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Building lifelong faith during the summer

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

Happy July, everyone! It has been an incredibly busy summer in youth ministry and only one month of summer is done! The second week of June, 40 4th-8th grade students participated in Action Packed Day Camp. This is 15 more students than our typical maximum number! The third week of June, 16 of our middle school and high school students attended Sugar Creek Bible Camp for confirmation camp and high school programs. Later in July, we are taking 42 of our high school students to San Diego for a week of service. That is almost 100 students taking part in our programming!

At the end of June I had a chance to sit in on Pastor Dave’s final table talk. It was really great to have conversation with a large group of folks who shared stories and pieces of St. John’s history, present, and dreams for the future. One particular comment really struck me. One member stated just how important being an adult leader for youth trips was in their faith journey. It was heartening to hear just how invested our adults have always been when it comes to cultivating the faith life of our young people.

In the spirit of this emphasis on our youth I wanted to take a minute to share just a few of the ways that our youth make ministry at St. John’s happen. Our high school families serve coffee every Sunday during the school year. Our middle school and high school students serve as the majority of station and crew leaders for our Vacation Bible School program each summer. Students provide special music at many of our worship services on both Sundays and Wednesdays. High school students serve as leaders and assistants in our Action Packed Day Camp, Oasis Afterschool program, and as Sunday school/Oasis teachers. When we think of how amazing our volunteers at St. John’s are and everything that they make possible let’s also not forget how lucky we are to have such talented and faithful youth volunteers as well!

Take Jesus with you this summer

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

Summer is a hard time to stay connected to church. School is out, families take vacations, the weather is too nice…the list goes on and on.

This summer, we want you to stay connected by joining our Flat Jesus project!

Flat Jesus is inspired by a national school project called Flat Stanley, based off a book written by Jeff Brown. Just as Flat Stanley has helped children with literacy and geography, Flat Jesus helps children stay plugged into the biblical message you’ve been sharing with them all year.

How it works:

  • Everyone gets their own paper cutout of Jesus to take with them on their summer adventures.
  • Get one at the welcome center or print your own from blog.wearesparkhouse.org/flat-jesus-coming
  • Bring Flat Jesus with you on your adventures—to the park, your camping trip, and even the pool!
  • Take photos and share them on your favorite social media platform! Make sure to check-in at St. John’s Lutheran Church and use the hashtags #FlatJesus and #sjkkids to connect with others!

Where will your journeys take you and your Flat Jesus?

Thank you for making this a place to gather and grow in faith

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

Summer is just around the corner and there are so many exciting things coming up at St. John’s! Before we start getting excited about summer I want to thank everyone in the congregation for your overwhelming support (in all ways: time, talent, and financially) of our young people at St. John’s this program year! Throughout the year everyone generously gives to the cause of helping us raise money for our youth trips, as well as making our programming function. Whether it is donations of Christmas trees for our tree auction at Advent, attending coffee or breakfast on a Sunday morning, coming to eat burgers and buy raffle tickets at the American Legion, serving as a confirmation small group leader, mentoring young musicians/confirmation students/students who serve as assistants in all of our programs, or even sharing our events on social media…it all matters and it is all support.

Our youth programming here at St. John’s has grown so much in the four years that I have been here at St. John’s. To be honest, much of that has nothing to do with me. Our 7th and 8th graders have told me they will miss confirmation because of the time spent with friends and caring adults as they explore their faith. Our high school youth group went from five regular attending students in 2017-2018 to an average of 15-20 students every week in 2018-2019. That isn’t because of me. It is because of our ten young women who attended the 2018 ELCA National Youth Gathering. The experiences that they had and the faith that was cultivated on that trip they went out and shared with others. The safe space that they helped create they have shared with others and built a place and community where God’s love is actively at work.

As we look to the summer and the new program year let us give thanks for the wonderful program year at its close and all of the amazing people that made it happen! Thanks be to God!

