A Successful Storey Adaptation

Storey Thompsen, Young Life Military/Club Beyond community director at Fort Knox in Kentucky, was several hours away from base when she heard schools were closing due to the coronavirus. Having left the base that week to attend her mother’s funeral, Storey returned on a Saturday afternoon and began making adjustments; she let her leaders know they would be running online small groups by the very next day and online club that Tuesday.  That week, the Fort Knox team kicked off a Saint Patrick’s Day green-themed virtual club.

Storey attributes her leaders’ flexibility to their deep care of her and kids. “When my mother died, my supervisor remotely helped my leaders plan and run club while I went home to be with my family.  That time away gave my leaders real ownership and they were willing and excited to jump into doing ministry online. ” After the success of a recent banquet, Storey saw the importance of keeping the momentum going with adults and kids in the community. But more than momentum, it was the consistency of having ministry. “We talk a lot about the stress of inconsistency in military teens’ lives. Keeping consistency for them, especially during this time, is crucial.”

Tried and True ... and Trying!

To this end, Storey keeps the exact same ministry schedule as she had before the virus, while adding some new wrinkles to remain in touch with kids and leaders.

One bit of continuity from the in-person clubs to virtual clubs is the weekly raffle, which has proven to be a big hit. Instead of handing out the prizes like she would at a typical club, Storey delivers the prizes to the doorsteps of the winners and quietly sneaks away, leaving a fun surprise for the kids and a reminder that they’re not alone, nor forgotten!  She’s now thinking ahead and brainstorming on what prizes would be easy to mail, if Fort Knox closes and she’s unable to get to kids who live off base.

One new approach Storey suggested to her leaders and committee was a weekly Zoom call on Thursday nights, not for ministry updates, but for personal check-in and prayer. After only a few times, Storey has seen the encouragement — and again the ownership — overflowing into the broader team. Adults and leaders are texting each other, checking in during unscheduled times and seeing themselves as ministers.

Even on a Zoom Call​​

As the team continues ministering through technology in the midst of uncertainty and fear, there​ are so many encouraging kid stories unfolding:

•  ​Military teens ​are now bringing club into their homes, where their parents are hearing the laughter, getting a snippet from an on-screen Bible study and seeing the positive effects of Club Beyond in their community.

•  Kids who were once too busy to talk, are now available to chat. One particular student who was hard to connect with ended up FaceTiming with Storey for over two hours! One small group leader regularly baked cookies for the girls each week they met. One week she delivered them to each girl’s home with a note saying, “Wait to eat these with me during small group.” That week she had 100% attendance!

Painting parties, “Lunch Bunch,” movie nights and one-on-one conversations have now all gone virtual. Storey recently heard a senior staff person say, “You can take away club, small group and camps, and it would still be Young Life; but if you take contact work, relationships, incarnation or the gospel out, then we cease to be Young Life.”

Storey is now using the virtual world to minister to military teens through relationships, conversations, Bible studies and more, all reinforcing the truth that Jesus is present — even on a Zoom call.