the sermon and then we try to come up with some discussion questions that parents can lead in their homes so that they can really focus in on the message to drill it down into their own hearts and their kid’s hearts. And, you know, that’s kind of been a big part of my role in Student Ministry as well in these past few weeks is trying to figure out how to connect with parents better. Because, to be 100% honest, like, I don’t wanna watch somebody teach on a screen for 20 or 30 minutes, and so I know my students don’t either. And so, a lot of my work has been trying to equip parents in small ways that they can either build relationships with their students for the future, or to give them some devotional ideas or helps so that they can be the ones who are on the front lines with their kids. And so mine’s been a lot more of buying into the idea of helping parents be the primary disciple-makers.

Scooter Kellum

Well, and Cody, I know from conversations, because all of us are friends and talk beyond just on a Zoom call, but that James is also the tech guy, doing a lot of the video stuff and all, and the cutting and editing — And you picked up Wednesday night Bible Study so that he could spend some time doing that as well, am I right?

Cody Hensley

Yeah, and that starts next week, and so I’ll start taking over Wednesday night Bible Study so he can be freed up a good bit, ’cause, man, he’s the tech wizard in our church and in our staff, and he probably wouldn’t claim it, but, he’s the coolest thing we got, even if he’s not a tech wizard. And so a lot of stuff has just kind of been dumped on him with the need to go digital and need to go online. And so, we had a conversation where I just said, “Hey, look, you’ve got a lot going on, “and if there’s anything I can do “to take some of this off you, like, pass it my way.” And we landed on Wednesday nights.

Scooter Kellum

So with hearing that, I wanted to now shift it to you pastors. How beneficial is it to have a youth pastor who is willing to step up and help you take some burdens off and how has that helped you be more, have the ability and the freedom in some ways to do more ministry? James, do you wanna go ahead and start?

James Jackson

Yeah, I’ll take a stab at it. First off I think the biggest thing that’s helped is just knowing that I’m kind of an old guy and Cody is another generation removed from me, and so he’s the person that’s helped me understand that in this new world you just do business as usual, like he said, nobody wants to watch a 30 minute talking and just the constant pushing to look at the metrics of YouTube and realize that even in the best of circumstances the average user is watching about 22 minutes out of a 45 minute presentation. And so you’ve gotta be switching up visuals, and you’ve gotta, you know, really condense your content. My son’s been our video producer, and we’ve talked about the need to change just to maintain people’s attention span, because you don’t have the captive audience that you have at church. And the reality is, they weren’t all that captive at church anyway. They were, you know, drifting off and checking Facebook and all that, you know, even while they were sitting in church. And so it’s even more so when they’re sitting on the couch. And so I think COVID has really led us to kind of look at and be challenged by some of the bored and bunt proactive and, you know, giving them something to try to do when they’re at home. I’ve loved watching the Boredom Busters videos that he’s put out. And I think all of our staff has kind of stepped up in some different ways. Our worship pastor is the most not tech person on the planet. I think he barely knows the difference between an iPad and Etch A Sketch. But what he does know is how to stay in touch with people. And how to communicate and how to make phone calls. And I just got a text from Cody that said my Internet connection’s struggling, so I’m gonna try to move to a different location and see if that makes things any better. But all that to say I think we’ve all had to step up into different roles, and I think that’s been a good thing.

Daniel Atkins

Clint hadn’t really done anything I would say that I’m actually evaluating staff positions right now. And he’s, no, I’m joking. It has been amazing to see, you know, it’s one of those things that nobody ever prepared anybody for this, nobody had a backup plan. You know, it’s not like we could say, “Hey, you remember last time we had that pandemic?” So it’s just been really cool to watch kind of what James was talking about, everybody just, I don’t think there was ever this point in our staff, and Clint can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it was ever to this point where we kind of assigned different roles, I think it all just kind of happened naturally. You know, we’re in the same boat, Scooter, you know Dean Finch very well. Dean’s 74 years old, not a tech guy. In fact, he called me yesterday panicking thinking that I was asking him for $200 worth of iTunes cards. And so, I may’ve had to talk him off the ledge. But that joker has called, I mean, he calls like 30 people a day. And I’ve, just knowing that, I’m not tooting our horn or anything, but the level of production that our Sunday morning service has gone from to what it is now, it’s light years. And so all of that is completely credited to Clint. I mean, just all of it. And I’ve no qualms in saying that. But at the same time it’s been awesome to see that his Student Ministry, he’s not slacked off in that either. And just knowing how many hours that that video editing and stuff requires, but then he’s still sending care packages to his students, he’s still meeting in small groups with his students, and all that has been able to free me, I mean I texted about 40 members yesterday just, you know, “Hey, love you, praying for you, “what can I pray for you about?” So, you know, I’m not consumed with the whole video aspect of that, but I am able to really just connect with people. So, I mean, but yeah, his, it’s just kind of, I told one of our deacons the other day that, you know, we’re all gonna need sabbaticals after this, just because it’s totally not what we expected but it’s just been awesome to see people step up and just naturally do it.

