“How in the world did you become a Youth & Family Ministry (YFM) Director and at a Unity Church to boot?” That is the question I frequently get asked, especially from people who know I am a P.K. (Preacher’s Kid) and the vow I took as a teenager to never become involved in church ministry (after observing my minister father work long hours, on call 24/7, in addition to a salary that was quite low).
So, it all began on a Sunday morning in 1993 when I was watching TV while exercising. I saw Sonya Friedman (a psychologist who was often interviewed on TV) giving the sermon at Church of Today in Warren, Mich.—a large Unity spiritual community founded by Rev Jack Boland and only 45 minutes from where I was living. (It is now called Renaissance Unity.) I was interested in what she had to say since my degree was in child psychology and I also found it intriguing that a woman was giving the sermon. (I was brought up in a very traditional religion where there weren’t any women ministers.) I liked the message and soon I began attending the spiritual community on a regular basis, took the 4-T Prosperity Program (which required volunteering of my time) which led to volunteering in youth and family ministry (YFM)—a natural progression since my paying job was working with kids as a counselor at a children’s psychiatric hospital.
A few years passed and, in 1998, Marianne Williamson was hired to serve as the senior minister and also at that time the YFM director left. [Editor note: Marianne Williamson is not a credentialed Unity minister.) Since I had been working closely with the YFM director over the past 3 years as her volunteer assistant, Marianne asked me if I wanted the position. Okay, so here I am, a P.K. having vowed never to become involved in church ministry, and someone is offering me a job to do just that. Not only that, our spiritual community and YFM attendance had nearly tripled with the arrival of Marianne, so I knew we would need at least two to three times as many teachers which would involve interviews, background checks, mentoring and trainings, etc. I told her that “no way” would I accept the position, but I did agree to help out till they found someone full-time. Well I did it for two weeks, loved it and accepted the offer—so here I am 18 years later and still loving it.
I have experienced three different-sized ministries. In Michigan when Marianne was there (1998-2003), we averaged about 350 children/youth every Sunday with 12 classrooms open in the first service and 13 classrooms in the second service with close to 110 volunteer teachers (85% committed to being there every Sunday). In 2008, I moved to Florida and was blessed to work with Rev Temple Hayes at First Unity Spiritual Campus of St Petersburg where our numbers were anywhere from 40-75 children/youth every Sunday and about 25 teachers (80% committed to being there every Sunday). In May of 2015, I accepted the position of YFM director at Unity of Houston, Texas, and again feel blessed to work with Rev Howard Caesar where we average about 100 children/youth every Sunday along with about 35 teachers. (65% committed to being here every Sunday but I’m working on increasing that percentage.) We currently have 3 classrooms open during the first service and 10 classrooms open during the second service.
So, Why Do I Love Being a YFM Director?
First, it is because of the Unity message and the opportunity to build a strong Unity foundation in our children and youth. I believe it is important that our children/youth have something positive to fall back on when they encounter the numerous challenges and concerns that they will experience in life, and Unity offers them this.
Second, having worked with children in a psychiatric setting for close to 20 years, I now have the opportunity to work with the adults who work with the kids and in a setting where we can focus on God, prayer, meditation, the Bible, etc., along with everyday concerns.
Third, I thrive when I am in a position where my team and I can create and try new and different ideas. In YFM—especially in Unity—the sky is the limit so, whatever you think, imagine and believe you can manifest and achieve. (Both Marianne and Temple were great at helping me manifest and believe.)
Fourth, I really feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to partner with the parents in their children’s spiritual growth and development. Over the years there have been numerous times when a parent would tell me how their child had demonstrated in some way a Unity principle or teaching—whether it be praying in a time of crisis, asking what would Jesus do, or just being kind to someone.
Fifth, I love to empower people and get them involved—especially when I can connect them with something they are passionate about. Teacher-wise, it is rewarding to see a volunteer teacher, along with the children, having fun in the classroom as spiritual principles are being presented. My vision has always been for the YFM Sunday program to be the highlight of the week for the children/youth and the teachers. I get goose bumps when I see the children run into the classroom and hug their teacher with great excitement and joy—or with the older youth show their teachers in some “cool way” how appreciative they are of them.
YFM resource volunteer-wise (volunteers who help in YFM but not in the classrooms)—it is exciting to connect someone’s passion with volunteering in YFM. My motto is “if you want to help in YFM, we will find a place for you.” So we have “organizing” angels (they organize our craft rooms and classrooms), “storybook” angels (they search for children’s literature that relates to our weekly themes), “meditation” angels (they help write our kid’s meditations and often go in the classroom and demonstrate), “music” angels (they help find theme-related songs and create movement to the song), “baking/cooking” angels (they help with our fund-raising food sales), “drama” angels, and the list goes on.
Several years ago while in Florida, several volunteers (Hazel Madir and Linda McLeod) and I began the arduous task of creating our own curriculum with Rev Temple’s strong support. We spent close to 1½ years working on this 52-lesson curriculum which is still a work in progress. Last September, we began using this curriculum in Houston and so far the teacher and child response has been great.
Each month has a theme that is highlighted with a classroom mural and each week has sub-themes related to the overall theme. Each week has the following theme related activities; a pre-class activity, Daily Word, Bible verses, song, Bible story or storybook for the younger kids, discussion questions, Unity Principle/s, 12 Powers, child and youth meditations, creative expression/s and more. The murals provide a great space for the children’s artwork along with their pictures.
The third Sunday of every month we have a teacher gathering after the second service in which we provide food and then present and go over the curriculum for the following month. We frequently have different presenters talk about their area of the curriculum (storybooks, meditations, music, creative expression, etc.).
I truly feel blessed to be in my “God job”—a job I said I would never do, but obviously God had other plans.
author: Steven Krugler