Below you will find the Covenant Group questions for the week of September 8-14.
The following is a reflection submitted by Julie Diercks based on her time in ministry at First Covenant. As of June, Julie's position will have come to an end but we rejoice that we get to keep her around in the coming year as she continues to live and work in Anchorage and is a part of our church community. Thank you Julie for all you've given in Christ's name to serve our church and our youth.
Three years ago I was invited into something. I was invited into a group of people who wanted me to be a part of their family. Their community. Their Church.
And in these last three years, I have been reminded time and time again, that I am a part of something. Something old. Something new. Something...together.
First Covenant Church has shown me generosity, hospitality, love, and grace. They have shared their kids with me and entrusted them to me, as I entrust them to God. They have shared their resources with me. They have built me rooms in their basements and literally “welcomed me into their family.” They have given me a couch. They have invited me to be their neighbors. They have allowed me to preach and paint the Jr. High youth room orange. They have prayed for me. They have encouraged me in so many ways that I cannot even list them all.
An image that depicts how a church should work is a group of gears in a clock or other mechanical device. When one moves, it empowers the other to move, which empowers the other to move and in that forward motion, are all moving. All the parts move together to make sure that the clock or mechanical device is functioning the way it was intended to function. And we are not solitary moving gears. A gear can move by itself, but what would benefit from that? We move, not just to move, but to move others.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Hebrews10:24
At First Covenant, I have seen many “gears” move together. Some gears keep the building running smoothly, repairing appliances and mechanical problems. Other gears build things for the church. Other gears use their resources and gift the church with things for the church to use. Other gears share their time with the Whole and spend a Sunday morning in the nursery, Sunday School or Kids Time. Other gears use their creativity and make beautiful banners that draw us into worship. Other gears use their musical talent to lead the worship team on Sunday mornings. Other gears show their love for relationships and teaching by leading a small group. Other gears share their home and practice hospitality on a regular basis. It is the reason why I love potlucks so much. It represents the different elements and gifts people bring to benefit the Whole.
These gears move to move others.
In the past 3 years, I have been moved by these gears. I have been moved in generosity, hospitality, love and grace. And I hope that my forward motion will “spur” others on, move others on, towards these things as well. And that together, we will represent the Church, and all that it was intended to be.
Project 51 is one if the results of the latest research coming out of Fuller seminary and PARENTEEN, a non-profit who seeks to address the issues of the family and to help young people mature into Christian adults who remain connected to their church communities into adulthood.
The basic premise behind it is this: In order to significantly raise the chances that we will help usher young people through adolescence and into Christian maturity within the church, we need to create a network of supporters for each student we have the opportunity to care for; that network requires a 5:1 ratio (adults to students) and can be coaches, teachers, youth pastors, elders, parents, grandparents - anyone willing to make an intentional, significant investment in the lives of young people and to let go of their inhibitions and use learn how to connect and spend time growing up together.
I think they're on to something. I think it's why mentoring is probably so important. Sure, we sometimes push programs in the church and we sometimes that is easier to draw people in with and it certainly makes it more easy to speak in generalizations instead of dealing with the specifics of our individual lives and circumstances... but for more of us, there's always someone or a few key people who didn't just barely get to know us - but they took an extra step - they invested in us in a way that most people wouldn't and those are the sorts of things that I believe we need to begin making happen for our kids.
"Mentoring" sounds so official and so formal though and I think sometimes that scares us off of something that really isn't all that hard that would make SUCH A DIFFERENCE.
When I think of mentoring, I don't think about Bible studies or book studies - time spent answering tough questions that we often don't know the answers to either or anything quite that in depth... I think it begins with a friendship... sure, it's different because one of you is an adult with lots of life experience and the other is a young person who is often a little socially awkward and doesn't know always what to talk about or how to carry out an adult conversation yet... So, it just means that one of you has more to share with the other... the tragic thing today its that youth culture (for all sorts of reasons) has become so separate our everyday adult lives and now it is increasingly rare that our the wisdom of the elders in our churches and communities actually gets passed on to the next generation...
For that reason, I hope we will do whatever it takes to start bridging that gap. There are SO MANY easy steps we can take to begin to address it. You don't have to think about running a program or following a curriculum... think of it like this:
All of us have things that we do as adults that so many of our youth have not yet learned to do... we pay bills; we go fishing or hunting; we build things; we go for hikes; we eat lunch and dinner, we spend time with friends and family... I would just suggest that the first step toward mentoring a young person is modeling - and to do that, it's as simple as inviting them into your life. If you're going to go hiking, invite them along... maybe along the way, as you are getting to know each other, you will be surprised by how you discover why God put you two together...
The real hurdle is just making the commitment - saying "Yes, I will regularly and consistently invite so and so into my routine and I will strive to my authentic self as they get to witness what my pursuit of God looks like in my day-to-day living."
Pray about it. If you feel like it's something you can do or feel God leading you to do, let's have a conversation and see what we can do together with Christ.
Dear ECCAK family,
May 1st has been a day set aside for a day of prayer and fasting in the Evangelical Covenant Churches of Alaska.
One year ago the General Council put forth a resolution that was affirmed at the annual meeting. The purpose of the resolution was to establish an annual day of prayer and fasting for two reasons: to pray for deliverance from the peril of suicide in our communities and for healing from the pain of those we have lost already. In addition, the resolution also calls us to put to death those things that belong to our earthly nature. Below are two important sections from the resolution.
We in the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska further RESOLVE to come into the bond of unity and fervently commit to a day of fasting and prayer annually for our children and our families that we may be delivered from the peril of suicide in our communities and be healed from the pain that we endure from those whom we have lost already.
We further RESOLVE to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. We RESOLVE to rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips. (Col 3:5 & 8)
It is my express desire and invitation to call for your wholehearted participation. Suicide has been described as an epidemic in this state, we have heard increased dialogue about it recently, and millions of dollars have been spent to address this issue. We are aware of one too many stories of loss – there is hardly a person who has not been touched by it in some way. But we are ambassadors of the good news of the Savior who has conquered the grave, of a living hope in Christ Jesus. My hope is that the prayers lifted up will spur us on in love and good deeds to shine the light of Christ in the face of the darkness of death, not just on May 1, but every day.
Please communicate this to your congregation or ministry. Included is the original resolution along with a flier that you can post in your church or wherever you may deem fitting to help get the word out.
Because of Christ,
We used to have a regular newsletter that was published and mailed out to the membership of First Covenant. Maybe this blog can be something in the same vain... occasional devotions or articles written by our staff and by the people of our community... photos or art that communicate something about following Christ... poetry, information, announcements, etc... In some ways, this is a trial run. I hope that following this blog becomes something worth doing and something that adds to our life together in some way.
We hope we'll have many contributors from our congregation. I imagine we will have regular and occasional contributors. If you'd like to contribute a poem, a photo, a devotion or anything that you believe enhances our life together, please contact Pastor Criss to learn about posting.