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PODCAST 043: Kyle Schultz & Deconstructing Kids Church Online

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One of the greatest untapped resources in Church Online, I believe, is the Kids Church Online. There’s huge potential here to reach kids in unique ways. Several years ago, while I was Online Pastor, we briefly experimented with the idea of Kids Church Online.

Here’s what I know. My kids are digital. I’ve got an 11 year old and a 9 year old. I cut cable almost a decade ago at this point, so any of the content they watch is app based: Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Pokemon App, iTunes… they live in these apps on their iPads or on the Apple TVs.

What if my kids were addicted to Church Online instead of Pokemon? Similarly, what if Kids Church Online helped me as a parent disciple my kids? Could Kids Church Online make me the spiritual hero in the lives of my kids?

Fun conversations like this and more, as Rey DeArmas and I get interviewed on our own podcast, here on The Church Digital Podcast.


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ON THE SHOW

Guest: Kyle Schultz
Northwoods Community Church - Facebook
Facebook

Host: Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn

Co-Host: Rey DeArmas
Christ Fellowship Miami Online
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram


SHOW NOTES

  • Kids Church Online
  • Kids Church Online and Discipleship
  • Reaching Kids Online

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We know these conversations are out there are hard. Even the best of churches haven't figured out... If this podcast is helping you and your church work through what Church Online is, then help us impact other churches! Take a moment and leave us a brief review!
 
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Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
 
Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
 

TRANSCRIPT

Jeff Reed: 00:00 Episode 43 with The Church Digital Podcast and this is going to be an interesting podcast cause I'm not even going to be the host here. It looks like I'm going to be the guest that's going to be interviewed on my own podcast. It's going to be fun. See a couple, maybe a month or so ago at this point, Kyle Schultz, who is the Associate Online Pastor over at Northwoods Community Church up in Illinois, they, were they're interested in and maybe possibly doing some church online for kids stuff. And so Kyle got on Facebook and, and posted that he was looking for, for somebody to, you know, give them some insight, towards the church online for kids. And so Christ Fellowship Miami, the church that I was at when I was online, pastor did church online for kids for it for a season and I tagged on the threads.

Jeff Reed: 00:47 Like, yeah, I'd love to, you know, talk with an expert to on church line for kids or somebody else who's done it and done it successfully. And slowly we discovered that nobody else really was, interested or had done church align for kids. And so it actually started a series of conversations like who else has done church online for kids? It's surely somebody has done a targeted motion towards a movement towards creating an online environment aimed at children. And lo and behold, I don't think that there are many people that have. And so instead of interviewing myself, which would be weird on a podcast, I've asked Kyle Schultz to come on and be the interviewer to walk through some questions and together lets just dialogue through what it means to do church online for kids. What are the strengths and what are the weaknesses and what are the issues?

Jeff Reed: 01:46 And, and just with a full disclaimer, we, we didn't do church online for kids that long. there were some issues that we as an organization couldn't get past. And so it did run for it for a period of time. And then we stopped it. And they're, they're not doing it now to say that it can't be done. I would disagree with to say that, it should not be done. I think we should, as churches be utilizing online environments to reach kids. I do think it looks differently and that's a lot of what this podcast is because I think the rules of Church online for kids has to be different than church online. So we're going to unpack a lot of this right here in this podcast. You've got Kyle Schultz, Associate Online Pastor with Northwoods Community Church. You've got Rey DeArmas, who's currently Online Pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami, and once again, cohost here with The Church Digital podcast and myself, Jeff Reed with The Church Digital Podcast in a episode that I'm calling Deconstructing Kids Church Online. Okay, everybody, here you go.

Kyle Schultz: 02:51 I just want to hear about your guys' experience with doing kids ministry online like that. Let's start there. What's your experience been and why did you start?

Jeff Reed: 03:00 We looked at what we were doing across all of our campuses, kids, students, adult services, where we were, what were we raised? Six, seven campus, multisite church, probably 2015.

Rey DeArmas: 03:15 Yeah, we were, we were hovering around eight, we were getting ready, right.

Jeff Reed: 03:20 Miami beach?

Rey DeArmas: 03:22 And we were, and we also had like a lot of micro sighting going on like within campuses. Like we had campuses doing specialized services, like we had Brickell going on at the time. That's true. we had, yeah, there was a, and there were like experimental things that we were doing at the time to reach more people. We were hovering around like 10,000 in terms of attendance and so for us, and that's not even including online, this is just counting some of the physical numbers at the time.

Jeff Reed: 03:50 And so there was, there was a season of, Hey, since we're already scaling this stuff to go multi-site, what would it look if we just scaled it a little more to take it online? So kind of the challenge that I brought in to the kid's ministry team is, all right, so we're doing skits, we're doing games, we're doing, honestly, it was video worship at that point. We never did live band worship. So, so much of this stuff is already video based. what would it take to just do a little more work, to make it, not just video based for a multisite venue, but video based entirely for online? Right. So the big thing like for us there, there was already the stories like that would be told kind of like the, forgive me, I don't know kids' ministry terms, but like the parable, the story that would connect to the kids that was already video based. We were already recording that because it was too difficult to reproduce actors across six, eight campuses. So Hey, let's just, let's just video that, worship was already video at that point and we were taking stuff off of open network and way back then I think new spring wasn't attached to new open network. NewSpring was doing their own thing. They weren't never, like, we took a lot of stuff back then from NewSpring as well.

Rey DeArmas: 05:13 But I also gotta say this, Jeff, we wrote a lot of content. Like we had stacked writers for CF kids at the time, which made sharing the content a lot easier. You know, and for those of you who are working with 252 or somebody, there's stuff, you know, that they've got all the rights, they've got all that stuff. And so right now that's not something, whether it's gospel project, you know, if you're on the Southern Baptist end or whether you're, you know, if you're working with 252 and Orange, we weren't doing that at the time, which enabled us to then create a lot of content that we could share. now there was a lot of upfront costs to that, as you can imagine. But at the time we were also doing aligned teaching on the weekend with kids as we were with adults. We were just packaging it for kids, which, you know, created a great vibe. It's something that we had going on for a long time, even before this era. But it enabled us to do this kind of thing and to do it well.