Changing seasons and signs of God

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

After what seems like an endless winter, it looks like we’re finally turning a corner to spring. The sun is shining brighter and there are new shoots of green peeking out from the formerly snow-covered ground. The skies are starting to fill with the sweet sound of robins returning to their summer homes. And as the air warms up around us many people are starting to take advantage of the beautiful change of seasons. God surrounds us with new things in creation each and every day.

I find myself with a renewed sense of wonder as there are new things to see and experience. And as I watch out our living room window and see people taking advantage of the beautiful weather, I wonder if others are experiencing the same. This is a common time of year to take notice of the new things you experience. Whether you hear the first-morning song of the birds or find a patch of colorful wildflowers, there are always new things to be found.

During this Lenten season, I have found myself dwelling on Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.” In spite of everything going on in our world, God calls us to “be still.” For me, this means to slow down and take notice of where I see God working in the world. In spring, I see God in the renewal of creation. I see God taking what was dead and creating new life in the form of flowers, grass, and grains. I see God in the new life of animals, continuing the cycle of life which we live in.

I hope you will find time this spring to spend in God’s creation; that you might experience the renewal of life around us. Where will you see God?

Season of Lent

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

The season of Lent is upon us as we head into the month of March. I started to fall in love with Lent when I was in seminary. Growing up, my family never practiced the discipline of giving things up for Lent. To be honest, most of my memories around Lent revolved around going to worship and the emphasis being put on Easter morning.

When I started seminary in 2007, I fell in with a great group of friends who taught me how to immerse myself in the season of Lent. I think Lent appealed to me because there was an element of dark in it, an element of it’s okay to not be okay. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time it felt good to feel that acceptance and the call of God to find peace in the saving death and resurrection of his Son. Seminary was also the first place that I encountered the practice of taking on a discipline for that season, rather than giving up something. I have never been good at giving things up, especially when I try to do it intentionally. I don’t know about you, but for me, habits are hard to cultivate and they are even harder to break. But for this Lent, what about trying something new with me? Well, it isn’t that new, since I introduced the idea to you last Lent in some of our prayer stations. The idea comes from the book, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline by Catherine McNiel. Let’s try taking on the spiritual discipline of prayer. But there is no need to make it complicated. Try reciting the Lord’s Prayer in your head when walking. Try taking 5 minutes to breathe deeply with the words of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Let’s see if we can allow the Lenten season to become part of who we are this year, rather than just another thing we have to do. May the peace of the Lord go with you now and always.

Self-care in the New Year

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

It’s a new year — what are you planning to do with your next 365 days??

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.”

Maybe you’ve heard that before, but have you thought about what it actually means? Sure it means to be kind and respectful to your neighbor; it also means to be kind and respectful to yourself. I mean, how can you treat others kindly if you don’t do the same for yourself? Today, you might think about kindness toward yourself as self-care.

As someone who lives with seasonal affective disorder, this time of year can be hard. It’s hard to be motivated, to connect with others, and even to focus on caring for myself. I have found a few things that work well for me and thought maybe they could work for you too.

  • Keeping a regular schedule: go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. For me, this also means that I need to schedule something every day so that I connect with other people.
  • Do something that brings you joy: even if it’s just drinking a good cup of coffee. What’s something you love to do? Coloring, playing piano, snowshoeing, and a million other things are just some ideas for you.
  • Try meditation: whether you sit in a cozy place in your house and meditate on scripture, read a daily devotion, or pray, taking a moment out of your day can reduce anxiety.

You might think of other self-care ideas that work for you. Feel free to share with me or others. We will be featuring self-care ideas throughout the month of January, your idea could be featured too!

Finding peace, even in imperfect moments

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

The Advent season is upon us again. Every year when Advent comes around I am reminded of lights. The blinking Christmas lights that played Christmas carols that used to ring the front window of my grandparents’ home. The blinding light of my bedroom when my little brother would come in to wake me up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning to open presents. The lights on the trees outside at Luther College as I walked back to my dorm room with friends following the candlelight worship service just before Christmas break. Lighting a candle at the end of mass at my in-laws’ church in Foley, Minn. But the one that stands out most to me is a bitterly cold December morning when I was at seminary.

