A Passion for the Word

Surely, every youth minister longs for the day when saying, “You’ve got to get in the Word!” to a group of students is answered with comments like what we’ve been hearing lately from some of our Middle and High School students.

Evan Pirtle recently stated that he’s actively looking for ways to apply a scripture-a-day to his normal routine. Emma Chambers has revealed how reading a scripture and devotional thought each morning on the way to school gives her something spiritual to reflect on and helps her have a better day. Addison Johnston has shared how specific scriptures have helped her learn to not worry as much and live with greater peace.

At least some of this rise in engagement with scripture is attributable to the Youth Ministry’s new practice of providing daily “Anchored in the Word” posts on a special group chat for youth and volunteers. Intentionally simple, each weekday post features a scripture, reflection thought, and prayer prompt. The purpose is to provide students with an easy-to-digest devotional moment each day. The Word of God has now become a notification directly on the screens of their smart phones!

We invited our Small Group Leaders to be “guest” posters each week, and the response from our volunteers has been wonderful. Their reflections and insights have been very encouraging, and their thoughtful words are indicative of the investment they are making in discipling our teenagers. You can read Bobby Ray sharing his thoughts on how Jesus brings us from death to life. Or Abby Morehead and Abi Chambers reminding us to keep proper spiritual perspective when we experience difficulties. Dustin Mance used his Nov. 29 post to offer some tongue-in-cheek commentary on the Black Friday phenomenon and consumerism.

Because of the efforts of these volunteers and other members of our CCYM team, we hope to see a passion for the Word of God ignite within the hearts of our students.

Defining a "Win" in Student Ministry

If you were to walk into The Creek, you may notice something peculiar on the stage. Sitting on a metal stool on the left side of the stage there is a water jug that has a few ping pong balls in it. At the beginning of November, Mitchell and Michael taught through a series on disciple making. As the series wore on, the jug was introduced. The idea was simple, anytime someone associated with the youth ministry steps out and has an intentional conversation with someone, they drop a ping pong ball into the jug. An intentional conversation was defined this way – any interaction you have with someone with the ultimate intention of bringing Jesus into the conversation. The goal with the jug was to put on display that, yes we love inviting people and seeing our numbers grow, but ultimately we want to be a group that brings Jesus to others, rather than just brings others in our doors.

The youth ministry has already taken to this goal and many wins in this category have already occurred. Harrison Van Eaton shared a story in which he invited a friend who did not know Jesus to come play basketball with some friends who did. In doing so, God opened the door for a conversation to occur in which Harrison got to introduce some of his own faith. Julie Clevenger shared a win she had when she was able to speak to her future college roommate about her faith and ask her roommate about hers. Mitchell and Michael when introducing the concept told of a pair of instances in which they were able to pray for strangers. The jug has been a very effective visual tool for our group to be encouraged by each other and also celebrate our wins.

6 Months Sober

We stopped by her mama’s house to get her ID before we went to the bus station. We knocked on the door and rang the doorbell. Miz Lillian is getting old and it’s getting harder every day for her to get around. Shonda sighed. She hasn’t seen her mama for about two years. We heard a weak cry come from the bedroom window. “Who’s they-ah?”

“It’s me mama. It’s Shonda. It’s your daughter.”

“Guhl. I dreamed about you last night.”

“Mama. I’m going far away. I’ve got to get better. I need my ID.” 

“Whaaat????” I can’t hear ya guhl.”

“MAMA. I NEED MY ID. I SENT IT IN THE MAIL.”

Miz Lillian didn’t know where it was. She was too sore to get up.

I wrote this on July 22 of this year. This would be Cry for the Broken’s second attempt to transition Shonda into Christ centered 12 step recovery. Most of the time, it takes multiple attempts for a woman to build up enough trust to commit to a program. Shonda rode a bus to West Virginia where a program was willing to accept her. Within a few weeks we got a phone call that she was being kicked out for stealing and bullying. We were saddened and expected to see her back out on the street within days. But we did not. Instead, we received a text from Shonda that she found another program. She did not want to give up on sobriety and God’s promise.

Shonda has been through several programs since then. She is learning slowly in each one what she is capable of accomplishing. Her tenacity is admirable. On Christmas we received a text that said,” January 19 is my 6 months (sobriety). I’m so very proud of myself!”

Shonda, we are proud of you too!

*names have been changed

"L" is for Listen

Our family at Clear Creek has delivered Thanksgiving baskets to families in need for several years now. One thing that we try to do year in and year out is for the families that we deliver to be ones that we already have a preexisting relationship with. While there is nothing wrong with simply sharing the love of Christ with a family we don’t know by giving them some much needed food around the holidays, already having a relationship with someone you help gives us the opportunity to continue to go deeper with them.

