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Discovering Your Pathway

Discovering Your Pathway

There are 2 types of people in the world–those who know exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there and everyone else.

We’ve found, as we work with church planters, that this exceptional group of ministers can’t do what they do at the beginning of their ministry journey. It takes experience, faith, and more than a few failures to prepare a person to start a new church from scratch. A new seminary graduate may have book knowledge, but won’t usually have the years of hard knocks and wisdom that will shape them into the kind of vessel God can use to start something new.

As we’ve assessed ministers to be church planters over the years, we’ve observed a few things.

1. A key to planting a healthy growing church is having spent time as a minister or apprentice in a healthy growing church.

2. It’s important to know how to make connections in the community, recognize and respond to neighborhood needs, and have spiritual conversations with people outside the church.

3. A directed apprenticeship is a great way for young ministers to gain a breadth of experience. Like a medical or nursing student does rounds to figure out what they’re good at and what they enjoy, the ministry apprentice gets exposure to a possible future.

4. Campus ministry is a little like planting a new church every year. Campus ministers and their interns learn how to gather a new group of people each fall, disciple them for a school year, develop them into teams and give opportunities for community, and release them into their next phase of life. In the fall, they start all over again.

We don’t just work with church planters anymore. We work with potential future church planters, which means we invest in young leaders and help them find places they can serve, as interns, apprentices, campus ministers or in their current vocations. We help you find the next step on your ministry pathway. The path might lead you to become a church planter. Or it might lead you somewhere else entirely. Either way, you will have a better understanding of where God might be leading you and you will grow in your leadership abilities.

We’ll be focusing on apprenticeships this fall. Read our blog to get insight from 3 ministry apprentices and 1 supervisor.

If you want to discover your pathway in ministry, consider joining us for one of our Discovery Labs next spring. To find out if the lab is a good fit for you, fill out a self assessment and someone from our team will follow up with you.

Apprenticeships – A Tailored Preparation for Church Planting

Apprenticeships – A Tailored Preparation for Church Planting

Our First Apprentice

Water’s Edge has been an active body of believers in Laconia, NH for 6 years now. About 3 years post-launch I reached out to my supporting church in Lubbock, TX with the request of an apprentice to join us for a commitment of 2 years. Up to that point in time we had not had any apprentices, so this was to be a new venture for us. 

I began my request by writing up a description of what the apprenticeship would look like. The description included roles or tasks the apprentice would be responsible for as well as the ministry experiences and education they could expect to take with them into the future. I wrote up the job description, submitted it to the Elders of my supporting congregation, and they began to announce the opportunity to their church. Within 3 weeks we had a lead and 6 months later we had our first apprentice on-site! 4 years later now that apprentice has found a wife from New England, had their first child, bought a house in Laconia and currently serves as our Youth Minister and Celebrate Recovery Ministry Leader. God’s providential orchestration was clear from beginning to end.

The Apprenticeship Grows

One unforeseen encouragement for my wife and I as church planters is the fact that we now see that we do have something to offer. Ministry, especially a church-planting ministry, can often feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants pretending you know what you are doing when in fact you do not! What we have realized through the apprenticeships, however, is that we do have something to offer. We do have experiences others do not have. The Lord has given us wisdom in certain areas that could not have been acquired without our experiences. And although every city is different and every church plant is different, what we have learned in this work is valuable to any who will branch out to plant churches as well. In fact, unless a person acquires such hands-on experience in an actual church-plant (just as my wife and I did in NJ before moving to NH), it is hard to imagine how one might acquire the confidence to plant a new church. Being a part of the ins and outs of a church plant is part of what God uses to instill in us the confidence to step out in faith and start a new church ourselves.

If you are feeling called to plant a church one day, I cannot emphasize enough the benefit of on-site church-planting experience through an apprenticeship. At Water’s Edge we will continue to invite apprentices to spend 2-5 years with us as the Lord works to implant His vision for a new church in your heart.