It was my last year and I was full of anxiety about what came next, but for one quiet morning before the sun came up as I walked to the campus center to my job at the information desk I felt the presence of God. In the bitter cold with snow all around and the twinkling Christmas lights in the trees there was a deep quiet in that neighborhood of St. Paul and the peace that only comes when God reaches out to touch us. My anxiety was calmed through that quiet. That moment was not the end of my anxiety or the perfect moment that made everything right. Instead, that moment gave me strength to face the future.

The Gospel of Luke tells us in chapter one that the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she was with child. In Mary’s unwed situation I doubt very much that it felt like a perfect moment to her at first. But then Gabriel bestows on her the peace of God, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).

In this Advent season of waiting for the birth of our Lord we are living out that very real waiting that we are doing for the second coming of Christ Jesus. While we wait, we also realize that he never left. His Holy Spirit works in, through, and among us as we worship, serve, and have fellowship together. God’s peace is among us, God’s presence is among us. May the Advent season be the time when you too feel the peace and love of God.

Where will you find peace this holiday season?

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Coordinator

Crisp air, falling leaves, apple cider…if you haven’t noticed it’s definitely autumn!

I’m probably not alone in thinking that the holiday season can be quite stressful. The last weekend in October, we held an event at St. John’s called “Self Care – In Real Life.” Our speaker, Anna Rendell, walked us through some ideas to care for ourselves every day and especially during the holidays.

Here are some that stuck out to me:

  • When you take out things to decorate if you aren’t in love with it anymore and it doesn’t bring you happiness get rid of it. Donate items that you don’t use anymore and help another family to create new holiday memories!
  • You don’t have to do everything. Do things that are meaningful to you and your family.

Trying to make the “perfect Pinterest Christmas” won’t always bring you joy, it might just drive you nuts. (I took a little liberty with that one!)
Overall, make sure the things you do this holiday season bring you life!!

During Advent, we’ll be hosting a book study called Advent Conspiracy: Making Christmas Meaningful (Again). We’ll be re-focusing on what the season is truly about. For many of us, there is a struggle to find the connection between our Christmas to-do lists and the story of Jesus’ birth. An overwhelming stress has overtaken worship and celebration. This time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest is often the hardest. Somehow, this had become the new normal. It is our hope that you might create new patterns of celebrating the season! You can join us on Sundays during Advent starting on December 2 at 9:10 am in the Youth Room.

Lastly, this month we celebrated 3-year-olds as they received a prayer pillow from the congregation. They will all receive prayers every month from December to October 2019. Prayer Pillows were given out on November 4 and 7 at all services. Keep these young ones in your prayers as we support them in learning the power of prayer in their lives.

October—A Time for Looking to the Future and the Past

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

October is such an odd month for me. Since starting my position here at St. John’s the month has been to a large degree about looking towards the future. In October we hold our affirmation of baptism worship service for our 9th grade students as they profess their faith before the entire congregation. In the weeks leading up to that worship service I spend many evenings engaged in listening to their faith statements and talking with them about how we as a congregation can support them as they continue to move forward in their faith. October is the time that we put out all of the information about the upcoming summer’s high school youth trip, plan for fundraisers and activities throughout the year, and get a fresh start with the high school youth group.

But October is also a month of looking back for me and remembering those no longer with us. October 4th marks year six for me of being without my Grandma Alice who was my strongest supporter. October also marks the due date of what would have been our first baby that I lost very early in 2014. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us there is a season for everything, and 3:11 tells us that God has made everything suitable for its time. While October is a joyful time of looking forward and things to come, it also holds a sadness for me. But whenever I am sad or anxious about these things I am reminded of, just as many of you are I am sure, the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Christ takes the hurt in our lives and uses it for good. He used the loss of my grandmother to bring my family together in one town and put a roof over our heads in the form of her home. And without that first loss I would not have Oliver, who is the rainbow after a life of storms. As we head into our celebration of All Saints remember the sad, but don’t forget to look for how God has used it to work good.

