Good morning friends!
This past Sunday was super full! We started a new Sunday School class with the adults called Organic Outreach. The teaching format is a little different than your students are probably used to, but after asking them how they felt, it seems like this class will be a good fit for us. The lesson this Sunday can basically be summed up by saying "Its not about you." One of the phrases that stuck with me from the video was "The truth of God's word will never change; everything else is up for grabs." It is intended to expand our view of how evangelism is done, and I think its a pretty hard thing to live into practically. As we keep encountering hard truths, I hope we can keep our hearts open to being challenged to do outreach more often and more naturally.
Impact was fun too! It was right after our parent meeting (which went super well too!) and Nancy McCleery bought us pizza! We sat and talked briefly about Elijah and some of the things that he is known for, and we hope to continue that conversation next week! After we are done talking about Elijah and his faith, we are moving to Elisha!
Thanks for checking in again! I appreciate you all and the support you give your students, as well as the support you give the youth group as a whole. See you next week!
Can you believe that we are already done for 2018? I was reflecting on all the things that have happened this year, not only within our youth group but our church as a whole and I felt like we needed to end the year on that note. So this past Sunday we reflected on the things that God did in our lives, and the places we hope to do better in 2018.
For me personally, 2018 wasn't the kindest year. FRCZ lost some good people, Dynelle was forced to transition jobs, and family drama reared its ugly head again. All of that sounds really bad, but God has already been faithful in showing me where I can learn and grow from those things. In the midst of all the bad, First now has Jordan and Erica. Our youth group continues to grow in amazing ways both spiritually and numerically. Dynelle's transition has allowed her to be more active in the youth group here. Hopefully, as you reflect on the things you experienced this year, you can see God's hand as well. We tend to have very short views and fail to praise God in the good times, much less the bad. I can't wait to be a part of what God does here in 2019, and I'm excited that you all are coming with me :)
Impact was a celebration of this year as well, and we had a great time playing an apples to apples-esque game made by fail army! Thanks for another fantastic year, and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Good morning friends!
This past Sunday, we had our first "normal" Sunday school in a while! We spent some time talking about Advent and why its important. We live in a time where it is very easy to be distracted around Christmas, and its not uncommon to forget what we are actually celebrating. I find myself getting frustrated every time I have to go to Meijer because everyone and their entire extended family feels the need to be there at the exact same time. I tend to worry about getting the "right" presents, and focusing on the fanfare surrounding the season. Advent is a time of remembering, but it also is a time of great expectation. We look back on Christ's first coming, but even more importantly, we are looking forward with great expectation to His second.
IMPACT was a wrap up of our conversations on Job, and we talked a little bit about Melchizedek. We are hoping to keep talking about OT characters and why they are important to us till the end of the year :)
As usual, I'm thankful that you are interested in what we are doing!
This past Sunday, I'm sure your students were thrilled to be able to attend our annual budget meeting! As much as they hate it, I truly believe that having them there and helping them be confident in giving input will make them better church members in the future. They had some realizations that were well beyond their years and seeing them engage despite the bad feelings was very encouraging.
Sunday evening, we began reading through the book of Job. Over the past few weeks we have had a lot of conversation surrounding Job and his experiences. Some of our deeper conversations about theology have centered on God's goodness in relation to Job especially. Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at Jobs life, read all 42 chapters, and dive into what that story means for us in a modern context. I would encourage you to ask your students if the conversations we are having are bringing up any questions in their minds. Many of our students are interested in predestination and God's goodness in light of the problem of sin in the world. As usual, we are hoping to tackle that with as much truth and grace as possible, while understanding that some things in the Bible just don't have easy answers.
Thanks for checking in on us, and have a great week!
Happy Wednesday parents!
I'm one day late because Christy and I got to go to a conference on homosexuality in the church yesterday! If that something you would like to hear about, I would love to tell you!
On Sunday evening, we finished our talk on Samson. He still stands out to me as one of the most relatable Biblical characters. He clearly loves God and God is using him, but holy cats does the guy make a lot of mistakes. Every time the Philistines make him angry he does something progressively crazier. Try to kill me again? I'll just haul your gates 40 miles away. Steal my wife? 300 flaming foxes incoming! He just seems like a so-so guy that God uses to great effect, and there is a strange kind of comfort in that. I still sin, you still sin, and Samson DEFINITELY was a sinner, but that doesn't stop God from using us for His plans. That's pretty cool.
