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. 

Children Taking Next Steps

In our Children’s Ministry we are always looking to highlight how well our parents are modeling discipleship before their children and teaching them to grow in their faith. We have recently seen several instances in which our young ones have demonstrated their faith.

Mason Long, his sister and mother were at Chick-Fil-A one day and he was playing in the play place with a little boy he had never met before. Mason’s kindness to Alex led his mom to meet Stephanie Long and begin a conversation which ultimately led to a discussion about church and an invitation to come to Clear Creek. Alex and his parents came to Clear Creek the following Sunday to learn more about our church, to worship God and take their next step with Jesus – all because little Mason befriended a stranger and showed him the love of Jesus. Mason and Stephanie are taking their next steps in faith.

I saw a touching story on Facebook one day about another one of our younger children. Meghan Phillips wrote about how their family prays together every night before bed with Mark and Meghan asking God for specific requests for their family as well as other family and friends. Up until this particular evening, Tre’ always prayed general prayers, but on this night he put his arms around his parents and prayed specifically for them and the concerns they were facing. WOW! How precious is the heart of this young disciple who realizes he is not the center of the universe and feels compelled to go to the Father on behalf of someone other than himself. Tre’ is learning to take his next steps in faith.

Another young one who is learning from his parents is Crew Dolberry. Zack told me how excited Crew was to attend “big” worship one Sunday because he was going to be giving his money to Jesus during the contribution time. Zack and Jill have taught Crew to follow Dave Ramsey’s Junior Program by dividing any money he receives into 3 categories – Give, Save, Spend. When Crew was told that he would be going to “big” worship that Sunday for training instead of Wee Worship and was told what it would look like, Crew was excited to take all of his “Give” money to put in the collection basket for Jesus and the church. What a pure heart to want to give it all to Jesus! Crew is taking his next steps in faith.

Finally, I was reminded recently of another “giving it all” story from a few months back. Brock Beach received a large sum of money for his birthday and heard a lesson about giving “because it all belongs to God anyway” and was touched in his heart to give it all to God because Brock had everything he needed already. How humbling to hear about the generous attitude of a young person who so readily and willingly trusts God. Brock is taking his next steps in faith.

As you can tell our young ones are being taught what a disciple of Christ should be doing and how they are to be growing in their faith as they age. The Children’s Ministry at Clear Creek is doing what it can to educate and motivate, but it is imperative that parents are daily teaching by word and example to demonstrate what it looks like to take their next steps in faith as well – just as these parents are doing.

Counting the Steps

It’s amazing to see students move closer to Jesus. No matter how many times we’ve seen God work in this way through the UCM college ministry, it never gets old. Whether it’s a lifelong Christian, skeptical agnostic or follower of another religion, God softens hearts and grows faith as His people faithfully reach out in love.

Clara is a sophomore at UTC who was first invited into the UCM family by CJ, another sophomore. CJ and Clara got to know each other in a Women’s Studies class their freshmen year. Even though Clara wasn’t a Christian, she was willing to give UCM a try because of CJ’s genuine love and persistence. One step towards Jesus.

As she opened the door, she stopped and said out loud, “I think I’m gonna give this Jesus thing a try.”

At first, Clara politely disagreed with most of the Christian views expressed. Her beliefs and lifestyle are common on a college campus, but pretty out of place in a church setting. Despite this, other students in UCM were eager to welcome her, listen to her and show her love.

Near the end of the semester, Clara was about to go home after our weekly meeting. As she opened the door, she stopped and said out loud, “I think I’m gonna give this Jesus thing a try.” One more step.

Clara (above with red hair) and other UCM students serving people on the streets  

Over the summer, Clara’s mom started going to the doctor to be treated for cancer. Clara asked her UCM family to pray and her mom was soon healed. When UCM students pointed to God and his ability to answer prayer Clara replied, “I’ve never really believed in prayer, but it seems like there’s something to it.” Step number three.

About a month ago, Clara was in a discussion group at our weekly meeting. The first question was about people’s previous experiences with Christian groups. Clara said that every Christian group she’s ever known was full of “horrible people and cliques.” The next question was about any community, religious or not, that was a good experience. Clara looked at us and said, “The UCM is the best community I’ve ever been a part of. They welcome me, they don’t judge me and they’re real.” Forget about counting the steps, this is exciting!

Each week brings new stories of students running towards Clara (and others like her) with boldness and love. There are conversations about deep, personal issues and faith. Lots of patient listening. Prayer. Coffee and study times.

We’re thankful for the chance to know Clara and we pray that God keeps working in her heart!

