By Ronda Ooms
In just a few weeks schools across the area will be starting for the 2019-2020 school year. It’s hard to believe that ECC will begin its 13th year of partnering with Miller Elementary School! 13 years ago the school was in the news because of poor testing scores, and at that time there was talk about being taken over by the state. We are so blessed to be a part of the school’s journey towards success. God has led us each step of the way, revealing what we are to do and when! Each year many ECC congregants volunteer in various capacities to work with children, staff and/or families.
Have you considered being a part of the Community Outreach Team? Is the thought of doing something that you haven’t done before overwhelming? Are you ready to think and act outside of the “box” you have made for yourself? I invite you to pray about joining us in the exciting ministry God has allowed us to be a part of! Check out some wonderful thank you notes from Miller students and staff below.
An immediate need is on August 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. ECC will partner with Bauer Community Center and the school to host a Back To School Carnival. It’s a great way to welcome the children back to school and to get them excited about the new year. ECC hosts the dinner that evening and has multiple game areas that we are in charge of. Help is needed with the food portion and with manning the games. If you have not already signed up to help, you can sign up here.
We will also be collecting donations to help towards school uniforms for families that need assistance. We recommend a donation of $40 per child but of course any amount is greatly appreciated! Donations may be placed in the offering plate on Sunday morning or brought to the church office. Please be sure to write “Miller Uniforms” in the memo portion of your check.
Beginning in September there are many ways that you can be a part of our outreach ministry. We can help in individual classrooms, the library, be a lunch buddy, pack backpacks with food once a week, help with our monthly family night meals at Miller, or bake cookies for classrooms once a month so the kids can celebrate their birthdays. You can also volunteer to help put together teacher appreciation gifts periodically throughout the year. You can find a more detailed description along with the approximate time commitment here.
We are so blessed by our participation at Miller Elementary School. It will be fun to see how God uses us this new school year. We hope you’ll be a part of blessing the wonderful staff and families He has allowed us to partner with! Please email me or give me a call at the church office at 474-4842 if you have any questions.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” -Luke 10:27
By Ron Smith
Two years ago, we as a church engaged in the denominational health process called the Vitality Pathway. The Vitality Pathway is a compilation of resources to help a congregation in their journey toward becoming healthier and more missional. The Pathway educates us and helps us to grow and assess our congregation’s culture and life stage, as it compares to our ultimate target, a healthy missional church. By “healthy”, we mean pursuing Christ. By “missional”, we mean pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world. With the leadership of the Vitality Team (which ended last Fall), we have moved through the steps of the Pathway which include the Navigate, Veritas, and Epic workshops, a Service of Consecration, the Pulse Survey, and the Dream Again workshop.
The Ministry Planning Team, as the final step of the Vitality Pathway, started meeting in late 2018 and has continued to meet monthly in 2019. We have been praying and seeking God related to the “monumental change of heart” necessary to move us from a stable church to a healthy missional church. As part of this journey, we have been reading through the book, Necessary Endings, by Henry Cloud to assist us in our thought process about change. Through those discussions, the Pastors have created three themes we are proposing to the Council for consideration for the direction that will lead us toward the monumental change of heart we desire. These three themes (to be presented to the congregation this Fall) represent the passions of our three Pastors and are fully supported by the Ministry Planning Team. Following the discussion with the Council, we will work toward developing a launch plan for the Fall. In addition, we will be evaluating all programs, facilities, and staff to ensure alignment with the themes and the desired monumental change of heart.
Please continue to pray for us as we listen to God, humble ourselves before Him and prepare to go where He leads us.
By Meghan Gobrogge
Let’s break this down: You’ve all been hearing of the Thrive Music Festival happening in a couple weeks, right? If you’ve REALLY been paying attention, you know that it has something to do with our Young Adult Ministry as well! In this article, we’ll explore answers to what this Young Adult Ministry Grant process looks like, what the YA Ministry will look like in the future, and why this Thrive Music Festival is an important step.
What: Come and listen to local bands and artists while enjoying from Lafayette’s finest food trucks! Games and recreation will be provided as well.
Where: ECC Lafayette
When: Friday, July 19th from 5:00pm-9:00pm
Now to the WHY:
Over the last 2 years we have been involved in the Center For Congregation’s Lily Grant to engage the young adult population (ages 19-33) in our church and community. We received this grant in December, and now are able to really focus our attention and resources to providing what this young generation truly needs from a church community: Invitation, Relationship, and Participation. Invitation to join in the community, relationships that sustain community, and participation in the larger mission of the church. Young adults love personal, face-to-face invitations and hospitality, and crave intergenerational relationships, but will rarely reach out because of fear of judgement and harsh criticism. They need to sense that they belong before they begin to participate in ministry opportunities. A one-size-fits-all concept will not do.
