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Why go to a conference? Conversation with Michayla White from INCM

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I just had a great conversation with the Michayla White, the executive director of the International Network of Children’s Ministry. This was a informal talk about what’s happening right now in kids ministry and why leaders need time to recharge at events like the Children’s Pastors Conference.

Why go to a children’s ministry conference?

Training Resources from INCM

Interview Audio about the Children’s Pastors Conference

Interview with Michayla White

Interview Transcript

This is an auto-generated transcript – so please patience with any errors.

Tony Kummer: Hi, this is Tony from ministry to children.com and I have on video today, Michayla white from I N C M the international network of children’s ministry. It took me five times to get that right. But what I want to do in this video is just introduce you guys to Michayla. Introduced myself to a CPC because the big news this year is I get to go to CPC for the first time ever. I’ve been piddling around in children’s ministry like 15 years. Wow. Finally going to the big real original conference. So I’m excited about that. But McKayla, welcome. And it’s nice to meet you. And maybe you can introduce yourself because I can

Michayla White: Absolutely. Well I’m Michayla white. I get to serve as the executive director for the international network of children’s when the street. I like to say that children’s ministry is in my blood. My mom was a volunteer children’s ministry director at our small church, so I was volunteering from the time I could cut paper. And so I’ve been serving in children’s ministry for years now. And yeah, I think one of the things I noticed as a little girl is that I wished that there was someone who saw my mom and could support my mom beyond just the volunteers in our church. And I didn’t even really know what I was wishing for. And then I started serving vocationally in children’s ministry and some para-church organization is nations relations locations locally. And that was where I was introduced to children’s pastors conference, which is how I got introduced to INCM.

Michayla White: And I am, Sam’s existed for 40 years. I had no idea. And when my mom was serving that this was around, or I probably would have said, mom, check this out. But I didn’t say was started 40 years ago by children’s ministry leaders who looked at each other and said, this is not easy and we need each other. And so what does it look like for us to serve kids and families together? And that was where the children’s pastors conference was born out of. And just this really beautiful movement of children’s ministry leaders together, recognizing that they had needs in their ability to disciple kids and families for the long haul. And so that’s why we exist. We exist to connect children’s ministry leaders to what they need. And we think those are at those three things would be training resources and each other. And so we care about the soul of the leader as well. So it’s just a great honor to get to run alongside this community and make sure that they have the training and equipping and tools and friends that they need to do what God called them to do.

Tony Kummer: Well, great. Let me go out of order just a second because what you just said and I’ll hop over to this is your in eyes that but I was looking on here at at some of the stuff you guys offer. I just, I didn’t know that these webinars are on here, but then this is such a great resource cause you can just drop in and get these trainings. Like right now you just have to put your email in. Is that about it?

Michayla White: Actually I think if you click watch it just takes you to where you put your name and email in and then it just starts playing. So we do free webinars pretty much monthly to every other month. Just depends on this season. We recognize that there are certain seasons for children’s ministry leaders that are more intense than others and so we try to be mindful of that and how we provide our training. So yeah, those are, those are some of the free things that we offer.

Tony Kummer: So you do that training? The big thing every year is the children’s pastors conference. Yeah, it’s in January. It’s in Orlando. And I’ll tell you what, I remember when I first came into children’s ministry, I always thought, man, that would be so awesome cause you could go to this and then you could hit magic kingdom. Absolutely. One day. And just like it’d be like rest and relaxation and then Mickey mouse, all the princesses, sorry

Michayla White: For sure. Aye. CPC has moved around the country, but our leaders have let us know many times that Orlando is their preferred location and we don’t wane them for that reason. There’s there’s an incredible opportunity there, not only to get connected to training through the conference, but also to make space for fun and family while you’re there.

Tony Kummer: Great. Well let me, let me, let me put you on the spot. I’m gonna, I’m gonna cry. I’m going to play the video from last year you did this. And I think people can, can still buy like the whole thing from last year and watching online. But this is the video and this is kind of the promotional, the wrap up from last year on the promotion for this coming year. And I just want you to react to this real quick. Okay. Cause I think this video kind of shows everything what you’ve been saying.

