Kids Connection

We talk a lot at the Church about the value of talking about your faith with your children at home, as well as the importance of having a group of adults, whom your child trusts, who can surround and encourage your child. Our Kids Connection gatherings at 9:15am each week (at our Fitchburg location in the Preschool) are a great avenue for helping both of these things to be realized.

 

Kids Connection is a gathering for children 4th grade and under. It is a multi-age setting where children build relationships, play, and learn about Jesus in creative and interactive ways. Led by parents, children are surrounded each week by not one, but a multitude of other adults who they can build relationships with. The topic covered each week is directly tied to the sermon, reinforcing what your child is hearing in worship.

 

Recently, a group of 10 families met to continue planning for Kids Connection. These families have been so blessed by this time already and are excited to continue facilitating and preparing this time for children each week. One of the major blessings that families have found during this time is the multi-age aspect. Older children are teaching and playing with younger children, and the younger children have older role models. Also, we have noticed at the Church that when parents are engaged with teaching and facilitating in a structured church setting, they are more comfortable with talking about faith at home.

 

I was so excited at this meeting with families to see how the body of Christ can really work together. Some parents are more comfortable setting up organizational systems, some are creative with crafts, some are more comfortable in front of children or with leading worship for kids. When everyone’s gifts are used well, we can see God glorified and our children receive the benefits.

 

While parents are encouraged to come with their children when possible, there are 4 parents who sign up each week to have the responsibility of supervising Kids Connection. That allows space for other parents to pop in at faithBuilders if there is something of interest to them. On the second Sunday of each month, Amy DeBaker leads a Family Week. Crafts and activities are planned to help create space for families to learn about Jesus all together. In March, the 2nd and 3rd grade students will receive Bibles during Family Week.

 

Do you have children 4th grade and younger? The families at Kids Connection would love for you to join them! Pop in any week and see what they are up to! You can talk to any parent there, or myself, if you are interested in helping with facilitating or planning. Do you love kids but don’t have any smaller ones at home? You are still needed! We would love to have any passionate adults at the Church offer their time to help plan, supervise, or facilitate our Kids Connection time. I know our parents would love a break and your influence in a child’s life is valuable. Let me know if you want to get involved. We are a community and we have a precious responsibility to help our children love Jesus and I am so thankful to all of the families who are so generous to help make this a reality!

Save
 

Rummage Sale: Discipleship & Community

Even if you’re not a member of our church, if you’ve been around the Fitchburg building at the end of April in years past, you know when it’s Rummage Sale time! Each year, so many of you generously donate clothing, shoes, toys, furniture, sporting goods, and other household items to be sold at our annual sale. The Rummage Sale offers amazing opportunities to us each year to serve by giving our treasures and time, and to enjoy some fun and fellowship, too! In this article I want to highlight one special opportunity this year, and one way the Sale reaches beyond the church building’s walls.

As you probably know, Lois Korth and Connie Thompson have been faithfully planning and executing the Rummage Sale for many years. The 2017 sale will be Lois and Connie’s last year leading the sale, and so the rest of us have the opportunity to ask ourselves a question: is God calling me to apprentice with Lois and Connie during this year’s sale and take over its leadership in 2018? To help you answer this question, I present a few Rummage Sale facts:  

  • Lois and Connie have made the sale a well-oiled rummage machine, with processes organized and recorded on paper for sale leaders and volunteers.
  • Coordinating the sale affords built-in time for conversations and early shopping! 
  • The time commitment for this service opportunity is contained to the week prior to the sale and the weekend of the sale.  

If you’ve served during the Rummage Sale in recent years, or even if you haven’t yet but think this one-week-per-year lifeServe opportunity is right for you, would you please talk to Lois, Connie, or me? We’d love to chat about any questions you have.  

Each year, some of the proceeds from the sale go toward church ministries (such as Higher Ground mission trips and Preschool scholarships) and facilities improvements (like new tables for the fellowship hall). And each year we also prioritize giving back some of the sale’s proceeds to our community. In the months since the 2016 Rummage Sale, we’ve been able to help 10 clients of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) with crisis funding that has allowed them to secure safe housing after surviving domestic violence. After one of the DAIS social workers heard about our church’s willingness to help her client with relocation funding, she said, “Thank you so much, my client is in tears!” The Rummage Sale allows us to help those in our community who are hurting in a significant way, and I hope you’ll consider serving at the Sale again (or for the first time) this year! 

 

Who's In Your Boat?

The focus of Sunday’s message (Refined: Arrogance) contains the words “We’re all in the same boat. Everyone needs Jesus’ righteousness, and the rest needs to be melted away.” The idea of being “in the same boat” got me thinking about Mark 4:35-41, which tells of Jesus calming a storm that led his disciples to fear and doubt:

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The political environment in our country lately has left me feeling like there’s a large storm encircling us, and I admit I’ve felt fear and doubt more often than I’ve trusted God with my concerns.

One of the pieces of feedback I heard following the January 19th “Coffee With the Board” gathering was that it’s helpful, in a difficult or turbulent situation, to remember the ties that unite your community and to assume others have good intentions. I think this is a good reminder, whether the community in question is a church or a nation, and it reiterates the idea that we’re all “in the same boat.” But practically speaking, it’s tough to keep that bigger perspective in mind when we’re faced with problems that seem to affect an entire community, problems whose potential solutions are as varied, and as politically divisive, as they come. How do we confront problems we see without being overwhelmed by their scope or fearful of the conflict our position might cause? What if those in “the boat” with us seem to be steering in the opposite direction?