Shaun Dutile planted Water’s Edge – A Church of Christ in Laconia, NH. He is a Christian counselor at Dutile Christian Counseling. He is active in Celebrate Recovery leadership. He and his wife Marci enjoy life on their small farm and supporting their 5 kids in their various interests.

Reflections of a Ministry Intern, Part 3

Hello there! My name is MacKenzie Wood and I am in my third year as an apprentice with Sojourn Campus Ministry at the University of Washington. Having recently graduated from college, I have been able to see the impact of campus ministry in my own life as a student, and now as a minister with Sojourn over the past few years. And it has been such a blessing! There have been ups and downs, and through it all, I’ve seen God work in my life and in the lives of students. 

I am originally from Yakima, WA which is about 3 hours east of Seattle. Before working with Sojourn Campus Ministry, I had been a student at the University of Washington (UW) and I had been really involved with campus ministry as a student! It was where I found community and  a place to continue learning about God and growing in my faith. As I was approaching my last year of college, I felt that God had given me a heart for campus ministry and I wanted to stay and work with students at UW. After graduating in the spring of 2020, I contacted Sojourn Campus Ministry, because I had seen on their website that they had an apprenticeship program. After talking with them, they invited me to the program! I moved back to Seattle in September of 2020 (I had been home because of COVID) and I was ready to begin working with the campus ministry. 

Over the last two years, I have had the pleasure of working with Sojourn Campus Ministry. The 2020-2021 school year was a challenging one. The UW campus was almost completely remote. It was very difficult to meet new students and all of our bible studies had to be done over Zoom for the majority of the year. But through that time, God taught me how to trust Him day-by-day, persevere through challenging and uncertain times, and to love those God had put me with at that time. I learned a lot about prayer and about patience (especially with the 7 roommates I had at the time). 

Then the 2021-2022 school year came around. We were so excited that students would finally be back on campus! Yet, a bit apprehensive, knowing that things could still suddenly change. Many students had graduated and we met very few new students the year before, so we had only a few students in the ministry at that time. It was hard to imagine how we would grow the ministry. But, stepping out in faith and trusting that God had work for us to do at the university, we began tabling in the Quad and passing out flyers. Over the first two weeks of school, we met many students, several of whom would come to be the committed members of our group. We met students who came from a variety of different backgrounds, and some who weren’t Christian, but were open and curious. And as we have begun building community together, we had weekly bible studies and nights where we took communion together and shared our testimonies. It was a blessing to watch as students opened up and shared the journey God has been taking them on.

Now, as I finish out the third fall quarter with Sojourn, I am so grateful for all the students that are a part of our ministry and have been so excited to see how God is moving in their lives. 

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on why campus ministry is so important. And these are the thoughts that have come to mind:

1.    College campus ministry invites non-Christians to hear about Jesus, possibly for the first time. At UW and at many US universities, there are students coming from all around the world and from a variety of different backgrounds. Many students we meet come from a Christian background, but there are also so many who don’t! Some might be too afraid to enter a church, but we are able to meet them on common ground and share the gospel with them!

2.    College is a time of learning new ideas. It’s important for students to see that God cares about the things that they are passionate about. Growing up in the church, it is easy to think that if you want to live a life serving the Lord, you have to work in church ministry. Sometimes, it can even  feel like there is a struggle between wanting to serve God and wanting to pursue the passions they have. Many of the students we meet often see their studies as very separate from their faith and their relationship with God. As campus ministers, we get to invite them into seeing their passions and gifting as being intertwined with the call God has on their lives. They get to be challenged on their intentions for what they want to do, and lean in to being a part of what God is doing in the world, in whatever area of work or career. 

3.     Campus ministry invites the church into a bigger picture of what God is doing in their community. Campus ministry cannot function well without the support of local churches and local believers. Sometimes, it is hard to want to invest in students who are constantly coming and going, rarely staying longer than 4 years. It is hard to continually say goodbye. But the reality is, the things they learn in college will go on to impact them for years to come. And they will be the ones who go back to their homes and carry the gospel with them. More than that, we have the opportunity to learn from those who come from so many different backgrounds. And we are often challenged by the perspective of others, forced to wrestle with our faith and grow in our knowledge of God. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s important that we step into the uncomfortable so we can continue to grow. 