Phase 1 of the grant process was to create a warm and welcoming environment to any young adult that walked onto our campus. We did this through inviting guest speaker April Diaz to speak on a Sunday morning in January, moving the coffee to the front lobby to create more space for conversation and relationship building, and we are continuing to create this space by walking through the Fuller Youth Institute’s yearlong consultation process. If you’d like more information on what Phase 1 has looked like, I’d be happy to chat more with you one on one.
Phase 2 of our grant process is this Thrive Music Festival! We call this the “Capture” phase; not because we intend to manipulate or “lure” young adults to our campus, but we want to capture young adults who don’t have a church home or community and provide a safe, yet compelling space for them to belong to. We hope that throughout the night of Thrive that we can present the young adult community that comes with many opportunities for them to connect to our larger congregation. We will have 3 tables set up for people to visit throughout the night.
Table 1: We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity as our service project “next step.” If you are interested in serving with Habitat (even if you’re not a young adult), please stop by their table for more information on how you can get involved with the great things happening there!
Table 2: Welcome to the ECC Ministry Table! At this table we will be promoting all of ECC’s ministries to those that stop by- you may even be able to pick up a free gift!
Table 3: Welcome to ECC’s Young Adult Ministry Table! At this table we will be promoting all the exciting things coming for our young adult population. Things like a Sunday School class, small groups, social outings, and service outings will be explained and promoted.
Phase 3 of our grant process is the “Sustain” phase in which we aim to sustain our Young Adult ministry through a Young Adult Sunday School class, Young Adult small groups, social outings, and serving opportunities.
HOW CAN I BE HELPFUL DURING THRIVE?
You don’t need to be on a planning team to make an impact at this event! Here are some ways you can be a warm and welcoming church community to those that come:
The mission behind this entire Engaging Young Adults process has always been to respond faithfully and imaginatively to the desires of young adults to BELONG, GROW, and SERVE in our community. The Thrive Music Festival is our foot in the doorway to creating long lasting relationships, and maybe even providing a young adult a warm and welcoming place to belong.
Come and join us! Click here to get your FREE tickets!
By Kristin Devine Mueller
What if you could be the kind of person who says “yes” to new opportunities and adventures? As we enjoy summer, we’re also looking ahead to the fall at church, when our youth and children’s ministries will begin in full swing. We have an amazing group of students at our church, from infants all the way through seniors in high school. Our hope is to connect our children and youth with adults at church who will invest in their lives and create in them a desire to connect deeper with our church family and with God.
When you say “yes” to an opportunity to be a part of a student’s life, you’re saying “yes” to so many things beyond children’s or youth ministry. In our nursery, you’re saying “yes” to hugs, snuggles, bubbles, and songs about Jesus. In our preschool and kindergarten, you’re saying “yes” to art projects, imagination, wonder at Bible stories, and enthusiastic play. In our elementary classes, you’re saying “yes” to laughter, games, interesting conversations, and new discoveries about God and God’s world. In our middle school groups, you’re saying yes to snacks, emotions, deep connections, and questions that grow deeper faith. In our high school groups, you’re saying “yes” to independent thinkers, coffee, authentic relationships, and connecting God to the real world. Each “yes” opens the door for God to do amazing things in your life and in the lives of our students!
This fall, we’ll need youth group leaders for our middle school and high school groups. We’ll need Sunday School teachers for confirmation and high school classes. We’ll need aides for our special needs students. We’ll need teachers for our Kids out Loud classes. We’ll need leaders for Wednesday night Kids Club. We’ll need nursery workers for Sunday mornings and for special events. The needs may seem overwhelming, but we serve a God who desires that even the littlest of children come to Him. We know that God is faithful and we trust that God will raise up volunteers to meet all these needs!
If you’d like an opportunity to say “yes” to our children and youth this fall, visit our ministry directors Carol and Kristin on a Sunday morning after our worship services these next few weeks. You can find us just outside the Sanctuary near the “Say Yes” display. You can also sign up online here to connect with us and help discern the best place for you to serve. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” this fall! We can’t wait to see all the ways that God works in and through you!
By Ronda Ooms
Miller Elementary School was buzzing with excitement the week of June 3-7. Summer XP, our Vacation Bible School, was held from 6:00-8:00pm each evening. Our theme, Power Up - Raise Your Game, was a retro video game theme and the kids loved it! Mario greeted them each evening when they entered Miller, and space invaders hovered in front of them during large group time! Each classroom leader decorated their room to match the theme.
