Resourcing Community Groups and Group Leaders at Elim

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By Larry Short

This is the third in a series of seven posts on guiding principles for community groups at Elim. To read all seven principles together, please click here.

It probably sounds way “obvious” to make the following observation: those programs that a church (like ours) places a high value upon are those things that church spends its greatest time and energy focusing its resources on.

If you think about it, this becomes quite clear. At Elim, we rightly place a very high priority on what happens in our Sunday morning service—worship, preaching, fellowship, etc.

Can you imagine us saying, “Hey, it’s pretty darned expensive and time-consuming to have professional pastors spend all that time preparing and delivering sermons. So let’s just go without, okay?”

And how about children’s and youth ministry? Elim (obviously) places a high value on the next generation, and rightly so. As a result, we focus a lot of resources and efforts raising up leaders who will help train and care for our children and youth.

Missions? We have a long tradition of faithful support of various critical missions programs. We send out short-term missionaries and have even raised up and helped resource professional missionaries from within our own congregation.

As I’ve thought about community groups here at Elim in light of this reality, I have experienced some conviction that I believe is from the Holy Spirit. In the first part of this seven-part series, I spoke of the value that community groups have in discipling people in this church. In the second post, we discussed how it is God Himself who raises up group leaders and who works in the midst of these small groups of believers.

If all this is true, then we should therefore be placing great emphasis on how we resource group leaders and their groups—how we recruit leaders, equip them, and encourage them in the task. This reality forms the commitment behind our third principle for community groups at Elim:

We will prayerfully consider what recruiting, equipping, and encouraging group leaders should look like. But here are some early principles we will seek to live by:

  • “Three Hands” and leadership pathway principles must play a key role in raising up and training new leaders. Group leaders are encouraged to pray about and seek to identify a potential leader or leaders they could mentor. If you would like to become a leader, your first step should be to get connected to an existing group and mentor under its leader.
  • All group leaders should also themselves have identified mentors who can encourage and help equip them. The Community Ministry intends to help connect leaders to mentors.
  • Group leaders also need Barnabases in their lives—other leaders they meet with for encouragement and prayer. This can’t be accomplished without spending time together, which the Community Ministry intends to facilitate. Part of that process will be group leaders sharing their stories, successes, challenges, best practices, and dreams with one another.

If you are unfamiliar with the “Three Hands” model, it basically says that all serious disciples of Jesus need a hand up (to someone who is mentoring them), a hand down (to someone they are mentoring), and a hand across (to co-laborers who can encourage them in the task). You may have also heard this stated as the “Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas” model. The Apostle Paul was a mentor to Timothy and a co-laborer with Barnabas in the task for which God commissioned him.

(Pastor Brian Sharpe has developed a cool “Three Hands” booklet which explains this well, so touch base with him if you’d like to know more.)

Please be praying for our first Community Group leaders’ meeting of 2017, taking place Sunday afternoon, May 7 at our home after worship. If you are a group leader or trainee, a leader mentor, coleader (or other “Barnabas”), you are invited! Hopefully you have already received details by email. (Leaders of men’s and women’s groups here at Elim are also encouraged to attend.)

If you have any questions, please drop me an email. Thank you!

Next in this series: In the most effective community groups, people “live life in proximity.”

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Reflection

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By Brian Sharpe

Reflection is an interesting thing. Think about it: You can stand in front of a mirror and see an exact replica of yourself. Over the years, mirrors have gotten clearer and clearer. In fact, most of us have never faced a time when we couldn’t see our reflection clearly in a mirror. In Jesus’s time, however, a mirror was not so clear. I read once that mirrors in that day gave you the basic outline of yourself, and it wasn’t very clear.

A mirror is used in many ways. When we wake up, we look in the mirror in order to see how bad our bedhead is (if we have hair). We use a mirror to check to make sure what we are wearing matches. A mirror is used to help guide putting on makeup and make sure nothing is in our teeth. It is extremely helpful.

James 1:22-24 says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.” None of us have a time that we can think of when we didn’t know what we looked like. The thought of that is absurd, but we do have times when we know what the Word of God tells us to do, but we choose to not listen. We go from being an effectual doer of the Word to being passive listeners who are not reflecting the things God wants us to reflect.

