Opportunities Abound

In Children’s Ministry we believe that you are never too young to learn to lead. We provide many opportunities for our children to learn from adults, then put various aspects of leadership into practice. If they are willing, we will find a place for them to serve no matter their age. Of course, the older they are, the more opportunities they may have. Third graders have led outstanding worship songs. First graders have volunteered surprisingly knowledgeable and detailed answers as they represented their class in large group lesson reviews. Fifth graders greet the other children at the door each week and welcome them in. Our older elementary students frequently serve as Team Leaders for games and Bible learning activities.

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In addition to Bible knowledge, our goal is to develop Christ followers that aren’t afraid to stand up, speak up, and take a lead. When they put themselves out there, they grow, gain confidence, and provide an excellent example for everyone else. More than once, we have been amazed at their eagerness and effectiveness serving when offered the opportunity. It’s refreshing to see a group that is genuinely concerned about others without being overly concerned about how they are perceived. It’s reminiscent of the old catch phrase about JOY: Jesus first, Others second, Yourself third.

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An Exceptional Servant

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule. In the context of a church, it states that 80% of the work being done is accomplished by only 20% of the people. Usually, the 80/20 rule gets pulled out whenever complaints are being lodged about how some people are being overworked while others aren’t doing anything. Fortunately, Clear Creek volunteerism and involvement has been steadily growing beyond this ratio over the last several years, and we now employ more volunteers (as a percentage) throughout our various ministries than ever before, which is fantastic!

IMG_0803While more and more people are answering the call to serve, there are still a few who stand out as exceptional examples of servant leadership and have put in more than their fair share of time to offering help to the ministries of this congregation. One such leader, is long-time youth ministry volunteer Andy Gaither. After his third son’s graduation from High School, Andy finally decided to transition to new servant roles in other ministry areas, but his example of long-term commitment, selfless sacrifice of time and energy, and dedication to building younger generations of Christians is an example for all.

For over fifteen years, Andy served the youth ministry of the Hixson, now Clear Creek, congregation. For much of that time he held the title of deacon and later, Special Servant, but in no way was this an honorary title only. Andy exemplified what it is to be a ministry helper. Serving alongside several different youth ministers, and even filling in temporarily at times, he was known for ALWAYS being willing to help with ANYTHING. Trustworthy, efficient, and content to work the “hidden” behind-the-scenes roles, Andy would never ask for recognition, and will probably hate that this article is written to acknowledge his years of service!
Nevertheless, no apology will be offered, because if ever this church has seen someone who consistently displays a servant’s heart, it has seen it in Andy. For many years, he blessed the youth ministry with his consistent influence, and as he has taken on additional volunteer roles, leading to his transition out of youth ministry last spring, he continues to prove himself a high-capacity servant leader who never seems to tire of using the abilities God has given him to serve the needs of this church. May those who read this take encouragement that Clear Creek, and on a larger scale God’s kingdom, is served by men and women who understand that making disciples takes a certain degree of personal sacrifice, but also understand that the rewards, for both themselves and the people they serve, are eternal.

Youth Small Groups

Our teens are a close-knit community, led by a group of all-star small group leaders. They spend time each Sunday, diving into the Word, discussing the lesson shared with them, and praying over each other. This is special intentional time that CCYM dedicates each week in order to progress our students down the discipleship path. Much of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of our small group leaders. These awesome men and women pour themselves into the lives of students, not simply on Sunday for an hour. They go to ball games. Cheer meets. Band competitions. Irish step-dancing festivals. They celebrate victories together. They comfort during times of loss. They sacrifice family time in order to build-up and encourage their students.

Research shows that the more healthy, spiritually-focused relationships that a teenager has with adults other than their parents, the better they turn out. CCYM’s small group leaders know what is going on with their students. They ask them about family situations, how their event went, or if they passed their driver’s permit test. A teenager does NOT care what you know, until they know that you care. Trust is built over time. Being authentic. Being present. Our small group leaders do that. This is not merely friendship or laughing together, although those are big factors for bonding. We are talking about growing together while in community. Building trust.

We want the students of CCYM to know that not only will Mitchell, Aubrey, and their wives know their names and where they belong; there is a host of dedicated small group leaders that care for them. Every student at CCYM should feel that they are KNOWN and LOVED.

Paul’s prayer for the believers in Philippi ring true and is our prayer for both the dedicated small group leaders AND the students at CCYM.

“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God.” [Philippians 1:9-11]

 

Jesus in the Middle

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says, “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” If you think back to all the meaningful relationships and communities you have had throughout life that you were not born into, you will find that they often began in a similar way.