George and Phyllis Taylor’s small group was able to deliver a Thanksgiving basket to a family that fit the bill perfectly. A family that the Taylors were acquainted with had recently fallen onto some very difficult times due to serious illness in the family. Five children, a sick mother, and a father working multiple jobs made for a really difficult situation. Eventually, the situation become so dire that wife’s father moved back to the area just to help keep the family afloat. The group was able to spend some time with and deliver food to the family. The grandfather has since visited the small group and the relationship has continued to grow.

While we can all agree that this should be classified as a huge “win”, we sometimes forget about the things that had to happen first for any of this to be possible. In our BLESS acronym, the “L” stands for “LISTEN.” Listen to others as they share their struggles and their pains. Though it is possible, having someone “share their struggles and their pains” isn’t something that typically comes up in normal conversation! It takes us putting forth effort to show them that we care enough to hear about their struggles and their pains. It may even take us modeling vulnerability to let them know that, in this relationship, it’s ok to share those kinds of things.

When presented with the opportunity to help someone we know, the vast majority of us would jump at the chance to do so. But have we given ourselves a chance to even know about these opportunities? Have we been intentional in our relationships with others in a way that would help them feel comfortable conveying any need they have to us? It may not always be easy, but God’s kingdom is blessed by people like the Taylors who are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to find out the needs of those around them.

Eating Turkey with Chopsticks

The Clear Creek ESL Group had our 2nd annual “Friendsgiving” dinner this year. We recently decided to be more intentional about making that happen more often. This has allowed us to get to know each other better, learn more about each other’s cultures, and enjoy fellowship. We have found that holidays are a great opportunity to share our faith and open our homes to those that we are ministering to, along with their families. 

For Thanksgiving, each family brought dishes from their culture, while we provided the turkey and some traditional American dishes. It was fun to see turkey and mashed potatoes being eaten with chopsticks! We reflected on thankfulness and we were reminded of the blessing of differences; how God created us all different, yet gives us so many things that we can all relate to! We are so glad that we chose to be more intentional about our meals together, so that we can continue to get to know each other and share God’s love to those who need to hear it!

We have also been blessed with a new family in our ESL group this year! Since joining, they have been coming almost every Sunday and Wednesday, with their children participating in classes as well. One comment we have heard multiple times is how kind the people at Clear Creek are. They have felt so welcome here! It is so foreign to them that people are so kind and willing to help others. This has given us a chance to explain the love God has for us, and that “we love because HE first loved us.” We are called to be different, to be set apart from this world. When we do this, others take notice, so that we can give God all the glory, and bring them to HIM!

2020 Vision

Do you know the one thing that great batters in baseball have in common? Great vision.

In his best-selling book The Sports Gene, David Epstein found that the average eyesight for Major League players’ is an incredible 20/13, while Minor League players’ eyesight averaged a little worse, and college students were statistically lower than that.  In other words, their vision changed their game.

This is true for life, as well.

King Solomon wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18) You want to have a great year? Improve your vision. Great vision enables you to avoid pitfalls and take advantage of new opportunities.

So, do you have a clear vision for this year?  Here are 5 ways to have 20/20 vision for 2020. 

  1. Ask God. Ephesians 2:10 says that God has prepared good works “in advance for us to do.” If God prepared the plans, then ask Him to show you the plans. Ask Him, “What do you want me to see and who do you want me to serve?” He will show you.
  2. Ask a Spiritual Mentor. Paul told the Corinthian Christians to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ, because every growing Christian needs a spiritual mentor (1 Corinthians 11:1). A spiritual mentor is a trustworthy Christ-follower who is further along the discipleship path. So, ask a spiritually mature Christian you trust how God has taught him/her to see clearly. God may use their answer to clarify your vision.
  3. Find Friends with Great Vision. Vision is enhanced or limited by the company we keep (1 Corinthians 15:33). How can we expect vision-less friends to give us vision for our lives? Ask yourself, “Do my closest friends have a clear vision for pursuing Jesus this year?” If not, then it may be time for an upgrade.
  4. Stay Focused. Clear vision is more than seeing; it’s about focus. God has given you this year for the purpose of knowing Him and making Him known to others. He will give you greater clarity as you focus on your purpose.
  5. Obey Quickly. When God shows you what to do – do it! He rewards immediate obedience with additional opportunities. Just ask the faithful servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents. He was faithful with what he was given, so his master gave him more opportunity (Matthew 25:23).

A Ripple Effect

One of my favorite things about meeting in a small group is getting to bring all of our prayer requests to the table and pray over them as a community. We learn so much about who and what is on people’s hearts. A woman in our small group continually brought her friend’s name to the table. She asked that we pray for her friend at work who seemed to be searching for something more. She hoped that one day she’d be willing to visit our church family on a Sunday.

Sometimes discipleship requires removing ourselves from our comfort zone to support others in their walk with Christ.