Jeff Reed: 06:06 The biggest challenge I think that we really pulled from doing the Orange and we'll get to this at a later point cause they ended up going to Orange, which is really what kind of dive bomb the online piece. You know, you may, maybe you don't necessarily feel this, but being in Miami as multicultural as we are, it was bunch of white people on videos. Like it was not kind of and I'm not speaking negative of NewSpring or any church cause kind of like if that's who your church is made up of, I totally recognize, Hey, you know, just go with that. But in a church like Christ Fellowship where it was like mean I'm just gonna make up numbers here but 40%-50% Hispanic, 25%-30% white, 20% black. I mean we had almost at this point because races don't even mean anything anymore down here.

Jeff Reed: 06:57 Like seeing a bunch of white people act out something on a video. Like it's awkward enough that you have to question it. Like people in there going be like, why are there a bunch of white people up there? What are they politically trying to say? And so like it's, it's that, that tension of you want to create your own stuff, right? But that costs money. But then if you don't, then you're kind of stuck with what, you know, not offending Life.Church but Life.Church in the middle of, you know, Oklahoma, they have a different demographic, of, of people who are showing up and they may not represent as well anyway.

Rey DeArmas: 07:33 And not at the time there weren't a lot of people creating video content either in this kind of area that we could take and we could say we could actually fit and work into this. I remember this cause I was part of a group that went to go review different types of curriculums that LifeWay had to offer that orange had to offer. And this is before we made the jump and a lot of it was text-based. It was like, Hey, here are PDFs that your folks can download. But once again, that took a lot of it and it put a lot of emphasis on having a quality volunteer, which is great if you can reproduce that over and over and over again across multiple locations, across multiple services, we could not especially go on week to week with the material and trying to get it at the time to match up and to sink in with alignment in terms of what was going on in the weekend. It just wasn't something that would have worked out for us. But you know, that being said, the content that we were able to create was actually very compelling for kids. It was very good. and it was something that, you know, even my own kids enjoyed preface it like a is our stuff. We just threw it out there and it was a lot of fun.

Jeff Reed: 08:36 The biggest part when we've really looked at what we were doing at the multisite level, so content that we were already creating for the multisite, what were we missing to put it online? And the biggest part that we were missing was the, was the hosted segments. So normally like the campus, you know, the campus children's director or a volunteer, you know, would stand up in front of the kids, be the hype man, get them excited, you know, set up, introduce the video set up, maybe tell them something to, to set the stage and then show the video and so we were missing kind of that, that hype person for online, which is where Roxy fit in so well, because Roxy just exudes a hype. And so like, you know, she just, she really has that, that high level energy and connects so well with kids and you put her in front of the camera and it doesn't matter that there's no kids in front of her.

Jeff Reed: 09:35 She is still hyping that, that crowd up, in, in real ways. And the good thing with her was we actually, we tried, we tried two or three different people in the role. Two I think that were staff. One was, someone who was a volunteer in kids min, and had a background in television. So she was more comfortable on the television side but she wasn't like as tightly intertwined. She was a volunteer so she kinda knew what was going on. she really struggled in the role and honestly she went on after she left, she went on to do incredible things like, so this isn't a negative towards her at all because honestly she's working for a far better organization at this point than any of us was, but were where she struggled with, it was kids' ministry, and this may be just indicative of Christ Fellowship, but there's so many day-to-day changes and so much like fluidity and kind of what's happening that her as a volunteer on the outside really struggled to keep up with it.

Jeff Reed: 10:41 And so things would change, you know, oftentimes between Monday and Wednesday and like by the time she came in to film something on Wednesday it'd change two or three times and she didn't know about it and we had to go back and reshoot. And the communication really wasn't that good because she was kind of an outsider trying to come in and that, that was one of the big reasons why we went with the Roxy model where, Hey, let's get somebody that already speaks the language that already understands what's going on and let's just get a little more out of her. I think Roxy was, was part time. I don't think she was full time at that point and it was something like, you know, move her 25 to 30 hours or something like that. Just give her a little more, we're, we're where she can help create this content and kind of help us get to that, that next level, at least at the intro. Absolutely.

Kyle Schultz: 11:28 So what would you guys say, was there a felt need in your mind for a kid's ministry online as you guys were assessing your online presence and your community? Was there a need there that you guys were like, we have to do this? Or is it just something that you guys just jumped into cause you're like, well, we're at the multisite, we're already doing it. Let's just try it.

Jeff Reed: 11:47 Yeah, that's a great question here. Here's what I would say. I don't think we realized the felt need and then the felt need became the biggest challenge. Yeah. The reason we got into it was, and I'll own this. Like I, I live in, I've lived my life, even with the church digital. I don't think there's a limitation to what church online can be. And so the biggest challenge when I talk about church online, when I talk about micrositing, one of the questions I'll get out of top five questions people ask, one of them is always, what do you do with the kids? And so rather than kind of running with that or, or hiding from that, I'm just kind of a jerk that way. I'm like, we are freaking going to do kid's ministry. Let's figure out how to do it.

Jeff Reed: 12:31 I can't believe I just said freaking on a podcast, but we're gonna, we're gonna figure out how to do. So we're going to figure out how to, how to do this. And so it was, you know, let's throw stuff in a blender. Let's see if it sticks, let's be experimental with it. you know, and see how, how it goes. Now that the challenge of with me, when I look at church online, I wasn't necessarily targeting the people. I definitely was not targeting the people in my front door or side door. I'm not targeting people who attended Christ Fellowship Miami campuses. I was trying to target people outside the city, outside the state, outside the country, around the world. And really, I can't speak to the stats now, but when I left 50% of the traffic of Christ Fellowship Miami online of their online church was outside of the state of Florida.

Jeff Reed: 13:29 So there was a much larger reach. Part of that is actually, there were many reasons why, why that was happening, but here's the problem that I experienced. I can market an adult service. I could never figure out how to market a kid service. Like, I can't, you can't market to kids. Like you can't, I put create ads for kids. They're not on the social media. The only thing we could do was to market to the parents and kind of draw it down to the kid level. Yeah. And so that really became the problem, the biggest hurdle of church online was the adult services were very outside, external oriented evangelism, reach out, get them connected to God type of thing. The church online really evolved into, my kids are sick, my kids aren't at church this week. I want to keep them connected so they can watch the service.

