Happy first snow day of the year!
This past week in Sunday school, we began to touch on one of the most controversial topics in modern Christian belief: whether or not Hell exists. We started this week with a story about a girl named Gina and her two uncles. Gina's Grandma died, and at her funeral, Uncle Chad takes it upon himself to remind Gina and her sisters that Grandma didn't believe in God, and therefore the pastor officiating her funeral was wrong about her being in heaven.
Nice going Chad.
Gina's younger sister breaks down, and runs to her mom, who is sitting next to Uncle Max. Uncle max attempts to console the girls by saying that Uncle Chad has no idea what hes talking about, because Hell doesn't exist!
This may be a made up story, but it's not that far fetched. We live in a world where books like "Love Wins" and "Erasing Hell" have entered the mainstream, and armchair apologists have beliefs that range across the spectrum.
So as we began, it was my goal to make sure our students know that there is a (semi) Biblically defensible position asserting that Hell does not exist, as many had never heard that before. I'm pretty sure everyone in the room thought I had two heads. The reasoning behind presenting this opinion is simple. We want to make sure that our students enter college, and the world with an existing knowledge of WHY they believe what they believe. I could teach them what the RCA believes outright, or we could talk about the other views, and why they fall short. A student is much more secure in thier faith when they know the challenges that they will have hurled at them, and have already grappled with them in their own minds. It's far better to have students ask these questions while they are still surrounded by a strong supporting body.
We didn't come to any earth-shattering revelations this week, but we did touch on atonement theory and what happened when Jesus went to Hell (according to the apostles creed) and paid for our sins. (Spoiler alert : lots of people who are lots smarter than me have agreed to disagree about this, so I'm doing my best to make all that information available to our students on an accessible level.) I would invite you all to come join and see how this looks! I want to be completely transparent as we address topics like this.
IMPACT was great! We had a pretty standard night, and talked about Mary and Martha with Jesus. So often we have expectations of what we should do to be "holy" or right with the Lord, but all He asks of us is to just BE with Him. So we talked about dropping those expectations and just trying to be close to Jesus this week, whatever that looks like. This snow day is a great start!
Next week we will keep hammering away on Hell, and talk about fresh starts during IMPACT. Next week is our last Sunday school/IMPACT time before break, but we will have a Christmas party the following Friday during our normal game night time slot at my house!
Thanks for sticking it out till now, this ones a doozie! Have a great week!
Happy Tuesday everyone!
This past week in Sunday school, we picked up where we left off, and finished the question "is it wrong to doubt God?" We came to the conclusion that doubt isn't toxic, and is pretty normal for believers. Even some of the greatest church fathers experienced doubt and it drove them to pursue God with greater intensity!
Next week we will start to tackle the question "Is Hell real? If so, how could God send people there?" We realize that this can be a pretty tough subject, and we hope to handle it in a sensitive manner. The RCA is clear, and they believe that Hell is a real, eternal place. We will allow for discussion of other viewpoints though, and try to present a fair and accurate interpretation of the relevant scripture.
At IMPACT, we started our time with some quality fellowship, and celebrated having new pool cues! Our lesson was called the Hound of Heaven, and built on the idea of identity that we have been chasing these past few weeks. We talked about seeing one another how God sees us, The "omni's" of God and how he loves us in a special way, and this week we spoke about how God pursues us. Its not always a blinding light like it was with Saul (Paul), but sometimes its a gentle whisper. I challenged them to look for ways that they are being pursued by God this week, and to look for ways that God might be using them to pursue someone else.
We got to worship again this week, and I love it. From a youth pastor's perspective, this is a big step in the right direction for our youth group. I celebrated a whole year at First yesterday, and looking at the progress we have made this year is unbelievably encouraging. We have new students coming regularly, many more volunteers, a desire to come to events, and personal connections between students. New faces aren't a surprise and they are welcomed with open arms. We are more open with one another, and teaching is designed to help students own their faith. What an exciting time for our youth!
This is going to be a rather short update, as we only had IMPACT this past week!
This week was our first ever 6 - 8 IMPACT, and the result was fantastic! We had our regular half hour of fellowship time before the lesson started, and we were able to have a full blown 45 minute lesson! We talked about the "omnis" of God and how they affect us in day to day life. God is always with us (omnipresent), and knows everything about us (omniscient), which is equal parts comforting and terrifying. He is also omnipotent (all powerful) and will some day be our judge. So knowing all of that, its easy to see God as a scary Santa-esque figure, seeing all of our faults when we're sleeping, and holding us to what feels like an unrealistic standard when we are awake.
Luckily, Jesus exists, and now the challenge is not seeing fault in ourselves where God sees none. We have to know that God sees all, is present for all, and chooses not to because of Jesus. That's a whole lot easier said than done. The challenge this week was to try and see yourself the way that God does, and then treat others the way that God sees them too.
The time change also allowed us to have some spontaneous worship after the lesson too! So we sang "How He Loves" in response. From my perspective, it was a little tough for some kids to feel comfortable singing, but I think that we can get there! I'm very glad we have time to do things like that now.