I myself can testify to the life-changing impact of campus ministry. It provided a community and a safe place to grow in my faith and ask questions. And it was for this very reason that I knew I wanted to work in campus ministry. College can be a time of great joy, anxiety, chaos, excitement, and discovery. And what a blessing it has been to be a part of this journey with students and point  them to the One who sees them and loves them amidst it all. 
 
So,  dear reader, I would like you to consider becoming involved in campus ministry! If you are a student, I would encourage you to consider becoming an apprentice with a campus ministry. And if you are a leader with a church or a campus ministry organization, I would encourage you to consider creating apprenticeship programs. What a great way to invite young people to serve their peers, learn how to become a leader, and grow in their faith.

MacKenzie graduated from the University of Washington and served as a campus ministry intern with Sojourn Campus Ministry. 

But, Does It Really Work?

Many of us have been in that place, maybe at 2am on a night where we cannot sleep, where we look at the latest doohickey an infomercial is selling and we are torn between our piqued curiosity and our cynicism.  If that device actually can do everything the overly telegenic talking heads say it does, then I am so there!  But more likely than not, they are selling me a bill of goods.

The modern preacher needs to have a healthy dose of such skepticism.  As we preach to an increasingly skeptical world, a sermon that shares Jesus without any thought toward doubt is going to come off as obtuse.  The issue is exacerbated by the other sharks swimming around on the cable channels: TV preachers.  Health and wealth gospel peddlers share a version of Jesus’ message that sounds great but does not line up with the actual struggles of everyday people, much less Jesus’ own experience of suffering and rejection.  To preach a gospel that always works, is always wonderful, and never costs anything is to become an easily dismissed caricature in our times.

As I have preached over the years in our setting at The Feast Church, I have struggled with how to share the hope we have.  I am painfully concerned about overselling what life in Jesus is actually like.  When I look out at the pews and see families who have suffered unimaginable difficulties, it makes me timid.  If I declare too strongly the benefit of following Jesus I imagine someone rising up and saying, “That’s not true!  I have been a Christian 30 years and it hasn’t protected me from pain or tragedy!”  How does a preacher avoid becoming a Hallmark cliché machine, while also holding out something better than the drudgery of a truly secular experience of our planet?

We are currently working through a series at The Feast Church on “Divine Interruptions.” The general theme is that God comes into our lives and interrupts them. Often the path of Christ is one that doesn’t go like we think it will. To highlight this in practical terms we are spending 10-15 minutes each week interviewing one of our members. We find a particular situation in their life where God interrupted their plans and we discuss it. I then offer a short thought on a biblical text that resonates with their story. It means about half the sermon prep for me, but more importantly we are giving witness to God’s work in our community.

Only three weeks in I am generally amazed. With each person you see a life has been deeply touched by the hand of God. You also quickly discover that every person you know has a mountain of thoughts and experiences that you don’t know anything about unless you ask. What strikes me is how God-formed each story truly is. Circumstance after circumstance where people’s best moments are the fruit of divine interruption. This reality does not change when we talk with someone who dramatically converted late in life or with someone who was raised in a Christian home.

As a preacher, I fear that all I preach is essentially country club membership. Join our church, come to some social events, do a little community service, make friends, etc. Christian faith is an add on to their lives, like getting a sunroof in your new Sonata. As we do these interviews that fear is eased greatly. When people give themselves to the Lord it truly makes a magnificent difference. While I am concerned about unfairly minimizing the beauty in my non-Christian friends’ lives, it is hard not to see that Jesus does make a difference. The quantity and quality of stories I hear from my Christian friends truly disarm my cynicism. When people truly hand their lives over to Jesus of Nazareth what you so often see is an incredible transformation of their entire person.