I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving! See you this Sunday!
Good morning parents!
This past Sunday I made your children sit through a meeting with some exalting team members as they met with people from the listening across generations class. The hope was to get your students involved with the conversation about the future of worship here at FRCZ. We want them to feel like they have meaningful input and belong at the table (because they do!)
Impact was a little strange as well. We moved away from talking about predestination and went back to breaking down OT stories that have important truths for us to learn. This week, we were going to go through the entire story of Samson, except we got a little hung up. We pray at the beginning of every teaching time on Sunday nights. I usually ask for prayer requests, write them on my phone, and then ask people to pray for each one. This week, we had someone with a Grandma in the hospital and when I asked for someone to pray, nobody volunteered. This is a little out of character for us, especially because we all were familiar with all the people in the room.
Normally, this would just result in me praying for the unclaimed requests, but I felt like we needed to address the stigma surrounding prayer. Why don't our kids feel comfortable praying corporately? Is it a fear of shame? A lack of the right vocabulary? When I asked them, it seemed to be a combination of not doing it often, and fearing that they wouldn't say something "right." I then proceeded to push them a little bit, asking if they were praying outside of youth group and church settings, and I was met with a lot of sheepish faces. I reminded them that they have a direct link to the God of the universe, who love then and WANTS to hear from them. Prayer is a gift! It shouldn't be scary! Then again, I was probably scared of how "plain" my prayers sounded when I was in high school as well.
So my challenge for you as parents is this: pray with your kids. Pray with them out loud, without choosing the overly Christian jargon that we tend to associate with "good" prayers. Affirm them if they are willing to pray with you, and encourage them to pray privately. We have the opportunity to live in relationship with Jesus Christ, and a relationship without communication will surely suffer!
By now I had dug myself into a weird hole as a youth pastor, and I needed to lighten the mood a bit, so we began talking about Samson. His story is fascinating. There are so many things he does that make negative sense, but God blesses him nonetheless. We got as far as him killing 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, but there is still a large portion of the story to go. We are going to pick that up this coming Sunday and hopefully talk about some things that we are thankful for :)
As usual, thanks for taking the time to read up on what we're talking about! You are loved and appreciated!
This past Sunday, we officially finished our Listening across Generations class. It feels like just a few weeks ago that we were tossing that idea around and wondering if something like that would be received well. By the grace of God, it went VERY well. We averaged about 65 attenders who were interested in getting to know our youth better and were willing to listen and share with them. I couldn't be happier with the way that our church rallied around that class. The conversations I have had surrounding it have been nothing short of electrifying, and I truly believe that this could be the start of a "ground-up" change in the way we interact across generations. God is good :)
Impact was a continuation of last weeks harder questions, once again touching on predestination and the problem of sin and God's culpability in it. I often find that the answers in those situations are less satisfactory than I would like, but we continue to talk them through. Knowing that God is good isn't enough, so we needed to use an analogy. If we are fish all swimming down a stream to destruction, He is like a man who is grabbing us and tossing us into a stream that leads to eternal life. The idea that God would choose some fish and not others has been a difficult one to process. Is God responsible for allowing the fish to do what they would naturally do? Surely not, but something still feels "off" to us. So then we just barely scratched the surface of how it feels to have a perspective that places God outside of time and trusts His goodness fully. It was some pretty heavy stuff for a Sunday night, but we had some unbelievers super engaged again.
Next week we will return to talking about OT stories in a different light, hopefully in a way that is a little more gentle this time :)
Thanks for stopping by to check in! Have a great week!
This past Sunday we wrapped up the second to last chapter of our Growing Young class, and it went awesome. I could not be more encouraged by the turnout and the support we have seen in that class. We talked about being good neighbors this week, and how we can show love to our community without giving up on our convictions. We had some insightful discussion about how we as a church treat "hot button" issues in our culture. We talked about things like homosexuality and abortion and how we can love people without condoning behavior. Next week we will have members of the exalting team joining us to talk about what worship really is, regardless of preference. If you have been able to attend, thank you for all your support in making that a positive experience for our kids!
