Covenant Celebrates 20 Years of Leadership and Friendship
“I love how special she makes me feel when I see her on Sunday morning. She always takes time to talk to me and make me feel seen.” (Olivia, fourth grade)
“Miss Christy is helpful and I really like how she wanted to support the kid in the hospital. I also really think she’s listening. One time I wanted to be on the stage in this thing and the next day, she had me up there with my brother so I always think she’s listening and she’s there for me.” (Parker, kindergarten)
“I still remember visiting her office with my mom after preschool and getting to play while they talked. I’m going to miss her so much!” (Emily, second grade)
“Miss Christy is kind and loving, and I feel she’s always there for me when I have a problem. I also like all the people she hired for the children’s committee because I think they’re really nice and kind.” (Jackson, third grade)
“She always smiles and lets me have a piece of chocolate.” (Alex, preschool)
“I can’t even see Covenant without Ms. Christy! I will miss her just being there.” (Harris, fifth grade)
Those are the comments from Covenant kids when they learned Christy Milam, Directory of Children and Family Ministry, was leaving her Covenant position for a new job. While the kids were sad to see her go, her peers expressed their feelings differently:
“We are so excited for you!” “Wow, what a great opportunity!” “How lucky your new place is to have you!”
“Those are the things I’ve heard from just about everyone,” Christy said. “All this feedback just demonstrates what a healthy community this is. Our children’s ministry is in a really good position.”
Leaving Covenant was not an easy decision for Christy, who started working here when her eldest son, Ben, now nearly 21 years old, was just 11 months.
“I’d been in the hotel business and decided to stay home with the kids, but quickly decided I needed to do something part-time. I saw an ad in the classified. Yes,” Christy said with a laugh, “we still looked in the newspaper for jobs! A central Austin church was looking for a nursery caregiver.”
Nursery Care Coordinator
Though Christy had to cancel her first scheduled interview, she met with Covenant staff and was hired a month later. “I loved my first Covenant job. I got to bring Ben to work and I met an amazing core of really smart women. We became a tight group who all wanted to stay at home and raise our kids, and needed a little income.”
Within a year, Covenant was looking for a Nursery Care Coordinator. Christy applied; her background in the hotel business provided the experience with schedules, personnel and payroll needed for the job.
During Christy’s tenure as Nursery Care Coordinator, the position’s importance blossomed, Christy explained. “Gayla [Stuart] became the Director of Children’s Ministry. She increased the scope of vacation Bible school; our caregivers were tasked to give our 2-to-4 year olds a VBS experience equal to that of our grade school students. We just had more events in general that needed childcare.”
As an example, Christy said Covenant had a six-week summer Lamplighters series that resulted in additional care for 80 to 100 kids once a week. “The Lamplighters program was so huge; we used every room in Children’s Hall, the Sanctuary and Covenant Hall. Since we had so many children, we modified the VBS curriculum to give kids a one-day-a-week VBS experience.” Not surprisingly, Christy’s role went from part-time to full-time.
In 2008, Covenant’s Preschool Director position came open. “Both my kids attended the preschool. I was president of the PAT [Parent Advisory Team]. I co-oped in my kids’ classes. I knew the teachers. I realized that the education classes I took at Texas State after graduating from college enabled me to meet the standards needed to be a director,” Christy said. “I went to Gayla, and told her ‘I think I can do this job!’ After she and I talked about it, I interviewed with the search committee, and I was so nervous!”
Christy’s answers, experience and poise helped her land the job. “The preschool job was a challenge. I didn’t have an education background and I didn’t have classroom experience so I really had to prove myself.”
Christy worked hard and built solid relationships with the staff. “I think my management experience worked well for the teachers. I considered them the experts; I wanted their input. We created a very collaborative environment.”
Director of Children and Family Ministry
Nearly a decade later, Christy applied to be the Director of Children and Family Ministry. Covenant hired a firm to conduct a nationwide search. After several months, the search committee found that the person for the job was already working at the church. Christy hit the ground running in that role.
