It Was Never About Doughnuts | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
April 2020

It Was Never About Doughnuts

By Chris Wilterdink

I’ve got fond memories of a Thursday morning breakfast club called “The Donut Whole” that I helped run when I was the Youth Director at St. Luke’s UMC in Highlands Ranch, CO. Two teachers at Mountain Vista High School, Lori and Gretchen, were the school staff sponsors. Faithfully every Thursday morning during the school year, I’d roll out of bed at 5:30am and drive to either Krispy Kreme or Lamar’s Donuts and load up with two dozen sweet treats to bring for 45 minutes of conversation, devotions, and prayer.

Good memories made over the course of 10 years…I started to learn the student’s favorite donuts by heart so that I could bring in the specific “pink frosting with sprinkles” or the “chocolate-glazed old-fashioned” that I knew would make their morning. The name, the food, the attention to detail was all about the donuts…when I started the Donut Whole. I thought that the donuts made the group work because that was what everyone came for. I thought that they were the “carrot on the end of the stick” that would draw people to get up early and join this group.

But you know what? It was not about the donuts, and it never was. That group worked for 10 years because of the relationships and friendships that developed. Connecting students with each other, with their faith, and with teachers and other adults who could spiritually care for them made the group work. Honesty and the ability to wrestle with big questions about God made the group work. Laughter and accountability, the desire to know and be known, and supporting each other with prayer made the group work. It was about relationships. It wasn’t about the donuts.

During the COVID-19 response and a time of physical and social distancing, you as a leader of ministry with young people may feel as though your efforts are now handicapped inn some way. The tricks and tools you used to encourage people to gather in-person aren’t available to you right now. You can’t offer bowling, or pizza, or a pool party, wacky messy games…or donuts. But, remember; it is not about the donuts.

The young people and families that you serve still want to be connected with you and the other people that they care about from your ministry and congregation. You still have the opportunity to gather in creative ways, be accountable to each other in your discipleship, pray for each other, laugh with each other, and share your struggles. You can continue to build relationships and you will discover new and innovative ways to connect because you care.

Take heart and be encouraged. I know you can do this because YOU CARE! It may feel overwhelming, scary, and difficult at times, but God is with you. Your church is with you. Read, experiment, and keep building relationships with students and their families that aids their discipleship.

You can’t offer donuts right now and that is ok. It was never about the donuts. It was always about relationship…and you can always offer that.

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.