Brad Smith

Well Josh is, his title is Family Life pastor, and we, when we hired him, said that was a huge job anyway, it was cradle to college. And then that other little caveat that every pastor loves in the job description, “And other duties as assigned by the pastor.” And some of those are things that we’ve sat down and I’ve been like, “Hey, what about this?” But probably the majority of those things are things that Josh has been thinking about and praying through and talking about, either with me or with others, and decides he’s gonna take it on and go after it. And so there’s a lot of things that he’s already doing, and you know, we’ve already, he’ll initiate conversations about, “Hey, we need to begin thinking about this “for when we are able to meet back together,” or “We need to have this in line,” or “We need to, you know, do this,” and really just pushing to make sure that we’re not stagnant, that we’re not just sitting there and kind of let it hit us, you know, when it comes or whatever, but that we’re really preparing and planning and moving forward with that. And at the same time, you know, he’s still active with our teenagers, especially. And I know that because both of my daughters are in the Student Ministry, and so they’re on Zoom calls all the time with him, and doing different things. And my daughter Emma is in the Worship Band for our Student Ministry, and actually filling in right now for our Sunday worship, because a couple of our band members decided they wanted to stay at home, they had some underlying health issues and wanted to not be coming out, so she’s kind of pulling double duty on that. But she’s already, they’re always being involved with stuff that Josh has going on. Last night we did a thing for our kid’s ministry for the first time. And they prerecorded a bunch of things for that so that, moving forward, you know, we can have some stuff not just for our teenagers, not just for our adults, but for our kids as well. And so, you know, he’s been doing a lot of things. And doing them well.

Scooter Kellum

Awesome. I wanna give you youth pastors, or Family Life pastors, or whatever, all of you are serving in Youth Ministry in some way, but what has been something you’ve taken away in watching your pastor lead through this time?

Clint Bryant

I don’t envy him one bit . No, honestly, not much has changed leadership wise with Pastor Daniel, he’s always lead from the front, he’s always been a visionary, he’s always been the one to say, “Hey, I got an idea,” and left me and Seth to try and figure out how to make it happen. But we need that, we need the visionary, and we’re the strategist, kind of the opposite, I guess, of what Josh and Brad are experiencing. But it’s been great to sit back and to watch his love for the people, and just to have the idea of how can we connect to our people, how can we continue to pour into our people, and let’s do what we can to make it happen. So that’s been really awesome to watch.

Cody Hensley

You know, James complimented me on, kind of, driving the need to adapt, but I would probably turn that compliment just back to him as well, in that there’s a really high motivation to just keep things as they are, or to try to replicate what was before the rona trash hit us all. And I’ve seen James just adapt like crazy, not just from a digital scale, but in his teaching methods, and in trying to reach the people. And it shows a motivation behind what he’s doing, that he’s not just sticking with what’s easy, but instead he’s saying, “Hey, I want my people “to understand God’s Word, and I wanna do whatever it takes “for them to know it and to love it “and understand it and live it out.” And so he’s done a lot of work trying to craft the Sunday worship piece, in order that people, you know, hear it and receive it better. And so it’s been awesome to watch just how he’s adapted and been willing to change and get out of his own comfort zone for the sake of serving others.