We served over 1,000 meals and had just over 100 different ECC people volunteer throughout the week! It was such a blessing to have so many people involved. Some of our friends from our Thursday night meal at Bauer came up each evening to enjoy a home cooked meal along with us.
We had 136 different children that attended throughout the week! Of those 136 children we (ECC congregants) will have contact with 75% of them throughout the next year though our ECC Children’s Ministries and through our outreach ministry in the Miller/Bauer neighborhood! How exciting is that?
One of things that’s the most enjoyable is seeing the children smiling and having fun. You’ll want to watch this video to see a peek into the excitement!
Of course more than anything else we want the children to know how much God loves them and that He is with them always. Each night the children sang songs, heard stories from the Bible, did activities to help enhance the bottom line of that story, and played games. We gave a way countless Bibles, we presented children with the opportunity to make a commitment to Christ, and we sent home tools to help parents engage with their kids around their faith commitment. We’re still collecting stories of those who made a commitment to Christ, and we know that God was at work!
Our prayer is that God will take what the children learned and help it to grow as they continue through their summer. Please pray with us that the seeds that were sown will grow and blossom. Pray that each person that was a part of last week, young or old, will feel God’s love and will desire to get to know Him better.
We are so appreciative of being able to hold Summer XP at Miller because of all the space that we have available to us to spread out, including use of the playground. We were able to be outside every day, thanks to the great weather we had. What a blessing to be able to teach about God in a public school setting!
To those of you that helped, thank you SO MUCH! We so appreciate your willingness to give of your time and talents to this fun week. Stay tuned to find out which week we will hold Summer XP 2020 (the theme is Focus: See What Matters Most). You’ll want to make a point of being a part of this fun and life changing week
By Carol Smith
Summer is here! For many of us, this means new routines, and that is not always easy on the family. For teens it looks easier because they can stay home alone but this is also an opportunity for "idle" hands. It's important to not schedule their days full but also to give them structure and routine (and responsibilities!) Check out the days we are meeting together on the youth website or the events on the ECC Youth Parents page. If your teens and their friends need something to do, I would gladly open the gym for volleyball or basketball. Just let me know a good day. Look for upcoming opportunities to serve, grow, and learn this summer!
Now that summer is here you might find yourself in between excitement and feeling overwhelmed. You are not alone; this is really common for parents. Rather than being discouraged, you can be equipped. No matter the age, creating a rhythm of rest, responsibility, recreation, and response helps develop healthy living. God created us for these things.
The 4-Rs of Summer!
Rest: While we all know toddlers need to rest, what we don’t realize is that teens need more sleep than we give them credit for. They get cranky similar to a toddler. This means night sleep, but it’s more than that. Allow for unscheduled relaxed time. Find a list of things that can be done in this time: read a book, create art, take a nap outside, journal, devotional. Here are a couple you can try out for kids and teens.
Responsibility: Chores are good for their development. Giving them something to do and allowing them to do it their way like folding towels or putting the dishes away. Something every day teaches them that family life if a joint effort! Ideas for age appropriate chores.
Recreation: Physical movement is essential for the mind, body, and soul. Have them pick a 20-30 minute physical activity to do everyday. Bike ride, circuit exercise, swim, or a walk to the store (technology free!).
Respond: It’s important to give opportunities to respond to God’s calling on our lives to love our neighbors. Schedule a time in the week to respond to needs. For little kids, this could be going through toys and giving one thing to someone who needs it more, or making a gift for a family member. For teens this could be mowing or child care for a neighbor without getting paid.
By Kate Cogswell
Thank you to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and celebrated with me throughout this journey as I completed my Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation from the Apprentice Institute in Wichita, KS, this month!
The two questions people most frequently ask me when they hear about the program have been “What is spiritual formation?” and “What will this certificate do for you?” Valid questions which I can only begin to answer here.
For me, Christian spiritual formation is the invitational journey where we cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that God can form us to be more and more like Christ. It’s the journey from curiosity to Christoformity that Pastor Stacey has been introducing to us. It is acknowledging that I can’t form myself to be more like Christ nor will God force me to become more like Him, but we can be transformed as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit through study, soul-training exercises, and community. (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2)
At the beginning of every Bible study I lead, I share that my hope and prayer is that we won’t end the study simply smarter, but that we would also be changed and able to live differently because of our time with God and each other. This is a path of Christian spiritual formation. A path I am grateful to be on, personally and here at ECC.
