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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Mid-Year Offering

We are thankful to God for His provision for us, and we are thankful to the Oak Hills Church family for your faithful and generous financial support for all that God is doing in and through our church.  Our mid-year offering this year is wonderfully different than many other mid-year offerings, because instead of just 10% of whatever is given going to ministries outside the walls of Oak Hills Church, this year about 66% of everything coming in will be directed outside of Oak Hills.

The Liberti Family

Our offering will be divided into three parts.  The first part will go towards our ministry partners, Oak Hillians Steve and Dawn Liberti, who are missionaries with Proclaim International and living in Germany.  As a way to help their children, Sophia and Bianca, continue to thrive in their new culture and to continue to adapt to a new language and life experience, we want to help the Liberties send their daughters to a school in their area.  We are excited about this “hands-on” involvement with our newest missionaries.

The second part of the offering will go to another one of our ministry partners, The Nehemiah Project in Manipur, India and their work to help educate, care for, and treat pregnant women living with HIV/AIDS as well as educate and care for HIV affected children.  This wonderful ministry is in some rather desperate need of more funding and we desire to do our part to help this ministry continue to spread the message of Christ and to meet the needs of an often neglected population.

Manipur 2012
© Katie Albert Photography

The third part of the offering will go towards paying down the principal of our mortgage.  This is all part of our long-term plan to completely pay off the mortgage as soon as we are able.  Every little bit helps!

As always, this is an “over-and-above” offering, which means that it is not meant to replace, but rather be in addition to, our regular giving to our church budget.  We encourage everyone who calls Oak Hills Church their home to take some time to consider as families and individuals what we can generously give to this offering.

The official date for receiving this offering is this Sunday, June 10th, but you can give your offering any time from now through the end of June.  In fact, this may be a great opportunity to jump on the website and try out our handy-dandy on-line giving.  Just click on the “give” tab at the top of the website and follow the instructions you find there.  If you have more questions on the on-line giving process, feel free to contact Rick Leary or Melinda Word at the church office.

Thanks for your willingness to sacrificially support the 2012 Mid-Year Offering!

In Christ,

Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken

Good Season

by Senior Pastor Mike Lueken

Sunday night, May 15th, about two hundred people gathered to celebrate God’s faithfulness to Oak Hills during our fascinating journey of the past ten years. It was a beautiful night. In a way, it marked the end of a long, often arduous process of seeking to become a church that takes seriously Jesus’ invitation to live in his kingdom. In another sense, it was the beginning of another chapter in the story. In addition on that Sunday night, we reflected a bit on the book Kent and I have recently written on this journey. I know I speak for Kent in saying thank you for the opportunity to serve here as one of the pastors. There are many pastors in our country and around the world who cannot conceive of a congregation as pliable and trusting as Oak Hills. There are many who would like to lead their church toward spiritual formation and transformation but they know it would be met with fierce opposition. Kent and I want to thank you for your commitment to Oak Hills and to us. The Sunday night gathering triggered a variety of emotions in me. But mostly, it reminded me of what a great church we have. And for that, both Kent and I are thankful.

One thing that seemed obvious on Sunday night is that we are in a good and fun season as a church. You may actually be getting tired of hearing that – but it’s absolutely true and acknowledging it, hopefully, will help keep us humble and grateful. People may wonder what it means to say “we are in a good season.” A few things come to mind. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving; people are hungry to experience God’s kingdom; many are captivated by the possibility of genuine spiritual formation; our finances are getting stronger; the staff is unified; more and more people are finding places to serve both inside and outside the church. Subjective evidence? Perhaps. But serving in the church setting for many years trains one’s senses. In light of the journey we have made together for the past decade, it is good for us to feel good about where we are as a church.

So as we approach our mid-year offering, I want to remind us of the purpose for which it will be used. Effective May 1st, Pastor Rick Leary transitioned to a part-time position overseeing facilities and grounds. Rick has faithfully served at Oak Hills for 22 years. He is a man of strong faith and character and we are thrilled he will be staying with us on staff. But we have not budgeted for his new position and we don’t feel it is wise to add it to our planned expenses. Yet, we feel the role is crucial in light of the ongoing demands of our facilities, and Rick’s expertise and gifting is unique. So our hope is to fund this position through over and above special offerings beginning with this year’s mid-year offering.

