Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting Involved With Church Ministry

We just starting attending a church here in New Jersey a couple of months ago. We had tried several churches since we moved here in August, but they just didn't feel right. We would leave each church saying "Eh...that was good, but something is missing." They weren't bad churches, in fact many were wonderful, thriving churches! But we just kept feeling like there was somewhere else we needed to try. That is until we set foot in Kingston United Methodist Church. The style of liturgy reminded us of home, and there was such a welcoming atmosphere. After the service we both looked at each other in the car and said "Alight. That was really great!" We decided that day to visit KUMC every other week and try a new church in between, but that didn't happen because the second time we visited I knew I didn't want to miss another Sunday.

(As a side note let me just say this: I sound a bit giddy about this church, and I do have wonderful things to say about it, but look, no church is perfect and neither is this one. But the difference is that this is a church we want to struggle alongside with.)

We attended regularly for a couple of months and then quickly started getting involved. We both joined the Christmas Choir, read scripture and I was recruited to help with an alternative gift project for the holiday season. As soon as we began to volunteer, we started feeling more and more "at home". We started making connections with people - the same people we had been quietly sitting alongside during that one hour on Sunday morning. I started to know their names and their hearts. Getting involved helps foster community with people you wouldn't normally be around.

I want to write about this because it is deeply important for me to see people get involved with a church they like, ASAP. I'm pretty passionate about it. Once you've reached that point where you've gone several times and you KNOW that this is where you want to be - DO SOMETHING. I say this because I've personally been involved in ministry at every church I've been at. I see the difference it makes in my life and in the lives of those around me when we reach outside that comfort zone for just a moment, to find our place in the church, bringing God's kingdom close like a kiss.

Of course you can also do wonderful work outside a church community, but there is something so special about sharing life and passions with those you are sharing a space with every week. Becoming involved with the ministries of the church can keep us from being church "consumers". It can help us see that yes, going on Sunday can be nourishing to the soul...but what if it isn't all that nourishing one week. What if it's really boring!? What if the music sucks?! When you have allowed yourself to become a part of something bigger than yourself, you will begin to see the church less as something to obtain or to consume, but more as a place where you are challenged and encouraged to reach outward. It feels good to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

There are SO MANY ways to be a part of a church. Generally the "bigger" ministries are listed on a bulletin each week, or on the church website (usually these include children's, youth, young adult, adult and choir ministries). But these are not the only ways to get involved! Whatever your passion is, THERE IS A PLACE FOR YOU. Getting involved with a ministry can help you find and strengthen those passions. As I started to volunteer at KUMC, the pastor came up to me and thanked me, saying that the skills and talents I had were not his. I was able to bless the church in a unique way. Being a part of the church has made me feel good to be me - the me that I was created to be. It has made me feel confident and caring, loving and kind. You need to know this: you are valuable to the church. Whatever your passion is, however you are being intrinsically you, is needed. It's a place you can be exactly who you are and a place you SHOULD be exactly who you are.

That is the bottom line - this is why you should get involved: we need you. Not for free volunteer labor, but we need YOU. Everything you are. Your passions are unique, your talents, everything you are, good and bad, are exactly what is missing in our ministries. You are precious. You are valuable. You are beautiful. You are loved. Our lives are missing something valuable when you are not sharing life and love with us.


Going Forward:

- Talk to your pastor to see what ministries are available at your church. Take time to pray over them and see where you feel most lead.

- If you aren't sure of your passions, try taking a strengths test. If you enjoy personality tests as much as I do, this is just a fun way to see what your gifts might be! (Note that none of these will outright tell you that you should volunteer in youth ministry, or with the choir, or behind the scenes doing office work. It's just a guide to see your strengths from a different perspective)

  • This link here is for a general strengths aptitude test. For example, my results were "Optimism", "Faith" and "Focus".
  • This link here is for a spiritual gifts test. (It says "take our test for free" in the grey box in the left corner) For example, my results were "Mercy", "Faith" and "Discernment".
  • This link here is geared more towards teenagers and is very short and a bit more narrowed in the questions. My results were "Encouragement", "Giving" and "Hospitality".
-  Dream big! All passions can be used in the church, even if they seem small. Take a look at your passions for art, crafts, sewing, finance, cooking, board games, reading, writing, music, or dance - and dream about how they can by used to bring God's Kingdom to earth.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Look At 2012

12 highlights of 2012!

