September at The Neighborhood

This past Friday we launched The Neighborhood: Where Families Come to Eat, Play, and Pray. What an amazing time we had! The Neighborhood was filled with families eating together, playing together, and praying together. We played an incredibly fun round of Friendship Bingo, allowing us to spend time making friends with others. We enjoyed pizza and time chatting as we ate together. We worshipped God through song and dance; we heard the truth of God’s forgiveness towards us and were challenged to show that same forgiveness to others. 
Friends forgive each other was the truth we discovered this past Friday. What a powerful statement! Imagine what our church, our families, our neighborhoods, would look like if we lived grace filled, forgiving lives. When we rest in the forgiveness of Jesus, we are compelled to extend that same forgiveness to those around us. It is part of being for your neighbor.
If we are for our neighbor we will forgive them.
It’s not easy. It sounds simple, but, as adults, we know it’s not. Still, when we sit amidst a crowd of children who are eagerly waiting to discover what is going to happen to Peter who betrayed Jesus three times, our wonder is reawakened. We are equally as drawn into the story as we remember the incredible truth that Jesus forgave him – that Jesus forgives us. As we allow that sense of awe to rise up within us once more, we discover that there is a childlike faith and love that brings us to a place where the forgiveness we’ve experienced overflows to the people who have hurt us. Forgiveness becomes possible only when it flows from the one who forgave us.
This is what happens at The Neighborhood. People from all walks of life get to experience God together. Kids, teenagers, adults, all discovering life changing truths, encouraging one another, laughing with each other, and drawing closer to God. Where together we are drawn to the forgiveness of God that our Neighborhood might be one marked by grace.  
We can’t wait to see you again October 27th at 6pm as we explore Stewardship – Taking Care of What You Have Because It All Belongs to God. 

Taking the Kid Zone Home

This summer we introduced a new mode of summer kid’s ministry: The Kid Zone! An area in the sanctuary where kids get to complete fun activities connecting to the message given by Pastor Chris. The goal of the Kid Zone is not to have the kids remember the main points of the message, or to sit perfectly still while Pastor Chris is preaching (if that actually happened, I’d be highly concerned something was seriously wrong with the kids, fidgeting is part of childhood). The goal of the Kid Zone is to help kids realize they are an important part of the whole church, not just the Kid Wing, to allow them to be a part of the adult worship service so they realize that there are many Christian adults who love and care for them, and to let them make cool things they can take home that you as parents can use to lead them closer to Jesus. 
Like anything new, this has been an adventure to say the least. Some weekends have worked better than others (apparently legos are quite the child silencer!) but even amidst the bumps of the Kid Zone, great things are happening. The most exciting result of the Kid Zone is that each and every week your kids are walking out of the sanctuary with a tool that you as parents can use to help teach your kids about God.
As we often say:
As parents, research shows that you have the most influence in the life of your child, especially in the area of spiritual development.
That can be a pretty daunting task, and we get that! That’s why we love finding, making, and sharing tools with you to help make that job easier and less scary, like the tools your kids are making every week in the Kid Zone. 
So, how do we take the Kid Zone home? Here are 3 simple ways: 
  1. Use the Car Ride: In the car, your children are literally strapped down and stuck where you put them. The ride home is the perfect opportunity to talk about what just happened at church. Again, your kids may not know why they just covered a popsicle stick in washi tape or why they got to take legos home, but, then again, they might just surprise you and remember more than you expect. Never underestimate your kid’s ability to pick up on what’s happening. Regardless of whether or not your kids know what that decorative popsicle stick is supposed to be used for, you do, and now you get to talk to them about how they can use whatever object they’re taking home that week. Where in the house should we put it? When will you use it? How can the whole family use it to remember what God said to us at church that morning? Let your kids help you brainstorm creative answers to these questions. It’s amazing how much good conversation you can have in the car! 
  2. Share with Your Kids: We teach our kids that sharing is caring, but we sometimes forget that we are called to share our experiences with our kids. Did God speak to you really loudly and clearly through Pastor Chris’s message? Share that with your kids! It’s okay if they didn’t know what Pastor Chris was talking about, if you can share with them that God spoke to you through the message this tells our kids the ever important message that God speaks to us! When kids hear their parents talk about hearing from God, they discover that God talks to us and they start to desire to hear his voice. So as you use the tool we send home with your kids, make it personal, and share with them what God is doing in your own heart. 
  3. Create a Rhythm: Though we can give you great tools to use with your kids at home, the truth is they won’t do anything if you don’t use them. We know you’re busy (that’s kind of the reason we’re doing this SOS series) which means thinking about integrating another thing into your daily routine may seem impossible, so create a rhythm. Pick a set time every day to use that week’s tool. Maybe it’s at the dinner table, or at bedtime, maybe it’s the first thing you do when everyone wakes up, even before getting dressed. You create tons of rhythms for your family: snack times, meal times, bath time, bed time. Create a tool time. A time when you look at the lego creation your child made and ask them about being connected to God. A time to take that glow in the dark bookmark out and read a verse in the Bible asking God to reveal and heal parts of your lives with his word. To go to that stoplight and move the clothespin from go to stop or from stop to go. To put that day’s worries and anxieties into the coffee cup, shouting, “God’s got this!” Set a time, and make it part of your rhythm. These tools have great value, but only if you use them. 
So there you have it; three simple ways to take the Kid Zone home. We are praying for your families that God would work in the lives of your kids and in your own hearts as well. We are cheering you on, and are here to partner with you through this journey. 
Have a creative way you used the Kid Zone take home tool? Share it with us on our Facebook page or share a photo on instagram and tag Oakridgefmc. We can’t wait to see how you use these tools!