I’d like to propose that each of us discern and focus on our own “boat,” and on the common goals or vision me might share with our boat-mates. God has strategically placed each of us geographically right where we are for a purpose. We live in a neighborhood, work, learn, and play at certain locations, and travel intentionally within specific regions. We can use those locations to recognize the needs and strengths (broken shalom and shalom) of the local communities of which we’re already a part, and begin (or continue!) to build our relationships in those communities to confront the storms we see. Just one example of this is that, if your heart is touched by the struggles of immigrants, you could discover how your school, our church, or local social workers with city/county-funded organizations are already providing resources and sanctuary to immigrant and refugee families in your city, and join those efforts. For instance, next time our church hosts another new Bhutanese refugee family, you could provide some necessities to welcome them and ask how else you can help. These are things you can do alongside someone who may hold a different opinion from you regarding our country’s immigration policies, but with whom you share a desire to help those in need in your own community.  

We can also pray that God helps us discern what should occupy our time. Anything that we’re not confident is bringing us closer to him, that might be steering us away from serving him and others, “needs to be melted away.” And we can commit to staying in our boats, even when the waters are rough, grabbing onto God’s strength to help us see past our fears, and paddle with our boat-mates toward God’s grace!

Dear God, show me my arrogance, where I look past or over other people, and replace it with your humility. Thank you for placing me where you’ve placed me, and for helping me to navigate life’s stormy seas.

 

Coffee with the Leadership Board

Ever wonder how an organization like a church is run? How are decisions made and who makes them? What does the board do? What do the elders do? How can I make my voice heard? The Church has launched a series of informal gatherings to increase and improve communication between the congregation and the leadership of the church.

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, we held the first informal gathering called “Coffee with the Board.” Each board member sat at a table with members of the congregation, and the groups got to know one another a little better. It was fun, lively and engaging, and met the goal of increasing communication between the congregation and the board.

We started out with a general “get to know you” icebreaker at our tables; this included introductions and sharing how we were connected with the Church. From there, we let the conversations take their course and used a guiding set of questions if needed. These questions included:

  • What do you do for a job and for fun?
  • What nudged you to come today?
  • In what ways are you engaged in the Church? (worship time, do you serve, lifeGroup)
  • What are some of the strengths you see in this Church?
  • What one thing would you need to feel even more supported as you grow and follow Jesus?

Personally, I was able to sit down at a table with eight other people whom I hadn’t had the opportunity to chat with before. I learned about their lives and what was important to them, and took notes on their comments and concerns.

Other board members also reported that at their tables, in addition to getting to know each other better, they enjoyed in-depth conversations about policy-based governance, communication methods and styles of the church, Pastor Jeff and Amy’s sabbatical, and other church issues.

Why is it important to have these conversations? How does the church benefit from them? God’s word has some insights for us:

As iron sharpens iron,  so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27-17).

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Conversations were amiable and supportive, and lines of communication were opened. Praise God for his goodness, mercy and grace extended to all of us.

The next informal gathering is Sunday, February 19, at 9:15am, with the staff of the church. As owners of this missional congregation, please put it on your calendars to attend this “Coffee with the Staff” and get to know the staff who serve us and each other a little better. There will also be a “Coffee with the Elders” on Sunday, March 19.

In February, the Board will be creating their goals for 2017. Those goals and objectives will be shared with the congregation in March through the bulletin and on the website. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me or any board member.

 

Refining Ourselves for Mission

Each week in the current “Refined” sermon series (part of the 2017 “Reformed” series), we’re delving further into Romans and learning how we may need God to mold our hearts and spirits.  Alongside prayerful introspection, I hope you’ll check out the ideas in this article as an accessible way to reach outward with some “gospel intentionality” and share God’s love with those around you. I’ve included a few of my own thoughts, interspersed below in italics. At the end of the list of five ideas are several Scripture passages that illustrate the significance of meal sharing and hospitality.

 

The following article is based on an original blog post, “Practical Examples of Everyday Rhythms,” by Pastor Josh Reeves (Redeemer Church, Round Rock, TX) published in March 2013. The text below is Verge Network’s adaptation of the post.

 

Much of what we do (to be on mission) is meant not to add things to the schedule,

but to bring intentionality to the things we are already doing.

 

5 PRACTICAL IDEAS TO USE YOUR MEALS TO BE MISSIONAL:

1. Monthly dinners

Start a monthly dinner night at your house that has an open invitation for anyone that wants to join and bring people.

2. Help others grow

Find people in your church community who love cooking and get them to help others grow in their appreciation for fine food. One way this could work well at our church would be to have your family, lifeGroup, or other “high interest” group (as defined by you) cook dinner for Higher Ground periodically, and invite the teens to help you cook!

3. Set goals

Set a goal to have more meals with neighbors/coworkers than you are currently having. Talk it out with your fellow household members and decide on what is a good starting point.

4. Make a schedule

Make a schedule each month with the nights you want to host people for meals. Prayerfully consider who you will share a table with (neighbors/co-workers/church family). For example, you could say to your spouse or roommate, “I’d like to have these 5 people/families over for dinner in 2017; can we put some potential dates on our calendar and then send email invitations?”.

5. Start a supper club

Start a supper club with people in your neighborhood or network of relationships. Have each person in the club sign up to host a night. Have the host share the recipe with the rest of the group when they come over. Spend time during the meal sharing things you are thankful for, building in a rhythm of intentionality into your meals together.

Consider the following Biblical texts:

Matthew 6:11, 26:17-30

Acts 2:42-47

Romans 12:13

Leviticus 23

Do you have any other rhythms that allow you to be on mission in everyday life? Please share them with me!