Life Lessons

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I had a tough month recently. I was super busy, anxious and a bit stressed. Many people close to me were dealing with health issues including my wife who was in the process of donating her kidney. I only see that now in retrospect. Thinking back on it now, I think I could have handled the month a bit better.  The super busy months that make us anxious, are always inevitable. It will help to be better prepared for them. 

 

Being in ministry is like nothing I ever imagined. The highs and lows can be daily. In one moment, a good friend of yours in getting married while in another, someone is diagnosed with cancer. People get new jobs, while others are losing their job. A child gets accepted to a great college, while another child drops out of school. Someone starts attending church every week, someone disappears. The highs and lows, they are never ending. 

 

Over the years in ministry, and thinking back on this month of craziness that I just had, I have learned some valuable lessons.  Here two things that can help you handle the ups and downs that come your way:

  • THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP
    Late in the month that I was stressed, I happened to be meeting with a couple of great guys during the week and I learned something very valuable. I NEEDED THEM. These meet ups weren't strategically planned but God worked it out. I needed the encouragement, love and genuine friendship they were showing me in that moment. It changed my perspective as I left each one of them. I felt better and better. Meeting with these friends during this crazy week taught me how much I need refreshment. That's what I received from them. 
     
  • THE POWER OF PRAISE
    If you're like me, the negative can sometimes drown out the positive. The unanswered prayers can be more memorable than the answered ones. The cynicism can defeat the optimism. What I've learned from this personality trait of mine was perspective. As I really look at all that is going on, I learned to hold more tightly to the incredible amount of blessings, answered prayers and WINS in my life. Each week I get to be a part of life change in other's lives. I get to witness people accepting Jesus Christ into their lives and being forever different. I see a crowd of people making an effort each Sunday to 'do better'. I see 'up and to the right' in action each week. I see people coming into the church and leaving better. That's something to hold on to. That's something to celebrate! That's something to never forget. 

So I ask you 2 questions: 

  1. Do you have people around you that encourage and inspire you? Are there people who you meet with and you leave different? Better mood, better demeanor and better altogether? 
  2. Do you see all that is good in this world, or are you holding on to all of the bad? Is your cup full or are you wondering if there even is a cup? Are you seeing all God has done or are you wondering if He is actually paying attention? Is your life full of prayer requests or praises? (I'm breathing this morning...praise God!)

Our life has everything to do with who we are hanging out with and our perspective. Grab hold of some really good friends who, when you meet with them, you always leave better. Grab hold of a perspective of gratitude. Praise God for the easily overlooked things like living in America, good health, and your family and even the small things like "Thank you Lord that I woke up this morning." 

Next Generation Focused

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“Why is it important for the Church to invest in youth?”

A question like this is generally an easy one for anyone to answer and most people typically agree with it. However, I hear it posed and I immediately begin bracing for the inevitable response, “Youth are the future of the church.” Often, my internal reaction is an eye-roll and sigh. It’s not that this answer is wrong. It’s just that being the future of the church is only one small part of the answer to this question. My response is that “The youth are the NOW of the church.” 

This is why Youth Ministries exists. This is why Fellowship has Momentum on Sundays for middle school and has a youth group called Living Proof on Wednesdays for both middle and high school students. We value and understand the importance of teenagers encountering  Jesus at their level. 

As both a Youth Pastor and human being that was once a teenager, (not that long ago), I advocate for attending a youth group. Yeah, student ministry has its flaws, believe me; I can give you a list. But, student ministry provides so many positives for a teenager’s life, faith, and future. The thing is…in today’s culture both parents/students view a youth group as an elective. This means that if homework, sports, being tired, practice, fill in the blank, don’t conflict then both students and their parents might consider attending a youth-group. Don’t get me wrong, most parents want their teenager to be in a community with peers who believe what they believe where they learn Godly values, have fun, and build relationships. But when the teenager may have no interest or is “too busy”… it’s left at that. 