Introducing: The Neighborhood

Imagine a place where families can come to laugh and play together, parents and kids enjoying each other, talking together as they eat dinner and play games. Imagine a place where families can encounter God together, a place where kids discover Biblical truths alongside their parents, and where parents are encouraged and empowered to disciple their children. Picture an environment where the physical needs of dinner and the basic necessities of hygiene supplies are met as people come together to share with those who are in need. This picture that I have just painted for you is a dream God gave the Family Ministries Team at Oak Ridge. What could happen if we could create such a place? What could God do through such a ministry? We dared to follow that dream God gave us, and he led us to a better understanding of how to fulfill the mission he gave when he said,
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” -Jesus 
Jesus calls little children to come to him. He desires for these little ones to know him and know his love for them. As the church, we are called to bring children to Jesus, and to not hinder them in anyway. In other words, we have been given a mission, a mission to help kids, and their families, experience the love of Jesus that they might follow him and experience the amazing life he gives. What an incredible mission to have! Here at Oak Ridge, we take that mission pretty seriously, and because of that, we have knew we had to chase the dream God gave us, and seek to create the kind of environment you just imagined. So, after much prayer and conversation we are thrilled to introduce:
The Neighborhood: Where Families Come to Eat, Play, and Pray
Objective:  To provide a creative and safe environment where families can build community and foster compassion as they grow to serve the Lord.
Mission: Our neighborhood focuses on creating a place for families to eat, play, and pray together in an atmosphere of compassion and grace, so that they may grow stronger together to serve God and others.
We are so excited for this new way to serve the families of our community. Taking place every 4th Friday of the month from 6-8pm, The Neighborhood will provide families with a free, fun, engaging experience where they can eat together, play together, and pray together. Healthy, family meals will be provided, games will be played, and Biblical truths will be shared. We also believe that God’s  love for his people extends beyond only spiritual and emotional care, touching the physical aspects of their lives as well. For this reason, The Neighborhood will include our Neighborhood Corner Store which will provide hygiene supplies to families in need. 
This new ministry will allow us to connect with families more regularly helping us better partner with parents as they seek to disciple their children. It will provide us with greater consistency in ministering to families in our community in hopes that all families in the valley might come to know Jesus. It is our hope and prayer that God will use this ministry to lead families already serving him to a greater understanding of what it means to follow Christ as a family as well as introducing new families to his great love and grace for them. 
We truly believe that The Neighborhood will become a place where families will experience God together, discovering his great love for them. We trust that it will be a place where relationships will be built and needs will be met, a place where we all come together to serve one another, love on one another, and journey with Jesus together. So join us at The Neighborhood! 