The (football) Fields of Harvest

Every Saturday for 8 weeks in the fall our campus hosts hundreds of visitors who come to enjoy youth flag football. Clear Creek partners with Upward Sports to run a youth league for boys and girls from Kindergarten through 6th grade with the mission of sharing Jesus with children and families. Each week at practice Christian coaches share a verse from God’s word or prayer time with the kids which we pray is planting seeds that will grow throughout the community for years to come. The siblings, parents, and friends of our 225 football players come multiple times per week to the fields behind our building to support their favorite flag football player, but more importantly to be exposed to Jesus.

This season we’ve had Clear Creek members pray with mothers whose husbands have abandoned their families and coaches have prayed with children who are going through substantial physical or emotional struggles. Players have supported a teammate through the tragic loss of a sibling. Parents have encouraged each other and cheered for one another’s kids. It’s a place where healthy competition meets the spirit of Christ.

Jesus tells us in John 4 that the fields are ready to be harvested. After a visit to one of our Upward game-days, this becomes quite evident. There are unchurched and de-churched families right behind our building every week that come to encourage their kids in athletics but leave with an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus through the things their children learn at practice or in games. Please pray that the fruit of this good work continues to be seen for many years.

Draw Others In

It’s powerful evidence that they are learning to BE the church and not just attend one.

On a Wednesday in early August, our seventh-grade girls small group invited the brand new sixth-grade girls to have a pre-church meal with them at Wendy’s. On the face of it, this may seem like a minor thing, but it’s actually a huge testament to the desire of the older girls to draw the new recruits into the community of the youth ministry. Every fall, CCYM gains a new group of fresh young students, and ahead of these students are seven years of exposure to all the things CCYM has to offer. Devotionals, retreats, small groups with mentors, mission trips, fellowship activities, and discipleship training are just a few of things we hope will help them journey towards becoming a committed adult disciple. However, as many of these 11 year olds have attested to over the years, entering the youth room for the first time, where everyone seems MUCH bigger and older, can be pretty intimidating and it often takes a little while for our newest class to feel fully at home amongst the older students.

That’s why what our seventh-grade girls did is so wonderful. This small group is led by Christy Beach and Courtney Reynolds, who were also these girls’ leaders last school year, and though each insists they were not responsible for this idea, they do deserve recognition for leading their girls in such a way that they felt empowered to minister to others. When we see examples of our youth taking ownership of their church community and actively working to draw others in, it’s powerful evidence that they are learning to BE the church and not just attend one. I imagine the sixth graders who attended this evening meal won’t soon forget the hospitality shown them, and perhaps, they’ll want to do the same for younger students in the future.

What Are You For?

277a97ac-e917-418e-8b74-f28b6cca25f7_1.7777438103b9f6530a39bf471a28b932Every person will be known primarily by what they are for or by what they are against.

Against people are critics and complainers who focus on what not to do. For people celebrate wins and compel others to a higher way of living.  Against people repel. For people compel.

Jesus was a “for” person. He focused on what he was here for. Yes, he periodically tossed tables and called out haters, but his primary message was that God loves the world and wants to save the world (John 3:16-17).

So, we want to cut the confusion and clearly mark what we, at Clear Creek, are for.

We are for…

…Jesus’ fame. Paul writes that, in Jesus, “all things were created…and in him all things hold together.” And “he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:16-18). Jesus is our hero and our helper. The One who sustains and saves us. He is our message.

our city. God told ancient Israel to “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city…Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). We love, serve and pray for our city, because God loves our city.

the next generation. Previous generations sacrificed so we would know Jesus. It is now our privilege to leverage our position and abilities so the next generation can carry the torch of Jesus into the culture and the future.

empowering people. We seek to help others step into their God-given roles as world-changers in their homes and communities by living lives marked by holiness and dependence on God (Ephesians 4:11-16).

restoration and reconciliation. We are appointed and empowered by God to speak vision and value into others’ lives (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We go where others fear to go and do what others won’t so that all may be reunited to their loving God.

This is what we are for. So, let’s go for it together.

 

Restoring with Confidence

Catrina Cabe is the new Restoration Developer with Clear Creek Church of Christ. It is her job to go out into the community and lead people to Jesus and make them into disciples. One of the ways she accomplishes this is by going into the jail every Monday to teach a class called Twelve Steps to Freedom. She uses the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous along with biblical principles to lead women into Christ centered recovery. The twelfth step states,  “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps…” We try to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. This final step screams discipleship. When we guide people through recovery with Jesus, servants are readily made.