Each Wednesday evening, a small group of ladies, led by Ginger Hannah, meets together in hopes to eliminate the phrase, “I thought I was the only one.” The group is made up entirely of single mothers. It provides a very safe place for a group of women who are experiencing a set of unique challenges while they raise their children. What is truly amazing, though, is how God is using Ginger to create a community where single mothers are able to come and be drawn together by their life circumstances, but never defined by them. For discipleship to occur in any community, it is important to move past the superficial things that connect you. And while there is nothing superficial or easy about the challenges of being a single parent, Ginger is helping the ladies in this group see that their identity, and therefore their connectedness, lies in something much deeper and more substantial: Christ. And this is discipleship in a nutshell; God moves us to move others closer to Christ. From the beginning, Ginger said that she never wanted this to turn into a support group. That is not to say they wouldn’t support one another, because they most certainly do. Ginger understood that to create movement towards Christ in someone’s life, He, not your interests, geographic location, or life circumstances, must be where the identity of your community lies.

Eddie Mosley, a Small Groups minister in Nashville, once said, “Everyone is already a part of some community… it’s up to us to help them put Jesus in the middle of it.”

It is amazing to see God use Ginger and others in our church family finding a way to put Christ in the middle of whatever community they are a part of.

 

New. What a Great Word.

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I remember the first new vehicle I ever bought. It was a 1984 Nissan S/T Pickup. I remember how it drove, how it smelled, how it felt to own something that had never belonged to anyone else before.

I remember our first new house. Not a home that was new to us, but a house that we built from the ground up. I remember the day we moved in and how thrilled Melissa and I were to be homeowners at a particularly young age.

But things change.

Sometimes I wish I still had that truck, but I’m sure now it is in a junkyard somewhere. Occasionally, I wish I was still in that little house, but when I go back, I realize how little it really is.

This is how it should be.

You see, the truck I bought in 1984 and the house we built in 1986 would no longer suit our needs. They were great at the time, and helped us get to the point in our life where we are presently. But we’ve grown and taken on newer things out of necessity. You see, in almost every facet of our lives, what got us “here” won’t get us “there.”

Because this is how God planned it.

God wants and expects us to live our lives in anticipation. He expects us to change and grow. He wants us to experience satisfaction in our desire for Him, but more importantly, to experience restlessness in the journey to Him. He wants us to crave new.

In his revelation, John gives us a sneak preview of a time to come…a new heaven and a new earth created at a time when God declares that He will make all things new. The skies will be peeled back by the voice of God, our world will be consumed by itself, and we’ll go home… to something eternally new. It’s tough to imagine our quest for new ever stopping, but when God makes all things new, it will.

So, until then, how about we seek new together?  Try to remember what new felt like as you began your walk with Jesus and be greedy to feel that again.  Try to remember the jubilation you felt the first time you helped someone else become a new person in Christ, and hunger for it to happen again.  Look for new ways to strengthen and grow the kingdom of God in this little corner of the world we call Clear Creek.

Let’s press on to new together.  But just remember, in our quest for new, what got us “here” won’t get us “there.”

– Joey

Simple, But Powerful

It’s Wednesday evening and a handful of college students are sitting around a table at the Yellow Deli. The restaurant has delicious sandwiches and drinks, but the real reason they meet here every week is to study the Bible with their small group. At the center of the action is Abby Morehead, one of the UCM’s Campus Missionaries, leading the small group. For the next hour students laugh, discuss the Bible, finish their food, talk about life, and pray together. Some of the students are UCM veterans and others have just connected with the UCM for the first time, but they all equally belong around this table. It’s simple, but powerful.IMG216215686

On Thursday afternoon Abby and some friends are in a study room at the library. A few people in the room are part of the UCM college group, but others are not. About a year ago Abby realized that if she was going to share her faith with new people she needed a good way to get to know them. She already spent a lot of time in the library, so she decided to be intentional about using her study time to build relationships with people in her classes. Since then she has invited classmates to the library for group projects and study sessions. The schoolwork gets done, but more important are the relationships that are formed between these classmates, Abby and the other UCM students. It’s simple, but powerful.

The rest of the week goes on much like any other college student’s would – classes, meals, Wal-Mart trips, hanging out on campus. What’s different for Abby though, is the knowledge that God wants to work through her and her gifts to bless others on campus. Abby is naturally loud and exciting, so God is at work as she laughs and has fun with everyone around her. She may seem like an average college student, but she is also a disciple maker and leader.

Asked how she sees her role on campus Abby said, “Building relationships with people and growing alongside them. I’m hopefully being the influence that pushes them toward Christ and his unconditional love.”

As she goes through her school life with a sense of purpose and open eyes, she is doing the work of Jesus on campus. It’s simple, but powerful.

 

Inner City Outreach

Of the volunteers who help every Thursday with Inner City Outreach, one stands out as going above and beyond. Always smiling, Rosalind Crownover arrives an hour before class begins so she can ride the bus that picks up middle school children in downtown’s College Hill Courts, then brings them to and from Clear Creek. After she arrives at the building she helps teach the girls’ class, often bringing fun crafts for the girls to do.