Josh Meadows

So I would say this; one of the things that I’ve always been impressed with Brad is that he is a people person, he just is and has been and always will be. And so he’s a connector of people, whether it’s, we have, like, 60 Marco Polo threads that we’re both part of with different people within the church. And it’s nonsense, I mean just to be, oftentimes, but it’s just people connecting with each other and it’s been awesome just to watch him do that. But I would echo what Cody said about James, I know that, ultimately, Brad’s heart is to point people to the Lord through His Word, and so even in all this, none of that has changed for Brad. Like, we might talk a little bit on a Monday morning or Tuesday morning, and always, inevitably it comes back to, “Hey, I’ll take a look at that after I get finished “working through my speech,” that’s what we call it, there’s some insider language to that, but, either speech or lecture, one of those two things come out, but, and so, he easily, because he is spending Saturdays editing, he easily could say, “You know what, that part of it, “I’m gonna mail it in and just kinda do stuff that’s easy,” but instead, we were in the middle of 1 Peter when all this started. And, you know, that’s not exactly a simple book to teach as it is, and he said, “No, we’re not gonna change that “let’s just keep going,” and so, and it shows, that he’s still devoted to being in the Word, to leading us to be in the Word. And so, I’m so thankful to serve alongside of him, and for him to not be overwhelmed by all the task that are at hand, ’cause we all have more that we’ve taken on. Pastor Daniel, you said we’re all gonna need a sabbatical, I don’t think I’ve had one day that was like a day off since all this began, I don’t think any of us are gonna get one, because of just the way that life is and schedule is and all that stuff, but we’re trying to work through even what that rhythm looks like. But I’ll say, like, he stays on top of that technology stuff, he stays on top of, but, ultimately, guiding us as a church to make sure that we’re still in the Word. And so it makes it easy for me to invest in kids, to invest in students, to invest in, I have a Connect group of adults, and to point them back to God’s Word always, because he’s pointing me and the rest of us back to God’s Word, if that makes sense.

Scooter Kellum

Okay, so, as a team, as a youth pastor, Family Life pastor, and pastor here on this call, if you had one, like, I know you have a lot, but if you had one, like, big victory, like, one thing that you go, “Man, that was a good “defining moment for us in this COVID-19 time,” what would that be?

Brad Smith

I’d really have to say, it goes beyond just Josh and I, it’s really into our deacons, our stewardship, and personnel teams, that as we’ve sat down, we essentially formed a leadership group of our chairman of deacons, chairman of the stewardship, treasurer, Josh and myself, just to help us streamline decisions. But as we’ve kind of walked through that and met with the different groups, or whatever, and said, “Hey this is where we’re going, “this is what we’re doing,” it has been a supernatural unity that has taken place with it. There has not been, “No we think that’s stupid,” even when some of the stuff is stupid, and even when we’re, and we said this early on, we’re gonna make mistakes, we’re gonna botch this thing up at some point, so let’s just learn from it and go on. You know, let’s not Monday morning quarterback it, let’s just, let’s keep moving. And it hasn’t been just a bunch of, you know, yes men and yes women falling in line, but really a sense of unity in who we are as a church, in who God’s called us to be and how we’re gonna operate within this time period.

Cody Hensley

Yeah, I’d probably echo something similar to that, you know, in Patrick Lencioni’s book “Silos and Politics” he talks about how you need to, not fabricate, but kind of urge a sense of crises so that it unites all the people to put aside their egos or their ministry silos and all pursue the same goal and vision. And with the rona trash, like, we didn’t have to fabricate anything, like, there’s a legit crises among churches in regarding, you know, is giving gonna go down, are we gonna have anybody who’s even paying attention to our YouTube Live or Facebook Live channel, are we gonna come back from this in two or three months, and have 70% of our attendance before we left, and so, with all that said, the crises of what we’re going through really has created a strong sense of unity among those who have a role at Glynwood. And so whether it’s the production team or the worship team, or those who are leading small group Bible studies, it just really, it’s been really powerful to see the church kind of owning the idea of ministry in hard times. And so I would also say that just watching our church just bond together in this, despite being distant, has been really powerful.

Clint Bryant

Yeah, I would say for us the victory is more in what has not happened than what has happened, and what has not happened is there’s not been a sense of panic on our part or on the staff’s part. Daniel, when he got to Taylor Road in January of 2016 came with a vision; to introduce people to Jesus and teach them to follow Him, and through all of this he’s made sure to keep us from abandoning that. And we’re just, we’ve found new and creative ways to make that happen, to communicate that, to continue to introduce people to Jesus and teach them to follow Him. I think through all this, Daniel has led three or four people to Christ through our Sunday morning messages that have been shown through Facebook Live and YouTube. And we’re continuing with discipleship, so I think the victory has been in not panicking, and not falling away from what our vision is, just adapting our situation to that.

