A NEW JOURNEY HAS BEGUN
After two years of effort, Bethel’s Church Renewal Lab Team has completed its work. The only thing left to do is celebrate (which our team will do when we meet with the other CRL teams in June to share what God has accomplished in each of our churches). Though the team’s work is done, the journey toward health and growth has just begun.
Here are just some of the Church Renewal Lab outcomes that will continue to shape our church for years to come:
· Six people have been baptized at Bethel so far this church year, and we are expecting still more people to be received as members by evangelism. This is a greater number than any year in known memory. There is no doubt that these baptisms are directly related to what we learned at Church Renewal Lab meetings about connecting people with the Gospel and the church.
· We took the Reveal Survey, to assess our church’s health. It humbled us in many ways, but set us on a path of improvement—as sober self-reflection often will do. As a result of this survey we made at least 25 specific goals that have been guiding us in our church year.
· As pastors, elders and deacons we laid aside the devotional books that we often used to read from at the start of our meetings. Instead we spent the past year telling one another our personal stories of faith. (We shared many of these stories with the congregation in our Bethel Informed newsletter.) It has been a growing experience.
· Our week of 24-7 prayer came about because the “Lab” encouraged us to have quarterly prayer events. We did these events, but as we sought the Lord’s will, we began to dream a dream for prayer that was bigger than any of us could have imagined. The dream was a full week of uninterrupted prayer that turned out to be a wonderful blessing for Bethel church. We believe we will see much fruit flow into our church’s life from this outpouring of prayer.
· We adopted a “discipleship path.” In the new year we will introduce this pathway to the congregation. It involves three practices: Communion, Community, and Calling. Communion is about walking with Christ. Community is about serving in the church, and Calling is about loving God and neighbour in the world. We think the simple strategy of encouraging these three practices will help us all to see a clear direction for growth in Christ.
I believe the Church Renewal Lab has been a tool the Holy Spirit has used to move us along Christ’s path. I am looking forward to the continuing journey with you. –Pastor Tom
BETHEL’S WEEK OF PRAYER
This past week we did something unique in our life as a church. We spent a full week, taking turns, filling hour after hour with prayer, night and day. I thought I would share some initial observations and highlights:
Did you participate in the week of prayer?We would love to hear about your experience. You can talk to one of the Prayer Planning Team members or email email@example.com.
--Pastor Tom, for the Prayer Planning Team (Art Dubbeldam, Lorie Groth, Adrienne Kelsey, Melanie Reynders, and Joanne Rozendaal).
The Managing Elders have granted me four weeks of study leave, to add to four weeks of vacation time this summer, to create a mini-sabbatical. My time away will extend from Sunday, June 24 till Monday, August 20.
Believe it or not, by the end of this summer I will have been serving as pastor at Bethel for almost six years. Bethel normally allows pastors to take a three-month sabbatical after seven years. However, with Pastor Ryan set to leave for the church plant, we want to take advantage of his availability to preach while he is here; so I am taking a shorter sabbatical time, and taking it a little bit earlier than I normally would have.
A sabbatical has two main purposes: it should refresh the pastor and bring benefit to the church. My limited experience with sabbaticals has shown me that they have the potential to do both of these things. My breaks in the past have left me reinvigorated and full of new ideas that have made sermons more relevant and provided fresh directions for ministry.
Here is how I plan to spent my time:
That is a lot to fit into four weeks, but if I even get most of this done, it will be well worth the investment of time and energy. –Pastor Tom
Youth Stepping Up
Its has been a while now since I stepped back from youth ministries at Bethel and Melanie Reynders took on full leadership of the ministry. Because so much of youth ministry happens behind the scenes, and not publicly on a Sunday morning, it can easily slip off our collective radars. This last week I had a chance to talk to Melanie and hear about what is happening in Bethel’s Youth Ministries. She shared some exciting moments. I also asked her how we as a church can better pray for the youth of Bethel.
The first moment she shared was about youth worship. This last week Kevin Rietema, the usual leader of youth worship, was away leading at the Dunamis conference. In his absence the youth completely took charge of worship. Leading all the students in worship were two grade eight students (Owen & Miriam) and one grade seven student (Rachel). They did an incredible job leading the group into God’s presence. They really made it clear to everyone that you do not need to be in high school to lead your peers in the youth group!
The second story that Melanie shared with me was about the youth missions trip to Mexico. She shared how going into the trip she was praying for kids who are normally quite shy to be able to step out of their comfort zones. On the trip that was exactly what happened! Students of all ages stepped up to share testimonies and share faith! It was one of the best missions trips Melanie has ever been on.
How can we pray for the youth of Bethel? Melanie immediately told me that the retreat she has planned for this weekend is going to be very special for our youth. I cannot tell you what it is, or where they are going because it is called a “MYSTERY Retreat.” What I can tell you is that our youth will be stretched and challenged to serve in new and fresh ways. She also said to pray for transformation in the hearts of our youth, and for a breakthrough into the community of Bannerman this summer.
Every week a dozen or so youth leaders come together to pray for, listen to, and mentor Bethel’s youth in their faith. We are very blessed to have such a committed and talented team. Lets continue to encourage them and pray for them in their work with our kids.
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