Kenny and Elle Campbell on Best Practices in Middle School Ministry and more!
Today’s podcast is packed full of insights from two of most innovative student ministry leaders in the country! Kenny & Elle Campbell serve together in Middle School Ministry at The Chapel at Crosspoint in Buffalo, New York. During today’s episode they give practical insights into ministering to students. They also give some great insights for senior leaders working with emerging leaders in their church. Elle & Kenny are great unSeminarians … full of lots of practical insight for your ministry!
01:35 // Hear about Kenny’s responsibilities at The Chapel at Crosspoint
02:16 // Learn how Elle’s role moved her into middle school ministry
03:00 // Kenny shares how listening senior leaders can develop a healthy relationship with student ministry pastors
04:17 // What Kenny and Elle have done to foster trust with their senior leaders
05:15 // Rich speaks to the benefits of various ministries in the church are on mission together
06:00 // What a senior leader could do this week to build a stronger relationship with student ministry staff
07:03 // Two things middle schoolers need out of the ministry they are involved with
08:15 // The role Elle plays that has been pivotal in making this middle school ministry more effective.
09:45 // Kenny explains how investing in volunteers has helped implement a dynamic small group ministry
10:55 // A critical lesson to learn for churches of any size
11:50 // Kenny and Elle’s heart to learn from and share with other churches
12:30 // A great resource shared with you by Kenny and Elle
Lightning Round Highlights
What do they do for fun? // Entrepreneurial spirit, creating online resources, read, knit, and craft.
Interview Transcript //
Rich – Alright, well we are in for a real treat today. We have got some real bonafied experts in student ministry and family ministry on the line today. We have Elle and Kenny Campbell, who have the longest twitter handles I know. Lots of l’s and lots of n’s. They’re from Tonawanda, NY from the Chapel at Crosspoint. Hey guys welcome to the show.
Kenny – Hey what’s going on!
Elle – Thanks for having us.
Rich – So glad that you could join us today. Wy don’t you tell us a little bit about your church, your ministry context. Give us a sense of where you serve.
Kenny – I have been here for 8 years working with middle school students directly. Our church, it’s a larger church in the area and I love our leadership, they totally buy in to what’s going on. Elle works with me. Why don’t you tell them a little about your process.
Elle – Sure. Kenny is the middle school pastor for 6 years. 6 years ago I came on staff doing family ministry stuff: marriage ministry, more of the family kind of stuff. Then 3 years ago we had some shifts in our staffing structure and at that point we were like, you know I would really love to do middle school kind of ministry, so I shifted over. Started overseeing all the volunteers and small groups for middle school. So that’s what I am doing now, and it’s awesome!
Rich – Very cool. Well you know a lot of the people that tune in to UnSeminary are maybe senior pastors, executive pastors, that sort of thing, and I wonder if you could take a moment and describe for all those senior and executive pastors out there, how they can work with their student pastors, family ministry pastors. How can they cultivate a great relationship? What are some things that have kind of worked out well? Because I know you have a perfect relationship with your senior leadership, so what works well?
Kenny – Well, we really do love our senior leadership.
Elle- We really do.
Kenny – I have heard tons of guys say they don’t get along or they don’t buy into the vision, or we have a guy that came on board in our middle school department and may not have got along with his senior leadership before hand and its just like, whatever. We are not like that. It’s always been great to have leadership that trust us, that gives us freedom and flexibility, at least for us, those are important things. They kind of just hand us the reigns and trust us to oversee the domain of middle school ministry. So obviously they want us to be on board with the church’s over all missions, which we are totally sold out to that and I think that helps them give us trust. But they let us do what we feel is the best way to least he ministry. They’re not micromanaging. I would never be able to handle a pastor that’s always in our business, always like at our events telling us that this could be better, this could be better. I love that he’s kind of like hand off, trusts us, and let us do our thing.
Rich – Now what do you think you guys did to build that trust? That’s super critical. How have you cultivated that in that relationship?
Kenny – That’s a good question. I think it does go both ways. Youth pastors are always complaining, my senior leadership doesn’t let me do anything, doesn’t trust me, but I think what we’ve done to help that along a little bit is, as our senior leadership has laid out the mission and vision of our church we’ve been totally on board and we’ve integrated that into what we do. We have like these annual meetings where we talk about what we are doing for the year, we always integrate that super strongly into what we are doing and the mission of the church. So I think that kind of gives them the heads up, ok, these guys buy into what we are doing, we can trust them and where they are leading their ministry. I think as long as you are vocal and upfront and let your senior leadership know, we buy into the vision, and here’s what we are doing to that, that goes a long way.
Rich – That’s great. I know when our student guys and women, when they try to connect lines with some projects we are doing, it can be the overall vision, but also just projects that are church-wide, man I just love that. That obviously great for families because then it doesn’t seem like, these are just different ministries. But it also is fantastic as a leader because it’s like we are all in this together, working on this together. Is there something specifically that a senior pastor could do, even this week, to say encourage their student pastors? Is there something that if more senior pastors, or lead pastors did this, I just know youth pastors would love it.