James Jackson

Yeah, I was just gonna say I think we haven’t seen the victory yet, I think the victory is gonna be when people realize that what we’ve been saying all along about how parents are the primary disciple makers of their kids, and that you can’t subcontract the spiritual development of your child or your teenager back to the church, I think this is, it’s forcing us, it’s forcing our people to say, “Okay, you’re right.” You know, my favorite analogy with all of this is that one of the reasons that so many people died on the Titanic was because so many of the crew members didn’t know how to row a rowboat. Because they believed that they were on board an unsinkable ship, and so they’d never had a lifeboat drill, they never knew how to load a lifeboat, they didn’t even know how to row a lifeboat, and as a result they went off half full, it’s just chaos. And so this is forcing people to take seriously what we’ve been saying for years, that you’ve got to know how to row a lifeboat. And so I hope that the victory is gonna be when they realize, “Okay, now I get it.” And that from here on out church is going to look different because families are taking ownership of their own spiritual development.

Scooter Kellum

That’s good stuff. For sure. Okay, so my final question for you, for the pastors, is this; so, you know, I am the Youth Ministry strategist, and I get there is importance in every pastor on your staff and every age-specific ministry, but God has called me to Youth Ministry, and I do love the church, I understand there should not be any silos. And I am one who always believed in that, and as a youth pastor I strive to tear those down and to help that, but, in the fact that we’re on here and what we do, I’d like for you to share the importance and the value of Youth Ministry and youth pastors in your church in helping you fulfill your mission and vision for your church, not just in COVID-19, but in there. So whether it’s Clint, Josh, Cody, or somebody else, just looking at the youth minister position, youth pastor position as a whole.

Daniel Atkins

I’m joking. I’m joking Scooter. Back off. I think they all deserve raises. They do, they do. No, I will say that I think there is an importance in the whole model of Youth Ministry, I think you can maintain that and not be a silo. So I think it’s this beautiful thing. So what we’re moving into, and we have a new Children’s Ministry director that’s just knocking it out of the park, she has really began to focus on our fourth and fifth graders, in helping them transition into Student Ministry. So she’s discipling them on Zoom calls on Wednesday night. And then, when they get to the Student Ministry it’s not just show up and we’re gonna entertain you, they are being discipled, and they are pretty much expected to serve in some capacity in missions or within the local church. So that when they get into real life, or whatever, we don’t have a bunch of immature Christians. Or, let me rephrase that, we have less immature Christians than we otherwise would have. So, and that’s just, personally, something that I’ve been thinking through that, you know, we’ve got some key leaders in our church who are moving, whether it’s a job transition or whatever, and so, I’ve been sitting here going, “Oh my gosh, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do,” when the future of our church is sitting right in his Student Ministry every week. And so, it’s just this beautiful, and that’s kinda how we’ve always looked at it, that it’s this, Montgomery is a transition city, you know, people move in, move out, and all that, but our hope and desire is that he’s not just entertaining and that’s not what he does, but we are hopefully pumping out mature followers of Christ that are ready to serve the local church wherever God moves them. That’s why, you know, we’ve moved away from graduate recognition to graduate commissioning. They’re not getting a pat on the back for graduating high school, ’cause they get that at school, they’re being sent out from our Student Ministry. And so, that’s a Zoom call for a later time, but, that’s all I’ve got.

Scooter Kellum

I do love, I love that, Daniel, because I think there is great value, but, you know, we’ve seen, I am gonna unpack that just a bit because I believe in what you just said and I think that my question is the value of Student Ministry and student ministers, and I think that plays into that. But if we play our “Pomp and Circumstance” and we dress ’em up in their cap and gowns and we walk ’em down the aisle, we walk ’em across the stage, and then we walk ’em back out to their seats, then what we’ve done is we’ve graduated them from church, just like they’ve graduated from school, academically. And there’s many books out there and there’s many statistics out there of why, and a lot of questions about, why are our student’s graduating from church when they graduated from high school? And I feel like we’ve almost set it up that way. And so, I think what you’re doing in seeing the value, and I was an interim at a church and I did it, and I did it because Clint did it , I saw what Taylor Road did in investing in truly commissioning students instead of just graduating them and it changed everything about that group of seniors. And we’ve seen that group of seniors, and I’m sure y’all have seen it too, that they’re now going to church and they’re investing in a church wherever they’re in college. Because there is a complete difference in graduating them and commissioning them. And so, thank you for y’all doing that and investing and seeing the value in that, because I know several churches now that are doing that because of the example y’all have set in Youth Ministry and the value that you place on it. So thank you, and I know I unpacked that just a little bit, but I wanted you to hear that as well as see that there is value in that. James, or Brad?

