Out of ideas?

19 June 2020

As children's, youth and families leaders we invest a lot of time to working out what resources or activities will help the families and kids we work with meet and know God. But sometimes, we can feel stuck. Maybe we've run out of ideas or what we planned just doesn't seem to be working.

Filmed during lockdown, Rachel spoke at a Facebook live for children’s, youth and families leaders, and shared ideas to help we can unstick ourselves from that spot and find our next steps. You can watch the video below or skip down to see a summary of what she said, plus a list of the comments and questions she answered.

Work out why

Feeling stuck can be overwhelming. But if we work out WHY we are stuck, it can reduce the bigness of being stuck and help us find our way out. Possible reasons for your ‘why’:

  1. I can’t tell if what I’m doing is working.
  2. I started out too big! It’s now exhausting, I’ve fried out, and it’s too big to maintain.
  3. It’s just not working.
  4. It did work, but not anymore. Maybe the kids are all zoomed out now and not responding, or the needs have changed 12 weeks into lockdown.
  5. I’m just right out of ideas – I’ve reached the end of our creativity and there’s nothing left.

Work out your next step

These are some next steps Rachel suggested for when you’ve discovered your ‘why’, but do check out the video for more wisdom as she joined in with the conversation that took place during the Facebook live.

  1. I can’t tell if what you’re doing is working. Find one family or someone that you’re comfortable with and ask them for their honest feedback. By phrasing the question as ‘this is information I need to help me’ rather than ‘do you like it?’ will help them give you useful feedback. For example, ‘Tell me what this looks like’, ‘Does it work for people?’ or ‘I took a punt at this and I’m not convinced …’.
  2. I started out too big! If your thing is just too big, but you still love it and it’s working, you may need to think about how to change it so is doable now and in the longer term. This may mean reducing it, possibly in terms of content or frequency, but keeping what you are aiming for.
  3. It’s just not working. If you’re out of ideas about how to make it work, and actually you’ve realised it’s a square peg in a round hole, just kill it. It’s OK to drop things.
  4. It did work, but not anymore. Think about what that thing was achieving – was it to stay connected, or continue the group, or help the kids find purpose, for example – and find a new way to accomplish that.
  5. I’m just right out of ideas. Gather one or two creative people around you to brainstorm ideas for you. If you separate people who have ideas from people who can make those ideas happen, you hugely increase your pool of creativity. Then just pick which ideas you can work with.

Questions and comments Rachel answered

If you want to jump straight to Rachel’s comments, the timing from the video is just after the question.

A lot of my parents have disengaged with church so feels hard to encourage faith at home or helping the kids to connect with church when the parents don’t seem to be encouraging the kids to connect unless the kid really wants it to happen. Argh. (20 minutes 30 seconds)

I had a bit of a meltdown as I was exhausted and my vicar recommended calling families to see what was working and see what I could scrap. I really didn’t want to do it and thought if someone criticises me I’m going to cry, but as it turned out it was the best thing I could have done and the families were super helpful and so encouraging! (25 minutes 30 seconds)

I’ve just done some ‘market research’ with my families… their needs are soooo different. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. Planning to offer different kinds of support, but hard to decide what to spend time on. (25 minutes 55 seconds)

I’ve been furloughed the whole time so haven’t had opportunities to do anything – struggling to think about restarting stuff when (or if) I go back. (28 minutes 35 seconds). This is the link to session 8 of the course that Rachel mentioned.

I’m stuck on what to do over summer. It is usually our main outreach opportunity so wanting to do something that supports church families and those in our local community. (31 minutes 10 seconds)

Anyone have help with families with autistic children? (34 minutes 38 seconds). This is our topic on additional needs and church.

I’d love some ideas on Zaccheus for an online all age service please!! (35 minutes 10 seconds) This is the book Rachel mentioned: Zacchaeus and Jesus by Dandi Daley Mackall.

I’m sending out a GodVenture pack that I’ve added to for our context as a sort of ‘holiday club’ ‘church’ at home. (37 minutes 55 seconds)

I’m in Edinburgh and aware of Children in Scotland (not a Christian organisation!) who are advertising free webinars for parents and carers in issues like ‘Stress management in autism’ or ‘discussing coronoavirus and lockdown with children / teens with ASN’. The talks won’t be centred on biblical principles but maybe some helpful tips you could apply to families you’re supporting? PS I don’t work for them but have joined some of their other courses and found them helpful ? I don’t think you’d have to live in Scotland to access them! (38 minutes 40 seconds)

I need to ask more families want they need / would help etc. Our 6-11s zoom for 30mins with their leaders twice a week for prayer, fun and purpose. All good. Our tots group weekly live on FB is going well. I’m writing ‘faith at home’ weekly resources to sit alongside our Sunday service – I’m not sure it’s helpful now, in ways it was at start of lockdown. I think for some parents it feels like ‘more homework’. Tempted to ditch it! Do I ditch it? ? (We’re on PFF course #2 of lockdown which is going great. Thank you for the gift of the course.) (39 minutes 05 seconds) These are the printables Rachel mentioned.

How do you recommend engaging families with a range of kids’ ages? Most of our families have teens and primary or primary and preschool kids – not enough for discrete age group ministries. Crafts and activities tend not to fit the whole family …  (44 minutes 10 seconds)

The ideas Rachel said she’d share …

Original idea and first few weeks’ curriculum

April to June curriculum

June to July curriculum


Blue paper on blub sketch by Tookapic from Pexels via Canva Pro