Blowing On the Hot Spots: Growing Stronger by Focusing on the Gooding

It may be winter, meaning only the most adventurous of us are braving the elements to go build a camp fire, but as we enter into a new year as a church family, we want to take a moment to learn a lesson from an old camping phrase, “blowing on the hot spots.” For those of you who build camp fires, you know that often to keep it going, to keep the fire burning and growing, you have to literally blow on the hot spots, the places in the fire where heat is found, where flames are growing, where the fire is thriving. As you do this, the heat spreads and fire catches. The entire fire becomes brighter and stronger as you blow on the hot spots. The same is true in life. There are going to be areas of life that are discouraging and hard, areas that maybe don’t catch fire as quickly as others, and sometimes we can spend so much time focusing on the bad, that soon even the good, bright areas of our lives can fade until our entire fire is put out. As a church, we want to be the light God has created us to be. We want to come together to encourage one another (Heb. 10:25), to grow into a brighter, stronger instrument of the Kingdom of God. To do this, your church staff will blog weekly about some of the past, “Hot Spots” to encourage us to look at all God is doing to truly, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Together, we will blow on the hot spots, allowing our fire to spread and grow that we might better carry out the mission God has given us as a church. So join us here every week for our weekly “Blowing on the Hot Spots.” 
This week we turn our attention to a very exciting hot spot. This past weekend 21 teenagers and 9 youth leaders journeyed out to Hume New England Camp and Retreat Center for their annual winter retreat. The process of getting the teenagers and leaders there was not easy. There were many hiccups in the process, ones that were unexpected and completely out of our control. There were moments the week of the retreat that leaders questioned whether or not it was actually going to happen, but God, in his infinite goodness, made a way for those teenagers and leaders to not only go on the retreat but encounter him in mighty ways in the process. 
The theme of the weekend was “Trade-Up” and teenagers were encouraged to trade up what the world says is important for what God says is important, to trade up anything that might be pulling them away from God, anything that might be distracting them or causing them to live a life that is not pleasing to God, that they might truly live as the young men and women God has called them to be. It was an incredible weekend where we saw teenagers draw nearer to God, allowing him to soften their hearts that they might be more like him. 
It’s amazing what God can do in a weekend, especially a weekend that from human perspective and human understanding should have been a train wreck. However, our God is greater and his ways are higher than ours. Our hot sport for this week reminds us that even when life seems to be spinning out of control, our God remains capable of doing far more than we could ever hope or imagine. May you rest in that truth this week. Our God is on the move. 

Blowing on the Hot Spots: Easter Weekend at Oak Ridge

Wow! What a weekend we had! Easter is always an exciting time in the life of the church. We get to celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive, that death has lost its sting and that we can have hope in the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a wonderful time of year. 
This year we added something to our usual Easter celebration. Along with our annual Maundy Thursday service and Easter Sunday services, we put together an Easter Extravaganza for our community. We had never done an event quite like this before, so there was an eagerness to see whether it would actually come together. The result? One amazing, fun-filled event that everyone from the kids, to their parents, and even the volunteers absolutely loved. 
We saw over 100 kids and their families come through our church doors that day, and every last one of them was loved and cared for. The smiles and laughter were contagious throughout that building. Kids made Christ centered crafts and snacks, helping to emphasize the meaning of Easter. The obstacle course and cross toss were favorites, with kids returning to play the games over and over again. We hid over 1,000 Easter eggs throughout the church and watched as kids ran to find them.  It was truly a blast!
The following day, Easter Sunday, we gathered as a church family and worshipped our risen savior. It was standing room only in the sanctuary, but no one cared. In fact, the crowd added to the celebration, as the presence of Jesus was felt and we proclaimed together, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.” 
How great it is to serve a God who is not dead, but is alive and moving in our community! 
Thank you to all who worked to make this weekend possible! Pictures to come soon!

Blowing on the Hot Spots: Freedom Sunday

Our Freedom Fair was this past Sunday and it was fantastic! We saw four children sponsored, sold a lot of SEED product, and tasted some fair trade chocolate. Our kids even took steps towards ending modern day slavery by writing cards to the children our church already sponsors. 
It’s a great thing when the people of God come together to participate in his work. After all, God calls us to
Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8)
On Freedom Sunday we did just that. We acted justly, by buying products made fairly by men and women all over the world. We loved mercy by extending grace to children in far away places that need a helping hand. Finally, we walked humbly with God by realizing that He is the one truly working to bring an end to modern day slavery and is simply inviting us to be a part of it. 
How wonderful to be part of a church family that comes together to serve God! 
Pictures to come soon! Keep watching for those!

Blowing on the Hotspots: Youth Overnight

This Friday, the youth group got together for an epic overnight event. The night included a time of group games such as human foosball and four corners, as well as some fantastic ice cream sundaes. Then guys then headed up to “the lodge” for some male bonding time, including video games, a five hour game of risk, and manhunt in the snow
Meanwhile, back at the church the girls played some fun games testing their knowledge of One Direction and Taylor Swift lyrics, played Just Dance, did their nails, and sang some karaoke! Once morning came, the boys returned to the church to hang with the girls and eat some pancakes!
Amidst all the fun, relationships were built. Kids got closer to one another, the youth leaders, and God. Meaningful conversations were had, as kids sought God and found Him! 
All in all it was a great night!