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According to Staci...


Relationship Sunday

Thiking beyond Homecoming Sunday
An article by Tom Schwolert / Vibrant Faith Ministries

For many churches, this Sunday will be Homecoming Sunday. Some have different names for it (Rally Day, Celebration Sunday, Ministry Sunday, Volunteer Sunday, etc.) but usually around the second Sunday of September every year most churches launch their programming and ministries. School is back in session; families are getting back into a routine; people are coming back to church; and it’s time to get people engaged again. Why?

Nine times out of ten the reason we do this is to get people to sign up or come to the programs and ministries we are doing at church. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but it’s not enough to engage people for lifelong faith formation. And doesn’t it seem like it is getting harder and harder to get people to come to the church building. And we know that as people get busier throughout the year it’s only going to get harder.

How about a different approach?

Church, home, community, and online. All four of these places provide numerous opportunities for fostering relationships. And you and I know that God uses relationships to bring God’s love to the world. So consider these four locations as your church launches another program year:

  1. Church – Of course this is a no-brainer, but it seems that many churches consider this the only place that relationships can happen. But we can’t make showing up at the church the end goal. So when you plan gatherings that take place at church ask: How do the connections here lead to continued relationships “out there” the other 6 days of the week? Do you care more about getting people to sign up than you do about what’s happening in their lives? When you take the time to get to know them, they will be more likely to trust you and give you their time.
  1. Home – The congregation is a partner with the home in forming faith. Not only do we believe it but we know that when it happens people are more likely to grow in their faith and faith becomes central to daily living. Are your ministries set up to connect families and households on other days of the week? Do your ministries connect families that develop into friendships and support networks? Is your Rally Sunday a springboard to connecting households and parents so they develop a support network in their daily lives?
  1. Community – Much of our lives are lived out in the community, especially if you are a family involved in sports or the arts, which means you are running somewhere almost every night of the week. We often forget that God is present in those times and places as well. How is the church present and connecting with people out in the community at various events and venues?
  1. Online – Does your congregation see your presence online as a place for relationship? The world of the internet provides many opportunities for connection and fostering relationships. How about bringing your Rally Day online by using Facebook Live or Periscope to connect with those who aren’t actually on your campus? Highlight belonging, friendship, and connection as you create online content and people will engage.

Not only is Sunday an opportunity for building relationships but the other 6 days of the week provide multiple points of connection with people. If we focus all our energy and resources on one day a week then we convey the message that the rest is not that important. Yet, it’s in the daily ebb and flow of real life that people need to sense and experience the presence of God through all kinds of relationships.

May we be a church that follows God through relationships in all places and spaces.


Thank You for Faith Forward! 

I am incredibly grateful to RBCC UCC for supporting my continuing education as a leader for children, youth, and in faith formation.  Thank you for providing me with opportunities for growth, learning, networking and spiritual direction.

Earlier in April, I was so fortunate to attend Faith Forward in Chicago.  Faith Forward is a gathering dedicated to bringing together children and youth ministry leaders for collaboration, resourcing, learning, and inspiration toward innovative theology and practice.  

Something is happening in the church. Fresh expressions of Christianity are taking root and growing across the globe. Forward-thinking approaches to ministry, worship, and community are emerging. Questions are being asked. Lines of division are being crossed. And change is happening in all sorts of Christian traditions and denominations. 

Here are just a few names of some of the powerfully inspiring people I was privileged to meet and learn from, as well as their main messages.

Brian McClaren is an author, speaker, social justice activist, and pastor. Brian’s groundbreaking books include A New Kind of ChristianityNaked SpiritualityA New Kind of ChristianA Generous Orthodoxy.  Adults need to recognize that the church is going through a great spiritual migration and we need to let the children and youth lead it.  A reawakening often takes at least 2 generations to happen.  We as leaders in children and youth ministry are committed and courageous; leading our congregations to hand over the transformation of the church to the younger generations.   

Melivin Bray, the author of The Stories we find Ourselves in.  Stories that Compost......Animating our children's moral imagination.  We are doing a poor job of telling our sacred stories.  The bible is written to us and for us to find ourselves in.  We need to make way for what will be.......to compost the stories.  That which can't be composted is petrified.  Let's not let that happen to our sacred stories.  Stories are like a bell that's still ringing, we just need to not be afraid to make them our own by changing their context.  

Lucy Moore, works for The Bible Reading Fellowship as Messy Church team leader. She is responsible for developing the work of the Messy Church movement nationally and internationally.  How an ordinary church can help families outside its walls start to come together to worship, and how people of all ages might grow in that context. What (and who) is outside of our reach in our traditional church services?  What messy alternative can we offer?  If we are preserving our church and worship services only for the people already in the building on Sunday morning......we're doing it wrong.   

Dr. Soong-Cha Rah, Author of Prophetic Lament: A Call to Justice in Troubled Times.  Change is really about loss.  There are 3 responses to major change: To Disengage and opt-out, Idolatry (magic formulas and quick fixes), and to Lament.  How we deal with and practice lament, is key to our churches' survival. Lamenting is to acknowledge the loss and to be willing to be led into transformation.  What are we afraid of losing in our church?