Jeff Reed: 14:29 No, it happens. Like, it was funny, I, my kids were, I'm going to do bad math here. My kids were probably four and six when we were doing this. Both of them had iPads. Yeah. I'm the dad that gives her kids iPads at four and six. We, you can email me later. but I bookmarked the CF online for on that and they would, instead of watching Handy Manny 50 times over and over and over and over again, they were watching CF online and, and I, and I, I personally, I loved that, but it wasn't, the vision of the church was more external and reaching out as opposed to giving people an alternative to Handy Manny. And so that was a lot of where that the tension was. Go ahead. Sorry.

Rey DeArmas: 15:13 No, I was going to say, you know, Jeff, the irony of that is I think, you know, to your question, Kyle, the answer is yes and yes. Like there's the felt need and there's also the understanding that Hey, there is an audience here. Like that's the way that I'm looking at it now. Where I'm hoping that one day we can bring it back either in partnership with one of our content creators or something else we're even working on, we're, we're knocking on Orange's door. Like, Hey look, can we get rights to this? Can we do something? And here's why. Cause I agree with Jeff, there is the sense of, Hey, we work so hard on creating compelling content that it can't just exist for the weekend. Like that's just bad stewardship, right? You're going to tell me we're going to invest all this time and all this effort and it's just going to exist on Saturday and Sunday.

Rey DeArmas: 15:53 And the same thing has to apply to kids as it does in terms of our adult service. So we're gonna invest all this time and effort into this kind of ministry and the contents just going to get relayed wants to them. You know, that, that my view just doesn't make sense. And especially in an era where kids aren't used to the whole phygital kind of mindset, digital and physical places just kind of providing them the same content that they have access to. And so I'm convinced that my kids, if they'll go to church on Sunday still and they'll want to replay that service, if it was great and compelling during the week, they'll still want to go back and watch that great content. If it's presented a package that they're going to love. Absolutely they're going to come back and watch it or they're going to show it to their friends.

Rey DeArmas: 16:30 Hey look at what, look at what I'm watching and, and, and this is the key. Jeff, I think this was our missed opportunity at the time and I think we're discovering this more now. YouTube is like the great place for this to live. YouTube is like the grand spot for this to live on YouTube Kids specifically and YouTube right now is being very, very careful with kids. Stuff that you've got like a special check marks. Some of you are YouTube content creators. You know this, you've seen this already that if you are creating stuff for kids, you have to market specifically for kids and they won't allow it on the YouTube kids app and they shouldn't unless it goes, unless this is checked off so that they can review it and so that they can put it out there. So now more than ever there is a hunger, there is a desire, there is an audience and the kids have the capability of getting to it and you can create great content that's made for them. I mean, you know, let's kind of go back and let's think through about how Mr. Rogers, you know, would pour into so much effort to make his clothes available for families. At churches, we should do the same thing. We should pour the same kind of efforts. And so Reggie Joiner, if you're listening to me out there, all right, please make Orange available so that churches can take this stuff online because man, there's an audience here and people need to see.

Jeff Reed: 17:40 That's a great point on the YouTube kids. I just want to put a disclaimer on that. We shut down, we switched to Orange, and the next week YouTube, YouTube kids. That's fact. and it was on honest cause I remember going back in and try actually, Hey, we got a shot here. Let's do it. It was too late. Like it was already. It was already moved over. And yeah, Reggie, Orange man. There's a lot of humility in that, right? It's like, let me create content and have it not just for my, under my brand, but let me create content, Orange. Let me create content for others. Yeah, we can show them at the church property but, but show it online as well. Like I would imagine there would be a lot more exposure and I'm just hypothesizing here, but if there was a video that was shown on 252, and then that'll get some traction.

Jeff Reed: 18:34 But if you show that video on maybe a couple hundred church onlines, I know there's going to be a lot more exposure towards that. Maybe you're more, maybe you're more selective about who you're bringing in. But I, I think, you know, once again, it's a lot better what other people say about you than what you say about yourself and churches, you know, being able to provide some of that content, being able to own it to that point. Like I think that's a huge opportunity. Yeah, I am, there have been two or three conversations I've had. Anytime I see a, underworked video person, honest to God underworked Christian video person, I cast this vision to them. What if you created video content for churches in the kids' area? And that's nothing against any of the players that are out there, but I just think there's this huge need and there's not a lot of options out there.

Jeff Reed: 19:24 Yeah. You got the got the live voice stuff. Yeah. Orange. You know, there's, it's funny everywhere I in the church world, everywhere I look it's Orange stuff and it's like, man, and it's, it's good stuff. I don't want to, I want to criticize it, but I'd love to have some other options out there that would maybe challenge, and get some innovation in the area.

Kyle Schultz: 19:44 What would you guys say is the biggest challenge that you faced when you first started doing kids ministry? Online?

Jeff Reed: 19:49 Finding the audience cause we really were limited. the adults that would watch online, it wasn't a clean fit. I'm going to answer this in to finding the audience is one the adults wouldn't stream, wouldn't connect it immediately down to the kids. And so like that was a hard kind of push to get it there. And when we did really kind of figure out that we were were kind of restricted. Our audience really was the kids who were just stick or who are traveling and stuff like that and so that was a challenge. Probably the other challenge was when we tried to do it at the, at the microsite level and we tried to do house church, there's a lot of, legal issues around kids' ministry at house churches and even really challenges even seeing how when we were doing micro locations in 2014-2015 house churches, watching church online, you know, watch parties, a common term now, when we were doing that back then, it wasn't, it was not a common term back then. even how, like, how we're handling the kids, you know, you're putting it on the website and all of these people are coming to some house. They don't know.

Jeff Reed: 21:08 Like even that philosophy has kind of shifted a little bit. Like, I can remember, we had a, a house church up in a, a network that was kind of starting up in the New York city area. And, the guy would literally let his 13 year old daughter, lead like the Bible study or with the kids and they'd watch the video. They go through the curriculum like, and it was, it ended up being when every time they did it on Friday nights, it was like one kid would take a turn teaching all the other kids, so he would like rotate through and have different kids do different things, which was kind of a cool spin on it that I wasn't expecting. But it was instead of like the adults teaching and it was the, was the kids. but even that, it's like, you know, there is a lawyer somewhere who's just banging his head against a wall because there's, there's so much, tension around the idea of children in homes that may or may not be fully supervised. You know, and so that there, there's some difficulty there that needs to get fixed.