824443ab6784b2ab7e65dfd1c82eaaf1.0Rosalind began volunteering with Inner City two years ago after hearing about the outreach at Clear Creek’s annual Catfish Dinner. She realized at the time that God had given her a gift to love children, which is evident in the way she interacts with the children each Thursday. By committing to spend her time this way each Thursday evening, Rosalind is able to invest countless hours in the lives of these young people who are often in desperate need of consistent love and encouragement. Not only has Rosalind decided to share the love of Jesus with these young people; she has also recruited others to join her. For the last two years, she has arranged for the Chattanooga State Girls Basketball team to come and spend time with the inner-city children. She is sharing God’s blessings with others and is inviting others in to that circle of blessing as well.

 

Walk the Streets

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Walk the Streets in Her Shoes was a big success this year. Cry for the Broken would like to thank each and every individual who participated in our event to bring awareness to brokenness and exploitation in our city. Every year, God goes above and beyond to accomplish His purpose through our walk. This year, two men approached Steve Campbell, a Clear Creek member, and asked what we were doing on the street. After his interaction with these members of the community, Mr. Campbell said, “The two gentlemen that I had discussions with really helped me understand the plight that these ladies deal with. While middle class America, us, can’t relate to what they go through, I just found out that the people on the street don’t have any respect for them either. What a hard reality and existence this must be for them.”

Mr. Campbell’s statement exemplifies the power of awareness. When CFTB started, it began with the dream that if the church only knew what was going on in our streets, something could be done to help. The awareness that was raised by our Walk the Streets event will hopefully lead to more volunteers being the hands and feet of Jesus on Chattanooga’s streets.

 

Can’t Have Too Many Helpers

Audio Visual tech teams are always in need of more trained hands. Kids are definitely not technophobes. They learn quickly and are not afraid to try new things. This makes a great combination for training young minds to prepare and present audio visuals.

IMG_20170611_104724958.jpgEach Sunday and Wednesday the Children’s Ministry has a rotation of 5th graders who are learning how to manage the visual presentation and the timing involved. They learn a little more and gain more experience each time we meet. Hopefully this group will be able to use their experience to help in the Youth Ministry and eventually in the Worship Center.

Camp Run Free with Blazing Hope

1Our small group has decided to “do whatever He says”, and try to seek and notice the opportunities that the Lord has placed before us to help those who need it most. We have decided to support the efforts of a young family who are intent on reaching young women who are hurt and neglected. Their efforts at Blazing Hope Ranch have taken root in a wild overgrown patch in a remote corner of East TN ground. When our group first contacted them, the dream to provide housing and support for young women rescued from human trafficking was just starting to unfold. They dreamed of a summer camp for at-risk children and a ranch where they could utilize horses in the rehabilitation process. Land was donated to them, but they needed a ramshackle barn dug out of the brambles. The sites had to be chosen for the homes – both for the cared for and the caring.

This year the camp for at-risk children arrived and Camp Run Free was held in a convenient venue where parents could bring their children. The staff at Blazing Hope had everything under control, with spreadsheets, curriculum, color coded group designations, teachers and nurses. The horses arrived, the health officials showed up and we all learned each day how we could contribute. Our part was to feed and keep watered the entire crew of 60 campers and staff. Interactions with the folks in the Clear Creek Café provided useful lessons and resources. We have already been asked to consider providing for both the campers and staff again next year.

On Friday during the camp, a small boy came grinning up to the horseman. The little fella was so proud of his fun riding experiences and the observation was made that the child had been petrified of the horse just five days earlier. We also noticed that one young lady was quietly separated from her group, having private discussions with two of the counselors on site.

One of our group commented: “Camp Run Free placed me with God’s innocent children, running and playing and at the same time being educated about God, His love and the dangers in the outside world that sometimes present themselves when we least expect it. A wonderful group of volunteers with beautiful spirits made this camp successful for a group of children who otherwise probably would not have been able to attend because of financial obligations. Having been involved with Cry for the Broken and meeting women face to face who struggle with being on the streets makes me very excited to see Blazing Hope Ranch near completion to house women like these who long for a safe place to lay their heads and dream of a better life.”

Another small group member observed: “To me Blazing Hope is discipleship at its core. From keeping God’s children safe by teaching them the dangers of predators through Camp Run Free to healing the wounds of those survivors at the Ranch who were once caught up in human trafficking are two great examples of what Christians should be involved in. By partnering up with Blazing Hope it brings real world problems front and center to our small group, and allows us the opportunity to shine Jesus’s light on some of those that need it the most. As these connections grow and the Lord directs their course, we always hope to learn better how to increasingly love our small group members.  We will continue to laugh, cry, grow and learn together as we serve.”