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.
By: Greg Folkerts
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
3.7 miles sounds intimidating. If you’re not a regular runner or walker, it may even seem impossible. But by registering for the Global 6k for Water and walking those miles, you have an opportunity to participate with God and His people in something life-changing – bringing clean water to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I love to run, and run about ten races a year. My registration fee for these races is usually around $50, and for that I get a t-shirt, a medal, and a snack. The $50 registration fee for the Global 6k will also get you a t-shirt, medal, and snack. But more importantly, it will bring clean water to one person in Gemena, DR Congo. Every registered runner or walker in this event directly benefits one person.
Think of the impact you can make. Clean water means less waterborne illnesses. Families do not have to spend hours walking to gather water that may make them ill.
Covenant Kids Congo has provided clean water for 40,000 people. But there are 150,000 more who still lack that access.
So start! The race begins at 9:00 am on Saturday, May 4. Register for the 6k and take some short training walks on these warmer spring days. Find a friend or someone you would like to get to know better, and commit to walking the 6k with them. An hour-long walk shared with someone on a beautiful May morning is a wonderful chance to experience community.
If you would like to participate, but know the 3.7 miles is not possible, the amazing youth of ECC would love to run for you! They have volunteered to run for those who cannot. What a great partnership!
Please contact us if you would like more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or (765)404-5791.
If you’re ready to register for the 6k, click here.
If you would like to help the day of the event, click here to volunteer.
By Kristin Mueller
As I’ve learned more about the culture of ministry at ECC, I’ve observed that our church has a rich history of welcoming and enfolding families who have children with special needs. I love this about our church! We have a handful of families whose children meet with a one-on-one caregiver on Sunday mornings, we have other families who worship together, and we have teachers who are open to trying new methods to help each and every child in our classrooms thrive and grow in Christ.
As I’ve begun to look at what other churches offer to families who have children with special needs, I had the opportunity to visit the special needs ministry at another church in Indianapolis. While there, I saw that each student in their ministry had a “backpack” – filled with tools to help children have a positive experience in church. A few weeks later, I visited a large museum and noticed a sign for a similar option. The museum had backpacks, filled with tools to help children with special needs have a positive experience at the museum. This definitely seemed like something we could bring to ECC!
As part of Children’s Ministry, this coming Sunday you’ll see sensory backpacks both in the Worship Center and in the Life Center at ECC. Each backpack will be filled with noise-reducing headphones, hand-held manipulatives, weighted lap blankets, and air balance cushion seats. Students who are already a part of our special needs ministry will have a backpack with their individual name and some items customized to their needs.
We value each person who comes to ECC as a part of the body of Christ, and we know that some children may struggle to engage in worship or children’s classes if they are planned with the neuro-typical child in mind. We would never want a family to come to our church and feel that their child wasn’t welcome here. It is our hope that these backpacks become more than worship tools for children in our ministry – we hope that they become a symbol that all children have a place in God’s kingdom.
If you know a family who has a child with special needs, don’t hesitate to invite them to our church. When they visit, help connect them to other families and ministries here at ECC. If you have a heart for special needs ministry, send me an email or give me a call so that I can help connect you to a place where you can serve. If you’re a family who has trusted us to partner with you in discipling your child with special needs, thank you. You have truly made our experience of the body of Christ much richer!
Did you know that every Thursday during the school year, 5 ECC members work with 21 children through our Afterschool JAM (Jesus And Me) ministry? These are children that we have had a relationship with through our work at Miller, Bauer or they have attended our Summer XP.
We meet the children at Miller when they get out of school and walk them down to Bauer. During our time with the children our goal is to provide a safe atmosphere where we can show the children how much God loves them. We use the Orange curriculum (used with our KOL kids) as a base for any programming we might do. Many of the children come from homes that are unstable in various ways. Behavior and emotional issues are prevalent in the group. We continue to pray and ask God to show us the best way to work with the children.
We have been blessed by the children and their desire to meet with us. We are also excited that 5 of our participants from the last three years that are now 5th, 6th and 7th graders are coming back each week as assistants. They are a great help and we LOVE being able to continue to have input into their lives and to see them grow in their leadership skills as they help us each week.
We also continue to establish good relationships with the parents. ECC continues to use grant money that allows us to expand our ministry to our Afterschool JAM families. We use a point system that encourages parents to allow their children to attend our programs and encourages them, the parent, to participate as well. Twice a year, these points translate into money to be used towards rent, utilities or other areas deemed appropriate. The parents are thrilled with this incentive program and are very thankful to have the extra financial help as a majority of them struggle in that area.
Funds from the grant are also being used to help the Afterschool JAM children give to others. Portions of the grant are being used to purchase items the children can put in thank you packages for the staff at Bauer. At Christmas we put together blessing bags for Lafayette Transitional Housing to give to individuals that find themselves without suitable housing. We want the children to be aware of those around them and to have a giving spirit. Just because they themselves are in need doesn’t mean they don’t have things they can contribute to others.
God is blessing our efforts and we are so excited to see how He is working. Will you join us in praying that all of “our” children will come to a saving knowledge of God’s love for them? With God they can beat the odds and change the generational bonds that hold them captive. Isaiah 61:1-4 is a passage that describes our heart for our children and their families.