Rey DeArmas: 22:10 Yeah. The community aspect has to be the most challenging. You know, when you talk about church online, the whole thing shouldn't be just the content creation, but the community that you're trying to create around it. And in terms of speaking as a parent, yeah. It'd be really uncomfortable with my six year old like, Hey, so I want to go into a chat room with a volunteer with a volunteer, you know, to leave my small group. Yeah. Even that for me, even as a church person, even as a pastor, yeah. That for me just sets off all sorts of red flags like profitable for that. And so creating the community around the content is gotta be the most difficult part because yes, you know that people are watching, but how you get them to interact with one another or how you get them to take next steps. That's, that's the most challenging aspect of it.

Jeff Reed: 22:53 Well, and then you know, part of you raised your points. Great. What about next steps? Try to figure out how to take the next steps. What's the end game? Yeah, like what, what is the finish line? What are you trying to do with your children online? and so even, and that's not, that's not something any of us on this podcast can answer. That's like a philosophical question that church needs to wrestle with. Right. cause in one thing, you know, if you're listening to the podcast, these were more than just the one hour on Sunday and just like, you know, to use Christ Fellowship example from a couple of years ago, we needed to be more than just broadcasting that one service. What's the, okay. So the goal is, you know, to empower parents with more resources to help disciple their kids. Cool. So that's more than just video by the way. That's a larger than just, for church online. That's the entire church. So there is, there's ways I think with kids ministry too, maybe align things, where physical, I mean you used the word phygital, Rey, I love that. It's the combining of the physical campuses and the digital and the online campus. It's not two different experiences, not two different goals. It's one goal that's just interwoven, to work together.

Rey DeArmas: 24:12 Yeah. And to point back real quick to 252. So this is where parent cue has come in so big like they provided, they provide a lot of great resources for parents do that in the sense that whether or not parents use them that's on their own dime or that's on their own, you know, whatever they're going to do. But providing an app, providing all sorts of tools, you know, that kind of coincide with those lessons. That's a big deal cause then that further is, you know, the home game in terms of me as a parent empowering me to disciple my kids, which should be the goal of every church ministry, church kids ministry to partner with the parents so that it's not like when I did youth group back in the day, it's like, Oh, we're dropping off our kid for you to fix him.

Rey DeArmas: 24:50 No, no, no, no, no. That's not how it works. We're supposed to partner together on this, you know, so that your child has a cohesive team. I'm going to back you up as a parent and you're going to back me up as a student person and we're going to plan together how to help raise this human into a fully functional and adult that loves Jesus and that's going to serve him with the rest of his life. And that's how this is going to work together in kids' ministry. There's got to be that kind of relationship or that happens. And so maybe the community aspect is parents, kids ministers together kind of working together and to help provide resources and provide tools that they can build community around.

Kyle Schultz: 25:25 Yeah. If I am a parent who is only online and I've got my kids, and you don't have your own content that you're creating yourself as a church. So what resources are there available, you know, or curriculums that can be used, to help play successfully implement, you know, a kid's online ministry and help foster that with them, I guess is where I, that seems like the next logical question to ask here. Cause that's one of the things we're wrestling with at Northwoods is we don't, we don't do our own content like video-based content.

Jeff Reed: 25:56 So what content do you use? Do you know?

Kyle Schultz: 26:01 I don't right now. I think it's all, they're not a part of 252. I know that they, they're creating their own, but it's, none of it is digitally based right now.

Rey DeArmas: 26:13 Okay. Okay. Well, if you are writing your own content, that at least saves you the trouble of having to jump through those loopholes, which is great. however, if you're not creating any kind of digital resources with that, I can understand how that can be a little bit. All right. So how do we take that next step? Like I mentioned earlier, if, if you're looking for, you know, gospel project or any of those deals right now, they're not licensing that for churches to take it to the digital area. We're all hoping and praying that that somehow, some way, if it's, it's a larger license we got to pay for. If it's something along those that, that that gets opened up to churches, but we're not there just yet.

Jeff Reed: 26:46 Do you know, do you know what, what the, and I'm out of my league here, what's the logistical hold up on them? Licensing it. Like, do you know what the reason is?

Rey DeArmas: 26:57 No, not just yet. We've talked to the folks at Orange, on a number of fronts and the only reason I keep referencing them is because that's who our church is using currently. We're not using Gospel Project right now. You know, we're still trying to work it out with them. I think it's, I think there's a lot of different areas, both in terms of music. You know, music licensing can be such a challenging for all of you who are doing church online. You know what I'm talking about, especially if you're trying to take it on social media, you've been flagged by Facebook or even flagged by YouTube. Hey, content, copyright, whatever. I mean, that's, that's for sure thing, you know, to worry about and to think through. The next thing is, is cultural references. If they're looking at, Hey, we want to, you know, leverage a clip or something, you know, if they're doing some form of, and they're not doing at the movies, but if they're doing some form of that, then, you know, that's another issue that kind of comes into play.

Rey DeArmas: 27:43 As far as the content and the licensing is concerned. And then I think the third thing is, I think they're trying to figure that out as well. You know, how do we sell our content, but also how to enable churches to distribute it digitally. I think they're trying to figure that out as well. you know, not every church can create content leveraging their scripts. Some can, some can't, right? Like our church, we do have the capability of doing that. We'd have to staff more in order to help provide video editors and videographers and things like that to make it happen. But you know, we see, we see the vision and we see the understanding of it and I think we would go for it. But it would be a challenge for churches in general to do that because of some of the upfront costs that are involved at least to do it well.