Gearing up for fall

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

The leaves have been turning new colors and we all know that means! Fall is just around the corner!

Still time to register for fall
We’re gearing up to start Sunday School and Oasis Programming the week of September 13. Families are still able to register online at stjohnkasson.org/lifelong-learning or in the office.

Volunteers still needed
We are still looking for volunteers to help out by teaching Sunday School or Oasis classes. We wouldn’t be able to do these ministries without our fabulous volunteers. Please consider helping to pass on the stories of our faith to our students. You can contact me (Amanda) for more info: (507) 634-7110 ext 14 or amanda@stjohnskasson.org. You can also sign up on the Youth Bulletin Board in the Narthex.

Fall Fest
On September 15, the Education Commission will be hosting our first annual Fall Fest! All are welcome as we share a meal of hotdogs, chips and lemonade. There will be lawn games, inflatables, cotton candy, and even a campfire with s’mores! We hope you will join us for this fun fall celebration. Opportunities to volunteer lend us some items are available here.

Busy building relationships this summer

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

In the midst of the break of summer, our students at St. John’s stay busy when it comes to faith formation and community building. June was a particularly busy month for those of us in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry.

The second week of June many of our 7th grade confirmation students attended camp at Sugar Creek in Wisconsin. We spent our week building community, in Bible studies, on a Christ hike, and in small groups re-centering our focus on Christ through the study of a book called #Struggles: Following Jesus in a selfie centered world.

The third week of June, Amanda and the Education Commission put together a spirit filled week of VBS for over 100 students! Our young people learned about the power they have through Christ in the VBS theme Hero Central! There was an amazing number of super heroes for Christ whooshing around St. John’s in June.

As I write this, 10 of our high school students are preparing for a week of faith formation in Houston at the 2018 ELCA National Youth Gathering. We will learn together through interactive learning stations, Bible study, service, and nationally known speakers during our time in Houston.

The second week of July, our middle school students will spend time building community through fun and fellowship at Action Packed Day Camp, with short daily devotions to center our time together in Christian community.

All of those things that I have written about above are great, and the numbers are inspiring. But, what I find inspiring and Holy Spirit filled is the amazing support of this congregation to make these events happen for our students. Where I see God is not in the numbers, but in the deep relationships I see being built at these events. I am inspired by the palpable presence of God in all that is happening. And to that, all God’s people said, AMEN!

Be still this summer

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
CYF Ministry Development Director

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all Faith Formation volunteers and staff this past year! From our Sunday and Oasis teachers to our adult education leaders, and confirmation guides we could not have made it through the year without your support and dedication to the faith life of our congregation and its visitors. Thank you also to Country Pleasures and the confirmation groups for your work with the Oasis Meals. We have been truly blessed by your service!

School’s out for the summer! But as you know schedules are still going to be crazy. Between t-ball, gardening, work, and other summer fun I’m sure summer is still quite stressful for us all!

In Psalm 46, King David writes “Be still and know that I am God.” For me being still means to put away my phone and laptop, to sit with a cup of French pressed coffee and take in God’s creation. For you it might be something entirely different – realizing that your to-do list can wait, taking time to spend with the important people in your life, or maybe taking a nap. No matter what helps you to be still and relish in the presence of God, go ahead and do it. God wants to have a relationship with you and sometimes that requires us to slow down and find space to listen. What will you do this summer to be still and know God?

We all have different gifts & styles of serving

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

In the midst of a busy end-of-program-year season, Amanda and I were able to take a few hours a month ago to attend the Twin Cities Faith Formation Network in Lakeville with children, youth, and family workers and volunteers. The topic for the day was all about engaging volunteers in the congregation, not just in youth ministry. The first speaker, Nancy Thompson, spoke about how important it is to recruit and develop volunteers and leaders, not just to start and develop programs. She noted in particular how important it is to build and grow relationship, both with other people and with God. In her talk, she spoke about how important it is to find the right fit for volunteers to help them succeed. In her way of thinking there are four levels for people to volunteer at, and she also highlighted the importance of each one.