Elle – Sure, one thing that our pastor has done sparingly but when he does it we know it’s sincere, he will just look at a very specific thing that we’ve done and say, hey I really appreciate this specific thing. Usually is has had to do with the vision and the alignment type of stuff. Hey I really appreciate this particular thing that you guys did. You know, its helpful that is not this broad, generic, Hey I like you. It’s very specific and it’s a, hey, I’ve been watching. And that’s been great for us.
Rich – Well middle school ministry is complex. I come from a student ministry background and man I just loved working with middle school students. It’s always a challenge. You guys are experts in that area. Both my kids actually starting this fall are middle school kids, which I am not sure how that happened. I am too young to have middle schoolers. But what would you say are some challenges you’ve faced in middle school ministry and how have you overcome those challenges?
Kenny – I think one of the biggest things to understand in middle school is that kids need a place that they feel is a safe place to be at, where they can build authentic community. I know some people try crazy with over the top production, which is good and that definitely draws kids in but at the end of the day, I think getting them into some kind of small group environment, where they can get with the same leader on a weekly basis, where they can get with the same kids on a weekly basis, build those relationships, that’s a huge thing for us. We try to create a fun environment, where kids love to be, and create a, they can feel safe and they can talk about things and they know that the people there love them and support them. So kind of just building that up. Middle school, it’s all about identity. For the first time they are trying to figure out who they are, and so the more support and the more you can tell that that you believe in them and that you are there for them the better you will be able to have ministry in their lives. And Elle oversees that area. She’s all about small groups and volunteers and trying to created that environment so I don’t know if you have anything to say.
Elle – I think that’s totally right. Kids just really need somebody in their lives that they can trust, that’s going to help coach them through the craziness that happens in middle school ministry. The middle school years are insane so having some kind of consistency for them in their small group leader and then the kids that they get to hang with is really important. But the thing for us that has kind of been a challenge to deal with is that our small group environment hasn’t always been super healthy so its only been in the last 3 years that it’s finally come around to be healthy and effective and with small group leaders that are really great at what they do and really buy into the vision.
Rich – What were some of the changes that you made three years ago. It’s never one or two things, it’s a whole bunch of things. What are just one or two changes that helped move it from being unhealthy to healthy?
Kenny – We’ve always been in like a larger context. So a few years ago we were, since the last years, since I have been here, the leadership has really tried to structure towards small groups. So for the last 8 years we have tried to go that direction. It’s hard to train people, recast vision, so for the first few years of that it was really just trying to teach, and revision our volunteers. And then we got to the point where we realized we weren’t really staffed to equip and empower them on a regular basis and pour into them like we needed to. So I was leading middle school ministry and I had a part time assistant and that was pretty much it. I was going everything, trying to invest in our volunteers, trying to make the program happen, we had like one Sunday morning where we had 85 middle school boys and two adult leaders for them. That’s when we were like we really need to figure out how we are going to recruit, equip and retain volunteers. And so when Elle came on a few years ago in that position just to focus on small groups and just to focus on volunteers, that’s when we saw everything change. i was overwhelmed, and I’m not an overly relational person to begin with so for me to focus and invest in volunteers wasn’t the first thing on my priority list. So when Elle came on board, even that one staff person, and her only thing is to focus on that small group environment, and to make sure she’s equipping our volunteers, that basically changed the course of what we are doing.
Rich – That’s fantastic. That’s a critical lesson for churches of any size to learn. How do we focus our leaders, staff or otherwise, on a small enough area that they can make a great impact. A lot of times we think we are like these swiss army knives, that we can do everything. That’s just not the case. Anything else about middle school ministry and then we are going to move onto the Lightening Round.
Kenny – Just a couple things I think that we really enjoy doing. Partnering with other churches. I think one thing that’s huge on our priority list is to view the church like one body. So it’s not just the Chapel at Crosspoint trying to do our own thing. We believe in all working together, the church all across the country working together. So one thing that we put high on our priority list now is to share whatever we have with other people and hopefully be able to learn from them as well. That’s just something that helped us a lot. We have grown so much over the last few years just because we started seeking out what other people were doing, and making connections and intentionally connecting and learning from other people. I think what you’re doing is awesome. This is a great way, really cool that you get to share this stuff all the time so thanks for giving us the opportunity to be here.
Rich – I appreciate that. Whey don’t you give us, how people can get in touch with you. You guys are creating incredible resources for church leaders. How can we get in touch with you guys?
Elle – The easiest place is do go to stuffyoucanuse.org. That is kind of like our central hub of resources, and just kind of some different things that other people we know and trust, resources they’ve made as well. That’s kind of our central hub. We both have some blogs that you can access from there but that’s a good place to start.
Rich – When you guys launched that site I was like “That’s a brilliant name!” It describes what it is. What is it? Well it’s stuff you can use.