A key accomplishment, Christy said, was creating the Faith Formation Statement, which included objectives for every age group from birth through fifth grade. “The statement helped guide all the decisions we made in our ministry. It grounded us and kept us focused on the WHY of children’s ministry.”
Christy’s team also revamped Covenant’s Sunday school model. “We wanted to decrease the burden on volunteers, both in number and in scope of expectation.” Once implemented, Christy said, she had much more space to actually teach kindergarten-through-third grade kids.
“Finally, we changed what we do with our fourth and fifth graders,” Christy continued. “We teach all the way through the Bible in two years; fourth graders learn the Old Testament and fifth graders, the New Testament. We recruited volunteers who committed to teaching every Sunday. Their dedication is a big part of why it has been so successful. We can now confidently state that when fifth graders leave our ministry, we have helped them learn how to use the Bible and how to connect with scripture in a real and meaningful way.”
“I think Christy has elevated our children’s programming to the next level,” said longtime volunteer Cherrylynn Burris. “She clarified goals and the process of faith formation for our children, identified things we were missing in our children’s experience and knowledge, and very systematically and purposefully looked at curriculum, programming and other offerings to make sure we provide a comprehensive Christian education for our kids and make sure that they feel loved, like they belong, and like they have a special part in God’s big plan.”
Christy has enjoyed working closely with parents. “I feel like I’m a really good resource to encourage parents to slow down, which I know is not easy when you’re in the thick of the different stages of raising kids. I encourage parents to model prayer for their kids. I want parents to know the greatest faith formation happens in their homes, and I don’t want them to be afraid to try it. They are not going to get it wrong!”
During her tenure, she also faced the challenges of Covid and figuring out how to stay connected when classes could not meet. “The first six weeks I didn’t know what I was doing. We had just started following a new curriculum that gave us a framework that helped us figure out new ways to use videos. Our first videos were really cheesy. We really did evolve.”
Christy, her staff and the children’s committee got creative. “We work with kids. They are very tactile so we decided we needed to get things into their hands. Our volunteers and committee members helped disseminate information and kits in unique ways; we did drive-throughs and drop-offs to put stuff kids could use into their hands.”
Christy is quick to give credit to her strong committee and volunteers. “We had the desire and the people to take care of the kids. We were always looking for ways to stay connected while we couldn’t be together — splitting up contact work and praying. We mobilized people to help support families.”
“We will certainly miss Christy,” Senior Pastor Thomas Daniel said. “Her love and leadership have impacted untold numbers of children and families. She consistently served with determined excellence in every facet of the ministry.”
“I think what made Christy effective at her job was a sincere love for children and a desire to serve families,” said Christy’s boss, Associate Pastor for Discipleship Jon Wasson. “Christy is one of the best leaders I’ve worked with at Covenant. She is dependable, trustworthy and someone others look to for support and guidance.”
At Christy’s side throughout her time as children’s director has been Childcare and Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Moore. “Christy started her position in June of 2017 and I was by her side by August 2017 and have been ever since,” Elizabeth said.
“Christy is the most driven, efficient person I have ever worked with. She has a work ethic that is above and beyond, which is why our Children’s Ministry has grown so very much in her time as director.
“Christy is a master at not micro-managing,” Elizabeth continued, ‘She trusts us to do our jobs and gives us the freedom to own them, while making sure we’re on target and getting our work done at the same time. It’s a gift!”
“The word devotion comes to mind when I think of Christy,” said Associate Director of Discipleship Kathryn Sedberry. “She devotes herself wholeheartedly to the people and things that God places in her life. If you ask her opinion or advice, you will always get a thoughtful, genuine response. She has an amazing ability to identify people’s gifts and empower them to act. It’s easy to follow someone who has such clarity of purpose, which is precisely why she has built such an amazing Children and Family Ministries community.”
“She’s also been a good advocate for children in our larger church community,” Cherrylynn said, “encouraging and looking for opportunities for kids and families to be well-integrated into our larger church community. She’s also brought in folks without young children to volunteer and serve to help our children grow.”