I know this is cliché, but we may be the only picture of Christ that people see. The way we live, act, and move reflects something. It can be reflecting selfishness and pride. It could be reflecting Christ. I guess the question I am asking myself is, “Who or what am I reflecting to my wife, my kids, my friends, my family, and my neighbors?” I am reflecting something. Is it what I want to reflect? Is what you are reflecting what you want to reflect?

There was a time when I remembered what I looked like when I was younger and I would forget that it was not what I looked like anymore. It wasn’t until I was willing to really look in the mirror to see what I was like that I could start making the changes in my life that could help me change what I looked like. This can happen to us in a spiritual walk. We all need to understand what we really look like so that we can seek to reflect Christ to those in our life. We all reflect something. Do we like what we are reflecting? Are we honest with what we are reflecting?

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Community Groups at Elim: God Is in Charge

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By Larry Short

This is the second in a series of seven posts on guiding principles for Community Groups at Elim. To read all seven principles together, please click here.

In 2002, our son had already graduated from high school, and our daughter was drawing near to her graduation date. Both had been quite involved in Elim’s youth ministry, but as they graduated they drifted away from Elim. We realized that there really wasn’t anything designed to keep them, and other young adults like them, engaged in the life and ministry of this church.

One day Darlene said to me, “I think God wants us to do something about this.” But I really couldn’t imagine how we could help. We didn’t have any training in college-/career-aged ministry, and college/career groups in local churches were notoriously difficult to sustain.

“What could we possibly do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded, “but we should pray.”

I was skeptical . . . but, pray we did. And, as we prayed, we began to get a sense that God was indeed calling us to step out and take a risk and try to start something that could create community for this very important life/stage group in our church. I’m thankful that the staff at Elim supported us as we sought to respond to God’s leading.

We called that first effort “YAM,” which was a truly terrible acronym for “Young Adults Ministry.” A number of years later, as the group began to grow and flourish, its members took matters into their own hands and renamed their group “Pulse.” (Which I think was a definite improvement!)

Those first five years of ministry, there were many times we asked: “Is God really in this? If so, why is this so hard? Why aren’t we seeing more young adults join this group?” We often had just a small handful of faithful young adults at our gatherings. Darlene and I remember a Bible study where just one young man, Kennith, showed up, despite being exhausted after work. We decided to press ahead with just the three of us. Then, during the Bible study, Kennith fell asleep! After that meeting, we once again looked at one another and asked ourselves, “Is God really in this?”

And we continued to pray. Despite the seeming lack of success, we still had a conviction that God wanted us to continue. So, after about five years of this, and after a lot of experimentation, the group began to take off and soon hit some sort of “critical mass.” Young people brought their friends, and close bonds were formed. Many of them got married (we’ve counted about 18 Pulse weddings thus far!) and began serving in ministry at Elim.

Over the years the group has waxed and waned, and changed a lot in many ways; but we are grateful to discover this one very important principle, which we believe directly relates to all sorts of community groups at Elim:

God is the One who raises up groups, and He does so by speaking into the lives of leaders and laying a vision on their heart for the group. Every group is different, and the group leader(s) are responsible to manage the group in accordance with God’s leading. Hence, it is unlikely any two groups will be the same, and our goal (as leaders at Elim) should be to encourage, exhort, and grant a great deal of freedom to group leaders to lead in a manner in which they feel called. We will therefore resist any cookie-cutter approach to creating groups at Elim.

In my last post (part one of seven), we discussed how vitally important groups are to the life of the church, because small groups are one of the most effective places people can grow in their relationship with Christ and one another. But the truth is, we are all different, and this doesn’t happen the same way for every person.

Some of us find it easier to grow when we meet with people who are a lot like us, in terms of life stage or circumstance. Others like to hear from a wide variety of people at different places in life. Some of us do well in larger groups, and some of us get our batteries recharged when we are talking life with just a few close friends. Some of us have better emotional energy and more time in the evenings or weekends, and some of us prefer meeting together first thing in the morning, when we are fresh. Some of us really want to dig into verse-by-verse Bible study, and others need fellowship and just sharing life together. Some of us love dark chocolate, and others prefer vanilla. We are all different!

The truth is, God knows us and what we need. After all, He created us! He cares more about us than anyone else ever could. Thus we need to trust Him as we seek to find a group of people to walk in community with.

As staff and elders at Elim, our goal is to encourage and give freedom so that God can work in our midst and raise up the kinds of groups we may not yet know we need in order to meet the needs of the people He wants to bring us. If you are aching for community, let’s talk! If there’s a special kind of group you wish existed, let us know, and we will pray with you and ask God to raise up a group that would fit the vision He is giving you.