Michayla White: Yeah. man, this is the best. The worship time is the highlight for us. Absolutely.

Speaker 3: Okay.

Michayla White: That’s our early check-in party.

Michayla White: So we have like doughnut trucks and yeah, you can see our food trucks. They’re so much fun to get to. Yeah. And our resource center, we have a over 85 providers in our resource center that are just there to connect the leaders to tools that they need.

Tony Kummer: Yup. There you are. Thank you. There you go. So that was last year’s and I know if we have some time here in a minute we’ll talk about what’s special for this year, but I just thought that was cool because you know, okay. I remember 10 years in children’s ministry. I remember a couple of things. One going, the big church was very rare for most people unless you’re like in a big multi campus, multi service. You know, I was in a small church, we had one service and I went for like 20 minutes, did a children’s sermon and then led the Exodus to the back. I know in head my program. So I had, so I mean I would, I had a lot of great times hearing about the sermon all week as the other pastors would just talk and talk and talk. But then for me to actually sit down and just be somewhere without the pager going off without, you know, yeah. The busy-ness of being at work, you know, for better or worse, you’re the children’s director. You’re at work, you’re responsible, you’re responsible, you want, yeah. If anything goes wrong, you need to react. So seeing that worship center that, you know, you guys provided these conferences, I think that’s great for people to get up, get away and be with their peers. I saw some of the messages and anyway, it’s exciting. I think it’s a good thing.

Michayla White: Yeah. It’s you know, we, we loved the training we get to provide, right. There’s a over 130 breakouts and that’s really just some of the meat of the conference. But I think what’s precious about the environment at CPC is the attention to giving them an opportunity to go to church. And even if a, if a children’s ministry leader gets to sit in a church service on a Sunday, there’s always like the tension of when is the page are going to go off. I’m going to get tapped on my shoulder. And when they’re in worship at CPC, they don’t have that. There’s a lot of freedom to be able to engage and be just rest in the presence of God and have his word opened and be able to receive and be fed. And we actually start the event off with a worship and prayer experience. Our first general session is three hours of worship and prayer. Wow. And we do that because we think it’s really important that God gets to be the first speaker at DEC and it gives our leaders an opportunity to pump the brakes a little bit and slow down, take some deep breaths, and just be ready to receive what God would say. So that made CPVC and it gives them an opportunity to see each other and recognize, Oh, I’m not alone in this. There is other people who are just as thirsty. [inaudible]

Tony Kummer: Yeah, that, that’s awesome. That’s to me, that’s one of the big things. And I was sharing before, before we started recording, I was sharing like when I was in children’s industry burnout, I mean it was everywhere. It was just like you couldn’t beat it off. And after, after 10 years in the same church, it was finally the Lord moved me to a different calling to do some mission work. But no, burnout was a, was a big part of that. Just the constant friction. And you know, I felt alone cause I was in a smaller town. I was in a smaller church. There was friends in ministry I had, but it wasn’t like, I dunno, it wasn’t as close as it could have been. And I think these conferences you know, hindsight now is like, if I would’ve been intentional and got phone numbers and got, you know, cultivated like five to 10, like my cohort and just said, you know, these are the people I’m going to talk to every week, no matter if I need it or they need it, you know? Yeah. And I think these conferences where that happens, I mean, it can happen a little on Facebook, but like for real, this is where it kind of happened.

Michayla White: Yeah, absolutely. I think we can lull ourselves into thinking that we are connected or that we have community just because of social media and social media is beautiful. I think it’s a gift when we use it well. But there, there this conversation, it would even feel different if you and I were sitting across from each other at a table, right? There is it, it’s different. And there is something about being in the room and feeling the presence of other leaders like you and looking each other in the eye and, and like having that real full communication communication isn’t just about words that you read or words that you hear. It’s all of it together. And I think there, you use the word intentional and that’s the key, right? When we have the opportunity and we’re, and we’re given, we’re given that opportunity. Are we intentional with it or do we sit back? And, and the thing that I love about the community we serve as I see them being so intentional, I see them really asking for what they need and putting themselves out there and being honest. This past CPC, it was, I, I’ll never forget, it was just some of the most honest moments of our community that I’ve ever witnessed. So it makes a difference.

