sites_annetteAnnette Sites, Jerusalem Chapel (Churchville, Va.)

There is a curve in a road in the middle of nowhere going toward Paradise–Oregon, that is. That curve and 100 other curves on a winding highway is known to the locals as Rattlesnake Grade. What makes this grade one of memory for me is two-fold.

  1. First, there are no guard rails. If your car veers a bit too far to the right, you’ll just plummet into the valley below.
  2. Secondly, this winding mountain road saved our marriage. Well, actually, my husband was wise enough to use this rattlesnake to get my attention!

Driving toward Paradise early in our married years, we knew we were nearing a place of peace and solace for a day away from the pressures of life and ministry. My husband would be looking forward to some time with the elk, deer, or bear who roamed the nearby mountains, and I was thrilled to have some time with my husband. As a busy pastor, he was often gone long hours while I stayed hom caring for our two daughters, both under the age of two. A day off together brought the promise of family time, connectedness, and adventure!

I’m not quite sure which particular curve on Rattlesnake Grade was the special spot, but one day as I was enjoying sharing my joys and woes, my husband sweetly turned to me and said, “I don’t mean this bad, but that’s all for church talk. I need to clear my mind so I can relax.”

I’d like to tell you that I just as sweetly replied, “Yes, dear!” But, no. I got my feelings hurt and maybe let a single tear escape. While trying to be strong and understand, I buttoned my lip, but soon found myself trying to find something else to talk about. The problem: much of my life revolved around things related to the church. My social life was at the church, my friends were at the church, even some of my co-workers went to the church. It soon became clear to us both that other than our kids, I had a hard time coming up with things to talk about with my husband that weren’t somehow interwoven with ministry.

With my husband’s gracious patience, I have learned when to shut off the “chatter valve” and when to just sit quietly and enjoy his company. It continues to be a challenge, however. For the past 19 years, I’ve been employed in the church office and also serve within the church leadership. Our friends, our church family, ministry issues, and church office items mix and mingle daily.

While not every couple has quite these same dynamics, there are similarities for any couple who work beside each other in ministry. When you live with the one who oversees you–whether in a volunteer position or as an employee–healthy boundaries set together will help to prevent ministry overload. Honest–and kind–dialogue is essential.

The perk to working and living with your boss is the flexibility. Today, my husband and I are traveling up I-81 to visit family for two birthday celebrations. While secluded with each other for hours of travel time, we made prior arrangements to bring along some work. Our car will become the church office, and my husband will become my boss. Decisions will be made and controversies brought to a conclusion.

Even though we’ll not be winding our way down a curvy mountain road, I have no doubt that at some point in our travels I will hear the words, “Okay, I’m done with business now. Alright?” With that, I’ll put my files away, take a deep breath, and by God’s grace switch gears from being an employee and co-laborer in ministry to a wife, mom, and daughter-in-law. What a great day for a birthday celebration and a little “peace of paradise!”

Nate Perry, Assistant Director of Enrollment, Huntington University

For high schoolers, the college search process shifts into high gear during their senior year. Here is what your students need to be doing.

Narrow your search to 3-5 schools. Apply to each of them, noting application deadlines and fee waivers (Huntington University waives the application fee of $20 if you apply and visit before December 1 of your senior year).

September: Complete applications. Schedule SAT/ACT tests and send scores to your 3-5 schools.

October-December: Work on applications for outside scholarships (check and institutional scholarships. Visit these campuses again and ask to stay overnight in the residence halls to get the experience of residence life.

January: Start working on Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For Indiana residents, you MUST have this completed by March 10 to qualify for state grants. Retake SAT/ACT and resend to 3-5 choice schools.

February-March: Finalize FAFSA and submit to schools (each have a specific code like 001803).

April-May: Await financial aid award letter from schools to arrive in mailbox.  Compare each of them and decide what’s going to be the best value (noting that each school has something different to offer and that the investment won’t be identical). Be aware of any student deposit deadlines. At Huntington University, the student deposit is $100 and is required before a student can register for classes.

June-July: Attend Registration Weekend and sign up for classes.

August: Make multiple Wal-Mart runs to purchase all those goodies for college (bean bag chair, desk supplies, desk calendar, and laundry soap!).

Nate Perry, Assistant Director of Enrollment, Huntington University

Students in your church should be thinking about college throughout high school. Here are some ways your high schoolers can begin the college search process before their senior year.

