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Some truth for Lent

Lindsay Colwell
Director of Youth & Family Ministry

Lent is a busy time here at St. John’s. We have lots of fundraisers and activities that happen during this season of contemplation as we meditate on the earthly ministry of Jesus. For me in particular, it can be a difficult time to center myself the way that I hope to on devotions and spiritual practices.

Lent is a period of self-examination. A set aside period of time where we take time to see how God is at work in our lives. By slowing down we take the opportunity to recognize the great love that God is already bestowing on us, to see grace at work in our lives. It is hard not to slow down just a little when you are reminded at the beginning of Lent at Ash Wednesday that, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Daunting words, but perhaps, also an invitation to remember. An invitation to remember that we are more than the clothes we wear, more than the things we have or don’t have. An invitation to remember that whether we are at the height of the good things in life or at our most broken that we belong to God. February saw several terrible losses in our community. At every turn I kept reminding myself, and continue to remind myself, that God’s promises are wide and true, that he will get us any way he can.

The slowing down and noticing of Lent can be deafening and daunting. Fr. Richard Rohr has said, “In silence all of our usual patterns assault us…That is why most people give up rather quickly. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, the first thing to show up were the wild beasts.” At those times, when the world seems like too much remember, God sent his Son to redeem this world. The kingdom of God has come near. Have no fear for God’s promises are wide and true, and for you.

Serving & Stewardship

Lindsay Colwell
Director of Youth & Family Ministry

It is hard to believe that the season of Advent and Christmas is already upon us. Before we know it 2020 will be here! Things here at St. John’s continue to change and evolve as we work in our community of faith to follow God’s call into this changing world. As we head into the new year there is a specific change that I would like to draw your attention to as 2020 approaches. This year our 7th-12th grade students are going to be taking service trips to Duluth and New Orleans in summer 2020. In the past, as students fundraise an individual account tally has been kept for the work that they do and the funds applied accordingly. In light of the time that we spent this fall on talking about the importance of stewarding our time, talents, and finances the Youth and Family Commission has made a change in how we keep track of our fundraising efforts. Rather than asking students to raise money for themselves, we are asking students and their families to shift their perspective to think of the whole group attending the trip, and in turn, placing their focus on how we contribute and fit into the whole of our faith community. Families will pay a flat fee of $200 for the trip and then take part in at least 10 events of service to our congregation. We have several events planned, including this month’s Advent Tree Auction and Christmas Bake Sale. If you have service opportunities that you think would be a good fit for our students to take part in, please consider connecting with me. Our young people love to be of service to others. Giving them opportunities to exercise that passion is how we train and mentor the next generation of church leaders. Thanks be to God!

What can God do with you?

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

October is upon us and the new program year is underway. This year as we take stock of what it means to be good stewards of our time, our talents, and our finances, our students will be joining in as well. As many of you know we have an incredibly talented group of kids that attend St. John’s. We have a myriad of talented musicians who play a variety of instruments or sing. Our VBS programming each summer is able to happen due to all of our middle school, high school, and young adult leaders (think college students home for the summer) who help us out. One of our high school seniors is single-handedly leading a group of 7th grade confirmation students on Sunday mornings. Our Wednesday afterschool Children’s Ministry Assistants continue to volunteer every Wednesday afternoon to make our Oasis programming possible. And the best memory to date was one of our high school juniors walking in last Advent season with a stack of ELCA Good Gift tags that she was spending her own hard-earned money on to the total of $100. Even though they may not quite have the language to describe what they do as stewardship they are doing one better…they are living out their stewardship.

In this new era at St. John’s, let’s see what sort of amazing things we can do in the Kingdom of God when we use our students as models. I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes and make a list of all of the things you would do if you had unlimited time, nothing holding you back from using your talents, and unlimited amounts of spending money. Day dream a little. And then just pick one. Pick one block of time, one talent, or one small thing financially and do it. Jump in with both feet. See what God can do with you when you remind yourself that all of you belongs to God.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

We are not alone

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

I remember one Advent when I was around 13 years old, I heard the song “Breath of Heaven” for the first time. The song is the story of Jesus’ mother, Mary. It is a plea for God to be with her as she nears the birth of her child and she is frightened by all that the future holds. I remember thinking the burden she felt must have been enormous. The line that has always struck me hardest is, “Must I walk this path alone?” I have heard this sentiment from many people and have even heard it swirling around my own mind more often than I would like. Fear and doubt can take us over. So many people around us just don’t seem to get it. Must I walk this path alone? Inevitably , when I have these thoughts God finds a way to break into my life. He sends people to be with me during life’s burdens.

Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting in anticipation for the birth of the Savior. In life, whether we are waiting for a joyous event, like the birth of a baby, or waiting for something difficult, like treatment for an illness, waiting is the hardest part. Burdens get heavier in the waiting, if we let them. As we travel through this time of Advent I would encourage you to look around and see if you can pinpoint the people who are walking with you on the path. Is there someone you hadn’t noticed before? Where is God showing up? Is it a family member? Maybe, you are showing up as God’s hands and feet to someone else. In a world where, at least lately for me, the burdens seem so heavy and it feels that I am alone, a change of perspective is needed. At Jesus’ birth the words of the prophet Isaiah are remembered and he is called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. When we worry, when we doubt, when we feel that we are walking the path alone God is with us. When we are filled with joy and excitement God is with us. Breathe that in and remember in the bustle of this busy season that God is with us and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

Congratulations Confirmands

Lindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Director

Another group of confirmands affirmed their baptismal promises on Sunday, October 1. Twenty-six young people who said and continue to say yes to the gift that Christ bestowed on them at baptism. I am always impressed with our students of all ages, but I want to brag about this group for a moment. Four of them are teaching Sunday School/Oasis this year (not to mention that 11 of our team of volunteers this year are current confirmation students or high school students). Two of them are children’s ministry assistants on Wednesday afternoons. They are teachers, musicians, service minded, and understand what it means to care for God’s people. They have a good grasp of the gospel message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They are beginning to have a really strong grasp on the concept of the Trinity, and as someone who has worked with seminary students I can tell you this is not an easy thing. They hold the Bible as central to their faith, but are honest in realizing that they could do a better job of reading and studying it. In this day and age honesty when it comes to how we engage with our faith is essential. In their faith statements they wrote things like, “there is a place for us,” “God has my back,” “defined by God,” “God on my side,” and “Jesus wants us in eternal life.” These kids get it. They know what public confession of faith is for and why forgiveness is important. These kids, those who have gone before them, and those who come after them are earnest in their faith. Sometimes they just need a little help and room to grow. They need a safe space to develop and nurture their faith. Can we at St. John’s continue to give that to them? In the affirmation of baptism service, the minister asks the question of the assembled congregation, much like at a baptism service, “People of God, do you promise to support these sisters and brothers and pray for them in their life in Christ?” The response to this is simple and one that I know you will agree with me is what we all strive for, “We do, and we ask God to help and guide us.”

Look for God every day

LindsayColwell 2017webLindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

When people aren’t familiar with the type of job that I have or are not familiar with St. John’s they tend to say to me as the school year winds to a close, “Things must be slowing down for you now that the school year is ending, right?” Usually that produces a laugh from me and the comment, “No, I am actually MUCH busier in the summer.” I spend my summer preparing last-minute details for the high school and confirmation trips, putting together summer mid-week worship with Amanda, and trying desperately to get everything ready for the coming school year. Three months sounds like a lot of time, but in reality it goes by in a flash.

This summer in mid-week worship around the fire pit we are using a book called Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. The book outlines how everything from waking up in the morning to checking email to going to bed are sacred practices in the life of our faith. We are also spending time concentrating on prayer. How can we not only make prayer a more regular part of our lives, but how can we pray for one another. One of the things that we are trying out is writing our prayer requests for the week on a Post-It note and then at the end of the service taking home someone else’s prayer request to include in our own prayers. Busy lives get in the way of our faith at times, but perhaps if we spend a little time shifting our perspective about what prayer looks like we will see that our entire day can be seen as a prayer. I have a quote up in my office that says, “God comes to you disguised as your life” (Paula D’Arcy).liturgy-of-the-ordinary

Take a moment to look around and see where God is showing up in your life. Take a moment to pray for someone else. Open your eyes to the possibility of the sacred in the everyday ordinary occurrences in your life. Find a few moments this summer to set aside the busyness and thank God for the wonder that is life. God’s blessings to you in your sacred, ordinary life.

 

Summer is Almost Here

LindsayColwell 2017webLindsay Colwell
Youth Ministry Coordinator

The summer is fast approaching and we have many opportunities to take part in as the weather warms up!

  • Summer worship on Sunday mornings at 9 am (one service) will begin on Sunday, May 28. Our Wednesday evening worship will move outdoors beginning on June 7 (we will not have worship on May 31) with a time change to 6:30 pm. Come join us around our brand new fire pit care of Eagle Scout candidate, John Kllinkhammer.
  • We will be celebrating our graduating seniors at worship on Sunday, May 21 at both services, as well as on Wednesday, May 24 at 6:15 pm. Come celebrate this milestone with us!
  • Community baccalaureate will be held on Sunday, May 21 at 7 pm at First Baptist Church of Kasson.
  • Our high school discipleship retreat for 8th-12th grade students has been moved to June 16th-18. This retreat will take place at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch near Stewartville. Cost is $50, which includes zip line, challenge course, and all meals. Space is limited.
  • This year’s Vacation Bible School will be held June 19-23 from 8:30am-11:30am. Our theme this year is Dr. Seuss! Come have some wild fun with us! Sign-up at www.stjohnskasson.org/vbs or in the office.
  • Good Earth Village is offering two family camps this summer: Family Camp (July 28-30) and Grand Camp (July 5-7). More information available at www.goodearthvillage.org.
  • Our middle school day camp, Action Packed Day Camp returns this year for 5th-8th graders. This camp is planned for July 10-13, 9am-3pm (at least one day will end around 6pm). Cost for this week of constant action is $50. Schedule of activities and sign-up available soon. Space is limited to 25 students.