Volunteer Kelly Tarun said, “Christy is always available to walk through good times and times of struggle with our children or with us as parents. Covenant is a better place for having her as a leader in the community.”
Christy’s New Job
“I could stay at Covenant until I retire and I would love it!” Christy said. But opportunity knocked. Through connections from her former corporate life, Christy was approached to apply to be Customer Advocacy and Marketing Manager at Zello, a push-to-talk voice messaging service that enables collaboration for workers and communities. Initially, she didn’t respond, but when she was encouraged again, she dusted off her resume and applied.
“The opportunity came at a time where I’m looking for growth and a new adventure. The age of my kids (son Max will graduate in May) already positions me for a new chapter in my life. I’m excited to challenge myself and grow in new ways.”
The mantra “keep going” has gotten Christy through recent times. “That phrase keeps showing up for me,” she said. “The Monday of my job interview, Covenant’s daily devotional was titled “Keep Going.” I was very specifically praying about the interview and what to do. I sat down in a quiet place to do the devotional just before the interview, and I opened it up to see that title. I felt like it was a sign from God.”
A few days later, Christy was offered the job. “I’ll be forming a Customer Advocacy Board, working with clients to get product reviews, testimonials, social app sharing, conference speakers — anything to help them be evangelists for Zello. The company’s goal is to be proactive. We want the customers to give us new product ideas that we can take back to product development. Like I did here, I’ll be building relationships.”
With Zello’s fast growth, the company was eager for Christy to start. Christy’s last day at Covenant will be Feb. 2. She’ll start her new gig on Feb. 3.
“I’m going to miss the kids!” Christy said. “I have loved watching children literally go through their development from baby to young adult. I’ve had the ability in this job to do that. I’ve gotten to see the whole circle of life,” Christy said, “and life keeps happening. Babies keep happening. The passage of time is really clear.”
Christy’s focus has always been on building relationships. “It’s really important to invest heavily in people up front before you ask them do anything. I worked hard to empower those around me, and I think they know that I cared.”
One person she was happy to invest in has been Student Ministry Director Jake Pluenneke. “Since I started at Covenant two years ago, Christy has always been one of the most helpful friends and leaders,” Jake said. “She always had her door open to answer any questions I had about doing ministry or just to chat and connect. I have learned the value and importance of reaching out and checking in on people from Christy. As we have gone through some very different transitions, she taught me the importance of building relationships.”
“Christy has always brought people together!” said volunteer Kelly Tarun. “She led the ministry with dedication and love. She was always available and worked harder than anyone I know, always putting others above herself.”
Christy is not all business. “She also has a good sense of humor!” Jon added when asked about her qualities.
“I am going to miss her laugh,” Elizabeth said. “She has the most wonderful laugh and is generous with it! I’m also going to miss her presence. She is not only my boss, but she has become a dear friend and I will miss our daily chats.”
“I will miss the energy that she brings to work every day,” said Kathryn Sedberry, Associate Director of Discipleship. “The energy that comes from such a genuine love for what she does infuses our office and inspires me every day! And a bonus is that she’s been a personal friend all these years, too, having both raised our kids at Covenant.”
Christy, too, will miss her coworkers. “This staff is amazing. They nurture me; they care for me; it’s a second home. This staff has journeyed with me through so much of my parenting challenges.
“It’s been such a fun journey,” she reflected.
The journey continues for Christy. While she won’t be in front of our kids anymore, she’ll be here for Sunday worship and eventually, she said, she’ll volunteer for children’s ministry.
“Who will do her job now?” Leo, second grade, asked. “That’s a lot of work for whoever it is, lots of work!”
To answer your question, Leo, children’s ministry staff members Elizabeth Moore and Stephanie Campbell, along with the children’s committee and other Covenant staff members, will continue to do the good work of helping Covenant children and families form a strong faith foundation. The church will form a search committee to find our next director. Details coming soon.