Serving = this is an entry level volunteer position; easy, not long term, low investment. Examples: greeters, supply room coordinator, room coordinators, service project supply person, anything that can be done on own time.

Shepherding = a position that involves giving care to others, more involvement than serving level, the next step in investing in community. Examples: nursery caregivers, large group hosts (think bereavement representatives at a funeral), technology helpers.

Teaching = higher level of commitment, more preparation ahead of time, direct engagement with groups of people. Examples: small group leaders, Sunday School/Oasis teachers, leading a women’s or men’s group.

Leading = those who advocate for programs, chair events, high capacity volunteers. Examples: congregational council, chair of commission, transition team, all members of commissions.

As the speaker finished up I began to realize just how important it is to help everyone find the right level for investment in our community. In 1 Corinthians 12:4 Paul reminds us that there are different kinds of gifts, but one Spirit who distributes them. We all have different gifts that can be used to the glory of God. I have been working on changing my thinking so that I notice in a different way. Where do you notice gifts that you could use? Or maybe gifts in another? How can we help each other grow those gifts? How can we empower, equip, and encourage one another? Rather than trying to fill the voids that we have in programming, what if instead we worked from a place of abundance? What are you abundant in? How might you share that gift to the glory of God? God has given us all amazing, but different gifts! Let’s figure out how to use them together!

Serving our community

Amanda Sabelko, Deacon
Children, Youth, & Family Development Director

Happy Easter! The resurrection of Jesus was no joke! The promise of forgiveness and everlasting life is what we live into this Easter Season. In First Communion classes during March, we talked about our responsibility to serve others. In the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are strengthened to serve and share our gifts with others. How do you use your gifts to serve your neighbors and community?

Since summer is just around the corner we want to make sure you know about our annual Vacation Bible School in June. You can register online at www.stjohnskasson.org/vbs or grab a form from the office. Please register by May 18 to be guaranteed a t-shirt.

Super Hero VBS

St. John’s Lutheran, Kasson MN
June 18-22 | 8:30 – 11:30 am
Ages 3 through 4th grade
(2017-2018 school year)
We are offering early drop-off (7:00-8:15 am), late pick-up (11:45 am-12:30 pm, and transportation to Just Like Home or Project Kids in Kasson. For questions, contact Deacon Amanda at amanda@stjohnskasson.org or (507)634-7110 ext. 14.

Growing Young

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

In February’s Messenger article I spoke a little bit about the book, Growing Young, that comes out of the Fuller Youth Institute in California.

February’s article centered around the concept of the warm community and how important it is to get to know the people around you. By getting to know one another we are able to have empathy for one another’s joys and challenges. By getting to know one another we truly become the people of God, one body in Christ.

During this Lenten season I am contemplating and daily trying to sit with one of the other important concepts that comes out of that book, namely, to take Jesus’ message seriously. When I started to think about that concept in a real way I realized that I have some serious work to do. What is the main way that we can take Jesus’ message seriously? By pulling out our Bibles and engaging with God’s word every day. Now, as someone who works in a congregation for a living you would think that I get to do this on a regular basis, but when I thought about it I have fallen desperately short. The past year plus has been pretty busy not only at St. John’s, but also in my personal life as we work to figure out how to help our son, Oliver, overcome his apraxia of speech. Most days I find myself simply trying to make sure I have eaten enough and gotten what needs to happen taken care of.

But during this time of Lent I wanted things to be different. Small steps, for me, is the only way to really create a habit. When I overwhelm myself in an attempt to get it right the first time…that is usually when I find myself stumbling, falling, and going back to old habits. In trying to set an intention for this Lenten season I came across an excellent spiritual practice in the book we are reading for the moms’ book study, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline. One of the practices which the author suggests is concentrating on your breathing. Try it. Breathe in slowly and completely, then hold for a second. Breathe out slowly and completely, then observe the moment between breaths. Try this a few times throughout your day. Be intentional. Think on this verse when you do, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). And just like that you have made something you do without thinking into a prayer, into worship.