It's hard to believe the summer is already gone! Where did time go? I wanted to take just a few minutes and let you know about the awesome events we have planned for the first semester of the 2013-2015 school year. Each Wednesday night, at 6:30 PM in Fire Station 51, we have Fully Involved. This program is designed to give youth an up close and personal look at pertinent things that will help grow them as disciples and have fun at the same time. We often describe this event as "VBS on steroids." This is a great first look at New Faith as a body of believers. The youth need to always wear something comfortable because there is no telling what we will get into each week. The lessons are structured so that the youth, children, and college age students have the same topic to allow parents the very important commonality necessary to continue discussions at home. We strive to make opportunities for parents to talk with their children about what they learn each week. It is our hope and prayer that each and every student has the opportunity to not only learn more about NFCC, but that they also have a chance to learn more about Christ - which is our goal and aim. We use technology to bring in videos that help underscore the importance of each lesson and we have lessons grounded in scriptural truths. We usually introduce each week's lesson with a game or fun activity. It's a great way for students to learn it's okay to have fun at church. Coming up this fall, we will be hosting several Fifth quarters after area football games to give students the opportunity to gather somewhere safe following games each week. Finally, we are in the process of planning a retreat this fall/winter to an undisclosed location - you do not want to miss out on this! More details will be coming soon so check back frequently for updates and locations.
Kim, the youth council, staff, and I are looking forward to a great school year and cannot wait to share with you EVERYTHING that will be taking place this year! For more information, or specific details on events, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've always found it rather cathartic to sit and type or write out feelings when I am burdened or feel overwhelmed. Silly? Not if it helps. Our family has currently found itself in a definite shift in life, in ministry, in perspective. Over the past month, we've seen some (as our Pastor calls them) "opportunities" (he doesn't use the word problem because everything is an opportunity for growth) come down the pike into our little hamlet that is Tanner Tornado Alley. Through this journey and many opportunities, KT and I have had to take several serious looks at life, ministry, and my personal perspective. Many times over the past six weeks, I have wanted to simply throw my hands up in the air and say, "That's it! I am through with it. I no longer want to serve in ministry - it's just too hard." Or maybe, "Hey God, it's me. Remember me, the guy down her struggling every day to make ends sort of meet financially, physically...yeah that guy?" In times down in the valley of life, I have often found comfort into reaching out to those closest to me - Men and Women of Faith - to find confirmation in what I am doing and why I do it. One of these such exchanges happened just last night. A former (I use the term "former" only to describe the fact that this individual has aged out of youth ministry because once in the FHSM, you are always part of our family) student contacted me out of the blue just to let me know they had been sitting in traffic and felt burdened to pray for me...yeah me, the same guy who just a few lines ago was ready to throw his hands up in the air and find something else to do with life. I won't share the specifics of the conversation, but sufficed to say, through this conversation with an individual three hours from my location, I was simply reminded why it is I do what I do with my life.
I invest in students. I don't do it because it is easy - cause let's be honest, students are some of the most rambunctious, moody, hard headed....people you could ever find to love in life. This individual, along with several others just yesterday, helped to square my head on my shoulders and remind me who God called me to be. I am not Billy Graham. While I admire Dr. Graham greatly for his stance in life and his unwavering pursuit of the lost for the Kingdom of God, I will never be him - God doesn't want me to be. I am not Adrian Rogers. While his sermons always bring me great fire, passion, and zeal to my own spirit, God didn't create me to be him. God created me to be Josh Tanner, a country boy from a small town some of you have never heard of, nor probably ever will. I was raised on a farm in the country, learned how to drive before the age of ten (seriously, like a car to the store...it's that small of a town), and I left a career as a firefighter-paramedic - a career I loved, and was good at - to enter into vocational ministry. I use silly games to help students "get" the message of a lesson. I don't usually wear a coat and tie, unless it's a funeral. You will often find me wearing flip-flops, shorts, and a batman t-shirt. Why, am I trying to be disrespectful to God's House? No. Actually I am honoring the very person He alone created me to be. Many times, you will see me say something silly to "bring" another student into the conversation. Youth need to trust you...without seeing you as a human who can laugh at themselves, they'll never trust you and confide in you when it really matters. I've led students to Christ at bowling alleys, motel room floors, beaches, winter retreats, McDonald's restaurants, and yes, even in sanctuaries. To this day, I still have students who were in my first youth group from back in the mid-90's who reach out to me when they don't know where else to turn. Am I trying to put some kudos on my own shoulders...if you know anything about me, you know that is not me, I had rather be behind the scenes serving in the kitchen than getting the limelight. What I am trying to show you is that if you let students in, and they see the real you, it has a far greater impact than taking them on a wonderfully huge trip somewhere. You see, student relationships are built around bowls of ice cream, buckets of soapy water, and sitting in an empty classroom just talking. Am I perfect? No. Not even close. I fall short everyday. But I have found out, that it is okay not to be perfect. Has it always been easy. NOPE! Were there times in ministry where this position or that position I felt qualified for didn't work out? Yep. In hindsight, I know why now. It's all part of growth. I was called to New Faith Community Church to lead the student ministry. My background for my Master's degree is in evangelism and church growth - that's what God created me to be passionate about and use. NFCC needed someone who has those gifts. Is it because they did not already have people gifted in those areas? No. We actually have some of the most passionate individuals I have ever had the privilege to be around when it comes to sharing their faith and doing what it takes to lead others to know and experience a love like no other. But what NFCC needed was me - not the big headed pride filled me - but the me who has experienced hurts in ministry, the me who has faced adversity in ministry...the real me. Even more than that, my family needed them....every last, crazy, and fun loving one of them.
Over the last few days, I was burdened (still am in a lot of ways). But, what I do know for certain is that no matter what comes down the mountain towards me, I can "do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Now to many of us, that sounds like a bumper sticker or a picture that might hang over a desk. However, when you begin to examine it for what it really means - you'll see it is much deeper. It isn't just a rallying cry for those in adversity. It isn't just a platitude that pastors tell congregants facing adversity. It is more personal than that. It uses the word "I" and that means it is personal. It is definitive. It uses the word "all." It doesn't say some things or most things - all things. For this 18 year veteran of ministry service, I had an "a-ha" moment just recently. While everything is not hunkydory in this season of my life, I know it is going to be okay. It may seem like you are inundated today with cares, concerns, and strife. You may feel overwhelmed with a plate full of things going on. Remember this, God loves you...just as He loves all His own. There's nothing or nobody who can remove you from His Hand. I don't know what you are facing, but I do know this. If the mountain was smooth, you'd never be able to use it to climb out of the valley.
It's time for our second annual Blessing of the Backpacks at New Faith Community Church. This is the annual event where we set time aside in the worship service to pray for the students, teachers, and staff who will soon be returning to school for another year of school. This is for ALL students. For those who are young enough to take a backpack each day to school, please bring it with you. Even if you don't take a backpack, come so we can pray for you as an individual. This event is always a very meaningful service to the church and the students. Please share this event so we can make it very special for each and every person affiliated with our local schools. Invite teachers, staff, neighbors who may have children - this is a great way to make a difference in YOUR community!