Freshman Year
Push yourself to get good grades while taking challenging courses. Work towards the Core40 diploma or Honors to better prepare for college work.

Sophomore Year
Start to search for colleges via the web and also attend college fairs. Sign up to receive mailings and information from colleges. There are over 4000 colleges/universities in the country!

Junior Year
Start visiting campuses. Pick 6-8 schools to visit. Contact the school to plan your visit. Ask to meet with an admissions representative, sit in on a class, have a campus tour, and eat lunch in the dining commons (this is important, right?).

How do you pick which schools to visit? Some factors to consider are:

  • Majors they offer.
  • Distance from home.
  • Friends who might attend.
  • Association with your church’s denomination.
  • Strong reputation.

Keep an eye/ear out for those colleges/universities that visit your high school. Set up a time to meet with the college rep.

Take the SAT/ACT test and send the scores to the 6-8 schools you visited.

The senior year gets real hectic. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Bobby Culler, Youth Pastor, Mt. Pleasant UB (Chambersburg, Pa.)

Greetings from the UB Youth Lead Team. We are fresh off our amazing week of refreshment and refueling in Daytona Beach during the 2009 Youth Summit. It was an awesome time together, and God certainly did some neat things in us and among us during our time together. We were hoping to become more deeply “Rooted” in Christ and scriptures and in our relationships with each other, and that definitely happened.

Perfect weather and some great spiritual discipline experiences led by our speaker for the week, Dr. Jerry Davis (Huntington University), made for a fantastic week of connecting and reconnecting.

This is an annual event planned and organized by our team–a bunch of youth pastors who are and have been in the trenches of youth ministry for several years.

And speaking of the team–we would love to come alongside you and help you become better equipped and more effective in youth ministry as together we work to make an eternal difference in this generation of teenagers. If there is ever anything we can do for you and/or the leaders of your youth ministry, please do not hesitate to email us.

The names and photos of team members can be found on the UB website. It would be an honor for us to help you in any way we can. Also, keep an eye on the UB website for future youth ministry events and training opportunities. Together…let’s work hard to make teenage disciples for Jesus Christ.”

J. Michael Caley, Senior Pastor, Banner of Christ UB (Byron Center, Mich.)

Michigan has been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis. At Banner of Christ church (Byron Center, Mich.), 15 families have been affected by layoffs or job cuts.

Several men who are key breadwinners had been at the same location 25-30 years. Many of them got good jobs right out of high school or college. This is the first time they’ve been in this situation, and they know they could be unemployed for a long time. It’s not like they can make five phone calls and line up interviews for next week.

We decided to bring together people who had lost their jobs. We scheduled the meeting from 6-8 p.m., and we provided pizza. Twelve of the 15 families at Banner directly affected by layoffs or job cuts were represented–both husband and wife in some cases, just one spouse in others.

After eating, we held an informal time of sharing–what work they had been doing, their skills and abilities, what they might do if they can’t return to their previous work.

Then we committed to praying for each other and keeping alert for job opportunities we could share with each other. One guy doing a job search might come across an opening which fit someone else’s skillset.

They were still taking about 8:00 when I basically said, “Last one out, turn off the lights.” Four men stayed for another 45 minutes, just sharing and networking.

Within the first few weeks, several people helped others in the group regarding a job opportunity. In one case, a guy sent a reference back to his former employer saying, “I know someone who would fit the job you’re trying to fill.”

They committed to meeting monthly to check in with each other, and in between meetings, we used a confidential group email list. At least two families that aren’t part of Banner are in that email group.

I was blown away. It brought the magnitude of it to me–the number of people being affected by job cuts, and how much comfort they found in meeting to pray and share.

We have now seen two guys get at least part time work. Two guys also set up times every week to volunteer doing stuff for and around the church–just a way to give something back.

Josh Kesler, senior pastor, Good Shepherd UB (Huntington, Ind.)
We had a great service where the Lord was honored. As a result, there were three conversions. After the service, two of the three came forward to receive their brand new New Believers Bible.

I received a note from a wife this morning sharing with me what wonderful decision this was for her husband and coming forward was giant step. The Holy Spirit was at work and we are once again humbled.

Debbie Cowell, Administrative Assistant, Morning Star Church (Kokomo, Ind.)

On Good Friday, we did something we had never done before: we hosted an absolutley FREE meal for our community! We realized times are tough and wanted to do something special to demonstrate God’s love to the people.

