By Kristin Devine Mueller
I know that you value Children’s Ministry at ECC, and I know that this church has a long history of valuing children as a part of God’s kingdom. About 18 months ago I was blessed to be able to join the staff here, and I have truly enjoyed working with the church to help create, nurture, and sustain a place for children in our congregation.
I think we do this in two ways – we create same-age spaces where children are completely free to be children, like in our Kids Out Loud classes, our nursery rooms, our Wednesday Kids Club, and Summer XP. When you come into one of those spaces, you’ll see a large team of volunteers reaching kids on their level. You’ll see (and hear) children engaged through all the different learning styles. I love these spaces and these places, and I’m so thankful for the volunteers who give their time and talents each and every week.
It’s been my goal to also create a space for our children in worship, in the Sanctuary, with the larger body of Christ. We try to do this through songs that children learn to sing both for us and with us, through our Bible presentations, through events like Bump-Up Sunday, through our bookshelf of resources in the Sanctuary, and through children reading Scripture. We’ve been experimenting this fall with spaces for children to play instruments and spaces for children to create art. We’ve had videos and skits on Unity Sundays, and just this month we celebrated and taught about communion in worship, on a Sunday when we knew the children would be present with us.
Our summer worship format was a mix of these two styles. We created both a worship space and a space for children to be with same-age peers. During the summer months the children began with us for songs and prayer, and we shared in a spoken blessing together. We then invited children to participate in a worship experience outside the sanctuary, and we had them return to the sanctuary during our closing songs.
We do all this because we want our children to know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God’s purposes in the world. We want them to have a strong foundation in faith, before they are 10 years old, so that they don’t walk away from the church when they get older. In the video, we heard that 55% of children will never set foot inside a church. That means that 55% of the children in Lafayette – 55% of the children we see at the grocery store, at the library, in our schools – will never set foot inside a church. That’s a lot of children!
Let’s talk about numbers here at ECC. This summer, we were able to track that 74 unique children came to children’s worship during our 10:30 service. Our database shows that we saw at least 84 unique children during the school year in our Kids Out Loud classes. The number is actually higher – we’ve been tracking this fall and we have seen 110 unique children in our preschool through 6th grade classes on Sunday mornings. These numbers are just class numbers though – they don’t include the children who have special needs and meet with one-on-one aides, and they don’t include the children in the nursery, and they don’t include the children who stay with their family in worship. These numbers also don’t include the children who come for our MOPS kids programs, or the children who are on our campus for events like our Fall Kick-Off or Trunk or Treat. We’re just starting to track our numbers more closely, and we want to expand our data so that we include all the children who come through our doors. We see a lot of children during the year! We want to make sure that we are always creating room for those 55% of children, who are predicted to never enter our doors. I think we’ve got some of them coming through the doors already, and we want them to encounter the life-changing love of Jesus Christ!
Yet, we know that we can still do more to develop children as disciples, to equip parents as spiritual mentors, to empower children to participate in our church, and to reach out to engage the children of Lafayette. This spring, we’ll begin a journey with Steve Burger, the Covenant Church’s Director of Children, Family, and Intergenerational Ministry. This journey is called Legacy, and it will help us reimagine children’s place of priority in God’s kingdom. I’ve got one other short video to show you…
The Legacy journey will begin here at ECC on Sunday, April 19, the first Sunday after Easter. Steve Burger will be here to preach in worship, and then he will lead an afternoon experience where we assess and celebrate our current children’s ministry, identify which one of the four framework pieces we want to focus on in the coming year, and dream and plan how we can begin this work. We’ll be inviting pastors, church leaders, and children’s leaders to join together in this experience. Each of you could very easily fit into that group of people, and if you are a leader in our church or in our children’s ministry, we would love to have you join us.
There is always room for more of you to lead with us in Children’s Ministry, and there is always room for you to make a kingdom impact in the lives of our children. We have a wonderful team of volunteers, but volunteer recruitment in the world of children’s ministry never stops. If your heart was touched by the video, come sit in the nursery with our little ones, come greet at our welcome desks, or come teach in a class. There are always openings and needs to fill, and we currently have openings for nursery workers, greeters, and teachers. If you want to get more involved, please come talk to me. If you want to read more about our upcoming Legacy journey, I have flyers that I will gladly share with you. Thank you!
On Ash Wednesday, (February 26, 2020) we enter into the season of Lent in the Church Year. Lent offers the invitation to set aside time each year to “walk with Jesus to Jerusalem”, to remember and intentionally focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
Lent lasts 40 days, leading up to Easter, minus Sundays. The 40 days mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, where he fasted, prayed, and triumphed over the temptations of Satan. In accepting the invitation to celebrate Lent, we may also be called to fast and pray.
“The purpose of Lent is not to force on us a few formal obligations, but to ‘soften’ our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, to experience the hidden ‘thirst and hunger’ for communion with God.” (Reverend Alexander Schmemann)
The more traditional way to identify with Jesus is by giving up something for Lent, and you may sense that is a good option for you. Maybe you give up chocolate or Wednesday lunches or maybe it’s social media on Mondays you choose to fast. Possibly you could feel the invitation to refrain from complaining or to give up your purchased coffee and donate the money instead.