IMPACT was a healthy return to our norm. We brought up some very hard questions and had students thinking about why our lesson three weeks ago affected us so strongly. We talked about things like perspective and how we as created beings don't inherently deserve anything, touched on predestination, and even got into the problem of suffering. I'm sure that this was the first of many long weeks discussing some serious theology in that time slot. Initially I was hesitant to do that because Sunday nights are designed to be accessible to students who may not have existing or developed faith. This past week though, one of those students was very involved in the conversation and I think that this may be interesting for believers and unbelievers alike. As always, if you would like to be a fly on the wall sometime, we would love to have you!
I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!
Happy Tuesday parents!
This past Sunday was a nice slowdown from the more serious topics that last week brought. This week in Sunday school we talked about how churches that "grow young" tend to be churches that are prioritizing young people and families everywhere. This doesn't mean that we are throwing away the traditions of the older generations, only recognizing that the only kind of sustainable growth within our church is growth that brings in younger people. Luckily, this is something that I think FRCZ does pretty well already. We definitely have room to grow, but we need to celebrate our victories when we can :)
Youth group was a tad more casual to offer time for some students to continue processing what we talked about last week. We talked about God and his sense of humor in the old and new testaments. Things like Elijah telling the prophets of Baal that their god was "relieving himself," or little details about the language that both Jesus and Paul use throughout their ministry. The takeaway from this is that we often take ourselves a little too seriously as Christians. Sometimes we tend to be a little like the pharisees and interpret scripture more as a rule book than good news. I made sure they understood that this was me encouraging them to abuse mercy or go crazy, but sometimes its ok joke with one another.
Next week I hope to talk about why certain topics impact us more than others. We may be diving back into something that causes some foundation-shaking, but I feel like this is the best place to be shaking a foundation.
Thanks for checking in on what we are doing! I appreciate you all!
This week during Sunday school, we emphasized the need for a warm community instead of cool programs. The Fuller Youth Institute found that churches who were focused on being relational instead of being exceptional were growing more consistently. "Cool" programs and tons of available activities doesn't make a church a cut above the rest, it tends to leave them exhausted. Instead, we hope to find ways that we can offer less rigid structure and encourage more relational learning. Our youth group has done this since before I was even here! We have half an hour of fellowship time every week designed to let students get to know one another and their leaders better! Next week we are going to talk about how we can prioritize young people and families everywhere without making it seem awkward!
Youth group was a bit heavier than I intended for it to be. We have started to talk about some OT stories that people have probably heard if they were brought up in the church, but have probably never read and understood. Last week we talked about Esther and the reality of the fear she must have felt to stand up before the king. We talked about Haman and his arrogance, and the irony of Mordecai's honoring. It seemed to go very well and we received a lot of positive feedback! So I thought, "The book of Daniel would be perfect for something like this!" I may stand slightly corrected.
This week we talked about Daniel. Daniel would have been an upper class Jew who was stripped from his family at 18, and basically brainwashed into a Babylonian. Except he wasn't brainwashed, and neither were his friends Shadrach Meshach and Abednego (Those are their Babylonian names, but we are most familiar with them, so I will use them here :] ). Daniel and his friends are seen standing up to the culture they live in time and time again. When told to eat the royal diet, they ask to be fed vegetables instead. When told to bow to a statue the king erects, they don't.
What we see in these young people is an absolute priority on the faith they have. There is nothing that they value more! They have had their families stripped away, culture brainwashed, and still refuse to give up on their faith, even in the face of being hurled into a blazing furnace. The practical application I was going for was "Faith should be our number one priority." I think that what was heard was "You need to be ready to lay your life on the line for your faith RIGHT NOW" and that was a little much for some of our students. If your son or daughter came home late, its probably because we stayed a little later trying to dry some tears and calm some fears. While faith DOES need to be our number one priority, we do not need to live a life in fear that someday someone is going call our lives into question because of our love for Jesus. Too often we forget that the same God who spoke the world into existence from nothing, who raised up the Jewish people and cared for them throughout history, who exists outside of time itself is the same God who knows us by name and loves us dearly. So while we may need reminding of this fact, I promise to try and be a little more gentle in the future :)
Friday night is back on! At my house this week, and there will be pizza!
I'm Noah. I do High School things. Expect this page to update every Tuesday morning!