As always, we will give 10% of whatever comes in to a ministry outside of Oak Hills. This year the 10% is for Theodore Judah’s Stars program which is an after school program for children. The date of the mid-year offering is June 5, but feel free to give it anytime from now until the end of June.

If you have questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to ask me, Kent or an Elder Board member. Once more, thank you for the privilege of serving. I believe God has good things in store for us!

Mid-Year Offering

by Co-Senior Pastor Kent Carlson

For many years, one of our traditions here at Oak Hills has been our special mid-year offering. This offering has been used for all sorts of projects and ministry initiatives. Over the years, we have used it to fund new staff positions and to tackle various building needs. In more recent years, we have found it necessary to use this offering to address our budgetary shortfall. This has never been our desire. We have always wanted our expenses to be met by our regular weekly giving. Therefore, we have worked hard to trim our expenses in order to bring them in line with our weekly giving.

We realize that these financial hard times have been experienced by many people in our church. Many of us, in our places of employment, as well as in our own personal finances, have had to cut back and make some changes. In addition, at Oak Hills, we have had to bring the size of our staff into alignment with the size of our church. This process has been painful. We have a wonderful staff filled with hard working people who love God and who serve our church with great dedication. Throughout this time, Mike and I and the other pastors and leaders at Oak Hills have been so blessed by the outpouring of support and encouragement by so many of you. We are very grateful for this.

Fortunately, our financial situation seems to be moving in a very good direction and we are very encouraged by this. While we feel it is important to continue our commitment to reduce our expenses according to plan, our stronger financial condition allows us to make these changes in a healthier and more careful manner. What this means practically, is that we are able to continue to direct funds toward the crucial facility and physical campus needs we have at Oak Hills. Specifically, this allows us to keep Pastor Rick Leary on staff in a part time capacity. This part-time position, both for 2011 and the following years, is not part of our budget, and we felt it was wise to fund this position, at least for the short-term, through special offerings. Therefore our mid-year offering this year (and perhaps a portion of our year-end offering in December) will be directed towards funding this part-time facility position.

The truth is, while we need to reduce our expenses in order to meet our income, we absolutely do not want to lose Pastor Rick’s skills and dedicated service. His two- plus decades of leadership here at Oak Hills have had a remarkable impact on our church, and we want to continue to benefit from his leadership and dedication. This special offering, along with a very healthy severance (which was a part of our budget for this year), will allow Rick to continue to serve at Oak Hills without having to work full-time. Your gifts to this special mid-year offering will help us to fund this position.

Our special offerings are “over-and-above” offerings. In other words, they are intended to be gifts that we give in addition to our regular giving to the general fund. We will officially receive this offering on Sunday, June 5, but you can give to this offering any time from now until the end of June. Simply make a note on your check and/or giving envelope that this is for the mid-year offering.

As usual, we will designate 10% of this offering to a ministry outside the walls of Oak Hills Church. This year, this tithe will be given to Theodore Judah School and their STARS program. Theodore Judah is a local school in Folsom where close to half of their students live at or below the poverty line. Their STARS program is a no-cost, after school enrichment program that seeks to serve this population.

We are grateful for God’s continued provision for us at Oak Hills and encourage all who consider Oak Hills their home to prayerfully consider giving to this special offering as generously and sacrificially as they are able. Thanks!

New Beginnings

by Kent Carlson, Senior Pastor

January, wonderfully, is a month of new beginnings.  It’s the beginning of a new year and an opportunity, in a sense, to start over.  Now, I know the whole idea of new year’s resolutions can be a little silly and often unhelpful.  We all know, with some embarrassment, all the various broken promises and vows we have made to deal with some area of messiness or lack of discipline in our lives.  We realize that ingrained habits and patterns of behavior are rather tricky things to address.  This is the challenge of transformation.  It is always easiest to maintain the status quo.  It is always more difficult to walk into significant and healthy change.

Well, we have several opportunities here at the beginning of the year for this kind of change.  And it is in the area of our personal finances.  Our money, and how we make it and spend it, is one of the most emotionally charged and spiritually significant things in our lives.  Many of us have a sense, particularly in these financially uncertain times,that we simply are not attending to this area of our lives with sufficient diligence.  Speaking bluntly, we spend too much.  We spend more than we make, and we misuse the availability of easy credit.  We don’t want to do this, but we often end up in a bit of a financial crunch.

