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on becoming family…

January 30, 2011 — Leave a comment

Last Sunday Nathan posted this on his blog. Just thought I’d share.

My Church Family
About a year ago I realized that I was missing a number of things in my life. Since moving away from the safety of my residence in my Small High School Town onto my Beautiful College Campus (which I now live adjacent to), I had not regularly been attending church. My first two years in college, I did not have an automobile with which to transport myself, and all the churches I rode my bike/scooter to did not interest me.

I figured that as long as I lived by the principals of Christianity, and kept a fellowship of believers about me, I’d be fine. And to some extent, that was true. The sins I committed weren’t any different than those I committed while regularly attending church, and I got to sleep in on Sundays too.

Some poor choices, and good friends who were there to comfort me in the wake of poor choices, made me question why I was not attending church. I realized that since I had acquired my driving license and an automobile, I really had no reason not to attend church. Additionally, I had friends who attended churches. So I began attending churches with my friends.

Then one week a number of my friends were out of town. In fact, everyone who I had been attending churches was gone. Now I grew up in a household where if you go to church, you go to church. EVERY WEEK. NO MATTER WHAT. So Saturday night, I made a google church for churches in a town nearby my Beautiful California University, where I’d found better church options. Now, the town next to my Beautiful California University is where I grew up until I moved to my Small High School Town. I remembered that one time when I was about 13 or so, I heard about a church that was doing new, crazy and innovative things. I didn’t remember what the church was called, so I went on Google Maps to the location of the church, and then Googled the church. After browsing the website for about 10 minutes, I decided that it looked retro and trendy enough for me to check out. I noted the address and the service time, and went to sleep.

I walked in and was greeted. Woohoo. I was greeted again when I walked into the actual auditorium where the service was held. I sat in the back. I worshipped, then listened to the sermon, which was on a topic that came up multiple times in my life the week before (this is a whole other story though). Then I left.

The worship service had lights and smoke, like a concert. The speaker was really energetic and engaging. I was intrigued, and interested in going back. I called one of my friends that had been attending churches with me, and told her about it. She was excited, as opposed to my vague skepticism. The next week she went with me, and liked it. We attended together for awhile, then summer break came, and she went home for a few weeks.

At this time, I must note that I had absolutely no interest in connecting to the church I was attending. I did not want friends, I did not want to deal with church politics, I did not want to become one of those yuppies who goes to lunch after church. I did not want any of that. I was perfectly happy going to church, then returning home and continuing with my day.

Early-ish in the summer, a man added me on Facebook through my churches Facebook page. I learned that he was one of the leaders at my church. Then some other people did. The man, who has a name (Micah, in case you were wondering) sent me a message on Facebook, and asked if I’d like to get lunch. I agreed, and we met at In-N-Out. I had a yummy cheeseburger. He probably thought I was crazy for bringing in my sustainable water bottle, instead of just getting a cup. Whatever. Anyways, little did I know this was the first step in a long journey.

Through this lunch, I became involved with the youth program on Sunday mornings at my church. I was going to be a small group leader. I was excited to stretch my strengths and try new things. All my work has been with college students. This was a chance to work with a different age group. Yay!

In the fall, the youth program started up after a summer hiatus. At first, I still didn’t care to connect to the other leaders. I would talk to them and stuff. One week we went to frozen yogurt, and that was cool. But overall. Bleh. Then this guy named Chris came along and shook things up. Micah told us to all go to lunch together and brainstorm some ideas for games to play before the youth service started. So we went to lunch. The discussion was legit. And fun.

The next week, Chris was all “let’s go to lunch!” I was like “eh. okay. sure. whatever” and went. Then the next week, he was like “let’s go to lunch” and I was like “yeah. alright.” Slowly, it became a regular thing. It was no longer “let’s go to lunch,” now the question has become “where’re we going to lunch?”

In fact, I now have a church family. I am involved as a volunteer at my church. I go to lunch every week after church. In fact, in a way, I have accepted this and planned it into my life. It is the weekly thing. Go to church. Hang out with awesome jr. high and high school students. Lead discussions. Have fun. Go to lunch. Be there ’til 4pm-ish.

I spend all week looking forward to hanging out on Sunday afternoons with Chris, Erika, Amy, Kelsey, Seth, and sometimes Lisa-Marie. Even Micah, Erica and Josiah would join us. A few times, we were even joined by Andy, the church pastor. I look forward to it so much that I’ve started getting coffee with Chris during the week.

I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until today. Chris and Erika were out of town. I felt a little bit of an empty spot and I realized how much my church family meant to me. In fact, as I was talking to Amy today about going to Grad School in August-ish, I realized that in just a few short months, I’m going to miss this family I’ve become a part of. I’m going to miss them a lot.

So I wanted to share a bit of that with you.

Last week I went to lunch with a Sonoma State University student who has been coming to New Vintage Church for a few months. He is part of the student leadership at the university and talked about a couple of leadership philosophies, that are specific to campus leadership, I hadn’t heard about. I thought I’d share them with you…

The principles of the Relational Leadership Model (RLM) are as follows

  • Purposeful – taking actions that are planned an intentional
  • Inclusive – making sure ones choices and actions are inclusive of all, regardless of race, gender, Socio-Economic Status, ability or other factors
  • Empowering – encouraging everyone in a group to participate and bring their best. Everyone has something to contribute, but this does not always come out when individuals feel that others are taking control. Individuals are more likely to enjoy or take ownership of an event or organization if they feel like they are a significant part of it.
  • Ethical – making decisions based on a positive ethical framework (of course, ethics being a larger expectation, as opposed to morals being more specific expectations, and values being what individuals personally hold to be important)
  • Process-Oriented – the journey is just as important as the end. The ideas of group process (a number of individuals coming together to discuss an issue), community (that a small group of tightly-knit individuals will stay together no matter what challenges they face), and the journey being important all fall under this umbrella.

FISH! Philosophy:

  • Be There – Be present. Don’t be on cell phones
  • Play – Remember to have fun, no matter what
  • Make Their Day – Go out of your way to make someone’s day. It will make your day.
  • Choose Your Attitude – Attitude is the thing that individuals can really control. Why go into a bad situation with bad attitude when you can go into a bad situation with a good attitude and completely change the situation?

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I thought these were interesting thoughts that relate very well to student ministry and small group leaders. There’s a few overlapping themes between the philosophies above and the “5 Essentials of Effective Small Group Leaders”

  • It’s a Journey – relational ministry doesn’t happen over night, it takes months and sometimes years to gain a student’s trust
  • Time on their Turf – you’ve got to meet them where they are emotionally and spiritually…and when possible, meet them where they are literally…sporting events, birthday parties, etc.
  • Partner with the Parents – it is the primary responsibility of the parent to disciple their kids, but most just don’t know how and they are happy to have another voice in their student’s lives
  • Keep it Real – be honest, be open and don’t give “knee-jerk” answers
  • Fill up First – make sure you’ve got a growing relationship with Jesus Christ