Friday, February 20, 2015

Grief Share

December begins for most people on the 1st of the month, but for others the 25th of the month seems to be the following Friday. Writing personal messages in our Christmas cards gives me time to pray about friends far and near.  My smart phone interrupted my solitude.  Our daughter was calling from Bellingham, Washington, sobbing and breathless as she spoke.  I couldn’t make out what she was saying; thoughts of our three young granddaughters, and James our son in-law who drives to Seattle and back each day, dashed through my head. Finally, she began to explain that Piper, her sister and brother and all their children were in Disney World for a week with their parents as a Christmas gift from their Mother, Nana and Stepfather, Papa.  Piper is one of our daughter’s special friends and Jack and I love her as well. Piper and her mother enjoyed riding roller coasters together since she was a young child.  That day they had screamed with joy and laughed, stepping from their seats onto the walk-way, Nana began to feel terribly uncomfortable.  Nana’s husband and Piper helped Nana to a bench as her children and nine grandchildren watched.  Papa alerted a Disney employee to send for an ambulance for his wife.  Immediately the EMT’s were administering aid and placed her in the ambulance leaving for the nearest hospital.  Children were taken to the hotel with an uncle and Nana’s children and husband raced to the hospital. By the time they arrived to the emergency room, plans had been made for Flight for Life to take Nana to a larger hospital where a group of specialty doctor’s would treat her. Nana’s husband and children now knew she was in critical condition. Again, the family drove to another unfamiliar area to locate another hospital. Nana had suffered a brain hemorrhage and now was on life support.  The doctors determined that the extent of her brain damaged was over 80%.  Papa and her children prayed and then took Nana off life support, which was her desire if she was in a situation such as this.  The family remembered words Nana had said to the family, “One day I will see you all in Heaven.”
The following Sunday during Sunday school, I asked for prayers for Piper and her family.  Jim and Diane Weil were present and Jim suggested Grief Share for Piper and her family after our class.  I had never looked into this literature, but after Jim explained its effectiveness and the booklet, “Surviving the Holidays,” Jack and I made arrangements to pick up the booklet.  Both Jim and Diane gave us two books and reinstated important areas within the booklet.  Jack and I walked through its contents and mailed the booklet the same day with prayers.  Piper told our family that she could not have gotten through the holidays without this information and is still re-reading its pages.
-In Him, the Lord who knows our needs, Lauralee Caubin.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Owning the Ministry

As a youth ministry one of our values is that students would serve, that students wouldn’t just come to Thrive, but would own their faith and be Thrive. That they wouldn’t just be consumers, but take responsibility to lead worship, give announcements, lead games, share their testimony and so on. It has been really encouraging this ministry season to see our leaders modeling, coaching, and giving away responsibilities and the students stepping up. One of the struggles over the years has been the commitment level of our seniors; often they would turn into one of our smallest participating classes, but this year with them owning Thrive, using their gifts, and the underclassmen looking up to them, it is our largest, especially our senior boys. It’s been exciting to see our students not just take responsibility for the program side of the ministry but for each other.

Two years ago this January, Liv, who was invited by one of our students and had been attending our midweek meeting for a few months signed up for our Dare2Share retreat and gave her life to the Lord. She was so excited by her new relationship she couldn’t help but share it. She kept inviting her friend Jedidiah to come to church but he refused. Finally though, through her persistence he agreed to come on a Tuesday night. That night, as he says it, the message seemed to be right at him. Over the next few months with the encouragement of Liv, God continued to soften his heart. After a few months when summer came around Liv and Jedidiah signed up for H2O, our summer camp. That week through the messages, Liv’s prayers, and God’s grace, Jedidiah gave his life to the Lord. Liv and our team were praising Jesus. A year goes by and both Liv and Jedidiah are growing in their faith and their involvement in the ministry until this fall. Liv just stopped coming; through some choices she made, she didn’t feel comfortable. Leaders reached out but nothing seemed to matter. So Jedidiah went to work praying and inviting. His friend who helped lead him to Christ was falling away, so the once pursued became the pursuer. Two weeks ago Jedidiah shows up excited to youth group, for Liv said she would come. That night Liv was back, and at the end of the night said it was for good.

This story is just one example of how we have seen students step up to share and live out their faith. In Thrive we call them “Bringers” from our mission statement, “Bringing others into a life changing relationship with God and each other.” It’s where they see the house of God as their house; that being a member of God’s household is a privilege and a wonderful responsibility. It’s where, because we have experienced the inside we get to go outside; not just something we attend but something we are. How do you see the church? As a youth Pastor at SFB these last eleven years it has been a blast ministering to our youth, it has been even more fun giving the ministry away. Thanks for all your prayers and support as we pursue kids for Christ and equip them to join us in the pursuit.
-Brian Woolard, Student Ministries

Friday, February 6, 2015

Not Just Chaperones

If you have ever been asked to chaperone something, maybe a school dance or a field trip, you know that it is not a desirable job to have. You may start with the best intentions but soon you realize that you are basically the fun police. The sentences you say most often are “Don’t do that!” or “Shhhh! Listen to the person who is talking up front.” You, mostly, don’t get to participate in what is going on and pretty much just stand on the edges of the group watching for rule breakers. You know that you might be helping a little bit in the moment but your work as master chaperone is not going to have a lasting impact. Many people believe that the adult leaders in Fusion and Thrive are basically chaperones. This could not be further from the truth. Let me tell you a story about the long term relationships that are being built and the deep spiritual impact these selfless volunteers are having!

In order to develop relationships throughout a student’s time in youth ministry, they are assigned to a small group which is led by a couple of adult volunteers known as leaders. One of the most impactful times for the leaders and students is the small groups during the last part of the midweek meeting. The leaders start discussions and prompt the students to dig deeper into the message of the night. These times provide the leaders great opportunities to speak into the lives of the students and, in a case just recently, lead a student to Christ. The message for the night had been on spiritual maturity and taking the next step in their relationship with Jesus.  Small groups had ended, parents were arriving, and any chaperone would have called it a night and been praised for a job well done. However, our 8th grade girls’ leader is not a chaperone. She is a leader and her work for the night was not done in her eyes. So she took the initiative and asked one of her girls in her small group if she had started a relationship with Jesus. The girl said she had not made that decision; right then and there the leader led her to Christ. That’s the type of ownership and personal responsibility the leaders in Fusion and Thrive possess. She acted not out of duty but out of a desire to introduce a girl to the love of Christ.

If you asked the leaders, they would probably tell you that they don’t view themselves as special. They would probably say they are just doing what the Lord has led them to do. I would have to disagree with them. I think they are special. It takes a special person to intentionally enter back into a middle school or high school group. It takes a special person to give up their free time to go to games, plays, concerts, hang out on weekends, give students rides, pray for students, give up full weekends to go on retreats, and to deal with all the joyous things that teenagers do. That’s special. I would guess that there would be a few other people who say the leaders are special too: the students. That’s because they know their Leaders love them and are there to help them grow in their faith. They know they’re not just chaperones.
 -Patrick Frost
Middle School Youth Pastor