My Vision for enCompass Youth

By: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

Alex Blackwell.JPGMany have asked me why I decided to come to enCompass. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it back in September. Just scroll down to the last section to see my thoughts. My answer has always been the same to anyone who asks: relationships and authenticity. This is great news in light of what can seem like daunting and concerning statistics about how many students lose their faith when they go off to college. Why is this good news? Consider two fictional stories that represent what a lot of college students experience.

Jenna went to college a few hours away from her Christian home. This was just far enough that it meant she wouldn’t be going home very often to visit family. College for her was her first opportunity for independence. Despite her parents’ attempts at guiding her through some of her collegiate decisions, everything else was up to her. Jenna knew one or two people who came to the same college from her hometown, but for the most part, she was on her own in navigating the new vast waters of independence. When faced with new decisions and their consequences – both short and long term – she felt alone in figuring it all out. Hungry for relationships, she said “yes” to the first invitation she got – which was to a party a few blocks off campus. This provided a place to meet a lot of people who had the mindset, “we’re in college, let’s have fun.” It wasn’t too long before Jenna’s decisions brought her into a lifestyle of hedonism that didn’t correlate well with her faith. She set her faith aside so that she could continue with her new lifestyle and friends thinking, “maybe I’ll pick it back up later.”

Mike had a lot of fun at his youth group in High School. They had a weekly gathering where they played fun games and heard short talks on Christian morals, like not gossiping, not lying, and consistently praying. When Mike got to college, it was the first time he heard questions about Christianity that he couldn’t answer. He thought about e-mailing his high-school youth pastor, but never really had a strong friendship with him. He reached out to others from his church, but their answers were, “because the Bible says so.” Now Mike had to wrestle with questions like “why is there pain and suffering in the world if God loves us?” and “why are there contradictions in the Bible?” on his own and with his questioning friends. Over time their questions wore him down, and he didn’t feel like he could maintain intellectual integrity and be a Christian at the same time. His growing doubts led him to leave his Christian faith.

I acknowledge that these stories are concerning and sad. In my mind, there is hope for our students. Jenna was left alone to figure out her new world of independence and settled for shallow relationships. Remedy: Relationship. Mike’s story is marked by shallow answers of faith confronting deep empirical, intellectual doubts. Remedy: Authenticity.

My vision for enCompass youth is for us to create space for our students to build deep relationships with their peers, mentors, and church community that they can lean on while they are in Junior High and High School, but also when they move on to whatever is next for them. The second part of my vision is for those relationships to be marked by authenticity that (1) says more than just, “because the Bible says so,” when our students wrestle with hard questions, (2) acknowledges that there are hard questions to think through, and (3) understands that Christian minds have been thinking through these things since the beginning of the church – some of them before that! Relationships and authenticity and every combination of the two are exactly, in my mind, what our students need. I hope and pray that enCompass continues to hold as tight to these two things as it did when Alli and I first came to love it here.

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That Tingly Feeling

By: Nicole Quast

photo-for-nicoles-blogThere are some things in life that just give you that feel good tingly feeling or a high you just can’t explain.  It might be a baby’s laugh, a child saying I love you, a hug or kiss from your spouse.  For me it is all of those things but it is also serving others.

A few years back, my New Year’s resolution was to serve more.  I tried multiple times to corral my friends and family and have them commit to dates to do larger events.  I would always get responses like, “well I think I can make it” or “I will try to make it”.  It was so challenging to get a firm commitment and I was starting to feel defeated.  This is when I stumbled upon enCompass church.  I was overjoyed to find out they had a Community Service Team and felt it was an answer to my prayers.  I was so nervous to join the team but I am so glad I did!   I enjoy being part of the Community Service Team.  I enjoy the planning phase, the collection phase, the conversations etc.  I think it is a wonderful group who are giving, loving, and serving people.  Some of our most recent service activities have focused on filling the needs within the backyard of enCompass – at Central Park Elementary School.  Through our service ministry, we have developed a relationship with this school and have been able to support them in many areas.  Some of these are Bucks for Backpacks, Warm and Wooly Winter Wear, Sheridan Story weekend packs, and a few other things.

After joining the Community Service Team, I continued to have a strong desire to serve! So, last spring, I organized a Mom’s Night Out at Sheridan Story to do a packing event.  A group of enCompass moms and church goers showed up at their warehouse and packed weekend food packs.  We worked hard and filled so many weekend packs!  Before leaving, we discussed with the staff how much fun we had and our desire to do it again.  They told us that they were full for the rest of the school year.  We were bummed, but realized that this was a good thing! I left that night a little more tired than when I got there but with a tingly heart filled feeling!

So this fall, I decided to plan 4 Sheridan Story meal packing events for our church.  So far, we have completed two of the events.  At both of the events, we have had a great turnout!  I have enjoyed each one and have gotten the chance to get to know some enCompass goers better.  Each time I leave exhausted but with a tingly heart filled feeling.  Our next packing events will be April 6th and May 4th.  Please consider joining us and getting your heart filled! You can learn more here.

These past few years, I have been working hard to fill my heart, but this year I also really wanted my children to learn about giving and serving.  It is my desire to teach them about serving and helping them to develop a sense of pride when they do things for others and ultimately get that tingly heart filled feeling when they do!  This Christmas at our house I wanted my children to understand that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.  I decided to have them do an advent basket for the food shelf.  Each day we added an item to the basket of something they used or ate that day to try to make it relevant.  A few days before Christmas we delivered it to the local food shelf.  I wasn’t sure my kids truly understood what or why we were doing it, but when my youngest son said to the volunteer who helped us with our food, “Merry Christmas,” with the proudest smile on his face, I didn’t care if he totally understood, I thought it was enough because I had tears in my eyes and that tingly feeling in my heart!

I don’t want my children to just think that we give at Christmas time, so I have been thinking about other ways to get them involved in serving.  My oldest son and I participated in a Feed My Starving Children event right after Thanksgiving.  We had so much fun and he wants to do it again.  So, I am interested in setting up a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event.  This allows families with younger children to participate; children 5 and over are welcomed to pack bags at FMSC.  I am also interested in setting up an event to make sandwiches for the homeless.  This event would allow children even younger to help out.  Please send me a message if you would be interested in having your families participate in events such as these or if you know of other service activities that allow children to participate.

With this I will leave you with a Bible verse I came across when thinking about writing this:

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (NIV)

There are so many ways we can serve; I encourage you to find yours and I bet you will receive a tingly heart filled response in return, for God will know you are doing good works through Him!