So for many of us, we are using these lean financial times to make a valiant attempt to get our financial house in order.  Let me mention three opportunities coming up.

First is our Budget Seminar on Saturday, January 29, from 9:00 until 2:30.  This hands-on seminar, led by our friend, Phil Yntema, is an intense one day seminar to help people put together a budget and learn ways to track spending and to start us on the road towards financial freedom.  The cost is $20 per person or $25 per couple.  When you leave the Budget Seminar, you’ll leave with a realistic budget in hand! You can sign up at the Spotlight Booth or contact Pastor Rick at 983-0182 x12.

Second is our Estate Planning Seminar on Sunday, January 30, from 2:00 until 4:00.  This free seminar, also led by Phil Yntema, will give an overview and some extremely helpful information on planning for our financial future while we care for our family and for the work of God in this world.  You can sign up for this at the Spotlight Booth also.

Third is our Financial Peace University.  This 13 week class, featuring the teaching of Dave Ramsey, is a biblically-based, video-driven small group study beginning on February 10.  This class, led by the Chairman of our Elder Board and member of our Administrative Council, Jerry Verseput, will teach families how to beat debt, build wealth, and give like never before.  Diane and I are working hard to move our schedules around so we can be part of this experience.  We want to make 2011 a year where we pay close attention to how we handle our money.  We’d love for you to join us.  There is a preview class on January 23 at 11:00 in the Library.  For more information, contact Jerry Verseput at 817-1940.

Being on the path to financial freedom  is do-able!  I encourage you to consider one or more of these opportunities as we enter into the new year. 

“Family”

by Kent Carlson, Senior Pastor

One of the metaphors that the Bible uses to describe the church is the family.  And the idea of “family” can raise up a whole lot of conflicting feelings in many people, especially with the holiday festivities quickly approaching.  Family gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas can bring a mixed bag of wonderful experiences as well as stressful interpersonal encounters.  The family is the place where we celebrate as well as grieve; where we deal with both challenges and opportunities.  The family, in all its messy complications, provides a place of belonging, a home, a place where we are known.  Potentially, it provides a place where we can pull together to care for each other.

Over the past couple of years, many families in our country, and many families in our church, have had to work and sacrifice together in order to deal with the often harsh realities and consequences of the world-wide economic downturn.  Families have had to reduce expenses and carefully watch where every penny is going in order to survive the financially turbulent times.  For some families, this has helped to bring them closer together.  For others, this has created not just financial, but relational turmoil as well.

Our Oak Hills family has been in our own financially uncertain times the past few years.  While our cash flow situation, due to God’s amazing provision, has always been strong, and continues to be, it has become obvious that we need to reduce our expenses in order to live within our means.  This requires us to come together as a family and learn how to live on less and perhaps to give more.  As many of you know, our Administrative Council, as well as our Elder Board, has set us on a process of reducing our expenses over the next year or so.  And we are in the process of following these guidelines.  It is our hope that in the not too distant future our income at Oak Hills will easily meet our expenses.

But here is one of those areas where Oak Hills can come together as a family.  As part of this move towards financial health, we have decided to dedicate our year end offering to our general budget.  This will help us to maintain our strong financial condition as we move into 2011.  We are asking everyone who calls Oak Hills Church their home, who believes in the ministry God has given us, to give an “over and above” gift to the year end offering.  We are asking every individual, couple and family to take some time to reflect, to pray and to plan, how we can, as part of our Christmas giving, give a huge year end gift to Oak Hills.  We are encouraging this gift to be the largest gift we give this Christmas.  Our goal is $100,000.  As usual, we will give away 10% of whatever comes in to ministries of compassion outside the walls of Oak Hills.  This year we are dividing this 10% gift between two ministries we are intimately involved with, Powerhouse Ministries here in Folsom and Restoration Ministries in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  We will officially receive this offering on December 19, but you may, of course, give to the year end offering any time between now and the end of the year.

Mike and I are more excited about Oak Hills and the vision God has given us than ever before.  We are very encouraged by the tremendous and constant expressions of support and belief.  We look forward to this next season of ministry with great enthusiasm.  Let us join together as a church family this Christmas and give a generous and sacrificial gift to our year end offering.