A blog post by Ruthie Seiders, Grace Chapel's Pastor of Next Generation Ministries
Mark, Sam, Nathalie, Becky, and Jesse. Sam, Victoria, Hannah, and Gabi. James, Gracie, Emma, Ester, and Zoe were names I “collected” at One Church Sunday on May 17. As the Pastor for NextGen Ministry one of my goals is to get to know as many of the names of our children and youth as I can! So Sunday was a great opportunity to add to my collection since we were all gathered for worship in one place.
My day started with donning an orange vest and carrying a wand to direct traffic. Joined by members of the Student Ministry Team and a few hearty young people we welcomed dozens of musicians and singers who arrived between 7:00 and 7:30 am to set up and rehearse. When the second shift of traffic workers arrived I called one of the high-schoolers over to take my spot so I could enter the arena. My next stop were the childcare areas to see how the Children’s Ministry Team was doing. They were busily setting up our spaces to care for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Whole family groups chose to volunteer taking care of the youngest children, along with an assortment of teenagers and adults. There was an air of excitement and joy as they waited for the littlest members of Grace Chapel to arrive.
My third job was to stand in the lobby greeting people as they were arriving. This was a great way to meet members of the Grace Chapel family, collecting more names! Yani and Johann were getting baptized. Harrison and Caroline were excited to worship with mom and dad. I watched as the Prayer Team gathered for their marching orders and off they went to pray over every seat in the arena. The Welcome Team clustered together to be briefed on the procedures for welcoming thousands to worship. Our new friends from local helping agencies were setting up their tables in hopeful expectancy that donations would indeed be coming through the doors. And behind the scenes the Event Leadership Team was working in harmony with the Arena Staff to make sure all was well.
And then, after traffic jams and long lines, the worship service began! I made my way to my fourth stop, the Family Seating Area (aka “the bar”). I found families with little ones beginning to worship in a space where their children could get up and move around. Additionally, several of our SHINE kids and their teen or adult buddies were using that space as home base. Occasionally they would go for walks around the arena to see what was happening. A number of older adults found the family space to be a comfortable place to sit even with the children happily sitting just behind them. It reminded me of a family reunion.
What a unique worship experience! The music with combined teams, orchestra and choir was phenomenal. I saw adults and youth of all ages leading worship side by side, playing instruments and singing songs. Casting my eyes around the arena it was amazing to see so many seats filled with adults, teens, and children worshiping together.
Children carrying their little worship bags entered the arena and sat with parents and grandparents, as well as the faith parents of other adults all around them. They saw their campus pastor greet them along with the others, all excited to be together in one worship service. They got to hear the Mayor of Lowell give thanks for the gifts they brought to help those in need in the city. They watched a video recorded and produced by some of our own students, interviewing some of their friends! They saw the coach of the Celtics taking a stand for the importance of his faith and regular church attendance for him and his family. They counted how many times Pastor Bryan mentioned Jesus’ name in his sermon (I have yet to get a total!). And then they not only witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those attending, but some of the older children and teens came forward themselves to confess, unashamedly, their faith in Jesus Christ and step into the waters of baptism.
People of all ages kept streaming out of their seats. We watched in awe as men and women, young and old, in multi-colored t-shirts stood next to a pastor waist deep in water. Proclaiming their faith they humbly submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. Rising to new life, they emerged from the water with tears, smiles, hugs, and praises for what God was doing in their lives that very moment. One little guy was so captured by the event he stood next to Pastor Jeanette and held towels and signs for those going into the water.
The service concluded when four young people joined the musicians on stage to lead us in the singing of the modern hymn, In Christ Alone. Listening to their voices as they sang, “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand,” I realized this was a unique moment in the life of our church. This was a true intergenerational event with children, youth, and adults, side by side, serving, leading, worshiping, and boldly confessing Christ as Lord!
Your NextGen team longs for more opportunities for our children and youth to experience what it means to be part of the worshiping congregation here at Grace. This is a perfect time to announce our summer initiative called “Families in Worship.” On every campus the NextGen Team is making available the opportunity for families to worship together during the month of July. You’ll be hearing more about this soon, but for now, plan on our worshipping congregations having more of an intergenerational feel. Faith parents, see how many names of young people you can learn this summer, just by coming to the worship services. It’s a great time to start your own “collection!” Have you met John, and Stefan, and Edward, and Beverly, and…?
Deeper, Closer, Wider
A blog post by Ruthie Seiders, Grace Chapel's Pastor of Next Generation Ministries
As I was finishing my dissertation on faith parenting, and contemplating writing a page of acknowledgements, thanking the people who had supported me and invested in me through the process of my doctoral studies, I realized that I had missed an entire group of people who needed mention: my own faith parents growing up. While they had not directly influenced my writing, they had welcomed me into the family of God in the critical years of my childhood and adolescence.
First, my mum and dad. I am very much the youngest of four children, so much so that by the age of 10, I was the only child left at home. It was at that time my mum became a Christian. Surrendering her life to Jesus changed my family experience from that of my siblings. She became involved in a coffee house ministry in downtown Portland during the late 60’s and 70’s called The Gate. She became active in Faith at Work conferences. She hosted small group Bible studies in our home. And as I was tagging along, watching, observing, even participating at times, I was being exposed to the life changing work of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. So when given the opportunity to say yes to Jesus at a Christian summer camp, I went forward and was baptized in the lake in front of my camp friends the next day!
My dad, well he was kind of a typical Maine yankee. Have you seen the film On Golden Pond? The character played by Henry Fonda so reminds me of my dad! I used to call my dad a burnt marshmallow. All crusty on the outside, but mush on the inside. I would go up to him and hug him and say, “You love me, don’t you dad?” And he’d grimace and say reluctantly, “Ayuh.” My older siblings wonder how I had the courage to approach him that way. But I was seeing the gradual transformation that was happening to my dad as he slowly came to understand who and Whose he was. His faith looked much different than my mum’s, but it was real and authentic to who my dad was. My parents were truly my first faith parents.
And then the saints of West Falmouth Baptist Church. There were a few children and even fewer youth in our small country church. I think we had four high schoolers in my Sunday school class. We had no youth director, no youth group. But as I sat at my computer thinking through who I needed to acknowledge, the Lord brought to my mind name after name of those who had been my faith parents during those formative years. Mickey and Isabel who greeted me each week in worship, George and Ruby who taught one of my Sunday school classes, Mrs. Burrell who gave me a heart for missions, Ann and Jim who sat in front of us each Sunday, and the young adult man who taught our high school Sunday school class and invited us 4 kids to his home to watch the Super Bowl one year. I don’t remember his name but I do remember the invitation. These are the men and women who knew my name, welcomed me in worship, celebrated my baptism, supported me financially when I went on a mission trip, and served me the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation as we came to the Table together as one family. They were my faith parents and I give thanks to God for their investment in me.
In the coming weeks I will be sharing more about what it means to be a faith parent and how any and every adult can have a role to play in welcoming the NEXT Generation into our amazingly diverse and loving church family. In the meantime, think about who were/are your faith parents? Who welcomed you to the family?