We all need community in order to grow in Christ. So let’s throw off every encumbrance and go for it!

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What’s Next?: Navigating Our Needs in Children’s and Worship Ministries

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What’s Next?: Navigating Our Needs in Children’s and Worship Ministries

By Pastor Martin Schlomer

It’s been about six weeks since Nate Champneys resigned as Associate Pastor of Worship and Children’s Ministries. Many have asked, “What’s next?” Transitions always raise questions, and I want to address some of these in this week’s Last Word.

“Will we hire another full-time pastor to lead Children’s and Worship Ministries?” At this point in our transition process, the answer is, probably not. Right now, we are evaluating our lay leadership resources and looking for ways to equip and empower them to lead these important ministry areas.

“Will Children’s Ministries continue to be a high priority at Elim?” YES! Elim has always placed a high priority on our ministry to children. This commitment has guided our decisions for the past 25 years and will continue to do so. In collaboration with our current children’s ministry leadership and volunteers, we are assessing our needs and identifying ways to improve our ministry effectiveness. We are also currently in the planning stages of determining how this core commitment will shape our facility expansion plan in the near future. As new and more young families continue to join Elim’s ranks, we will continue to make resourcing Children’s Ministries a high priority.

“Who is overseeing Children’s Ministries?” Cheryl Weller has graciously stepped into this role. Cheryl was our Children’s Ministries Director for 17 years, so she brings a wealth of experience. She is working closely with Julie Davis and the rest of the Awana leadership to oversee Awana, as well as with Geneva Mooney and the other Sunday-morning coordinators to oversee our Sunday-morning children’s program. She is also forming a team who will lead our summer children’s ministries. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please see Cheryl Weller or Brian Sharpe. They welcome the opportunity to talk further.

“What is our strategy for leadership for Worship Ministries?” In January, Nate developed four worship teams with four worship leaders, leading one himself and being joined by Brian Waple, Tomina Sharpe, and Roger Petersohn. With his resignation, we have consolidated the four teams to three very strong teams, led by Brian, Tomina, and Roger. Brian Sharpe is working closely with our sound and video teams. Together, Brian and I are moving forward with training and developing our leaders.

“Are we considering hiring a part-time Children’s Ministries Director and a part-time Worship Ministries Director?” Yes. We are praying and waiting to see whom God brings to the surface. Our prayerful goal is to have a part-time director in place over Children’s Ministries by September. Regarding a part-time director of worship, we will need to wait and see how things develop.

Please keep praying for your church during this process. We want to have the right people in place when the time is right. This will take wisdom and patience. It will also require transparency and congregational support. As a leadership team (staff and elders), we are committed to this process being transparent. We want to hear your questions and answer them as best we can. We need your prayer support. Elim is the bride of Jesus, and we want to love her and lead her well.

Moreover, as a congregation, we need everyone to remain faithful financially. Some of what we are able to accomplish will be dependent on that faithfulness.
Finally, I want to say THANK YOU to all our leaders and volunteers! Everyone has pulled together during this transition, and they’re serving others and our Lord well! When you see someone serving, tell them “Thank you!” We are all energized when others notice.

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“You have to fight for your right to …”

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By Bill Naron

Sitting in my plush green chair in the sanctuary this Sunday, I made a connection between something that my wife and I had been talking about and what Brian was speaking from the front. It was Jesus’s kingship! I was really intrigued as a video popped up on the screen and the speaker on the video was talking about the vastness of the universe and how the farther and farther out you go, the smaller and smaller everything looks. So, I got to thinking about Jesus and the Father. I began to think about creation and like we read in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God ….” Jesus is the Word, and He was there at the beginning; the Bible says that all things were created through Him and all things are held together in Him.

I love the story of creation; it is my favorite part of the whole Bible. But then, who does not love the beginning, when everything is awesome and perfect? When God created everything, day after day new things were spoken into existence. On the sixth day, God created man. The Bible says that He formed man from the dust and then something happened that had not happened up to this point: God breathed life into him through his nostrils. It is amazing — God creates this being that has a mind and an ability to think and process, and this being is created in God’s likeness and image! Then this creation is given all other creation to enjoy, and he gets to be in constant communion with God, walking and talking with Him in the garden. But then, because of sin, this relationship is severed; but God is not done — He sends the Word that was with Him. He sends Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God.