As for the second question: The reality is the certificate may or may not ever “do” anything for me; however, the journey towards the certificate has shaped my life and soul in ways that will forever shape my journey forward. Through the books and articles we read, the many reflection questions and soul-training exercises, 4 weeks in Wichita with a community that shared my journey, I have experienced a stretching and growing that allows me to live in the kingdom of God now with an ever-deepening knowing of God and myself and the gospel. I am learning that “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights, and I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.” James Bryan Smith shared these narratives in our first week together in Wichita. They increase my ability to navigate life, and even circumstances I wouldn’t choose, with faith, hope, and trust in our God. These statements are true for you too.
Our spiritual formation, our life in Christ is a journey. To borrow Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG): “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
I look forward to allowing the Holy Spirit to continue to form me toward Christoformity and to sharing the journey wherever and however God allows. May we continue to hear God beckoning us onward with a heart open to traveling toward Jesus together!
By Pastor Jorden and Kristin Mueller
This Wednesday, May 22, 2019, we will celebrate the end of another semester of school and another season of Community Gatherings. Community Gatherings is a Wednesday night ministry that began in August of 2017. Each semester that we have offered this ministry we have been adjusting the format, schedule, and content to best serve the needs of our congregation. From the very beginning, we envisioned Community Gatherings being a place where everyone, from our youngest congregants to our oldest, could come together and share in a meal and then share time in formation options across the campus. This semester continued in that same desire. We have been blessed with another wonderful season of meals made each and every week. On the first Wednesdays of the month the Schmfissel Group makes the meal, and on the other Wednesdays of the month, Amber Hatke has been managing and coordinating the meals. We are very grateful for their faithful service and delicious food!
Our children’s groups saw over 30 children throughout the spring semester, from nursery through 4th grade. Children in preschool through 4th grade spent 13 weeks studying the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We took an in-depth look at Matthew 5:1-12, and covered various concepts like working for peace, comforting those who are sad, and having pure hearts. Each week we spent time studying God’s Word, playing games, sharing snacks, and doing hands-on activities to apply the Biblical concept. We saw many children get to know each other better and grow in friendship throughout the semester!
Our 5th through 8th-grade group saw over 30 youths throughout the spring semester as well. The youth spent time exploring four different studies from the BLESS curriculum produced by the Evangelical Covenant Church to understanding how they are impacted or impacting the world around them. Each week they spent time together playing games, hearing from God's word, and learning more about the role that God has called them to in his kingdom.
This semester we offered a number of options for the adults to choose from. We had conversations on financial peace and the legacy we leave, we discussed the complex realities of race in our world and the role that we can play in that conversation, we spent time exploring God's gift of marriage and how we can strengthen our marriage, and we spent time exploring our Good and Beautiful God and the Sermon on the Mount. This semester we saw around 75 adults engaging in studies across our campus on Wednesday nights.
We are excited for the slower pace of summer...but we can't wait to start up again next Fall. Our first Community Gathering in the fall will be on Wednesday, September 11, 2019! We can't wait to see you there.
By Carol Smith
Over the last few years we have put a display together for our graduating seniors. It is always a joy to look through the pictures and look back on their time with us as a church. Some of them you will remember from their childhood and some you may not even recognize, but they all have a place here at ECC.
Transition is difficult for all ages and generations, and it is especially hard for this age group. Join me in prayers for this transition, as they are no longer a “teen” in youth group but not quite considered an adult. Statistically, we often see this transition as a time many leave the church, but that doesn’t have to be our statistic. One way you could help with this is getting to know our teens BEFORE they leave for college. Invite them into ministry work you are doing. Have coffee or lunch with them or even volunteer in youth ministry areas. But I digress.
This group of 19 seniors are an eager group and ready to tackle what life has ahead of them. We will be celebrating them May 19th at the 10:30am service. I would like to challenge you, church, to find ways to encourage these seniors during their next steps in life.
Seniors are not the only ones transitioning. Confirmation will be celebrated on May 19 in the first service. Many of our teens have patiently gone through two years of The Journey and will be celebrated that Sunday. We are excited to see them tackle questions of the faith and grow in their beliefs through the last two year. It will be a mornings of celebration!
By: Pastor Stacey Littlefield
At the Central Conference Annual Meeting at Covenant Harbor Camp this past weekend, Ronda Ooms, our Director of Community Outreach, was given the 2019 Compassion, Mercy, and Justice Award for the Central Conference. Each year this award is given to a person in our conference who has demonstrated committed, faithful service in the areas of compassion, mercy, or justice. Recognizing that many of us may not know the full story of the work Ronda and her team have been doing, I thought it would be good to share with you just part of why Ronda deserved this award.