1. New Years Resolution:
This isn't a highlight of 2012, but I feel the need to get this out in writing! One of my goals this year is to blog more regularly, but more importantly, blog about substantial subjects! I really want to be intentional about my topics. I don't want to write just to have something on my blog. It has to mean something to me! (I have one brewing at the moment so keep an eye out!)

2. Netflix fun:
Fringe!!! Breaking Bad!!! We had a lot of fun with Fringe and Breaking Bad this year. I particularly enjoyed Fringe, and partly because I'm not always a sci-fi girl, but the character development and relationships are outstanding, and the way they tie in each episode is so interesting! So worth watching!

3. Most fun with currently running TV:
"Once Upon A time". OMG I love it. Best show on TV right now! The reason I know it's so good is because I can't even remember the last show I cared about enough to watch it as it airs. The character development of this show is phenomenal and it's just plain FUN to follow some of my beloved fairy tale characters.

4. Skincare love:
My current skincare routine, and my favorite one of the year, is using Alba's organic Acnedote facial wash followed by a home made toner of apple cider vinegar, water and green tea. Oh my word. It has done wonders!

5. Favorite Quote:
"It's hard to let go anything we love. We live in a world which teaches us to clutch. But when we clutch we're left with a fistful of ashes." - Madeleine L'Engle

Ugh, I was absolutely obsessed with this quote earlier in the year. I even wrote it out and hung it on my mirror for a time. So, so poignant and such a strong symbol for me personally. Love her. So much.

6. Favorite album:
My favorite album as a whole this year has to be a tie between "The Lumineers" and "The Head and the Heart" These are fantastic, and I love each and every song! I really enjoy the authentic and raw sound of these bands, and they just make me feel good! Some of my favorite songs are "Ho Hey", "Stubborn Love" (Lumineers) and "Ghosts" and "Winter Song" (Head and the Heart). So amazing.

7. Favorite Music Discoveries:
This year has been wonderful for my music loving soul! Some of these are not new to the music scene, but were new to me this year and I am in love!! Sia, Shovels and Rope, Of Monsters of Men, Noah Gunderson, Young the Giant, Dawes, The Civil Wars, Gregory Alan Isakov, Holly Pulliam, and Lost in the Trees. Seriously. Listen to all of them. I'm not kidding. Go. Now.

8. Biggest Surprise:
Honestly, the biggest surprise is that I'm not freezing in New Jersey anymore! I guess I just got use to it, and I actually like it! It's very weird for me to say this, but I'm looking forward to our first real snow storm! I know, I know, I say that NOW before it has happened, but I'm hoping I still love it as much as I love the idea of it.

9. Most enjoyable travel:
Our road tip/move out to Princeton was quite an adventure! Though sad to leave our family, this phase of our lives has turned out to be just what we needed, and the trip out marked the beginning of that new plunge into the unknown. Although it was a tiresome and trying 4 day road trip with our cats in the car, it was something I will always cherish - being able to see this diverse country we live in with the one I love most.

10. Favorite Community Moment:
The hurricane brought our neighbors together in such a powerful and meaningful way. We were forced to be around one another, talk to one another, meet people we wouldn't otherwise meet, feed each other, pray with one another. That week without power, at least for Wes and I, is a cherished moment where we cared for one another and made deep valuable connections with the people around us. 

11. Best use of our home: 
 It's only been 5 or so months since we've moved in, but some highlights for me were: card games with Emily and Jesse the night of the hurricane. Obviously the devastation it left was awful and heartbreaking, but from where we were, it was mild and a fun night filled with laughter. The others I'd say are dinners and game nights too, with new friends Ben and Becca, and Kendra and Travis. Oh! And enchiladas with Brandy, Fransisco and Dolores! I need to invite more people over for dinner, cause apparently I enjoy it! I answered this question in last years high light post, and I just love it. So good to remind ourselves to open our doors to be generous and loving people.

12. Favorite snapshots:
My absolute all time favorite picture of Wes with our niece Emma.

SUCH a great memory: Painting with my grandpa - his original design.

This is where I live!!!! I can't get over how gorgeous it is.