If you would like to volunteer to help with an outreach event at Miller Elementary School you can sign up, we have a number of upcoming opportunities. Click here to sign up to help at our Spring Carnival, or click here to help as we work side-by-side with 1st grade Miller families to create their costumes for the 1st grade musical. You may also at contact Ronda at email@example.com.
Research shows that roughly six out of every ten 18-22-year-olds will leave the church. This is a staggering statistic, but it is one that we can work to change here at ECC. How can we disrupt this statistic? Relationships.
One of the key factors that we have found through our own research and conversations is that relationships are key to twenty-somethings staying engaged in the church. Barna Research suggests that those who have stayed in the church were twice as likely to have had a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church other than the ministry staff.
We have two opportunities for you to get involved in the young adult ministry here at ECC. You can Adopt-a-Senior and/or you can join our Young Adult Ministry Team.
What does it look like to Adopt-a-Senior? Graduating seniors are entering into a lonely world and it can be a confusing time. Through the Adopt-a-Senior program you will have the opportunity to encourage one of our recent high school graduates. This encouragement comes in the form of notes and letters in the mail, care packages, regularly praying for them, and showing them that there are people here at ECC who care about them. Everyone enjoys getting something in the mail! Your love and support for a recent ECC high school graduate not only benefits that graduate their family will also be blessed that someone else is caring for their child too. If you would like to participate by adopting a senior, click here to sign up or email Carol Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org, to find out more about this ministry.
What does it look like to join the Young Adult Ministry Team? The Young Adult Ministry Team will be planning and dreaming about young adult ministries here at ECC. We are looking for people who want to be part of this ministry team in a variety of ways from cooking to teaching. The prerequisite is that you care about young people. Click here to sign up or email Meghan Gobrogge, email@example.com, to find out more about this impactful ministry.
If we are going to disrupt this statistic about young adults leaving the church, we need to be in this together. Please consider joining us as we seek to strengthen our relationships and ministry to the young adults in our community.
P.S. If you have a senior graduating from high school this year, please click here and make sure they are on this list. If you don’t see them on the list you can add them or email Carol Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure they are included.
Each year around this time, we are invited to prayerfully consider the people God has put in our lives - our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and the like. We are invited to name the ones who have not yet come into a relationship with Christ, and commit to pray for them in the coming year. We do this each year on BLESS Sunday. This year, March 17 is BLESS Sunday. Let me invite you to do two things. First, begin praying now, asking God for the people you are to name and commit to pray for in light of their need for Christ. Second, please follow the link below to learn more about BLESS, what it means and how it works. It will take you less than five minutes. Thank you! To learn more about BLESS, please click HERE.
By Margaret Martin
Prayer is not just important, it is central to ECC’s ability to do the Kingdom work God has called us to as a faith community. Over the past two years, ECC has been pursuing vitality in a desire to move from a stable church to a healthy missional church. Throughout this time, a prayer team, known as the Pervasive Prayer Team, has been meeting to bathe the process in prayer. However, pervasive prayer is more than a small group of people gathering bi-weekly. Pervasive prayer is a process that the entire congregation engages in. This means you are needed for pervasive prayer to exist at ECC.
While working together, the Vitality Team began to experience the mysterious connection between prayer and our ability to understand and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. This process of learning how God can speak to us in a small group setting and as a church has been exciting. Our faith walk has become less academic and more vibrant. No one who has experienced a meeting infused with Holy-Spirit energy could ever be content with church business as usual. We experienced firsthand a guiding principle of Congregational Vitality. “Without the movement and blessing of God, all we are doing is running in place without really getting anywhere. Fruit is human activity touched by the Holy Spirit.”
The Ministry Planning Team is now continuing the work begun by the Vitality Team, with the goal of developing an actionable ministry plan. This goal, however, does not simply involve planning. It also includes learning how to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit in the planning process. For, as Richard Foster writes, “We cannot do the work of the Spirit in the power of the flesh.”
This team is made up of about a dozen gifted people, each of whom is committed to our church and to serving God. While a stable church has a tendency to be self-sufficient in the planning process, to become a healthy missional church this team has the more challenging task of collaborating with the Holy Spirit to develop a plan that aligns our resources with God’s purposes for this church, for this time.
We recognize that there are spiritual forces of evil working against congregational vitality. We will experience opposition. Our victory is always, and only, in the powerful name of Jesus. As a congregation, we are called to cry out for God’s anointing. We are called to ask God for wisdom and guidance in discerning how He is already at work in and through His church and where He leading us. We are called to dedicate ourselves and align our resources with God and his mission. We are called to pray together as a body of believers.
The boots-on-the-ground work of this next step into congregational vitality has been entrusted to the Ministry Planning Team, but for this work to be fruitful and to move in the direction the Holy Spirit is leading, the team must be covered by prayer. They can’t do this for the church. They must do this with the church.
Even now, the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of people; both newcomers and long-time congregants. He is bringing together just the right mix of gifts needed for us to move forward together into the kingdom work that He has called us to, and positioned us for. Not one gift is missing. Each person is important to this task. The stage is set. The Ministry Planning Team is in place (They are: Todd Cogswell, Karen Dolk, Megan Gobrogge, Kurt Kincanon, Stacey Littlefield, Greg Louk, Margaret Martin, Jorden Meyers, Shirley Pence, Linda Reno, Ron Smith, Scott Warner, and Judy Yost).
The Pervasive Prayer team is well established and pouring prayer over the process. There is room for you to be involved. God is moving in this ECC family, and we each have a part to play.