Also, not every student who doesn’t attend ‘youth group’ at their church is neglecting spiritual growth or involvement. I would say that what ultimately determines the spiritual growth and outcome for most teens is the spiritual health and pattern of the family, not their participation in youth group. If faith, following Jesus, and being in community is a priority for you, there is a high chance it will be for your teenager, if not now then in the future. What I will argue for is being engaged in a student ministry provides more opportunities for a teenagers friends to come to know Jesus. Using a student ministry as a strategy to reach the lost is just one reason teenagers need it. Let me share with you a few other reasons why student ministry is important:

Teenagers need community.

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We cannot underestimate the influence of our friends. You are the sum of your five closest friends - how they act, talk, and believe. To be honest, my friends were one of reasons I kept my faith as a teenager. I had so many friends that I met at church and my youth group who made such a positive impact on my faith. In return, it enabled me to have a positive impact on them, and my friends who didn’t know Jesus came to know him . It was in my youth group where I learned how to serve, how to lead, and how to make my faith my own. And it was that much easier and more effective because I had the support of my friends around me.

Teenagers need a safe place to be vulnerable.

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Few places like that exist in this world. If you take a look around, there aren’t too many places where a young person can safely test their independence, be trusted with legitimate leadership roles, and follow good mentors. At church a teenager can truly be themselves. At church a teenager can make mistakes in an environment designed to help them get up and try again.

Teenagers need a greater purpose.

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Teenagers long to be part of something bigger than them. Sports, bands, and clubs have capitalized on this longing for decades. Teenagers have a greater passion and imagination than any other age group. After all, most of Jesus disciples began following Jesus as teenagers, and they ended up changing the world. Showing a teenager what following Jesus looks like taps into something deep within their souls and being in a student ministry creates opportunities for them to serve their peers. A student ministry invests in youth because its aim is to create leaders that are well-rounded, experienced, trustworthy, and unique.


These are just a few reasons and I could go on. The bottomline is that as Fellowship’s Student Pastor I want to do anything I can to help the faith journey of a teenager. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, aunt/uncle, young adult, single, or married, my challenge to you is to encourage teenagers to get involved in the church. The question is not so much, “Why is it important for the Church to invest in youth,” but “Why is it important for our youth to invest in the Church.” If you have any questions about our Student Ministries or if you’re interested in serving in Living Proof or Momentum, feel free to contact me! 

Email: Ross@fellowshipchurchct.com

Members Only

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The word "membership" today means belonging to a select club. Everyone uses the term including credit cards, AAA, AARP and fitness clubs. It's kind of gotten a bad rap. I know this from working at a fitness club for over 20 years where in order to cancel, you need to send a certified letter 30 days in advance of your last billing, a blood sample and your firstborn....ok, just the certified letter. It's way too difficult, at times, to end a membership!

We feel that church should be different. Our belief is that every Christian should belong to a local church and take "ownership" of that church. This includes serving, giving, and participating in biblical community. It's a process. Some jump right on while others take their time. I, for one, took my time. It took me a couple of years before I did anything but I still felt welcomed. I was never rushed into serving. Nobody ever pressured me. Ultimately it was me reading God's Word that convinced me, not those at the church (although they were very encouraging).

1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

In a perfect church (yes, there's no such thing!) people, much like Jesus, would come TO SERVE, not to be served. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others. We have a shared cause, a shared mission. Our ultimate goal here is to introduce this community to Jesus Christ. Once you make this HUGE decision for your life to become a follower of Christ, there comes with it expectations. It's written throughout the Bible. We are not called to "sit on our hands". There are responsibilities. We, here at Fellowship Church, want all of you to love this church so much that you really take "ownership" of it. This means you do anything you can to make people feel welcome, to help make our church look good for those coming here for the first time and to intentionally seek and help out others in their journey. Membership is the difference between, "That's the church I go to" to "That's my church."

In our Membership class on May 6th 11:45AM to 2:00PM, we will be going over our core values, our beliefs, our history and our vision. We will have lunch and provide free childcare as well. We really hope you join us and help us make a big difference here in this community. Take ownership of your church and sign up HERE. Together we can change this community!