We ended the night with a nice round of dodgeball before heading parting ways!
If you could please keep praying for bravery on the part of the students to be bold in their faith, and for the ZPS school system to keep opening doors for us that would be much appreciated!
Next week, we will continue the Can I Ask That book series, and have another Deep Discipleship lesson for IMPACT! Thank you again for your continued support and flexibility!
Happy Thanksgiving week!
This past Sunday was full of new things! In Sunday school, we began our new curriculum! Our first class was full of flying opinions already, and we're only two pages in. Our topic is "Is it wrong to doubt God?" All of your students have their own copy of the book that they are able to take home with them, so if you want to see what we are going to be learning about, feel free to ask them to bring it home with them! That's a great way for you to join in on the conversation as well!
IMPACT went well, and we talked about what it looks like to be a church for the broken. Far too often, especially in a place like Zeeland, we tend to think that the church is a place where put together people go. Or rather, it has become a place that people try to look put together in. It isn't often a place where the broken go to find the broken. We are called as Christians to be honest and open, and to share each others burdens. We can't share burdens if we don't share our brokenness, and even though we don't like to admit it, we are scared to share those kinds of things. We watched a video about two high schoolers who were very broken in their own ways; one boy lost his legs, and the other was legally blind. The one without legs would ride on the back of the one who could not see, and together they covered each others weaknesses. We are called to be that way! If your students were late coming out of IMPACT, its because they requested to finish that video. Sorry!
Speaking of IMPACT we have some (hopefully) great news! Ever since I have been on staff here, we have struggled to get a good, responsive teaching time crunched into 30 minutes. As it stands, we have 30 minutes for fellowship, 30 for teaching, and 30 for a game. Each piece is valuable for different reasons. Fellowship allows students to bond with volunteers and one another. Teaching is obviously important, and games are good for inclusion of new faces and expending energy. I didn't want to give any of that up, but I also wanted to add some worship into the mix. I proposed a time shift back in the summer, and I finally have approval to shift the time a little later, and to make it half an hour longer!
IMPACT will now happen from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. on Sunday nights, starting this upcoming Sunday, Nov. 26!
We hope this new schedule allows for better mealtimes on the home front, and time for things like half an hour of fellowship time, fifteen minutes of worship, 45 minutes for a lesson if need be, and another half hour for a game! If this change is going to be too much of a curveball, please call me! I would love to tell you more about why the discipleship team decided this was the optimal time, and what we think is best for our students.
Please email me if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear your feedback! Thanks for checking in!
Good morning friends!
This past week was full of surprises. We had two new faces on Friday, two new faces on Sunday morning, and a mostly empty IMPACT thanks to some great past leaders!
Just to keep you as parents in the loop about Fridays, we are still going strong. It's continuing to prove itself as the most effective way to introduce new students to a faith based culture. It's happening again this week, from 6-11 at 10260 Fillmore st! We will have pizza, board games, and funny cat videos to share!
This past Sunday we FINALLY finished Can I Ask that Vol. 1. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm very happy to be welcoming the second iteration next week. We finished our discussion about following a God who lets Christians do bad things with some really great conversations. The students had the opportunity to understand again how we can be the 1%, the people who live as Jesus called us to, even in the face of a world that doesn't always want to hear about him.
IMPACT was even funnier than I anticipated. I knew that we were going to be losing a few students to Mitch Wagner's ordination service, and I thought that was pretty cool. I guess I didn't realize how much of an impact Mitch had on our students lives, but when I offered going to his service to the students, everybody who knew him went! I expected to have a smaller than usual group, but we were left with 4 students, 2 of whom have never met Mitch!
So while that didn't go as planned, I think Mitch's impact on the students can't be overstated, and I was really proud of our students for wanting to support him as he steps into a new phase of ministry. I can't imagine how much it would mean to me to have all of our students show up at my ordination service, so I'm glad it all shook out the way it did.
Next week were diving into can I ask that Vol. 2 and we are going to keep plugging away at Deep Discipleship in IMAPCT!
Thanks for stopping by, and have a great Tuesday!
It's Tuesday again!
This week in Sunday school, we got to hear a little about the compassionate heart and the ministry that they are doing with students who have special needs! They involve high school students in some pretty neat ways during the year, and it was good to hear about opportunities that our kids have to serve the community there. After that, we jumped into our question of the week "How can I serve a God who lets Christians do such bad things?" This question focused us on the hypocritical stereotype applied to Christians who pay lip service to Christ and deny Him by their lifestyle.
If we are to be responsible representatives of Christ, we need to make sure that our walks line up with our talks. We had a unique opportunity to hear from someone who wouldn't consider themselves a believer, and he reaffirmed that the secular god of today is tolerance. He would rather see nobody judged for anything because we all mess up. Unfortunately, Christians can't see tolerance as the most loving stance, as it not very loving to let someone continue sinning.