Jeff Reed: 28:24 It'd be really interesting if a church kinda caught vision of this and it's like, Hey, we're going to do this and let's partner with bleeding edge is always expensive. That's just kind of like the, the thought and part of, part of the reason why I love working with vendors so much is because I believe that innovation right now isn't going to come out of the church overall it's going to come out of vendors that are going to provide the resources that then now vendors have paid that bleeding edge tax and now the churches can kind of, come on easier, without paying all that. The upfront costs and the vendor can spread it out over a bunch. but it would, and, and you know, maybe there's a reason why this is working or not working. And like I said, I don't, I don't understand how the sausage is made on this necessarily to really appreciate the licensing and the legal issues there.

Jeff Reed: 29:18 But if it could be interesting if like five churches, 10 churches got together and said, Hey, we're gonna, we're gonna align and we're gonna create kids' content and this is going to be the end game. We're going to be culturally relevant. We're going be, demographically appropriate. We're going to be theologically sound and we're going to have distribution of all of this so that it works within. Yeah. I dunno if that's a, I dunno if that's a network thing. I don't know if that's a, a denomination thing, but there's an opportunity, I think for churches to work together towards it and spread out all this costs among multiple churches. Like, I even think how, I mean just it's completely off topic from kid's ministry. But look at how Rock RMS started. That was a couple of churches coming together and then everybody opened sources and, and adds onto it. There's, there's a model there that if that if some churches would get together and just, you know, I don't want to be like, learn to work together, but figure out how to work together. I think there's an opportunity for a big win to connect with kids in a new way.

Rey DeArmas: 30:25 Absolutely. Especially since, you know, considering, I mean this, this is my kids, man, this is gen Z. This is Jeff's kids. You know, this is, this is what happens. This is our opportunity to reach them. And this is the medium that they're going to most often. You know, they're going to digital resources. You can cry about it, you can hate on it. You can shake a stick at them and say, get off my lawn and get out in the street and ride a bike or whatever else. But you got to deal with the fact that they love the digital resources that are provided to them. Schools are figuring this out for the love of God. My kids are doing homework on their computers, they're encountering the same material, you know, through digital mediums. And then they're having to go do their physical homework like in a pad and paper and notebook. They're having to do both. So somewhere in the church world there is a place for this and essentially, yes. Would you need to throw out the challenge? We should be leading the way in this, but instead we are lagging way behind in terms of trying to break some barriers and make this kind of thing happen.

Kyle Schultz: 31:17 Yeah. Well, I mean my first, my first grader, everything he does at school is online. He rarely has paper based homework. So yeah, it makes sense. So what type of strategies and systems, did you guys put into place when you first started?

Jeff Reed: 31:32 I don't know. It's not the answer you wanted. None, none at all. We want, we wanted to make sure, I mean, I come from the.

Rey DeArmas: 31:43 We wanted to get it off the ground and see if it would work. That was kind of it.

Jeff Reed: 31:46 Let me, let me, let me answer the question and I'm going to answer your question. I'm gonna turning the corner. It was throw and go. I don't even, I can't even remember how long we did it. I want to say maybe six months. I don't think it was a full year.

Rey DeArmas: 32:00 Man. It didn't feel that long. It felt a lot shorter than that.

Jeff Reed: 32:03 Yeah. Like it was, it was, it was give it a shot and then kind of budgets and some other things kind of fell into play where they didn't want to invest all that bleeding tax money, bleeding edge tax money into this. And so they, they went with the Orange solution but there ultimately we were, we were, we were stuck on creating content. Yeah. And it was, okay, let's figure out the easiest and the cheapest way to create this model of, the weekend service online. And that's where I made mistake. Like I'll just, I'll own this right now. I shouldn't have been so focused on recreating that one hour on Sunday. Yeah. And instead I should have been focused on how can I create resources that can help people like me, disciple my kids. And that's where, that's where the focus got got. I'll own this.

Jeff Reed: 33:00 This was one of my biggest mistakes, in my stretch there doing church online was I, I was so focused on the content piece and exclusivity of online cause I got to create this content for an online audience. Instead, I should have been, okay, how can I create content that will help parents, help parents, disciple kids, whether they're in the same city, whether they attend a physical campus or whether they're in another country. Like the idea was it's where this phygital comes into play. Yeah. I should have been creating content that would help disciple and resource and help parents be better to reach kids instead of trying to figure out, Oh, how to get that skit background and see thing to look good in a video frame. I was misguided.

Rey DeArmas: 33:52 This kind of centers around, Kyle, the entire thing that we told you at the beginning of the, of the podcast where we were doing a lot of things at the time. and the truth is we were doing a lot of things in reaching a lot of people, but there wasn't an overarching strategy in terms of what we were doing. And so that was some of the frustration that we, that we were leading with at the time. If there is an underlying DNA behind what it is that you're doing and if there's an underlying strategy and infrastructure, then reaching out beyond some of these things and pushing some bleeding edge, it doesn't feel so stressful on the organization because it feels like you're taking what you're doing and you're taking it into a digital area. It's the same thing. You know, the Jeff and I have discussed a lot over and over again with people with discipleship stuff like you can't have like, Oh, church online does discipleship this way and then the rest of the church visits this way.

Rey DeArmas: 34:37 It's like, no, it should be unified in all areas. And so, you know, figuring out strategically what it was we were going to do. If the goal, like what Jeff is saying, if the goal was to help parents disciple their kids, men, I think that's something that we could have succeeded at. And it would have been better in the sense of, Hey, we could have done it at a pace that worked out great. We went about w we wouldn't have been about concern, concerned about creating an hour worth of content, maybe as much as, Hey, here's 15 minutes here and there, but heading in a specific direction. You know what I'm saying? Of great content that's compelling for kids. It's super professional, it's very well done. And you know, but you live in, you learn. And that doesn't mean that that's not something we could revisit or somebody else can, Hey, pick up this blueprint we're talking about now and run with it. Go for it. Yeah. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 35:22 And it really, I mean, that's where, that's where experimenting comes into play and we, so often we talk with churches and they're like, Oh, it failed. We're going to, and it's, it's honestly, it's, it's, it's one of my regrets. I'm not saying the thing was a failure. It was so bleeding edge. It, it was informational. But what I regret is that we never got to turn the corner and try it again. It was that, you know, budget was too tight. We're not interested in going in this direction. We're just gonna cut ties on this. The entire church is going to orange, which is great, but Orange doesn't have distribution. So you're, you know, sol. and so like that's the, that's the unfortunate of this. I would have loved to, okay, now I understand this better, let's figure out how to create resources in a different, in a different topic, in a different range, under a different guidance, and unfortunately we just didn't get the chance. That being said, man, churches out there experiment with stuff like this. And when you learn those lessons, don't be afraid to try it again. Experiment in a different way. Revamp, give it another shot.

