With the new month I've got a few things I want to share with you:
Fall CampThis event is coming up on October 11th and 12th. It's a 24 hour camp (noon to noon) specifically intended to further connect new people into our community. The theme we are pushing is developing a deeper relationship with God and people. We want to focus on both together because they go hand in hand. I don't think Jesus coincidentally said the two greatest commands were to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind AND love your neighbor as yourself. We plan on having student testimonies of how they have deepened their relationships with God or people to give an example to younger students of what that practically looks like. Also we will be talking about the different names in which God has been referred to because what we call someone absolutely plays into our relationship with them. Then as a follow up activity we will have them write a Psalm or letter to God using some of these names that are meaningful to them. I'm really excited to see how it goes!
Leadership AxiomsWe use leadership axioms to teach practical ministry lessons to our student leaders in a way that gives them a lot of meaning packed into a smaller phrase. I've really grown to love this method and wanted to share with you some examples:
- One-on-one is how it's done - We use this axiom to emphasize our value of doing one-on-one ministry. All of our leaders have had several examples of one-on-one mentorship before they get to leader team so they can pretty easily see the importance. We strongly believe that without one-on-one relationships the amount of depth possible is severely limited. The fact is simply that ministry is personal because our God is personal.
- Teach the person, not the lesson - Again, ministry is personal. This goes primarily with our written Bible study, Focus on Jesus, but is applicable in any aspect of ministering to someone. The emphasis is that every time we study the Bible with someone it's going to look different. We must be needs oriented, which should always include seeking guidance from the Lord and time in thought because it's easy to focus on felt needs as opposed to real needs. We can't simply use a template and successfully bring people to the Lord. Instead we have to be led by the Spirit and lead that person to the Lord from wherever they are. They aren't on the same path toward Jesus as the last person you studied with. You've got to go find them before you can lead them to Jesus.
- Move your feet and talk to each other - The big deal here is to communicate with other leaders and staff. We are a team so we have to be able to talk to each other about what's going on. A common example of how this plays out in our ministry is if a guy meets a girl who is interested in being a part of the community in some way, they know to introduce her to one of our female leaders. Also when a core is overwhelmed with members, the leaders know they can get help from the leaders of a smaller core to invest one-on-one in their members. Yet another example is if a leader at UNT had a friend going to UTD, they could talk to one of the UTD FOCUS leaders and introduce them to each other. It's all about working together, but that can't happen if we aren't communicating.
- Think pastorally - As a staff we don't see ourselves as the only pastors of the community. Our student leader team IS our pastoral team. They are the ones who are primarily ministering to those in our body through one-on-one relationships - our role is to support the student leaders. It's because of this reality that we want to emphasize to the leaders how important it is that they think pastorally. When facilitating their core group or a one-on-one Bible study, they have to go beyond their own preferences and the preferences of others to ultimately move people onto God's agenda. Doing that will require a lot of prayer and forethought. There is no template. This experience as a student leader will give them powerful and foundational ministry experience that I think can make them effective disciples for the rest of their lives.
Art Worship NightOne of our students put on a creative worship event this last Saturday. The prompt was essentially to spend time in prayer asking the Lord to speak to you then in response to paint, draw, or write something. At a certain point everyone shared what they had worked on and what it meant to them. It was really neat to be a part of that experience and worship God in a new way. Check out some of the pieces involved:
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Your Prayers are a Tremendous BlessingAgain, thank you for all of your prayers over the past month. I wanted to make a few quick comments about those things.
About 150 students have signed up for cores over the past few weeks, which doesn't include anyone who was invited and didn't sign up. That's just a really cool thing to have such a large percentage of the ministry involved in our smaller communities.
I've witnessed the impact of newer students developing friendships with returning members - many of them have noticeably never had a real friend before. It's a sad reality that it's really easy to be someone's best friend these days. That's probably the number one reason people are drawn to our community. The students here are a great example of living out John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
I believe your prayers in regard to the stresses on our staff and students have been very helpful! Please continue to pray for us to find our strength in the Lord always as it is just the nature of laboring for the Kingdom to be difficult. Each year I have new reasons to believe Jesus' words when He said, "In this world you will have trouble." Yet I'm increasingly more aware of the power and truth in the statement immediately after: "But take heart! I have overcome the world." The business of intimate relationships (ministry) is risky, but we are called to follow Jesus in His sacrificial love for others even when it costs us everything. The good news is He has gone before us and we know He's worth following!
Thank you for all of the ways you support this ministry and me personally. I have seen God's faithfulness displayed time and time again in how invested others are in campus missions and in how much care others have had for me. God is good!
Yours for the Campus,