The Gather even at Engedi was interesting! I think it was a good dose of perspective for our students, who aren't used to seeing students run around on a segway, or smoke machines in the sanctuary. The speakers were very different, so hopefully every students was able to relate to at least one of them, and the topic was handled well (in my opinion). There was also some positive feedback on the bus, despite some admitting it was a little too showy for their taste.
Next week we are back to regular programming! Finishing the first volume of Can I Ask That and getting ready for the second! IMPACT will reflect on the topic of boldness, and the unique things that our church has to offer!
Our schedule is updated, and we will keep you in the loop as best as possible! Thanks for stopping by!
Happy Tuesday parents!
I want to start by apologizing for not being more on top of website updates in the past few weeks. Mondays are my Sabbath now, and Tuesday starts early and is full of meetings. I promise to try harder to make this a priority on Tuesday mornings and keep the schedule page and calendar up to date.
This past week for Sunday school, we joined the adults for the congregational meeting. I think I may have bored some of them to death, but I have been telling them for a long time that they are not the future of the church, they are the church right now, and I felt it was important to have them hear what is going on in the church as a whole.
IMPACT was pretty standard! We started with a time of fellowship, heard a lesson about choosing joy from Dynelle, and played some dodgeball. I had some fantastic conversations with some of the people who are volunteering with your students, and wanted to share how impactful they are in our lives. Having that fellowship time at the beginning of every IMPACT has allowed other adults in the congregation to bond with your students. To consistently know what is happening in their lives and what they are struggling with. Seeing relationships form and investment in the group increase has been an absolute pleasure.
Next week we will have Sunday school as usual, and will be joining about 15 local churches at Engedi for a special IMPACT! Again, I apologize for not having this info out earlier, as we were trying to see if going was going to be possible at all. Our students showed significant interest, and we found a bus driver, so we are going to try it!
We will be meeting at church in the rear lot at 5:30, and the bus will pull out at 5:45. The event itself is from 6:00 till 8:00, and dinner will be included for your students. We will eat with the other churches, worship with them, and hear from a couple of speakers from winning at home.
The idea behind this event is to start to overcome some of the exclusivity barriers in the Holland/Zeeland area, and encourage students to be bold with themselves and with their faith. We are watching culture shift in such a way that it will not be long before we need to band together as a corporate church and stand side by side. We hope this is the first in a series of events that FRCZ can jump in on and support.
Thanks for checking in!
Happy Wednesday parents!
This past Sunday, we continued talking about whether or not God endorses violence during the Sunday school hour. I am consistently impressed with the maturity of our students. We are having open and honest conversations that I fear some adults would struggle to have. Different viewpoints are being shared and heard and it is nothing short of incredible.
During IMPACT, we talked about God's purpose for our lives, and how we live out of God's purpose. We looked at how we spend out time and what motivates us to do the things we do. Lots of us found that the majority of our time is spent on things that are selfishly motivated or encouraged by others. We ended with looking practically at something small we can do this week to make sure that we are prioritizing God first. I would encourage you to ask your student what that thing was, and if they have managed to follow through with it!
Thank you all for staying up to date here! Your participation is vital to making me the most effective pastor I can be! Have a great week!
Happy Wednesday friends!
This past week in Sunday school, we continued our discussion on what it means to be reformed. We touched on how the reformation came about, why it came about, and learned a little about the key players in our vein of the reformation (Calvin and Zwingli.) I gave each student the option of bring home a packet to show you guys, but I think only two or three took me up on that. So I'll upload a fun chart here for you to see if you're interested.
IMPACT continues to go very well. This week we heard from Sinath Duong about the cool things that God has been doing in his life, and wrapped up the night with some dodgeball. As we move deeper into the program year, we hope to keep incorporating more leader testimonies so that our students know that there are members of the congregation who struggle like they do/did, and are willing to walk alongside them.
Fellowship Fridays are back on the horizon! As the Zeeland football season is drawing to a close, it is our hope to get those Friday nights back up and running. Those nights served as an invaluable tool to get students comfortable with the group of students that regularly attend youth group, and more likely to attend other church related events.
As we continue to find new ways to evangelize, there is some good news! After much conversation with the Zeeland schools superintendent, we were able to find a teacher sponsor, and get permission to have a Bible study! While this doesn't allow us to do any sort of evangelistic work, it is a step in the right direction for us youth pastors. Every student that would like to attend should have you fill out THIS form. This also would allow me to take your student out for lunch if they so desired! These are huge steps for us! Thanks to those of you who have been praying for a breakthrough like this. We can say thank you prayers now!
As usual, don't forget to check out our calendar by clicking on the title of this post!
This week in Sunday school, we jumped straight into what being Reformed means, and some of the things that set us apart from other denominations. It was a lot of information really fast, but I hope your student was able to absorb some of it. Huge thanks to Dan Ackerman for taking some time to be there and clarify some of our questions!
IMPACT was great as well! Our fellowship feels just as natural as it did last year, and our freshmen are acclimating super well! As for how my testimony went, I can't really say. Testimonies are one of those things that are super hard to judge the impact of in the moment.
As usual, click on the title to see what we are talking about next!
Have a wonderful week!