One of our core values as a church has always been “dialogue.”  We think people learn better when they discuss things, not just listen to teaching.  Usually, we put that core value within the context of non-Christians in conversation with Christians in an environment that allow struggles and doubts.  As this series has continued, I realize more and more that dialogue is important within the family of faith too.  At the very least, God does not get nearly the press God deserves!  So often we experience providence and merely do not report it out.  The result is a kind of spiritual isolation in what should be connected communities.  Instead of all being encouraged by declaring the work of the Lord we sit back and kind of wonder if this Jesus stuff is really all it is cracked up to be.

In summary, I would encourage Christians reading this blog to consider where the spaces of testimony are within your church.  As traditionally non-charismatic communities, those of us in Churches of Christ really have not created space for this kind of communication.  It happens a little in prayer requests, but those often turn into complaint sessions more frequently than praise fests.  Many of our churches are far too protective of who gets behind a microphone.  If we truly want the blessing of God, and to draw in those who are curious, we need to do more sharing.  When we do we honor God’s work and prove that, yes, it really does work!

Caleb Borchers planted The Feast Church in Providence, RI, and continues to minister there. He is a regular contributor to the Kairos blog.

Reflections of a Ministry Intern, Part 2

Introduction

Hey!  My name is Chandler Petray.  I am twenty-three years old, and was born and raised in the Fort Smith area, Arkansas.  I enjoy music, fixing things, computers, and nature.  This year, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) in May, got married in August at Mount Magazine State Park, and moved to Seattle, Washington in September.  Needless to say, this has been a very exciting year for me and my newlywed wife, Briana.

Why Seattle?
    

Briana and I both grew up together in Arkansas.  Moving to Seattle was a big change for us: the weather (houses have no AC?!?!), culture, politics, amount of people, traffic, cost of living, religion, diversity, you get the idea.  It practically feels like a different country, that just happens to speak English and fall under the domain of the federal government.
    

The reason we moved to Seattle was for my new apprenticeship at Sojourn campus ministry.  Sojourn has been serving the University of Washington (UW) campus since 2017, empowering students to live like Jesus.  Founded and still under the leadership of Daniel and Holly Jarchow.
     

During my undergraduate years at UAFS my life was changed by Lion’s For Christ (LFC) campus ministry, headed by Cade Richards.  I learned what the Gospel meant for me (salvation), and what I should do in response to it (glorifying God).  Towards the end of my stay at UAFS, I felt a calling and a desire to continue helping college students come to God.  With the help and advice from Cade, Briana, best friend Zac Wolfe, and roommate Ben Sherer, and many more, I decided coming out to Seattle to do a two-year apprenticeship with Sojourn was what was best for me.

What I Anticipate Learning: 

1. Different Environment of the Pacific Northwest: Seattle

A year ago, before I knew of this apprenticeship, if someone asked me what I knew about Seattle, I would have told them: Space Needle; lots of rain; big-tech; music; drug, housing, mental health issues; very liberal; beautiful nature; and “that’s where the Seahawks are from, right?”  

About this time last year, when Chris Buxton was helping me get connected to campus ministries looking for apprentices, I specified that I wanted to move to an area away from the Bible belt of the Southeastern United States, for I knew it would give me a greater learning experience in how to do ministry.  The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is about as far away as you can get from the Bible belt and remain in the United States.

2. Switching From a Spiritual Consumer to Contributor

During my time at UAFS, I was a student-leader in the LFC campus ministry.  I would help plan/lead events, answer questions in group studies, and be an active member.  However, the shift from student leader to apprentice can’t be overstated, and having to learn how to be a teacher/leader is a big responsibility.  When I was a college student, my time at the ministry was my time with God.  Now I need time that is set apart to just be with God, rather than just the time spent studying for upcoming events, and time with Briana and God.  It’s important to keep growing closer to God individually, but it has proved to be a difficult adjustment.  
Another shift I am experiencing is in group discussion.  In the past, I had no problem speaking, and would answer most questions thrown up during a discussion if no one answered.  However, in my role now, I am letting the students answer most of the time, and discovering the knowledge of the scripture for themselves.  My goal is to get to the point where in my answering, I don’t just slam-dunk the question, but I set it up, trying to help stimulate the conversation so that a student can slam-dunk it.