Rey DeArmas: 36:27 Yeah. You know what? I would love to see a, what I think would be great. And then maybe somebody's going to pick this, run with it and then become a millionaire. And if your art meant go ahead, somebody go out there and pencils ready, go get ready, get ready. This is the idea. Just create one of those unboxing channel videos for kids and have a spiritual lesson that's Bible-based right at the end. Like man, my kids will probably watch that for hours. Give you like 10,000 views. You know what I'm saying? 10 million views. Other kids will watch it. You know what I'm saying? Cause it's taking something that kids are already watching like that. I'm sure other parents, you don't get it. I don't get it. Kids watching another kid's unbox toys and play with them but they do it, you know like Hey, here's the newest frozen doll and let me tell you what I learned from frozen. This is how it got, you know how God works and boom, create like a devotional around that and there it is. There it is because kids will watch it. They will engage with it and leverage it for the glory of God. I mean if we're able to create Christian radio stations for the glory of God based on the same pop music that we listened to, you can do this, so go for it.

Kyle Schultz: 37:31 I'm definitely with you on that. I mean cause my boys, they, they're on YouTube kids, they watch Ryan's world and other things like that and I'm like how can we create content that's more based around what they should be learning instead of about a toy and so yeah, I definitely, that resonates a lot with me. It's a lot.

Jeff Reed: 37:54 Well let's, let's shift this, this is interesting. This is not what when the talk about with online, but let's really dig into the content here. Right? The, the problem is is that at least I would throw out as option number one. The problem is is that we're so focused on throwing an agenda or a series or a topic or pushing this stuff on there. We're not really engaging and listening. And the pro if we could, if we could figure out how to, and I don't know, how do you engage and listen to little kids, which is another thing, which is why I'm so focused on parenting instead of the kids. And that might be a crutch in itself. Maybe there is a way to, to, to listen to kids to get down to that, to that level. But it seems to me like if, if all we're doing is, is, and this is what I was guilty of, let's figure out how to create this, this new dynamic sermon series for, for kids or this new, you know, whatever it was messaged series or topic series or stories.

Jeff Reed: 38:51 Here is whatever the language was. and, and it's like that just became the overarching vehicle of everything that we did with kids' ministry online. And there is, I'll, I'll just speak in my language. There's hollowness to that. Like that's not something that you can build a, an effective church and effective ministry kid's ministry on. There has to be more to that. There has to be, I don't want to use the word physical connection, but there has to be something richer than just the story. If I'm watching and I'm using a dated reference of Handy Manny cause my kids were addicted to Handy Manny, if all I'm doing is watching Handy Manny, I'm not discipling my kids by watching handyman with them watching Handy Manny. There's another level that we got to get to with the kids and it's figuring out how to create that content coupled with another piece of, okay what's the physical interaction or the person to person interaction to help them take maybe this head knowledge down to a heart.

Rey DeArmas: 39:54 Well that's where the parent has to come into play and that's that appreciate, you know, once again going back to Orange that they provide questions for during the week for the parents and the kids to interact. You know what I'm saying? So if you can do something based off of that model where you're providing content that's for the kid, but at the same time the parent has a spot, Hey parents, click here, we've got you know, a spot for you to add. Here's discussion questions between you and your kid. Here's an activity that you guys can do together. Here is this, that to me, the parents a lot more compelling, you know what I'm saying in that it's giving me an activity or it's giving me a way to relate to my kid through spiritual content that I become the small group leader. Then in my household I become the small group leader leading Zoe and Lexi, my two little girls through that content. And that's where I think that relationship can be as opposed to, Hey, someone known guy, some volunteer at a church or somebody who's not really going to stick and walk with them for the long haul. Now obviously that's, you know, in a digital world that's putting a lot on the parent supposedly, you know, it's what we're called to do as parents anyways. It's just giving us more handles on how to do so.

Kyle Schultz: 40:58 Most people would agree that, I mean, parents, they're, Hey, can I have the most spiritual influence over their kids than anybody in their life? So I mean if you really think about that, so yeah, I love that.

Jeff Reed: 41:09 I need help. I need help. Yeah. Discipling my kids. I do it all own. Me too. God almighty. That's both of us. Yeah. So like church out there listening, realize, you know, the hero in my children's spiritual life does not need to be the Children's Pastor.

Kyle Schultz: 41:30 You know, we've talked about a lot of things, you know, with this, when it comes to creating buy-in, you know, not only at the leadership executive leadership level with a kid's ministry, but even with the own kids' ministry and their staff or what's some advice that you would give around that? You know, we haven't explored, we haven't experienced that cause the question hasn't been asked yet, but I'm sure at least at Northwoods, I mean that's going to be something that we may have an issue with, but we may not. I mean, I don't know. So yeah. Any advice there that you would give?

Jeff Reed: 42:06 Let me, let me throw two things. I remember the first conversation that we had about kids' ministry online and half with the, with the staff, with the people who would be involved in executing this on a regular basis. Half of them were excited at the opportunity. Half of them looked at it like this is just more work and I'm already giving you as much as I can, I cannot give you that extra and so, but I, we started selling task. We didn't necessarily sell it on, on vision, on, on discipleship because at the time church-wise we were very task oriented and not necessarily, you know, person oriented. And so I think, I think part of the challenge is to speak to the level of, of the, of the vision first. And that's where getting it to align with the church overall, which actually gets me into number two: figure out how it's a win for physical as well as online because, and especially, I mean, you can look at your CMS check-in.

Jeff Reed: 43:19 I'm willing to bet if you're like any other church in America, one week out of three, the kids are there. So two weeks out of three the kids are gone. You're adults. That's may be worse than that, but you at least know through kids check in, you know, what that is. And so realize that's another opportunity for you to engage with kids. So that's another opportunity for you to engage with parents, with added value for them to maybe understand something at a, at a spiritual level, during the week. you know, I think there's a lot of effort in church overall, not just kids' ministry towards that one hour on Sunday. And if we just put a fraction of that towards the other hundred 67 hours a week so that people can be Christian so that they can understand their spiritual calling outside of the physical church building on Sunday, I think the church would be in a better place.

