Sunday, October 28, 2012

Youth Ministry Update, 3 Years Later

Fall Retreat: Tug of War

This month marks three years since we loaded up all our stuff & moved from Georgia to Mississippi to serve at Redeemer Church in Jackson. It's become a tradition for me & Ryan to take the time each October to reflect on all that God has done in & through our lives while serving here. I wish I could sit down with each of you personally over a cup of hot tea (sorry, not a coffee drinker!) and share with you from my heart how God has been working. But since that's not a possibility with most of you, this blog entry will have to suffice for now.

If I had to briefly sum up the first two years in ministry here, specifically regarding youth ministry, the first year would be exciting. Everything was new, we were fresh. You could call it the honeymoon stage. If the first year was exciting, the second year was hard. The newness wore off, we began to realize the complexity of urban youth ministry, the difficulty of reaching students from different socioeconomic backgrounds & cultures. Frankly, at times, we wondered if it really could be done effectively. Adults have a hard time bridging these gaps, so could we really expect teenagers to be able to do this? This was a question we really weren't certain about the answer to.

The second year, & honestly, half of the third, really brought us to a place of humility, an utter dependence on God, realizing that in our power, yes, this ministry looks impossible. But what I love about the hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we have the power to do all things. I really began to pray fervently for Ryan, that God would give him wisdom on how to run this ministry. He was open about the difficulties he was facing, requesting prayers from others. Those prayers really began to change things.

Over this past summer, Ryan really focused on pursuing youth that he knew would be excellent leaders, those who had a heart for the Lord & just needed a little push to step up & help him lead. He met with them, trained them, & helped them understand the vision of the church & our youth group, which is to minister to families in our church as well as the people of our neighborhood.  Ryan recruited & trained more adult leaders, bringing in a local expert to help train them in how to handle behavior issues that often occur on Wednesday nights at Crossroads (youth group worship service). He created clear rules & specific consequences that are posted in the youth room. I am so proud of all he has done.

The result? It has been an amazing start to this first semester! All of these changes have made a drastic change in the climate of Wednesday nights. The Student Leadership Team has done an amazing job stepping up and leading all aspects of the night. The adults understand their role & feel empowered to speak up if students aren't following the rules. Students who used to have major behavior issues have realized that they've got to "get it together" if they want to keep coming, & the good news is they do want to keep coming, so they're "getting it together". Does this mean there have been no issues this year? Of course not. But all of these structures have really served to create an atmosphere in which these students can really hear the word preached & be given opportunities to serve.
New rules & consequences,
modeled by Quinton


New registration table, run by students
 (with cool attendance IPad Ap to keep better track of visitors)

Ryan & I now believe that not only is a youth group like this possible, it's absolutely necessary! This is what God calls the church to be like, made up of different people, from different walks of life, gathered around one essential thing: the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We also believe that when students leave our youth group, they have the opportunity to walk out the door as pretty mature Christians because they will hopefully learn to see people through the eyes of Christ, not through the eyes of their culture.

We are entering our fourth year here at Redeemer excited about all that God is doing through our youth group. We love these students we've been entrusted with & desire for those who know the Lord to grow in their faith, and for those who don't have a relationship with the Lord to put their faith in Him. As always, we covet your prayers as we continue to serve here.




Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Awesomeness

I love fall, the cool mornings, low humidity (well, most days...), changing colors, & an excuse to bake & devour pumpkin bread. Ahhh...these are life's simple pleasures.

Another thing I love about fall is the endless array of outdoor activities there are to choose from here in Mississippi this time of year. I think there's a particular concentration of fun things to do right now because we've finally risen out of the oppressive heat & awakened to remember that there's a beautiful world out there to enjoy!

Earlier this month, Ryan & I enjoyed a date morning after dropping the boys off at their Mom's Morning Out class at a local church by going to the Canton Flea Market, which is a huge outdoor arts & crafts festival. We had a good time, mostly browsing, but I was thrilled to purchase a cute, artsy birdhouse (it's actually a bird-chapel with a cross steeple, perfect for our manse) for our backyard. The boys were excited too, & we bought birdseed, but for some reason, we've had no takers. Not sure how to get the birds to visit. Any ideas?

For about two weeks in October, THE thing to do around here is to visit the Mississippi State Fair. We took the boys & they seemed to really enjoy it. There's a petting zoo, pig races, lots of spinning rides (which neither Ryan nor I care a thing about), and more carnival junk food than a person could possibly eat. .
Evan can barely contain his excitement awaiting the pig race.

Ryan & Levi at the pig race

And they're off...

The boys loved feeding the animals

The cute furry bison

Notice the striking (albeit frightening) resemblance

Ah, the pure joy that comes from eating fried batter with
powdered sugar on top (aka Elephant Ear)

Finally, this past Saturday we went to the Mississippi Agricultural Museum for their Pumpkin Patch experience. We got to take a hay ride, have a milk & cookie snack, & pick out a pumpkin to take home. It was a beautiful day, & the boys had a great time. 

Evan's silly face

Levi enjoying a sugar cookie snack

Me & Levi on the hayride

Ryan & his boys on the hayride

Picking the perfect pumpkin