PASSING THE BATON IN CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
Christie Thomas is taking a big step of faith. It will require that she step down as our Director of Children’s Ministries at the end of June. Thelmè VanHeerden, who is now responsible for our early education ministries, will add Christie’s responsibilities to her own and become our new Director of Children’s Ministries.
Christie plans to dedicate more time to her writing. She has had two books accepted for publication by Harvest House Publishers. Fully illustrated versions of Quinn’s Promise Rock and Quinn’s New Friend should hit store shelves in just over a year.
Besides possible future book projects, Christie plans to focus on her blog, which has grown in popularity over the years. She is also considering offering seminars and web-based courses to help parents nurture their children in the Faith.
Christie has made a great impact on Bethel since 2006 when she became our church’s first Director of Children’s Ministries. Under her leadership “Sunday School” became “Lighthouse,” the Thursday evening Kids’ Club got its start, Take-it-Home, inter-generational courses became a staple of the children’s ministry, WillowWood Preschool became one of Bethel’s premiere ministries, and parents began signing in their children for Lighthouse using the computer check-in system. For many years she rallied a small army of volunteers to offer a creative Christmas outreach for the neighborhood called “A Night in Bethlehem”.
We are not saying “goodbye” to Christie just yet, but we did want to share her exiting news. We celebrate this wonderful step in her life. We are also delighted that God has provided us with such a capable new Director of Children’s ministries in Thelmè. – Pastor Tom
BANNERMAN GETS AN AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
In the last five months I have witnessed a remarkable example of what can happen when neighbors work together. Our Bannerman community has created an after school program for the children of working parents. Bethel Church was one of the partners that helped make it happen.
You may remember my mentioning this after school program in a Pastor’s Corner I wrote some months ago. The local school principle identified the need for it. Dave Ball, our local Community League President rallied the neighbors to address the challenge.
Initially, several of us met to discuss the proposal. Eventually it ended up on the regular agenda of the Bannerman Partners group that I chair, and that meets regularly at Bethel Church.
Over the months we watched the afterschool program take shape. The Boys’ and Girls’ Club agreed to staff the program on several days of the week. Other organizations stepped up to fill other afternoons. The Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the Community League, and Communities United agreed to pay the costs. A program that was once only a distant hope, became a reality because many people pitched in to help.
A challenge remains: funding will run out at the end of this school year. It is hoped that by the start of next school year parents and other residence will see how vital this program is and offer to volunteer time and money to keep it running. For now we are celebrating that the program is being offered.
All of our neighbors might not recognize it, but I know God was acting graciously through our efforts to meet the needs of Bannerman. It is something we pray for constantly. I am happy that Bethel could be a partner with our community to see this good thing happen.—Pastor Tom
MOMENTUM FOR THE CHURCH PLANT IS BUILDING
Bethel’s plans to plant a new church have taken a giant leap forward. Just over a week ago, we held a pivotal meeting in Fort Saskatchewan to gauge people’s interest in joining the new church.
A lot was riding on this meeting. If you can’t form a launch-group, you can’t plant a church. It is just that simple. So, we needed to know: are there a significant number of people prepared to step forward to serve this new church? If so, that would be strong confirmation that God’s Spirit is moving us in the venture.
As it turned out, the meeting exceeded our highest expectations. Thirty six people attended. There was keen interest in the vision Pastor Ryan presented and lots of participation in the discussion that followed. The six couples who make up the Fort Saskatchewan House Church, and who are already committed to the church plant, gave encouragement to other attendees to join the effort.
Eighteen families signed up to receive regular updates about the church plant. (Many of these families are not from Bethel Church!) We know of other families from the Fort who are interested in joining the church plant, as well, but who were unable to attend the meeting.
A Bethel member who came to the meeting to show her support commented: “I am really enjoying the energy behind this church plant and also [the Fort Saskatchewan people’s] willingness to do the hard work of preparation and prayer.”
Many church plants have started with far less momentum and far fewer people. We feel we, as a church, have strong reason to move forward boldly with our plans to love and reach out to the people of Fort Saskatchewan.—Pastor Tom
THE PASTORS ARE HEADED SOUTH
Pastor Ryan and I will be away this weekend and through much of this coming week. We are attending the More and Better Conference being held in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Florida is called “The Sunshine State,” but we are not going there for the sunshine. (Okay, okay, the sunshine will be nice! but there is a more important reason we are going there). Here is why this conference is so important that it warrants both pastors attending it.
First of all, there is what we will learn. The focus of the conference is Gospel-preaching. Gospel preaching is explaining each passage in such a way that we can see how the text is an expression of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is easy for pastors to fall into the trap of teaching the Bible as a self-help book—a set of principle that will lead us to success if followed. But self-help is not what we all need most! We need God’s help.
It is an emphasis on God’s grace that makes any preaching distinctly Christian. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20. In other words, it is our death and resurrection with Christ, through the Holy Spirit’s power, that makes daily living with God possible.
Self-help preaching leads us away from grace, toward self-reliance. It makes Christianity seem like just one more religion offering moral guidelines with no power to live them out.
The other thing that makes this conference important is that we will be joined by 13 other Christian Reformed pastors and spouses from our area. They are attending the More and Better Conference as a way of deciding if their church should embark on The Church Renewal Lab journey starting in September 2018.
Bethel’s involvement in the Church Renewal Lab has helped us to see more people than ever coming to Christ. We hope that many other pastors will be encouraged to lead their churches to participate in the program.
Please pray for this trip. We look forward to seeing you when we return!—Pastor Tom
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