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Improv Background Proves Useful for Interim Kids Leader

 

First Tasks: Spring Cleaning and Summer Plans
“I was ambushed!” Joey Neugart laughed when asked how he came into his current job as Covenant’s Interim Director of Family and Children. “It was funny. Maureen [assistant to the senior pastor] contacted me about meeting [pastors] Thomas and Jon. I thought they were going to ask me to be on the search committee for a new director, which would have made sense since I was already on the children’s committee. We chit-chatted for 20 minutes and I finally asked, ‘Why are we here?’ That’s when Thomas said, ‘We hope you’ll be the interim children’s director.’
“I just kinda laughed and asked, ‘Are you serious? Is this a joke?’”
After quickly reflecting on the question, Joey knew it was a calling that made “total” sense. “That’s exactly how God works in my life,” Joey explained. “Things come up and I wonder, ‘Are you kidding?’ So, I knew the appropriate response was to say ‘yes.’ One reason is because I can. I have flexibility. I do things that are not traditional jobs. And, it’s a part-time role so I can still pick up my kids.”
“Joey had volunteered with the children’s ministry and served on the committee for a number of years, so we knew he was committed to the program,” Associate Pastor for Discipleship Jon Wasson said. “He is comfortable leading in a lot of different ways, including leading children from the front on Sunday mornings. We also believed he would bring a non-anxious presence to a ministry-in-transition. “
In the job by mid-February, Joey already had some on-the-job training. “In addition to being on the [children’s ministry] committee, I was a pinch-hit volunteer. I didn’t have a specific Sunday school assignment. Elizabeth Moore has been a friend for 20 years. Whenever she needed extra help, she’d call and I’d take whatever class needed a leader. I’d just jump in and help out.”
Joey quickly came up to speed on the curriculum. “When I was volunteering, I’d just show up. Now, I’m digging in and feel like I’m getting a holistic view.”
As the interim director, Joey said he’s doing some spring cleaning. “A lot changed because of Covid, so it’s good to have a different eye on our processes and forms, and the ways we do outreach. You could say I’m tidying things up.”
Children Ministry’s Curriculum and Administrative Coordinator Stephanie Campbell works closely with Joey. “Joey loves to streamline a process and make it work more efficiently,” she said. “He is very task oriented and great with the details.”
“I think sometimes when jobs are handed down ‘to the next person,’ we tend to just keep going with what always was,” Childcare and Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Moore reflected, “but Joey has a fresh perspective that has us being more critical of what we've always done. I've actually loved it since that's not how my brain works.”
Though Joey is comfortable with the children’s ministry format and the kids, a couple things caught him off-guard. “I didn’t quite realize I was going to be singing Frozen!”
Yes, music has been a fun surprise for Joey. “I dusted off my guitar after not playing for 10 years. Rather than using a recorded video, I sing with the kids. We do basic sing-alongs, “Jesus Loves Me,”—stuff like that.”
Joey’s talent and enthusiasm have been noticed. “Joey has been a burst of energy!” Stephanie said. “He’s absolutely full of excitement and so encouraging!” 
“I would describe his leadership style as creative and forward-thinking,” Elizabeth said. “He is incredibly task-oriented and full of energy!”
Clearly, Joey enjoys the stage. “Some of the thinking [in asking me to do this role] was that I was already comfortable on the stage. I teach and perform improv here in Austin.”
Joey did much more improv prior to Covid. He is a member of an improv group of LatinX performers who speak various levels of Spanish (and lots of Spanglish). They perform monthly at the Mexican American Cultural Center, and he teaches Merlin Works at the Zach Theater. Joey also has his own business where he takes improv into companies.
 

Sundays at Covenant
“The main thing has to stay the main thing,” Joey said, quoting an oft-used business phrase. “We don’t want the kids to experience an interruption in Sunday programming. That’s the number one priority.”
While Joey was getting up to speed and doing some already-planned traveling, Director of Adult Discipleship Kathryn Sedberry led children’s Sunday school. At the end of March, Joey began leading the programing three times a month. Stephanie Campbell also pitches in to lead the group.
“I have the opportunity to teach the K-3 Sunday school program once a month,” Stephanie said. “As a former teacher, I get to do one of my most favorite things: teach kids about Jesus.”
Joey’s got some big fans participating in Covenant Sunday school. Joey and his wife, Lucy, are parents to Parker, a kindergartner, and third grader Jackson. Both boys think having their dad as the interim director is great. “When I told them that I was asked if I wanted to be Ms. Christy, they said, ‘You better say yes!’ Since I started, they like to tell people ‘My did is the boss’ or ‘My dad is the board of directors.’ They are excited to see me up there.”
“I feel like there is a teacher in me. My mom was an award-winning high school teacher for 30 years. I was essentially doing adult education with my improv,” Joey said. “The kids are not adults; they move around a lot and say things that aren’t on topic, but it’s fun. It’s all improv!”
“The joke around the office is that because of Joey’s background with improv comedy, we knew his couldn’t say no!” Jon said of his new colleague.
 

Summer for Covenant Kids
Covenant’s Children’s Ministry staff has planned several fun events for kids and their families this summer. “It will be a lot like last summer,” Joey said. “We’ll have three events each month. We will have a family movie night, a parent night out, and a special family fun night. In June, it will be carnival-type games.”
He added that one event a month will include a mission component. (More info on that soon!)

 

 Find out more about our summer plans at covenant.org/summer.

 

Sunday Worship Times

Worship In Person
Traditional services at 8:15 and 9:30 a.m.
Contemporary Service at 11:00 a.m.

Worship Online
Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at covenant.org/worshiponline 

Office Hours
Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. -  6 p.m.
Friday,  9 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

 

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