I’m going back into church ministry!

Red Door Church

Where It All Started

Wow, what a ride the past couple years have been! After 12 years of vocational youth ministry, an unfortunate church situation brought that to a screeching halt. With no job, I quickly turned to Life In Student Ministry into a full-time income for my family while my wife and I served as volunteer youth leaders at a different church in town. Over the next two years, there were plenty of interviews to do for other youth ministry positions around the country and I even had a couple offers, but none that my wife and I ultimately accepted. So I kept searching.

During that time I started to dive into something that had been a hobby of mine for a while: the YouTube community. And before long, YouTube and online video in general became a significant chunk of my income. I began training online video marketers and creators through the videos I created for, doing YouTube audits for national TV networks, and cranking out 6 or 7 personal videos every week.

Moving to Cincinnati

One opportunity led to another until almost a year ago one of the owners of Epipheo, a storytelling company that often shares those stories through online animated videos, emailed me and said, “Hey, I ran into a couple times on the Internet today, both for your youth ministry stuff and your online video stuff. I don’t know if you’re looking for a job or not, but if you are, I’d love to talk.” I wasn’t really looking for a job that wasn’t related to youth ministry, but since being self-employed relies heavily on networking, I gave him a call. We ended up talking for two and a half hours, not about online video, but about youth and family ministry.

To make a long story short, I took a full-time job at Epipheo helping them develop an on-going YouTube strategy. In return, they gave me both tremendous flexibility to continue to make my family my primary ministry as well as the opportunity to learn from them what home ministry even looks like.

Introduced to Red Door Church

Red Door ChurchAfter relocating to Cincinnati to be closer to Epipheo, Dana and I made it a high priority to quickly settle in a local church community. Thankfully the Lord enabled that to happen through an article my mom read in a magazine called, On Mission. She ripped the article out, mailed it to us, and introduced us to a 2 year old church plant in Cincinnati called, Red Door Church. We loved the stories of how they were integrating family and ministry together. We also thought it was interesting how closely their founding pastor’s story resembled ours: a fired youth pastor with a strong vision for family ministry. So, we decided to check it out.

To shorten the story even further, a couple weeks ago Dana and I agreed to take a more formalized role at Red Door Church to help them develop a ministry strategy for birth through college with a focus on youth ministry. It will be a new and unique challenge for us because this strategy does not have a typical starting point.

Red Door’s Approach to Family Ministry

Red Door’s focus on family ministry means that they don’t really have stage-of-life ministries established. On Sunday mornings there is intentionally no specific programming for ages 4 years old an up. Everyone sits with each other at circle tables where parents are given a bag of resources to teach their kids during the service. The resources go along with the pastor’s message, so as my wife and I listen to his teaching we turn to our children and teach it to them. It’s the only church service I’ve been to where it’s appropriate to talk with your family while the pastor teaches. The learning experience becomes especially fun when there happens to be teenagers, grandparents, or another family sitting at our table and we all teach and learn together.

As Dana and I start to develop an overarching family ministry strategy at Red Door Church, the question our pastor posed to us is this:

“How do we do youth ministry in a way that brings teens and their families together, not separates them?”

He’s not saying that teens can’t have their own time and place, but that the youth ministry overall should facilitate spiritual leadership from the parents, not assume or take that role from them.

While I love using that as our starting place, I’ve never built a youth ministry on that foundation before. Every youth ministry I’ve been a part of separates the teens from the parents and puts discipleship in the lap of a paid youth pastor or volunteer.

Looking Back

It will be a fun journey to explore! I’m thankful to be able to pursue some of these questions at a place like Red Door Church and that I have a job at a place like Epipheo that provides the opportunity for me to do so.

Looking back on the past few years, it seems like God moved me out of one ministry to give me the time to develop the skills I’d need to support my family so we can serve in a new church plant in Cincinnati for free. I had no idea that’s what God was doing at the time, but it makes sense now. And I’m glad He did it.

A few years ago when I started working for myself, I told Dana, “I’d love to be able to support us with my own income and move to a church with a limited budget where I could serve for free.” It looks like God had that in mind for us, too. If I were to craft exactly the church and the ministry position I’d like to fill, what we’re doing at Red Door Church is pretty much it exactly.

Help Us Get Started

I’ll do my best to bring you all along on this journey, probably mostly via video posts since that’s a lot quicker and easier for me than writing a blog post. Hope that’s okay.

In the meantime, I’d love for you guys to help my wife and I get started on the right track: What does a youth ministry look like that’s built on bringing teens and parents together spiritually? Comments below are greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Posted on January 3, 2013

  • I’m looking forward to you journey, if only for the fact that I may get to learn something! :)

    • Good! I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot of things, actually. This will be fun and interesting.