Jeff Reed: 44:08 And so it's leading with a lot of that vision and understanding. Assuming your church is onboard with that, that'll really help you get to that. Sometimes you're going to have to sell this vision up, man. because if you're excited, listen, I'll just tell you, for me, if it was, it was hard going up, there was eventually bought into and then scrutinize, learn from it and make adjustments. You know, as you're doing it. There's not a lot that are doing it, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. This is to me, like I said earlier, kids ministry, Deaf, these, these are two things that, that I think the churches is grossly missing an opportunity by not capitalizing and building on this in a digital scale.

Rey DeArmas: 44:56 That's good. There are steps to this. I don't think it has to be an all in, thing, you know, to tell your leadership, Hey, we want to just dedicate a bunch of resource to starting an online kids' ministry. I think there are steps that you can take that can help lead to that, which when you provide enough wins over time, enough momentum and a specific direction that's compelling enough for leadership to, to, to create buying with them, which I think they would see the value in it. I think the first person you know on board is actually your kids' director. because they're going to be not just creating the content, but you gotta be completely aligned. You know, you don't want it to different churches existing like your kids online ministry and then your, your kids in person ministry and you don't want them to think that you're trying to compete with them either.

Rey DeArmas: 45:37 Which is where a lot of people start with online spaces, right? Like all online competes with the weekend. No, it doesn't, it enhances the weekend, but it doesn't compete with the weekend. Allows the same content that you're creating to live on. For a long time and to be leveraged for a lot of people. Why not? Go ahead and kinda like we were talking about create a few resources that your parents can use and put them on digital platforms and promote them and talk about them and leverage them. Often refer back to them and point to them over and over again. you won't create a Bible story for kids, a Bible study for kids. Put that on digital platforms, leverage them often, talk about them often, you know, refer back to them and then use those steps. This way it can come back to your leadership and you can say, look, this thing got like 300 views in the first couple of weeks that it was up.

Rey DeArmas: 46:17 People are out there watching it and you're sharing it. This is what's happening with this. Imagine if we did just a little bit more and don't cast like the whole thing in front of him but just start walking them slowly through this process. Cause the just point, this is very bleeding edge on a lot of fronts and so you don't have to jump all the way in the river there steps that we can take to get there. so before we go off, you know, start starting a bunch of different, you know, side projects competing with all the different content creators that are out there for kids materials. Let's see if we can take some steps in the right direction to help provide resources for both kids and parents to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Jeff Reed: 46:55 It's really good. And let your in. I love the idea of Rey, of your like start, you know, bring the children's director, bring the kids director in early. I would even say let them define it. Let them create the why of it. You know, you've heard, you've heard Rey and I ramble on about kids' ministry and we're, we're not the experts in this you have a staff expert. And so letting them define it is going to give them the ownership down the road when there's tension, when things are being called into play, when there's questions, when there's evaluating for how to make it better. If they own it at the beginning, they're going to own it in that season.

Kyle Schultz: 47:36 Absolutely. That's great. I'll just switch gears just a little bit. you know, obviously there's a lot of talk about micro churches and in the online space, what does a successful kid's ministry look like? And you guys alluded to some challenges that come with that earlier, but,

Jeff Reed: 47:53 Well let me ask, let me ask this Kyle, before you do that just to give, give me context. What is a micro location cause micro co-location looks like 50 different things. You guys, what does micro locations look like?

Kyle Schultz: 48:07 Yeah, we've got a couple right now that are meeting outside of the Peoria area that would not be able to travel to get here. we've got one in the quad cities, which is about an hour and a half to two hours away from us. We've got a group of 15 people that meet at a house and they kind of rotate between each of the couples houses each week. And, you know, one of the questions that they're asking is, you know, how do we minister to our kids in that setting? You know, and what does that look like? Is it continues to grow. And, one of the approaches that we're, as a church, moving to is we're really gonna use our micro churches as a way to plant churches cause we're moving from a multisite approach to a church planning approach. Okay. and so that's just one of the things that we're kind of wrestling with cause, and that's been asked of our micro locations of like, we're having a hard time figuring out what to do with our kids when we're meeting.

Jeff Reed: 49:05 What's the average size of a micro location right now?

Kyle Schultz: 49:10 Our biggest one, they have 15 people that are there. And there were a couple of them that have kids. It's not a huge demographic of children, but there are some kids that are represented there.

Rey DeArmas: 49:24 Hmm. So this is the challenge in terms of liability, cause I remember Jeff, we talked about this with Danny Hicks, I believe too at elevation in terms of their watch parties and, and how this has kind of become, you know, a bit of an issue and, and you know, it's a problem that'll eventually get solved, but there's a lot of issues in terms of liability. if we, if if you say, Hey, we've got kids' ministry at these locations, that that's problematic in the sense of, well that comes with a lot of expectations. Should a kid get hurt even if the kids are just, Hey, playing outside in the backyard, jumping on a trampoline and all of a sudden one kid falls, breaks their arm. Okay, what happens now as the person hosting, you know, the watch party or the micro location liable? And the answer unfortunately is yes to a degree. And then the character also becomes liable if it, if it falls underneath that umbrella of, Hey, we're an expression of the church wherever we're at. And so that's where you want to be very, very careful of how you express, Hey, kids are welcome here, et cetera. Or Hey, we want to do kids ministries, these micro locations for right now. That may be an unwise thing because there's not a great solution on that front for kids.

Jeff Reed: 50:33 Yeah, I dunno, Rey. a lot of the same, this, this, I've literally had this conversation, the same liability you have with, with kids at a micro location. It's the same liability you have with kids at a small group, at somebody's house. Like you're already, your church is already taking some of this risk on by doing things at houses. And so there is an inherent risk with that. It was interesting. Yeah. I mean, but it is right.