Tony Kummer: Yeah. When I was just, I read that earlier this week, you had sent an email to the list and I read about that and I said, man, that sounds powerful and I do read your blog posts and I mean, I think that’s the division of what you guys do is so much needed in the children’s ministry community. Let me ask you though, because I know there’s a bunch of other conferences and I knew you probably go to some of these and I know D six and edge and group a group still have their big one. I don’t remember.

Michayla White: They used to, now they do really amazing regional gatherings. Yep.

Tony Kummer: So with all these, with all these conferences, and I’m looking at my, if I’m a, if I’m looking at my vacation time and I’m looking at my travel budget and I’m looking at the sweet, the sweet, generous church members who always want to help and send you to these things. If you, if you’d let your needs be known. So if I’m looking at these and I’ve got to pick two or one, why CPC? Besides, besides the princesses?

Michayla White: Yeah, besides Disney. So I, I think one of the things that make CPC and INCM unique in general and, and really what caused me to fall in love with it early on even before I ever worked here was that I NCM is independent so we’re not attached to a denomination. You know, we, we, we we cross those borders in some really beautiful ways. And we’re not a curriculum provider or a publisher. So what that means is we have a lot of freedom. We, we, we, it makes us a really we call ourselves a curator and a convener for the community. So curator meaning, because we’re independent and we aren’t attached to a specific affiliation, we get to be partners with so many amazing organizations and we get to see all of the resources that are out there. And at CPC, all of those providers come and, and they’re a part of our event and it’s this really beautiful long table that everyone sits at and chooses to sit together and fellowship and unity.

Michayla White: And and so if you’re, if you’re, the other thing is that our, our general sessions don’t have to focus on and anything other than spending time in scripture and in worship with each other because we have that freedom. And so I think if you’re a leader that wants to see, you know, what are all of the curriculums out there, what are all of the VBS is out there? What are all of the worship resources available, special needs, missions, environment. They’re all at CPC. And so you can see them next to each other in the resource center. And our training is, is not focused on a specific type of strategy or curriculum. It’s, it’s much more holistic in its approach.

Tony Kummer: Yeah, that’s great. That’s, and I hadn’t thought of that because when I would, even when I named those, a lot of those people, and it’s not bad. I mean everybody, everybody has different angles in ministry and they’re serving different things. But yeah, D six has a curriculum, orange has a curriculum, Lifeway has group, has like 50 curriculum, you know, so everybody, buddy, they’re bringing people together. But that’s also there. But I know they welcome everybody. So I’m not sure.

Michayla White: Absolutely. And they’re all, all of those that you mentioned are friends of ours and they’re at CPC and we all get to hang out together. It’s, and I think that’s the thing that about INCM for the past 40 years that I’ve just fallen in love with is the way that we exist to bring unity to that community and really create this, like I mentioned before, this table, everyone gets to come and sit at and experience together.

Tony Kummer: Awesome. One minute, a minute I’ll, I’ll let you share about this, your speakers. But one thing I was, I was thinking about especially we talked as we got on here, is what’s going on in churches right now? I mean, what are people struggling with? What is like, I know burnout, discouraged my ICU writing up that. So, yeah, I, you know, I figured, Oh, that must be a problem. What else? What are, what are the things that people are struggling with right now in churches?

Michayla White: Well, I mean, I think one of the things that stands out to us the most, I’ll, I’ll talk about two things and we could talk about a whole lot of lists, but I’ll focus on two things for the sake of time. One is kind of a recognition in the ways that the, the family has changed. Not just in terms of, you know, two parent homes, single pair home, all of those issues, but actually generationally different because we started to crossover where now the majority of millennials are parents now. And we’ve kind of been ingrained in this thought that, you know, millennials, they’ve been that stereotypical college student mean that’s been ingrained in our consciousness, but they’re almost the oldest millennials, almost 40 now. And so I think the church is starting to recognize, okay, so millennials are parents now, what does that mean and how are they parenting and how do they want to engage with the church?