We lifted her name up several times. The woman in our small group continually invited her to come to church and invested time with her outside of the building, as well. As a group, we were excited to see her visit Sunday Worship one morning. We silently cheered and were eager to get to meet the woman we had been praying for.

After a few weeks, I noticed my friend from small group wasn’t at church. I asked her husband if she was sick, and luckily she was not. Her friend that we had been praying for wanted to try some other churches that were a closer fit to what she grew up with, so our friend offered to visit them with her.

I was personally blown away by this and I’m sure others were as well. She chose to put herself out there and step out of her normal routine of comfort to support her friend’s quest for a church home. The reminder she can give us all is this: sometimes discipleship requires removing ourselves from our comfort zone to support others in their walk with Christ. That obedience has a ripple effect that surpasses what we are able to see, but we know God’s hand is in it all.  

Loving Mother. Big Black Tahoe.

Six years ago, Karen Brown joined Cry for the Broken. When the outreach began with nothing but a whisper and a prayer, Karen was there willing to do whatever it took to lead broken women to Jesus. She and her husband, Garry Brown, recently began coming to Clear Creek and we are so glad to have them with us! 

Karen tirelessly works for those who Cry for the Broken serves. She drives twice a month on outreach. She goes out to the jail twice a month to minister to the ladies, always hoping to see one that she knows. She is the backbone of the organization, planning Walk the Streets in Her Shoes and The Street-Side Soup Kitchen each year. She has been on many late night missions and has done countless rescues for women who are looking for a way out. 

She always smiles when she talks about how the girls on the street love seeing her “big black Tahoe” coming. They jump up and down and flag her down, often running into her arms for a hug and a prayer.

Recently, Karen spoke about a young woman in jail that wants to forgive her father for unspeakable things he did to her when she was three years old. Karen listened to her like a loving mother and shared the love of Jesus with her. The girl said she was incarcerated for her first criminal charge and the judge was going to let her go free. She asked the judge to put her in jail instead. She wants to change. Karen is there. Faithful. Waiting for these kinds of opportunities to let women know Cry for the Broken and Clear Creek Church of Christ are there for them.  We are so grateful for Karen and her obedience to Jesus.

Diggin’ a Ditch

There is an amazing story in 2 Kings where the prophet Elisha tells the armies of three kingdoms to dig ditches in a valley in the middle of the desert because, as a way to help them, God is going to fill that valley with water. The ditches are dug, the water fills them, and everyone is happy. Can we consider for a moment, though, how crazy it must have sounded to the men digging those ditches when the order was passed down to them? Ditches? For water? In the dessert? They obviously didn’t know the God that we know. Some people take steps because they know what will happen, but followers of Jesus take steps because we know the God who makes things happen.

Our goal was to create a safe place for people who are struggling or have struggled with addiction. Our problem was that we only knew of two people who wanted a place like that. When we began to dream with Shane and Analisa Shepard about what a small group like that would look like, we ended every conversation with “…but we may not have anyone come. And if we don’t, we need to be ok with that.” So instead of trying to “dig our ditch” after God sent the water (which we sometimes have a tendency to do), we committed to start the group and trusted that God would do what He said He would.

Spoiler alert: He did. People who haven’t been to church in years (or ever) now look forward to getting up early on Sunday morning. People who never saw themselves wanting ownership are stepping up to lead the group when the leaders have to miss. People who never thought that church could be for “a person like me” now KNOW that church is exactly that place… because they were able to see what the rest of us already know: that we are all imperfect people that serve a perfect God.

Let us all pray for courage to take our next step, dig our ditches, and watch God provide.

Taking Ownership

There is constantly growth and development happening within the youth ministry and anyone who has been a part of it can attest to the blessing that it is. The desire for a maturing relationship with Christ is a common trait amongst these students.

Specifically, the upper classmen of this ministry have expressed a desire to lead and take ownership of the youth group. A lunch was hosted in The Creek for all juniors and seniors to share some of their wisdom as well as help vision cast for the future of the youth group. During this lunch it was apparent not only how much they love this group and each other, but how much ambition they have for this group to be the best it can be. A plethora of good ideas were suggested by these leaders. Leah Gray specifically expressed an interest in creating more opportunities for bonding and community building. Hannah Ray and Luke Tucker both agreed that they would like to have opportunities to lead in small group discussions with younger students. Addie Stone mentioned an interest in creating better communication for youth group events. Various other students suggested restructuring how Wednesday nights are conducted in The Creek.

It is inspiring to be a part of a ministry in which the students want to take ownership, lead, and provide the best experience for their fellow students to grow. It has been said that leadership (or lack there of) of the high schoolers is what can make or break a youth group. Based on the ambition displayed by these upper-classmen, its safe to assume CCYM won’t be breaking any time soon.