Gratitude

by Pastor Kent Carlson

30yearbash-54

I absolutely loved our church’s 30-year anniversary celebration weekend. I’m not completely sure why it was so profoundly satisfying and fun for me. I just know that it was perhaps the most enjoyable time I have had in thirty years of ministry at Oak Hills Church. Maybe it was because we were so very relaxed going into that weekend. Maybe it was because we weren’t really using the celebration for much of anything other than to have a party together. Maybe it was the amazing performance of the Oak Hills Rewind. Maybe it was seeing Rick Leary in long hair. Whatever it was, I had a blast.

The predominant feeling I have coming out of this celebration is gratitude. Thirty years is a long time to be in one place. In one church. There are so many stories, so many beautiful people, so many experiences of God’s grace and transformation. So many people who have sincerely sought to follow Christ in the midst of what seemed like impossible situations. And all these stories flooded over me, and I was, and continue to be, deeply grateful to God and to the people of Oak Hills Church, for all this goodness, all this beauty, all these stories that are a part of God’s great story of redemption. This Thanksgiving, without any effort at all on my part, but simply as the natural result of being overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the people of Oak Hills Church, I am deeply grateful. It’s a good feeling.

Now, on to the next thirty years!

I want to highlight two events to help us bask in the sheer delight of our 30-year celebration. First, we have our Annual Congregational Meeting and Vision Night on Thursday, November 20. We will worship together, meet our elders and vote to affirm them. We will talk about some of the challenges and opportunities in our future and have a time for questions and answers. We will have a scrumptious dessert. And most wonderfully, we will have a repeat of our Oak Hills Rewind. For those of us who have already seen it, we will be able to laugh all over again. For those of you who have never seen it, well, you are in for a treat. Please try to make this night a priority and let’s keep the celebration going!

Second, I want to encourage us all to come to our annual Thanksgiving Eve Service. We will worship together “in the round” and we will share together the Lord’s Supper. There will be ample opportunity to share with each other our deep gratefulness to God for all that He as done for us. I hope to see you all there.

With deep thankfulness,

Kent Carlson

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InSight!

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by Brian Robertson, Pastor of Student Ministries

There is something interesting emerging in our culture that has caused us to rethink how it is we approach the concept of nurturing faith in the future generations. For years we have assumed that the best way to teach/lead young people is to provide specialized programming especially for them. The adolescent stage of life is full of young people seeking to understand their own identity, sense of autonomy and find a place of belonging. There is a natural pulling away from adults in their life during this stage – you may have experienced this. As adults, we have taken this as a hint to give them space and leave them alone. In our best efforts, we provide various places/programs where they can be with others their own age and explore their faith.

What is interesting is that most young people voice a desire to have deep relationships with adults in their life but don’t feel as though the adults really want them around. Yet for years we have operated as if the most effective way to reach/lead/teach young people was in providing a place away from most adults. We have intentionally separated from each other believing that this would allow young people to own their faith.

Recent studies seem to point to a different reality. The main factor we can see in a young person having a growing and developing life with God post-high school isn’t having specific programs, camps, mission trips just for them but in developing relationships with 5-6 caring adults who are a part of their faith community. In an interesting study, the Fuller Youth Institute followed graduated seniors through their college transition and found that the majority who were highly involved in a youth ministry left the church and their faith within 18 months. The common factor in the stories of people who grew in their faith was a sense of integration into the church body. In other words, they felt as if they belonged to an extended family. It is increasingly becoming evident that what young people need more of is a network of caring adults who make room for them in their life and invite them to sit alongside as we explore a life of faith together.

In recognition of this, we are making some changes in the way we structure our youth ministries. InSight Middle School will happen on Sunday mornings from 11:00-12:30. On the first Sunday of the month, we will continue to invite students to join the rest of the church family for worship and communion afterward we will gather with whomever would like to and go out to lunch. We are creating space on Sunday evening to encourage families to connect with other families in the church and help facilitate cross-generational relationships. In addition, we will be hosting a number of workshops for adults who have teens in their life.

With these changes, we still feel that it is important to have a place that is unique for students. We will still take students away for camp, special events, activities, mission trips, etc. The big recognition is that while these events/programs are important, they cannot replace the importance of cross-generational relationships and a network of supportive adults within the faith community.

Our high school group, will in many ways, stay the same. Most of the changes will occur in our middle school group.

How does this affect you? A couple of ways. If you have a teenager…

1. Please commit to coming each week to the 11am service and give a little grace for us as we will end closer to 12:30.

2. Encourage your son/daughter to continue to come to church on Communion Sunday. I realize they may push against this and even fight you on this, but it is important for them to begin to develop cross-generational relationships and see others worshipping together.

3. Find other families within the church whom you can have over for dinner – share a meal and play together.

4. Participate in the upcoming seminars/workshops that will be offered to help facilitate ongoing conversations.

5. A couple ways to stay informed on what is happening around InSight Youth Ministries:

a. Subscribe to the blog: http://www.insightyouthministries.wordpress.com

b. Join the Insight Youth Ministries Group on Facebook

c. Ask to be added to either the Middle School or High School email list (send an email to: brian.robertson@oakhills.org)

If you don’t have a teenager living at home…

1. Would you take the risky step in approaching one before or after the service and simply seek to get to know them a little? Ask them if you will see them the following week and seek to remember their name … don’t overwhelm yourself, just ONE will do!

2. Seek ways to connect to a family of teenagers – invite them to join you in something.

3. Find a young person in the service and find out a way that you might encourage them to continue to seek first the Kingdom of God – ask them if you might pray for a certain area in their life.

4. Serve alongside a young person – go on a mission trip, serve in ARTS Camp, invite teenagers to join you as you serve in the community

Thank you, Church Family, for loving the next generation. Together we can help young people have a faith that is dynamic, growing and life-giving.

I’m excited for these changes and if you have any questions about them, just let me know.

Brian