Michayla White: So I think really recognizing, one of the things we’ve discovered is that millennial parents with a faith background will commit to a church that commits itself wholeheartedly to its children. And, and so what we believe that means for the church going forward is really figuring out how do you invest in early childhood? How do you invest in children’s ministry and really create a community there that millennial parents that faith wants to remain in with their kids. So I think that’s a, that’s a unique challenge in a question we’re hearing coming up. The other thing that we’re seeing unfortunately being really intense in churches right now is a recognition of the, the need to be more competent in trauma informed ministry. Yeah. And so it’s what I love is that our churches are seeing an influx of kids who are hurting. What I’m sad about is that our churches are seeing an influx of kids who are hurting. But, and so they’re recognizing a need to really grow and how they train their volunteers and even in how their church welcomes these kids and cares for these kids throughout, throughout their programs. So I think it’s a unique challenge and one that I’m very pleased to see our community stepping into and asking questions about.

Tony Kummer: And I saw that there was a webinar you guys did, is that, that’s probably available now. So the problem with webinars

Michayla White: On that webinar page, it’s with our friends Beth Zinburger and Kim Bato. I think they’re two of the leading voices in this. So I would really recommend people following them.

Tony Kummer: Yeah, I, I’ve met them both actually. That’s what miracle. I know both of them is Kim, especially Kim’s just up the road in Cincinnati and yeah. Yes. Yeah. So what’s going well in churches? I mean that, not that always talk about struggles, but what are some things that you, when you get together with people in ministry, what, what’s like? Oh, high five’s about right now.

Michayla White: Yeah. I mean I think that there is, how would I define it? Probably humility. Like a recognition of the importance of learning and growing and developing and not leaning on to last year’s learning. That’s something I’ve been really encouraged by. I think the other thing that stands out to me is more leaders recognizing that the pace that they’re functioning at is not going anywhere good. So I think there’s some self awareness that I feel is going to lead us into a season of healthier leadership. Again, it’s going to require intentionality. We’re recognizing that there’s a pace problem. Now we have to be intentional with how we actually address it. But I, I’m very encouraged by that.

Tony Kummer: Right. And I, and I’ll shut up because your blog had an article about self care just a few, few months ago and self care and ministry and that’s, that really makes a lot of sense. Just building habits in your ministry where you won’t make it. So. All right, let’s go back to your website now because I want you to talk about this year because some of these people I know and some of them, I don’t get it here. Okay. So this year, CPC Orlando, the theme is rhythms of grace. And you can tell me what that means and then we can talk about some of these speakers.

Michayla White: Yeah. So one of the, the passages that our team was just sitting in was in Matthew 11, when Jesus is talking about walk with me, work with me, learn how I do it, you know, learn the unforced rhythms of grace. And you know, one of the things that stands out to me from that, and they shared this story actually at CPC 19 when we were introducing the theme of CPC 20. I was at a, I was at a youth pastors conference and this band came on stage. It was the city harmonic and it was the first time I’d ever seen manifest though that song played in person and the lead singer and pianist was standing at the piano playing it. And at the fur, if you, if you look up the song, the first led introduction is this beautiful piano riff.

Michayla White: It’s absolutely amazing. And I remember sitting there thinking, I’m going to go home and buy the music. And I’m going to play that song. And so I did. I went home and I bought the music and practice and I had taken piano, top piano. I felt, you know, how hard could it be after a couple of hours, I was no to a plane that’s on anywhere near what he could. And I put the music away and I think we do the same thing in our discipleship where we want it. We want the time on, on stage where the, the discipleship feels good and easy and free. But there is a lot of practicing, a lot of learning, a lot of walking that has, that supports what that stage time looked like. And you know, I look at someone like Beth Gugan Berger, you know her and, and would understand this and it’s like, I just want that to rub off on me.