3. Biblical Knowledge, Books, and Application

The goal of a campus ministry apprenticeship first and foremost, is to develop knowledge, skills, and experience to help become the best minister of Christ I can be.  One very important development area is knowledge about scripture, truths, and other Christian topics.  I grew up in a Christian household, but didn’t start seriously reading my Bible until just a few years ago.  There’s still many books and scripture that I have yet to read, so I have been reading what hasn’t been read yet.  Besides the word of God, there’s other resources to use as tools too.  I have been reading some Christian books recommended to me, and just this past week I started a new one to help with our current Bible study group for the undergraduates, The Greco-Roman World of The New Testament Era by James S. Jeffers. 

I believe as a Christian it’s important to be well versed in scripture, and have pocket-verses to help ourselves, as well as those we are ministering to.  Doing Kairos’s DiscoveryLabs has helped me tremendously with understanding what tools, knowledge, and skills a minister needs to be effective.  Some ministry skills I would like to learn are how to read text not just for myself, but how it could help those I minister to.  Another is making it easier to digest or tailored to what the people need.

Thanks For Reading!

I hope you learned more about me, and my passion for campus ministry.  I just started this two-year apprenticeship in September, so I still have a long way to go.  However, I feel like I have already come so far this year.  I hope other churches or organizations will create apprenticeship programs or seek out applicants, for this is one of the best ways to figure out if vocational ministry is the right choice for someone.  You can find me on Facebook, and here’s my email if you want to reach out or have any questions: crpetray@gmail.com

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen.” (Philippians 4:23)

Chandler Petray is an Apprentice with Sojourn Campus Ministry at the University of Washington.

Reflections of a Ministry Intern, Part 1

One of the best ways to become a healthy, successful minister is to serve in a healthy, growing church. Several church planters and campus ministers in the Kairos network have taken on interns and apprentices. Just as mentors poured into them, they are pouring into a new generation of kingdom workers.

Today, Kathleen Short, ministry intern at Luminous City Church in San Diego, shares some thoughts from her first weeks of training.

What do you hope to learn as a ministry Intern?

I hope to learn more about Jesus, such as his story, his promises, and his way of life. I want to witness and be a witness to others in how Jesus is changing our lives. I want to improve in all aspects of life better through his way, but especially in relationships with others.

I also want to learn how the church and ministry run and sustain as primarily a volunteer organization. I look forward to learning new tools and skills while continuing to practice the skills and gifts I already have. I can’t wait to learn how I can help others do the same with their spiritual gifts.

Lastly, is how we can best serve our community.

How does your position as a ministry apprentice serve the church?

I feel like my staff position is helping the church by sustaining its existence in a community that can greatly benefit from doing life and community with other believers. I also believe that what I bring to the church is not only a comprehensive set of skills that help multiple areas of the ministry, but also a different perspective on how we can best serve others in and outside of the church based on the variety of ways of serving others in my career.

What are the most important things you’ve learned in your first couple months as a ministry intern?

The most important things I’ve learned in my couple months as a staff is learning:

  • when to step up and step back
  • to follow my Pastors’ lead
  • when to speak, not to speak and when to listen
  • to take a back and supportive seat when running the show
  • to be over communicative with all parties involved
  • how to show up in my role, with others, and in life

Kathleen Short started her internship at Luminous City Church (now Commons Church) in the fall of 2022.

Archive

Discovering Your Pathway

Church planters are formed through years of ministry, experience, and being with God and people. We like to help young spiritual leaders on their pathway to mature, healthy ministry, and pray that some of them will start new churches down the road.

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