Otis Moss the III, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.                                      Speaking on Methodology vs. Message.  "The church is an 8 Track church in a streaming world."  "We've always done it that way, doesn't cut it any more."  "Context matters to young people."  "Worship needs to include 4 essential pillars: Relevant modern context,  Art, Movement, and Poetry of spoken word."  Churches thrive when they are Alive with the Message.  Consider if our methodology is working. 

Finally.........here is a quick look at Faith Forward.  It was awesome!!  I am truly thankful for RBCC's support in sending me.  Now I am readied with shared knowledge, new wisdom, and lots of creative ideas to lead our church in new ways. 







Emmanuel and Christmas Pageants

There are many things churches have had to leave behind, because no one signed up, or no one came. But the slow walk down the aisle for Mary and Joseph, a baby doll wrapped in swaddling clothes, and a gaggle of angels, shepherds and kings,  still happens.


Of course, the children are adorable, but there is something that happens to us adults at a Christmas pageant that tugs at our hearts in a unique way. Because what becomes real once again as we watch or participate ourselves, what gets told to us by those bathrobes and crowns and wings is not just a Bible story of the birth of a baby. It zeros our hearts in on what happens when God comes to live with us, to be like us.  Emmanuel happens right there in the enactment.  It allows us all to share and receive the sense of God’s presence, “God with us,” which is much a bigger story than the story itself.

What the costumes and the simple pageants ask us as church to do, is to stop just watching the tableau, and begin living in it– to be 'present' to one another. To receive Emmanuel together as community.  Children, Youth and Adults.

Because we too know the longing that gets tapped in us when we see the angles in their tinsel wings, the kings with their swagger, and when we see those shepherds acknowledge one another when the scripture is read, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15).  What is truly relevant to the life of a faith community are relationships of depth and a community of people who are 'present' to one another.  That is the reason I love the pageant. God came to be with us.  And all of us, on some level, want to go to Bethlehem and receive Emmanuel in a real way.   That, we can and need to do, together. 


The Advent of Hope

As a frequent reader of blogs regarding faith and spiritual formation, The Actual Pastor by Steve Wiens if one of my favorites.  In light of current events and the heralding season of Advent I was moved by his post today. I am happy to share it........

How Are the Children?  Written by Steve Wiens


When people of the Masai tribe in Kenya greet each other, they ask a question: Kasserian Ingera?   It simply means, How are the children?

This reflects a deeply held cultural value that everybody’s well being is inextricably linked to the current well being of the children.  So, America: How are the children?Michael Brown wasn’t one of their children, he was one of our children. As we weep with those who weep, and as Ferguson burns in a cauldron of anger that could lead to hopelessness, we need to remember it’s not out their issue, it’s our issue.  What will happen if we don’t turn our attention to the well being of our children?

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The text that I’ll be preaching this weekend, the first week in Advent, is from Psalm 80, which is a communal lament. Give ear to us, Lord. Restore us, oh God. Awakenyour might. Let your face shine upon us. No matter what you think about the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson last night, it is a fitting text for the lament that is being expressed all over America right now.

In Psalm 80, the community of God gives an angry shout to the God who seems absent, indifferent to their suffering. They are shaking their fists to a God they’re not even sure is listening. But here’s the shocker: they engage God anyway. Even though they fear that God is absent, they seem to simultaneously believe that if anyone can restore hope and light and life, God can.  When we are painfully aware of our need for God to arrive in our world again to restore that which has gone horribly wrong, we are experiencing the season of Advent.

We are all collectively afraid (remember that fear can show up as explosive anger or stony silence). We’re confused and we don’t know what to do. I don’t have a lot of words this morning. I am sad and upset. It’s hard to do the small things that today requires.  There will be a lot of noisy words today, and in the days to come, but here are mine anyway:

Weep with those who weep.

Listen to your black brothers and sisters; they are expressing a generational lament, one that includes, but goes way farther back than a grand jury’s decision last night. Enter into the lament. It’s really not just theirs, but ours.

See to the well being of the children.

And cry out – loudly – to the God who actually can restore us, and save us.

Come, Lord Jesus. We wait for you.


God is There.....Helping Children and Teens Cope

In response to parents' inquiries on how to help ourselves and our children and youth process the recent school shooting in Marysville, I've reposted an article I wrote 2 years ago when the Sandyhook school shooting took place.  Sadly, the information is still relevant and necessary.   

It is never an inappropriate time to take to heart how to help perpare our children and youth to cope with the fear and insecurity any tragedy brings.  Whether close to home or across the world. This article is only a faithful starting point.  If you have a need for more direction or resources, please contact me directly.  -Staci

God of our strength, calm our hearts when fear abounds.  Calm our hearts so we can hold to Your ways, Your truth, and Your Life.   You God are always near.  Amen


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