We had hoped to serve 3000-4000 meals, but with the help of over 100 volunteers, we served approximately 5300 FREE chicken and noodle meals! We offered dine-in, carry-out, and delivery to those who weren’t able to come!

It was an incredible experience! We’ve heard so many wonderful stories from people who were touched by something as simple as a free meal! God is so good!

Dalton Jenkins, senior pastor, Bethel Temple of Praise, Yonkers, NY

On Easter Sunday morning and evening, we more than doubled our average attendance. It was a real “God Moment” to see those at the altar broken to tears as they repeated the sinners’ prayer.

In the morning worship the sermon topic was “There Is Power in The Blood Of Jesus,” taken from Hebrews 9. In the evening we had our Sunday school Easter Program.

We had six first-time converts, two in the morning and four in the evening’s Easter Program. Four of the new converts were teens. This Easter was a moment when the Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of the people. Thank God!

Dan Kopp, senior pastor, Northpointe Church, Lewis Center, Ohio

At NorthPointe, it was our hope to experience “Not just another Easter.” This, especially in light of the fact that Christmas seems to be the “biggie” in so many lives. Of course, spiritually speaking, for the believer that should be Easter!

As a matter of fact, about a month or so prior, the kids came forward and decorated a “Chreaster Tree.” Plastic eggs were added to the lit tree in anticipation of Easter. We even sang a “Chreaster Carol.” In a later service, a gift was placed under the tree, symbolizing what gifts we’d bring to Him on Easter.

A week of prayer preceded Holy Week. Prayer-pairs hosted nightly walk-in prayer which culminated in a Prayer Gathering on Palm Saturday. On Palm Sunday we handed out Easter eggs with a devotional inside for Maundy Thursday evening.

On Easter Sunday, young cuties in their Easter best collected these eggs in their baskets. They contained gifts of “Time, Talent and/or Treasure” inside. We exceeded our minimum special offering goal for a total of $3000 toward critical improvements for the house on our property (that we’ve purchase for our future worship center).

As you arrived on Easter Sunday, a folded napkin was on each seat labeled “The Napkin’s Still Folded!” with our church name and the date. We celebrated the symbolism that while the grave cloths were strewn about, the napkin that had covered Jesus’ face was still folded! (John 20)

In Bible times, when a master got up from the table and just threw his napkin down, it meant he was done and the servant could clean up. But when he neatly folded and placed the napkin it meant he was not finished. He was not yet done.

It was a packed house with several brand new believers in attendance and several more who responded in various ways appropriate to our invitation. Praise God that the napkin is still folded… He is not done: saving souls, redeeming the prodigals, and encouraging the hurting and oppressed!

And praise His Name–it was not just another Easter. Merry Chreaster everyone.

John Christophel, pastor, Brooklyn Park UB, Baltimore, Md.

We are coming up on two years since we first broke ground on a new addition that will house and expand our after-school ministry. We called it “Faith that Moves Dirt.”  As of today we have received enough in donations to purchase all that we need to complete the building and re-open our program.

That is not the greatest reason to praise God. The best reason is the spiritual lessons of faith God taught us during this process.

Last week I was faced with a difficult choice. Funds were given two weeks ago to help the church or the after-school program. It was made my choice by the person who gave the donation. I held the funds, knowing we had to pay for the roof shingle work to be.

When an emergency need arose, I faced a difficult choice. Giving the $500 toward the emergency meant I would have to hold off on paying the roofer. I felt God telling me to take care of the emergency. God would just have to take care of the kids then, because we were down to our last $90 in the bank. That was last Thursday.

Saturday I receive a call from a couple who read about our program, our need of raising $4000 more for the project, and of our chocolate peanut butter Easter Egg fund-raiser. They want to use the purchase of a couple of eggs as a excuse to make a donation. Once I looked at the checks they gave for the eggs/donation, I realized they donated $1,000. Another couple wrote me an email after they read the same story. I received their donation of $4000 today. A local hospital called me today and said they read the same story in the paper and wanted to donate a grant of between $200 to $300 to the after-school program.

I believe my obedience allowed God to bless our after-school program more than ten times what I gave. We are a struggling church just like many others, but God continues to bless our efforts to better care for our community children. In the past month we have seen two teen deaths 100 feet from our center. One was hit by a car and the other was a gang shooting. Since then we have had two other evenings with gunfire within blocks of our church.

People are amazed that a small congregation of 40-50 people can not only attempt, but complete such a large task. It is succeeding because of our resolve and the combined efforts, love, prayers, and support of hundreds of people.