At the time I arrived on staff in August 2007, Ronda was serving as ECC's Director of Children's Ministry. Within a few weeks of my arrival, however, Ronda began to talk to me about a vision she had to extend her love for children to the underserved children of our city.
She made an appointment for us to talk with the principal of Miller Elementary School and that conversation became the mustard seed of God’s Kingdom that has sprouted to become a large tree with branches sturdy enough for the birds to perch in. Ronda merely wanted to begin a partnership with a school that was doing poorly in our city and was “under the gun” in terms of potential drastic action by the government. How could we, as ECC, partner with Miller School? The initial suggestion was small: could we rally volunteers to volunteer one hour each day of the week, to supervise the children at lunchtime and recess, and give the teachers a break? Ronda rallied a group of volunteers and that ministry began in the fall of 2007.
Since that time, our initial involvement with Miller has branched off into several more compassion and mercy initiatives at the school, and beyond. In January of the next year (2008), Ronda discovered that many of the children from Miller often made their way down to what is now known as Bauer Community Center for an after school program. A good number of those children were not picked up until 7:30 or 8:00 each evening, without the benefit of an evening meal. Ronda mobilized a team of volunteers to cook one warm meal a week during the school year. It was a tremendous success, beginning with about 50-60 people initially, including some of the families in the area. Though it was initially intended only to run during school months, the Thursday evening Bauer meal has been running consecutively for 11 years, summers included, with the highest attendance numbers topping 150 or more. Just over a year ago, the staff at the Bauer Community Center honored our ECC volunteers with a special meal and presentation, celebrating that since 2008, when the ministry began, we have served over 50,000 meals!
Ronda’s Miller School initiatives have opened up further opportunities. ECC folks donate funds every year to assist Miller families in need with the school dress code. They volunteer in the library and in the classrooms tutoring younger children, host yearly Christmas outreach initiatives, host teacher appreciation days, staff and lead the yearly back-to-school carnival, pack backpacks with free food every weekend, and serve a monthly meal to teachers and families for special family nights. The monthly family meals serve anywhere from 200-400 people each month and have fostered greater participation from the families in the school and in training opportunities to help their kids succeed at home, as well.
In addition to all of this, since 2014, Ronda has led a team of people who teach and disciple young children in a program known as Afterschool JAM (for Jesus And Me) where children are taught about the love of God using the Orange curriculum we use at ECC on Sunday mornings. This past year they saw older children who had been a part of the program in the past come back to assist and be mentored as leaders.
A few years ago, a new principal, with whom ECC continued to serve, asked to speak to our congregation on a Sunday morning. Once Miller School began to get better state grades and had truly turned around academically, the principal shared with our congregation that whenever people ask how it was accomplished, he always gave ECC credit for our commitment and many hours of service to the families and faculty of Miller.
Ronda’s passion and willingness to learn and grow in how best to reach out to communities in need (through Christian Community Development training and other opportunities), her tireless work to obtain funding for new initiatives, and her willingness to do all the administrative work in her partnerships with local food pantries, and government agencies and initiatives have been crucial to the success of ECC’s ministries in the Miller-Bauer neighborhood.
In a more recent addition to the ministry, through Ronda’s leadership, we have begun to partner with Habitat for Humanity in helping two of the single-parent families we’ve been working with to find housing. Through Habitat and with the work of several of Ronda’s ECC team and money Ronda helped raise, we are helping these families rebuild their credit, grow in necessary skills, and move forward in qualifying for Habitat Houses, themselves.
In 2013, after much prayer and dreaming, ECC made the pivotal and controversial decision to move our Vacation Bible School from our campus to Miller School. In doing so, our VBS attendance went from over 600 children to about 150, but we feel we are reaching a population who would otherwise not have such an opportunity.
There is more to this story than space allows, but these examples more than illustrate Ronda’s heart for others and her commitment to the work of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice in our community. ECC is known in our community for the work we do in Miller and Bauer, and I am proud and pleased every time someone in our community mentions it to me. I like to say that I had nothing to do it with it, other than to bless it and encourage Ronda to follow her passion and God’s call.
Several years ago, after many years of serving the Children of ECC, Ronda’s gifts were officially recognized by our congregation and she transitioned into her current role as ECC’s very first Director of Community Outreach. We celebrate what God has done and continues to do through Ronda and the teams she has so faithfully stewarded over for God’s glory and her neighbor’s good.