JackieEach week, Jackie Olson is faithful to volunteer in this endeavor. Even though she is not an alcoholic or an addict and has never been incarcerated, she is able to use her own experience with brokenness to relate to the inmates in our classroom. Watching her minister to these ladies with her knowledge and wisdom makes us want to be better people. Today we honor her as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Last Monday, Jackie recalled what it was like to enter into prison ministry while talking to the girls in class. She told them that she was scared to death to come into jail and teach. But she knew that God was calling her there so she was obedient to submit to His will. Before she knew it, she was teaching with confidence and so happy that she had answered God’s call. We are grateful to Jackie Olson. All of us are!

 

 

Party Like God

God loves to party.

It’s true. Thumb through the pages of Scripture and you’ll see a celebrating God. Luke 10:21 describes Jesus as joy-full. Paul describes God in 1 Timothy 1:11 as blessed, which means happy. So, Paul is calling God a “happy God.” And the prophet Zephaniah says that our God sings and “rejoices over us” (Zephaniah 3:17). Rejoice means to “dance, skip, and spin with joy.” Ours is a joy-filled, happy, dancing and singing God.

God enjoys life and he wants us to enjoy it as well. Consider this…

picture1-1.png

In the Old Testament, God built into Israel’s calendar seven holidays, amounting to about thirty days of feasts per year. Add the weekly Sabbaths, and the total comes to around eighty days of feasting and rest annually. Add the later feasts of Purim (one day) and Hanukkah (eight days), plus weddings and birth celebrations, and the amount of time off for celebration and worship exceeded three months a year!

In other words, God’s people party. They enjoy life and they celebrate regularly.

Here are three biblical ways to party like God this fall.

  1. Savor your five senses. God gave you five senses to enjoy the world. Use them. Engage your taste and smell with a good meal. See if you can pick out each flavor and how they interact. Savor your sight by watching a good movie or a sunset. Hold a loved one’s hand or wear your favorite shirt. Pay attention to how the instruments blend together in your favorite song or the way your friends’ voices vary.
  2. Sabbath every seven days. Party people have learned to Sabbath regularly. Sabbath simply means doing whatever reconnects you with God and refills your tank physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Busy? Set an appointment to Sabbath. Put it on the calendar and protect the time. And only do what refills and reconnects you.
  3. Spend time with friends. Throw a party with a purpose. Pick a Sabbath to gather with friends who refill your tank and help you reconnect with God. Savor your senses together. Serve a meal, swap stories, play games, music, or dance.

Life with God is good. It is to be enjoyed and celebrated. And the invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to enjoy life. So, take some time this fall to become more like God and party.

Ready to Lead

Humans long to be a part of something, we crave a community and we want to be poured into. A youth group is one of the best places for teenagers to experience community, and this is obviously why ministers and parents pour into them so much. CCYM is no exception to this. With United being our summer theme, we’ve been able to practice community as a group and  learn more about how to be a stronger community within the church. So many of these kids are growing up to be leaders and continue to find opportunities where they can lead in their own communities.

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Sophie Hadfield is a great example of someone who is ready to lead and form community. On multiple occasions she’s been asked to step up and lead a song or activity on the spot, and she does it with little hesitation. She has risen up to the task of leading for the middle schoolers and the youth group as a whole. This has been obvious throughout the events of this summer. Her energy is high and her spirit is ready to create opportunities for this group to see and experience Jesus. It is clear that Sophie uses her talents in a way that God can work through them so others can experience His joy and love. It is so special to see God’s spirit working through someone, and when interacting with Sophie you can see Him. That is what we strive to be, people who show others Jesus. She pours into others so well and is so excited to be around people. It is encouraging to watch her allow Christ to work in her life and set an example for the community she is a part of!

 

God Showed His Light

This June we took our fifth graders on a mission trip to Atlanta. We took them to a refugee day camp to play with kids who are less fortunate than we are. While we were there one of our students really stuck out. Gabriel Hodges was extremely involved in including everyone, not only did he include the kids at the camp he also made sure our entire group was involved. While some of the kids might have been focused more on the fun of the trip, Gabriel was focused on seeing Jesus through the trip. He displayed a great Christ-like attitude when everyone was tired from the long day. He was a great example of how Christ would encourage others.

On the second day of the trip we took the kids to Stone Mountain to climb the mountain and enjoy time as a group. Although the mountain was not very hard to climb for some, for others it was a bit of a challenge. 64930710_10155900453926157_1709342261629681664_nOne who stood out in this trying time was Chapman Mathis. She brought an attitude that many parents would be proud to hear their child was displaying on the trip.  She encouraged everyone to keep going, and to finish strong. She was kind to others at all times even when others might not have been the kindest towards our group. Chapman was a strong presence in our group bringing nothing but positivity.

God showed his light through these two kids on this trip. These kids showed a great understanding of how God wants us to act. Both of these kids showed their love for God, and in their journals about the trip talked about how they were seeing him on the trip. God had a big impact on these kids which will continue to grow over time.