  • Steve

    Congrats, dude! I’m looking forward to hearing about your journey as well. I don’t have any advice, because our church doesn’t run our family ministry exactly like that. But what I can say is help those who don’t feel like they have a family to still connect and get involved.

    • Great advice, Steve. We totally agree. We do have a few teens who come to Red Door on their own without spiritually engaged parents. They’re definitely a big part of our conversation.

  • Danita Brick

    I don’t have an answer for you. I have the very same question. Please keep this dialogue going. What a gift it would be to our teens and parents.

    • I’ll do my best, Danita! Looking forward to what comes of it all.

  • Congratulations Tim! Sounds like a great fit for you and Dana! So glad for you guys!

  • Congrats. Now…you’re going to tell us more about these bags of items….right?

    • The resource packs that parents get every service? Maybe I’ll shoot a video of it on Sunday. Will that be easier? :)

      • Greg

        That would be great, I was curious about what they were and how they connect to the sermon.

        • Shot a video of it yesterday. I’ll try to get it posted later this week. Hopefully that will be helpful.

  • Tim, I am pumped to hear your news. I have been working on some cool stuff to help connect youth ministers and parents. I would be glad to chat with you. I will send you an email. Many blessings on your journey and I applaud your church for taking a family based focus!!

    • Thanks, Jeremy! Looking forward to your email!

  • Enjoy celebrating the launching of this new mission, Tim

    I imagine that bringing teens and parents together doesn’t have to be a reinvention of ministry. You can try every single “traditional” youth ministry approach with the intended target being parents and children instead of teens.

    Do a retreat with everybody. Have discipleship where you lead it as a demonstration of what parents ought to do in their homes. Even small groups where for a portion of the night kids are interacting with different families and then come back together with their parents to talk about what the interaction was like and discuss the content. Game nights a great way for families to connect together and others.

    I guess my approach would be to not just try to bring families together spiritually, but in every way we would want the church to be together. Spiritually, relationally, in prayer, the word and fun.

    • We’ve actually discussed family retreats, game nights, and other ideas like that. Not sure if we’ll eventually land there or not, but we’ll see. Still just brainstorming the whole thing. Good ideas, Jeff. Thanks!

  • Excited for you! Look forward to see what God does!

  • Tim, what a blessing! I am excited for you and your wife and to see where God moves you in this ministry and stage of your life. I have to admit, the timing of your post was perfect. I was awake last night, praying for my own family ministry at our small church ~ wondering what our Sunday school program and youth programs will look like this year with very few volunteers and limited resources. What I realized is that God is in control and there are many ways to integrate children into the life of the church and to disciple them – not just in a traditional setting. I’d love to hear more about your structure at Red Door and to keep abreast of how your ministry unfolds. Keep the posts coming! God bless you.

    • Glad this could be encouraging for you! I find it ironic that churches say parents are the primary spiritual influence on their kids and then we recruit all these people who aren’t their parents. I actually think that’s systemic of a deeper issue, but that’s a whole different issue. If you believe every teen has a full-time youth leader who lives with them at home every day, then your perspective on youth ministry and recruiting may change.

  • Jeff Pankratz

    Hey Tim, good stuff bro. But just to encourage you, you were ALWAYS in church ministry, serving the Body of Christ with your amazing talent and skills to advance His Kingdom. With that be known, I am stoked for you to use those talents and abilities to help parents disciple their own kids. We are seeing so many cool things in our community groups where parents are seeing the importance of husbands nourishing their wives, and then both parents able to nourish their kids in their faith. The conversations, teaching times to discuss, and discipleship meetings over coffee, moms groups, etc have been great. We will be praying for you guys in our Allies group and be encouraged in the battle brother!

    • Thanks, Jeff! That is encouraging. I often got the question, “So Tim, when are you going back into ministry?” It always saddened me to hear that because it indicates how limited and small of a perspective most pastors have of ministry. How can we tell the people in our church, “Your job is also your ministry!” and then turn around and ask someone when they’re going back into ministry? Weird.

      In all honesty, my personal ministry over the past few years has seemed more fruitful than it’s ever been before.

  • Congratulations! Such a cool opportunity.

    Here’s one question that could be a good starting point: “If we weren’t allowed to ‘do’ anything at our church that encompasses traditional youth ministry, what would we do?” It doesn’t mean that you throw everything out; it just means that you make all the current options unavailable for the sake of creativity and to be unchained by the inevitable presuppositions we all have. Can’t wait to hear about the journey!

    • Great question, Benjer! I think that’s exactly what we’re thinking, but like you said, not for the sake of being different, but having a clean slate to work with. So far just in our preliminary discussions it’s already very evident that this will be something that most people may not even consider a “youth ministry” because it doesn’t reflect much of what people think of when they think of typical youth ministry. We’ll see, though.

  • natedame

    Congrats Tim!!