Michayla White: Like, can I get some of that? But I don’t think you and I would discount the fact that that what we experience of Beth and her discipleship and the way that she, she talks and lives in the way of Jesus has come from anything else other than her practicing what Jesus did and spending time in the presence of God. And we get to experience the overflow of that they occur. Unforced rhythm of living, unforced way of walking in the way of Jesus is because she grasped walk with me, work with me, learn how I do it. And so we wanted to take some time at CPC 20 and just consider it. What are the practices Jesus modeled for us as his disciples, him as our rabbi. What are those practices that he modeled and, and are we living in them? Like are we practicing them and what does it look like to make space for the presence of God in our life?

Michayla White: And when I was at CPC, I asked the question, you read, you read this and that blog post asked the question, you know, how many of us would say that we struggle making, you know, time and scripture, worship or prayer, daily a priority. Everyone stood up and I had them sit back down and I asked them the second question and it honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would be the only one up there. Like maybe I’m the only one who would make this connection. But I asked them how many of you can make the connection that the times when you were not making space for those things a priority are also connected to times in your life when you were most burnt out, worn out, tired of religion. And, and, and like I had this like moment where my heart is beating out of my chest cause I’m like, I like surely I’m not the only one but maybe, and the entire room stood up and it was just a moment where I was like good, like we’re honest with each other right now. And by standing, we’re reminding one another that the deficit of time that we spend with God is only going to nourish how burnout or worn out we get in this race. And so we just committed there in that moment of we know that these rhythms are really important, so what does it look like? Rest or practice them. And that’s what we’re going to be really focusing on at CBC 20.

Tony Kummer: That’s awesome. I’m excited. And people still have time to plan because it’s we’ve got years actually still in the early bird rate. Like if people want to, it’s like til November something.

Michayla White: Yep. End of November is when the early bird flies away.

Tony Kummer: So here are your speakers. Beth, Joe, Keith, Margaret Albert, Megan and Darren. And I know, I know we’re running out of time, but is there anything you just want to say about this group and how this group came together? Cause I know at these events it’s always got who, I mean I know you’re, you’re planning, you’re planning it, but it doesn’t happen till you get there that it’s like, Oh this is all just God’s perfect weaving together.

Michayla White: All I can say is that when watching the way that this team came to be has very much given me this sense that there is a incredible work, got intense to do at CBC. Like for example, I’ll just give you one. I was in, I was in Colorado meeting up with some partners of ours and I was at a coffee shop in a random suburb of Colorado and I wasn’t supposed to be at that coffee shop yet, but I had stepped in just to get a cup of coffee and I had been praying, you know, for the Lord to make clear to me who, who to ask for a particular general session. And I told God, I was like, I, I have Megan on my mind and I want you to confirm for me that Megan is the speaker for this session. I need you to confirm for me, cause I’m sitting in this coffee shop, middle of Colorado, random suburb, not supposed to be there and who walks into the coffee shop. But Megan Marshman and I mean I think at like I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor because if it wasn’t like writing on the wall that was about as clear as you could get. And I just told her, I was like Megan as like you have no idea. And Megan is not from Colorado, she’s from California.

Tony Kummer: So

Michayla White: It was just to give you sense of how wild this was. But so the Lord’s been really kind and making it very clear who he wants to have on stage. And I just anticipate that you’re going to do for that.

Tony Kummer: Well I’m excited. I am, my hotel was booked and I’m making plans, getting, getting out of responsibilities and getting my wife off work and we’re gonna be on our way. We’re actually going to wrote, we’re going to, we’re going to road trip it. So we’re gonna take two days. Cause from Indiana it’s a little drive, but it’ll be fun. And well look, I’m looking forward to meeting you and looking forward to hearing all these speakers. So thanks again today. Thank you for your time. I know I kind of put you on the spot cause I said 30 minutes and I know it’s been a little longer, but no problem. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I greatly appreciate it and we’re looking forward to it. So thanks again, Tony. Okay.

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