Rey DeArmas: 51:02 Yes and no. And this, this is where, this is where, and I remember having these discussions with our higher ups on this according to the insurance riders and stuff. And this is where you've got to be careful about what a micro location is and how it's defined in terms of, Hey, this is a mini location cause you know they're just having a, we don't describe small groups as like a pop up store, you know what I'm saying? Or a pop up location. But these micro locations are described in that kind of light. So in the same way, yeah, if there's a difference between like a pop up store, best buy in a mall or something along those lines, that's carrying the brand a lot heavier than something else. And so that's where small groups get a little bit different treatment versus a micro location. You know what I'm saying?

Rey DeArmas: 51:48 That's that's where in terms of the branding and you know this is where legal jargon comes into play. And look, I've got family that are, that studied the law and their lawyers and stuff, but this is where they tend to win or where they tend to go after folks. Hey wait, you guys have defined this as church property now. That right there is kind of what places you in the realm of liability. That's what, that's where I would say you gotta be careful with it, you know, and yeah even if they don't win the case, Jeff, it's the fact that they're going to go after you and the fact that it's going to cost you a lot in legal fees and they're gonna go after the church, it's going to cost you a lot in legal fees with it.

Jeff Reed: 52:23 Yeah. Kyle, this isn't necessarily a conversation that you wanted to have, but this actually gets back right to Jay Kranda with his, his movement of micro, his movement of micro is, is less of, Hey, I'm going to gather 50 people in Phoenix, Arizona together because I've got 50 viewers and I'm trying to gather these people together. His expression of micro, what he's working at now is I've got one person in Phoenix that knows 10 people that don't know Jesus and I'm going to disciple or to the point that she can go out and start to gather these 10 people in to their church. And so that approach is far more, engaging is a better word. Healthy is a better word. I'm trying to think of a good word. I'm sorry. is, is a lot safer. I mean you're, you're, if you're bringing in 10 of your friends into your house and four of them have kids, that's, that's a lot safer opportunity, which is actually why it's probably small groups is a little safer of an environment because you don't have random strangers walking in, which honestly having done the microsite model that was, Hey, let's try to cluster these people together.

Jeff Reed: 53:32 It is kind of weird when you're like, Hey, I want to post your website, your name on our, your address. Oh my address on our website. And people are just going to randomly show up. Like that's, that's, that's weird. And so there is, chances are your organization as Northwoods already has some sort of solution for that at, at, at the micro level. but a lot of that is if it's a safer environment, you don't necessarily have some of those worries or you're less worried about that. The other part of this is, and I hate to even like play this card, but it's worth doing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to do kid's ministry, like, that even kids ministry itself I think was, I think, Kyle, you may have been there, but Jason Morris is actually talking about this at the Church IT Network.

Jeff Reed: 54:22 I think he said it was like late eight hundreds when the church is trying to kind of figure it out. Oh, we gotta separate the kids into something. So they farmed them out into like the school classrooms or something. I don't know. But at the end, at the end of the day, you know, I would even challenge a little bit of at, at the micro level, let's not figure out how to shuffle the kids off into a daycare cause if the best that you can generate on your own as daycare, then yeah, let's figure out how to make it inclusive and make them, make them a part of it. and so it's a hard question. It causes people to question some of the values of they may already have within their church organization. But like a micro location to the end of planting churches should not die. That movement should not stop to exist because we don't know what to do with our eight year old.

Rey DeArmas: 55:14 Right. And you know Jeff and, and you're 100% right. This is kind of a struggle in terms of the model. If you're looking for a micro location to be an exact microcosm of what you create on Sunday morning, that that, that are right there is already going to be flawed. So if you want to check in kids and kind of shuffle them off to a bedroom or a playroom or something along those lines, that's going to be flawed in the same way that I wouldn't want greeters at my micro location. You know, I'm not going to have people out in front of my house like, Hey, welcome to Christ fellowship and come on in and raise sofas right there and the fridge is there and yeah, with the street signs and the whole nine and branded tee shirts and all that stuff. So, you know, I mean if that's the model you're going for then then that's, that's a model to go forward.

Rey DeArmas: 55:58 But that's going to be something that's difficult to replicate over and over and over again, which is kind of where it comes into play where it's something to Jeff's point that looks a lot more like small groups. I mean I tell every couple that comes in with kids in my Small Group's. Hey if the kids run in cause they got to go to the bathroom. It's okay. I don't want you to freak out. You know, if we've got to stop the Bible study because somebody got a booboo, it's okay. They're free to run in there and play and play with the toys and have fun with the kids and all that stuff. And then for those of you without kids that are here in the small group, I just want you to understand that that's what this is. I want you guys to get used to it.

Rey DeArmas: 56:31 I want you to treat them like your nieces and nephews and just totally be okay with them running around and being all right with that. Are you guys good with that? Yep. If you're not, that's okay. We'll help get you matched to another group. There's other churches, there's other places for people to connect. If they're not connecting because kids are running in and out of the house and having a good time. Well man, that that just may not be for them. And I know I sound mean by saying it, but man, there's way too many free expressions of church out there for you to try go lead one if it's not good enough for you.

Kyle Schultz: 57:00 Yeah. Well gentlemen, that's all I've got as far as questions so far for today.

Jeff Reed: 57:03 Awesome. Hey, was this, was this helpful?

Kyle Schultz: 57:06 It was, it was super helpful. Yeah. Especially around the micro church. I had even thought about the legal side of it. So that's, that's super helpful just to know. But yeah, I truly appreciate your guys's your time and your wisdom.

Rey DeArmas: 57:21 Kyle, we appreciate you bringing up the conversation, man. It's something that we talk about quite often still to this day, because, you know, in our heart, and Jeff's in a new church and I'm still here at CF and our heart, they're still very much as a place for this. Nobody's figured it out yet, but there's a place for this. And so, yeah. You know, we're hoping that somebody picks it up and it may be you, we hope, we hope you pick up the Rubik's cube and run with it, man.

Kyle Schultz: 57:42 Yeah, yeah. I'm really excited. I just, I mean, as we've been talking about two different sides of it, like how can we equipped parents, you know, like, I definitely think I lean more toward that side of it with regard to this whole kids online thing. So, yeah. That's exciting. So I'm excited.

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About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Digital Church & Church Online.

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