However, you might be invited to add something during Lent. You may decide to more faithfully pray for people in your life, walk a certain amount of time or distance each day, or more intentionally read through the gospels. You could also prayerfully identify people in your life, your neighborhood, your family, your place of work or school, whom you can serve in some small way. You can pray for them, as mentioned above, or you can be on the lookout for a way to serve them, to deny yourself in some way on their behalf. You can volunteer in a ministry for a season. All of these are also ways in which we can observe a holy season of Lent as we remember what Christ has done for us. We would love to have you start by taking part in our Ash Wednesday service February 26, 7:00pm, at ECC.
What you choose, by themselves, can do nothing – these practices are about making intentional space to connect with God and allowing Him to work in and through you. Committing to intentionally focus some way on Christ’s life during Lent is a way we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit on the pathway to Christoformity. We encourage you to take some time and prayerfully ask God how He is inviting you to observe Lent this year.
If you would like to receive some guidance or encouragement during your observing of Lent, we invite you to sign up for daily Lenten texts on your phone where we’ll offer you a prayer, a passage to reflect on, or some other suggestion to help you more intentionally observe the season of Lent. If you sign up, you’ll receive an initial text on Ash Wednesday, and then, starting the following week, 5 daily texts each week leading up to Easter. Simply text @ecclent20 to the number 81010 to enroll.
As we experience this sacred season, however you choose to celebrate Lent, may our hearts be softened and open to the realities of the Spirit, may we experience a deeper communion with God, and a grow a greater commitment to love and be loved by the Savior.
by Pastor Stacey Littlefield
On February 26, we will observe Ash Wednesday at ECC with a family friendly, interactive time of prayer and worship to enter into the season of Lent in community. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the 40 days that lead up to Holy Week and our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning. It is called “Ash Wednesday” because of the ashes that are customarily placed on the forehead of worshipers during the service.
Why ashes? In biblical times and down through history ashes have been a sign of mortality and repentance. In Job 42:4-5, for example, after Job is confronted by God, he says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job sees God and sees his own sin and responds in repentance by sitting among the ashes. While we do not physically “sit among the ashes” on Ash Wednesday or during the Lenten season, we are invited to reflect and pray.
It might be tempting to see Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent as morbid affairs, even something those of us who know Christ need not bother with, but there is something here we dare not miss. Yes, we have been forgiven. Yes, the grace of God is sufficient for us and all of our sins, past, present, and future. No, we need not wallow in shame because we fall short. But repentance is an important part of our walk with Christ, and we also dare not forget the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. We dare not forget, either, that Christ came not only to secure a place for us in heaven, but to teach us a new and better way to live—abundant life now. Lent reminds us of our calling to walk the road that leads to Christoformity, even as we acknowledge Christ’s death on the cross and celebrate the gift of our redemption.
On Ash Wednesday, at the culmination of our time of prayer and worship, worshipers are invited to come forward and have ashes place on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. The receiving of ashes is not mandatory. It is available for those who wish to take part. The ashes remind us of our mortality and of the call to repentance. As we place ashes on each forehead, we say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ultimately, Ash Wednesday is about looking back in gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ and looking forward in hope because God is with us, still—leading us, guiding us, sustaining us, and fulfilling his promises to us. As a prayer I pray almost every day puts it, we bless you, God, “for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ash Wednesday is a time to give thanks for our redemption in Christ, to acknowledge the road to transformation we are yet traveling, and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. I hope you will join us on February 26 for Ash Wednesday.
Since the fall, we have been exploring our ECC Touchstones of Welcome, Transformation, and Presence from different points of view. Most recently, we have used our Wednesday evening Community Gatherings to foster conversations around each of them. Beginning February 12 and for six weeks after that, we will shift gears a bit, even as we continue exploring each of the Touchstones. Each week we will look at some aspect of one of the Touchstones on a more practical level. We’ll spend two weeks with each Touchstone.
While the exact details for each week are still coming together, we wanted to give you a sense of where we will be going and encourage you to make time to join us. Even if you cannot stay for the learning opportunities, we’d love to have you join us for the time to fellowship around the table with one another. Dinner is served from 5:45-6:30pm. Programming for all ages and our further journey into the Touchstones takes place from 6:30-8:00pm.
2.12.20 and 2.19.20 // Welcome
Guest Presenter Pastor Rodney Lynch, Director of the Baptist Student Foundation on Purdue’s campus, will lead us in a two-week conversation on Welcome as it pertains to race. On the second week, February 19, brothers and sisters from Second Baptist Church are planning to join us to enrich our fellowship, conversation, and understanding.
2.26.20 and 3.04.20 // Transformation
On February 26, we will hold an interactive Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. The following week, March 4, Beth and Dave Booram, authors of the book, When Faith Becomes Sight: Opening Your Eyes to God’s Presence All Around You, will speak to us on spiritual formation.
3.11.20 and 3.18.20 // Presence
We are currently working on two weeks on which we will talk about what it means for us to be present to our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ, in word and deed, in a very practical manner. We will keep you posted as things develop.
Many of us witnessed a exhilarating Super Bowl this past Sunday with a heroic come back. Some of our ministry Heroes at ECC serve very quietly behind the scenes providing one on one care to those in need through Stephen Ministries. In the wake of what was a very entertaining Super Bowl game, see how one former NFL coach found meaning through becoming a Stephen Minister at his local congregation…
For more information about Stephen Ministry at ECC go to ecclife.net/stephen-ministry