This is an edited version of an email I sent to our Adult Volunteer Team last week. I think it’s important for all of us to know and celebrate the good things that are happening around these parts. Thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement and unbelievable support of all our youth ministry programs…
I hope you are all having a great summer. I hope it has been relaxing and awesome and that each of you had an opportunity to take some time off from life and simply relax. I know this time of year is nutty for all of us as the school year begins and we return to routines and schedules and demands on our time and our lives.
I wanted to send you all an email with two purposes in mind. One to tell you how things are going, what’s new and what I am looking forward to this year.
So……things are going awesome. I have never felt more excited about ministry or about the work we are doing with the young people we have the privilege of working with than I do now. I truly believe that our message of acceptance and grace and that is God is still speaking is so relevant today and today’s teenagers.
We have been busy this summer.
This summer over 110 teenagers went on mission trips with our church. These trips are led by volunteers like each of you who so generously give of their time and their vacations and their talents to make these trips a reality. I can’t begin to explain to you what an impact these trips have on these young people. In a world that is continuing to grow further and further apart – these trips are CRITICAL to tearing down stereotypes, teaching compassion and hard work and instilling values into each of one of these young people that I honestly don’t believe can be taught in any other setting.
We sent the most young people to summer camp of any congregation in the Ohio Conference of the U.C.C. These experiences at camp have shaped many of our lives and I don’t need to emphasize to this group why camp is important. I will say this – more now than ever, we need to continue to advocate for summer camp. Not specialty, high priced, resort style basketball camps led by Olympic gold medalists. Those camps are awesome in their own way. But I am talking about simply camp. A week spent intentionally in the woods, living and communing with other young people and some really awesome young and not so young adults. Camp is going to be continue to be a part of our culture and a big part of our youth ministries programs.
We held our 10th Annual Dog Wash and Dirty Dog 5K. This event has continued to be a favorite and a staple of our summer calendar. I am not a dog owner or dog enthusiast, but I love this event. Thanks to all who make this possible.
In early August, I fulfilled a dream that I had when I first started here nearly 10 years ago. I always envisioned a weekend camping trip where we could talk about life and look back at the past 18 years and look ahead to the next 100. A trip that would be small in size, but big in impact. A trip that would serve as a capstone to a young person’s experience in our youth ministries programs. Our first annual Senior Excursion to the Allegheny National Forest was a huge success. I am so grateful to the 7 seniors who committed to this trip and to Katie Virtue and Bill Plow for all they did to make this trip happen.
I am part of a group of youth leaders from the WRA & EOA Association that we call the Xtreme Team. We envisioned an event a year ago that would bring teenagers together from our churches all across NE Ohio for a day of worship, games, fellowship and serving others. On Sunday, August 14th over 100 teenagers from our Associations gathered at Trinity U.C.C. In Canton for this event. It was awesome. There is still some need for Jesus in our communities.
With the help of many and the leadership of one of our own young people, Andrew Lane, we now have a beautiful Prayer Labyrinth located in the woods behind the church. The rocks that shape this prayer labyrinth are all from Pilgrim Hills, thanks to the time and energy and equipment of so many generous people. I hope we can use this space often this year with our young people to simply take 5-10 minutes out of their crazy weeks to be in silence. In the woods. With God.
We are continuing to live into the space we call the Buoy. This summer we are adding sound proofing in the music room and the main room. We have added picnic tables on the back deck and we have done a complete reorganization of the upstairs storage area. We are going to shake things up this fall and have our SH group meet in the basement this fall. We are going to try an inter-generational class about Jesus, Bombs & Ice Cream for our high schoolers this Fall during Cross-Training.
I want to extend a word of gratitude that I have for each of you and your friendship and your patience and your team attitude and your willingness to serve. I am finding each and every day how wild it is juggling the life I live with a wife and two small children. It is the greatest thing ever. EVER. I wouldn’t change it for the world. The reality though is that I have had to cut and trim and scale back and sometimes I fall behind and get things out later than normal and sometimes emails don’t get answered for a couple of days. I am no less committed to this ministry or no less fully in love with what I get to do everyday. I am simply saying thank you for walking this journey with me and being there when I can’t and helping when I don’t even ask and stepping up when I need to step back. You are all incredible in each of your own, unique way and our young people are better and blessed because of each of you.
This fall is going to be another action-packed filled time with more and more craziness and more and more opportunities to introduce our young people to this radical guy named Jesus and all his shenanigans. And this brings me to the second part of this email….
You are cordially invited to be a part of something incredible…again. . Something eternal & beautiful & rewarding & life-giving.
Something that is part of a much bigger picture that we will never fully grasp.
You will laugh until your sides hurts.
You will talk about farts & Instagram & Chipotle & hashtags.
You will throw your arm out playing dodgeball.
You will become skilled at ping-pong & marshmallow roasting.
You will sweat through a shirt playing gaga ball.
You will have conversations that will inspire you, challenge you & take you new places on your own spiritual journey.
You will have an encounter with the Divine.
On behalf of Jesus & everyone at Avon Lake U.C.C. you are invited to be a part of our Adult Youth Ministry Volunteer Team for the next twelve months….and hopefully 144 more months after that…at least.
It is with a humongous amount of gratitude that I thank you for considering being a part of our team…again.
Your Team Captain & Biggest Fan, Nate
The reality is that God is still speaking, still moving, still changing lives and still matters. I look forward to all that this fall has in store and for even more opportunities to be in community with each of you.