All those Extra Hands: National Volunteer Appreciation Week

While help received at Christ Church is always appreciated, April brought an opportunity to bring a bit of extra recognition to those who assist in making our programs run and all those who are putting in extra hours both on the church grounds and out in the community. April 12-18 was National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and speaking as someone who relies on the assistance of volunteers on a regular basis, let me tell you, you’re more than appreciated!

Around 30 volunteers, from youth to older adults, help run our nursery, Kid Start children’s programming, and Endeavor youth group. That’s a whole lot of extra hands! Extra hands that show up early and leave late; that put out crackers and pour drinks; that pick up crayons from the floor, change dirty diapers, and build towering skyscrapers out of tiny lego blocks. Extra hands that are present and ready to assist however they may be needed. I appreciate all these extra hands helping me, and I certainly could not do what I do without all that extra help!

However, I know that for all of the volunteers that I get to witness in action during children and youth programming, there are many others who go unseen. Whether it be picking up trash outside or serving meals at a local shelter, I know it takes many to help our community remain the vibrant place that it is! So whether seen or unseen, know that your help is significant and your “extra hands” hold great worth!

On Sunday, April 12, I hope that most of your “extra hands” got a chance to dig into the special cake we shared at church, but if not, take a moment now to reach up behind yourselfself a big pat on the back because let me tell you, your extra hands are much appreciated!

Growing Together: The Confirmation Journey

This year our congregation has been blessed with another group of dedicated students who have been working through the 8-week confirmation course. These students include Kayla Cornett, Azyre Donahue, Claire Hovey, Alec Seifert, Noah Tompkins, Melissa Wallace, and Erik Winter. As our class is preparing to wrap up, I wanted to share a little bit about what they’ve been learning and doing as a part of the course. On the wall in Fellowship Hall you may have already noticed an unusual tree that has been sprouting up week by week. This tree, (left), has been a project the youth have been adding to little by little. One of the first activities the youth engage in as we begin our classes each week is to reflect upon what they learned or experienced during the previous class. Jesus’ words in John 15:5 ("I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”) have been a continual theme of the class, and students are reminded often of how Christ is the vine or trunk, and together we are growing through Him.

At the beginning of the 8-week course we had nothing but a bare trunk in the center of our paper. Each week we have slowly added branches, then leaves, and now our fruit, which will bring the tree to completion. On each added item you can see where the youth have written things that have stood out to them from previous classes-- showing, yes, they are indeed learning something! While a tree or a vine can be symbolic in many ways, I think it is a great visual representation of how these six students have continually grown together.

Throughout the eight weeks we covered many topics that help to ground our students with a knowledge of both the Bible and the United Methodist Church. We’ve covered the three persons of the Trinity, the creation story, sin and our need for redemption, the three types of grace given to us, the seasons of the church calendar, and much, much more. In all honesty, I find myself learning and growing right along with the students as together we are digging deeper into both the Bible and our United Methodist Church history. Although classes will wrapping up around Easter, these students are not quite yet finished. They will be attending Summer Games University in July to further grow and sustain their faith. It will then be our pleasure to present to you our confirmands on Confirmation Sunday this coming August (August 23)!

Endeavor: Remembering the Reason for the Season

It’s hard to believe, but reports have gathered that over nine billion dollars were spent on Black Friday alone this past November! This was just one of the staggering facts I introduced to the Endeavor youth as we began our Advent series at the beginning of December. From there, we made estimates on figures such as  how much it costs to feed a child in a third world country for one year or provide access to clean water for a family. Each of these come in at less than one hundred bucks...significantly less than our Black Friday figures!

This month, the youth are jumping into a new series called The Advent Conspiracy. There are four sections (worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all) each of which encourages us to take a step back from the cultural pieces of the Christmas season. Instead of spending our time and energy on the mass consumption and buying of gifts that often takes place during these holiday months, we learned about ways in which we can be giving the first of our time and energy to Christ.

During the first session, titled “Worship Fully,” the youth broke out into different stations where they could experience worshiping Christ in a variety of manners. Often we think of worship as only encompassing singing praises to His name. However, as the youth discovered, there are many different ways to worship Christ! Below you can see youth worshiping Him through art, dance, and even science!

With several sessions yet to go, I hope this series is one that will stick with these young folks for many years to come! It’s so easy to get sucked into the stress, craziness, and cultural demands of the Christmas season. But when we stop to worship Him fully, we can re-center on the true reason for the season.