See, we were talking about Jesus’s kingship and how it affects our decision-making and how we should examine everything we do through this filter, and this is where my mind went: I began to think about how amazing it is that God breathed life into man at the very beginning. We were different from the rest of creation, we were given the ability to choose to either do the right thing or do the wrong thing. The situation of Adam and Eve in the garden and them having the choice to follow God or to follow their own selfishness and be their own god is the same choice that we are presented with daily. We are put in situations and surrounded by a culture that says, “Do whatever makes you feel good, do whatever makes you happy, be the driver of your life.”

No doubt, there are probably ideas that pop into our minds that we know we should not entertain because they are not beneficial to our health or they are things that we know to be wrong. Do we ever take the time to analyze and think about how the things that we watch or the music we listen to or even the books that we read may influence us and draw us away from our priorities? There are so many things in this world that appear to be good and harmless but are really just little pebbles that cause us to trip and stumble into something bigger. Therefore, I think it is so important that we examine everything we allow in our lives and in our homes through the filter of Christ, because Jesus is King and everything we do should be an example of Him to the world. So many things in the world are beckoning for our attention and trying to consume our time and efforts. This is where my wife and I have found ourselves in contemplation lately, especially when it comes to investing in our kids. We have six small children and an awesome field of discipleship with them. So, it is important for us to analyze how we can maximize our ability to speak life to our kids and how we can be that example of Jesus to our kids when we are around them inside and outside of the house.

Jesus has shown me that in some ways there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. For example, if television, or music, or “fill in the blank,” is taking time away from our priorities, which should be God and our families, that is too much of a good thing. See, we are not the makers of our own destinies or the masters of our fate. We are creations of the God who spoke the universe into existence and breathed life into man, who gave himself up to reconcile His broken and fallen creation to Himself. We are cared for by Him more than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field. Everything we have in our lives we have because He has given it to us, and that is what should give us the desire to live in a way that reflects Him. I encourage you all to take some time and look at what may be consuming your time, what might be hindering you from reflecting Jesus to the world. Grace be with all of you, my dear church family. Amen.

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I Made a Promise: Confronting the Shame and Bondage of Sexual Abuse

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

It was early February 2016 when I made a promise to the Elim family. We had to confront the ugly reality of sexual abuse. A young man was accused of sexual abuse. When confronted, he confessed that the accusation was true. The individual was turned over to the proper authorities and arrested.

While none of this abuse happened at any Elim ministry event, we were asked the question, “What’s next?” Many others came with their own stories of being victims of sexual abuse. This was my introduction to the ugly reality that so many people must endure. One in three women and one in five men have endured sexual abuse. Most suffer in silent agony, enslaved in deep and toxic shame. I promised the Elim family that we would develop a strategy to shepherd and disciple those adults among us who have been victimized by sexual predators.

After eight months of thinking, praying, and looking for someone to help guide us through this process, I met with Shonna Porter to brainstorm options. She connected me with Mary Jane Apple, who works alongside Dr. Dan Allender, a renowned Christian psychologist in the realm of sexual abuse. I have assembled a team of eager individuals who will work with Shonna and Mary Jane to be trained and to develop a strategy to move us forward. At this point, Elim will host two seminars this fall. In September/October, we will host a two-hour seminar for Elim and the South Hill community, with the topic of defining the scope of sexual abuse: What is it, and how does it happen? Then, before the end of the year, we hope to offer a two-day intensive seminar called “Healing the Wounded Heart.” Coming out of these seminars, it is my hope that we will be equipped to pursue an ongoing ministry outreach based upon our understanding.

Why is this important? The Gospel has the power not just to save us for eternity, but also to lead us on the way of freedom here and now! “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This fullness is for ALL men and women who bow their knee before Jesus, experiencing His heart and following His ways!

This journey will be no picnic in the park. In my first conversation with Mary Jane, she asked me, “Why do you want to pursue this path?” After I explained my reasons, she gave me this rather unsettling assurance: “You are stepping into some strongholds, some very dark places. Satan will not step aside and walk quietly into the night. You need to build a prayer team as you begin this journey.” This is now my first priority! If you are willing to pray weekly, please email me (martin@elimefc.org), and I will put you on a prayer list and will keep you updated monthly on ways you can pray. Please put “Allies in Prayer” in the subject line.

May our Father lead us as we bring the light of the Kingdom of God to very dark places!

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