  • Congrats Tim! And Happy New Year to you and Dana from Brandy (my wife) and I! I hope to be in a similar situation some day – voluntarily of course! Question: Will the youth service be separate – different room or day? If on a separate day, I would do it the same way the pastor does now – youth service with the family invited!

    • No, I don’t think we’ll ever separate the teens from the family service. That pretty much goes against the values of having a family service, ya know? We won’t have a youth service that invites the parents just as we won’t have a parent service that invites the youth. There’s just one family service every Sunday morning.

      • Got it – thanks! I’ve never heard of anything like this before – it’s sounds very effective. Considering the ministry style, It seems one good way to bring teens and families together spiritually would be topic based teaching and dialogue. With a double panel: A variety of parents, single – married – divorced, and teens (various as well!).

  • Yoel Torres

    Hey Tim, Thank you so much for this post. Timing is perfect.

    My Family started a church plant last year down in Miami, FL. We’re almost 1yr old, and our focus is to unite families. This post has really caught my attention for the way your church is focused on bringing together families. I am very interested on more details of your Sunday meetings.

    We are very new and young at this, and have also been looking for ways to bring together the two sides. And also making sure that those who dont have families, dont feel left out, or like they dont have a place in the church.

    Really looking forward to learning more.

    • Awesome to hear what you guys are doing! I’ll talk with our pastor and see about shooting a video with him where he talks more about what Sunday mornings look like for us and why. Stay tuned! :)

  • Really neat to see what God is doing with you guys! Look forward to hearing more of His amazing work with you guys! Super excited about the family ministry focus of your church and would love to hear more about it.

    • Thanks, Blake! I’m sure I’ll be sharing a lot more about the family ministry focus at Red Door in the future. Stay tuned!

  • Heather Lea Campbell

    This is awesome! An interesting church that I look forward to hearing more about. :)

  • Comgrats Tim. Since no one I know is doing youth ministry this way it is hard to scale long term. I guess I would set up the mile markers to determine what “success” is like. Do parents and teens serve more together away from the church? Do they talk more? What does a healthy family look like? What is my role as a youth worker in spiritual growth issues? New territory for me so I am just spit balling ideas. Keep us posted.

    • Yeah, that’s the phase we’re kinda in right now. I’m putting together a list of “guiding principles” that will direct the ministry overall. I’ll be sure to share them when they’re finished and approved.

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  • Peter Ahn

    Congratulations… I look forward to hearing more about this as you move forward.

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  • Jason Kruger

    Hey Tim,
    I just finished reading your book and loved it. My fiance and I both feel a huge call into youth ministry. What is your recommendation for my bachelor’s degree I have an opportunity to go to a private school and get a Christian studies degree or a public school and get a bachelor of science degree. Any recommendations?
    Thanks and keep vlogging!

    • I usually recommend a Bible degree no matter what field you’re going into. Career training prepares you for a job that you may or may not keep, but Bible training prepares you for life.

      • Jason Kruger

        Another question for you.
        My family has always believed in furthering your education. But they don’t quite understand getting a degree in ministry versus in business. They say things like “well what if you decide to do something else, you won’t have anything to fall back on.” As well, they bring up the cost ratio from a public school to a private school.

        Any suggestions on how I am to approach their concerns but at the same time follow God’s plan for my future family and I. And how do I deal with their criticism throughout my college and continue to be motivated by God’s plan.

        • Why do you have to justify it to them? They can think what they want, right?

          Personally, I spend 7 years in Bible college and seminary and I don’t earn an income from churches at all any more. In fact, I work full-time outside the church. I didn’t have trouble finding a job. Vocational ministry will give you a ton of practical training in leadership, administration, and especially working with people. Those skills transfer to many different careers. The rest of what you might need to know you can easily teach yourself by reading a few books. That’s what I did anyway.

          • Jason Kruger

            That’s encouraging. I appreciate your advice. I have tried many different paths outside of ministry and I have felt this emptiness straying from God’s will. I am excited to finally pursue his plan. Thanks for your help.

            Side question. How did you pay for your years at bible college/seminary? If with loans, how has paying for them affected your lifestyle whilst being in ministry. Also, if you could do it differently what would you do.
            Thanks again for all your help

          • I went through Bible college and seminar before I was married, so my living expenses were pretty cheap. I made it through college without debt and almost made it through seminary without debt, too. Had to take out a small loan my last year there. I just worked my butt off to avoid debt. I worked 3 jobs and didn’t really have a life outside school, work, ministry, and sleeping.

          • Jason Kruger

            Oh okay well hopefully I will be able to do that as well. It may be easier to pay for school with 2 incomes after we get married.

            Would you recommend a degree specific to youth ministry or more towards a general biblical studies degree

          • I think that’s up to you. Either way is fine, I think.

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