James Jackson

Yeah, I think for me, Student Ministry is absolutely vital, I grew up in Student Ministry, that was my first position and my first role, and I respect so much what Cody brings to the table as a student minister, but I think that what I value is not just the role of student minister, but who Cody is as a leader, in that what I need is a fellow strategist, what I need is somebody who sees what I’m trying to do at Glynwood Baptist Church and just takes it and runs with it in the same direction. And so, Cody is, I mean, he’s got a very strategic mind and he thinks through big picture things, and he’s helped us brand the church and put our mission statement very prominently on everything, and he’s concerned about the messaging and the look and the consistency and kind of getting our value statements of know God, love God, love your neighbor, into the DNA of the church. And so, it’s not, you know, what I appreciate about Cody is, it’s not just, “Okay, we’re gonna have a youth service project day,” which is great and it helps students learn missions and all of that, but Cody says, “Hey, let’s have a love your neighbor day,” because that’s one of our value statements for the church, and we wanna brand what I’m doing in Student Ministry in a way that moves the ball forward and pushes the needle on what we’re trying to do as a church. So when he talks about benefiting from Lencioni’s ideas on not being siloed, he’s practicing what he preaches there. And so, I don’t wanna just look at the role of Student Ministry and say, “Well, we need a guy that’s gonna do lock-ins, “and we need a guy that’s gonna “keep the schedule for Children’s Ministry,” all of those things are important, but I need a guy who does all of the roles of Student Ministry while pushing the needle on what we’re trying to do as a church. And I think that’s what a great second chair leader does.

Brad Smith

So I spent about 18 years in Student Ministry before I came here to Spring Valley, and there was a time in my life where I thought that that was gonna be my role in some realm for the rest of my life, and God had to work hard on me to change my mind on that and to change my direction. I’m grateful that He did, and so, you know, Student Ministry is very near and dear to my heart. And, you know, the church I was a part of previous to being here, in order to exist, even though that was not my desire, we had to be a silo ministry, because everything else in the church was a silo ministry and it just was the culture that we had. And it was terrible, I mean, the pastor, I love that pastor, I still refer to him as my pastor, we talk regularly, but the culture of what our ministries were, they just didn’t have anything to do with each other. And so one of the things Josh and I have talked about a number of times is not having those silo ministries. And so, by the way, Daniel, thank your for that idea about, you know, commissioning them, I texted Josh right away and was like, “Steal that!” ‘Cause I think that’s one that we can all benefit from right there, you know?

You know, so one of the things that we really believe in heavily is our students being involved in all aspects of the church in serving. We have students that regularly serve on our Sunday morning Worship Team, and on the Welcome Team, and in the Children’s Ministry, and wherever we can put them, wherever we can find that they’re interested in serving and we can plug them into that. We have teenage boys that are ushers and will help to take up the offering, you know, when we’re actually together, and pass the plates and all that good stuff. But we just think that it’s so important to have these young people to recognize, “Okay, we’re not out there in those buildings “and the rest of the church is in here,” that “This is our church, this is where we serve, “this is where we do life together.” And so, we were actually just starting at the beginning of this year to really connect our senior adults with our teenagers and children through some prayer time and writing cards together and everything, and then, you know, we had this whole coronavirus thing and kind of shut that all down, but we’re always trying to think through things like that, like, how do we connect all of the aspects of the church to say, “This is my church, “this is where God’s called us to be, “this is how we learn and serve, “and there is value in learning from the older generations, “and there’s value in learning “from the younger generations.” And that we’re doing it together and we’re working hard at it together so that it’s not, well, those people out there, or that group over there, but this is Spring Valley and this is who we are.

Scooter Kellum

Good. Hey I wanna thank Daniel, thanks Daniel. Hey, I wanna say thank you all so much for coming on today, thank you for what you do, leading your churches, obviously, I know all of you, I know your churches well, I know your youth pastors well, and so I wanna say thank you for coming on, taking the time, and investing in this. There’s a lot of people that are gonna get to see this and hopefully they will be able to relate to where you’re at. And so, I can’t thank you enough for this and we will be sending it out so that people can see it and hear it and you will be a resource for them. So, I’m just so grateful for the ideas, for the thoughts, for the passion for Youth Ministry and for your youth pastors, and so, I know that so many times, not that y’all would do this, but ministering in general, pastoring is a thankless job a lot of times. We’re working and people don’t even see all the work that we do. And so I wanted to give everybody, Alabama Baptist and people to see from you as a pastor what your youth pastors and Family Life pastors are doing so that they could see it, and so that your youth pastors could hear from you, “Thank you.” And so I’m so grateful for you and for your leadership, I’m so thankful for you youth pastors and Family Life pastors for what you do. And I hope that this has been a helpful time, not only for you, but for others as well.

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