Thursday

Community: Serving the Church and Building Relationships


Dear Internet... If you haven't been around long... then let me clue you in... i. dont. public. speak.  I blog!  :) So when I was asked to speak at the ladies event we had a few weeks ago... I decided to basically write out a blog post.  It was the only way I could organize my thoughts.  The funny thing is.. I kept wanting to address you {internet} and add hashtags to add some sassiness to my post.  Then it hit... I have to SPEAK this.  {insert nervous tummy}  anyway... I basically practiced so much that I could have potentially recited my notes in my sleep.

Nonetheless... below is basically word for word what I said during the introduction of the evening.  I was asked to give an overview of the topic of community: serving the church and building relationships.  I will tell you that my first draft of notes were 6 pages long... I had to cut it in half to make my 20 minute slot... needless to say I have a LOT to say about this topic. 

So incase you missed it... here it is:

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First of all I want to say that we are so excited that each of you are here for our 2nd annual spring ladies event.  The ladies that sit on this committee: myself, Michelle, Candace, Monica, Katharine, and of course the lovely Kandy… we love the planning process for this event. 

Potentially the sweetest part of the planning process is the brainstorming session.  It was my favorite part last year… and proved the same this year.  Basically, we sit in a room with a whiteboard and Monica’s notepad and Kandy starts asking us ‘What do the women of the church need?; What do we feel is lacking?;  What do we desire/need?’ and the whiteboard starts to fill with words and phrases that pour out from our hearts.

Some of the thoughts that were brainstormed during this year’s session were things like: more community (wide AND deep); support (living life together, being intentional with one another); intergenerational relationships; mentoring; building relationships; conflict management; barriers we set for ourselves in relationships (sticking to only those in same stage of life as us; fighting cultural and fleshly tendencies for independence-distancing ourselves from others); equipping and service. 

At our next meeting we started to see how so many of these things have to do with the other.  I love how the Lord works these details out… and the way He brings to light the common thread to each of us.   It is so beautiful.  As you know, the committee determined that the idea of community really encompasses everything we listed during our brainstorming session.  We realized that within this category we really listed two major themes (serving the church and building relationships) that really encompass most of the other items we listed.

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the planning process, even though each step is just as sweet as the brainstorming session.  I’m not quite sure how it happened… but at some point during the planning process it was decided that I would give the introduction for this evening.  Let me just say… public speaking is not a strong quality of mine.  However, I believe the Lord stretches us outside of our comfort zone for a reason… so here I am… being stretched.  

But hey, at least I get to talk to you about community… which is something so beautiful to me.  I love community… it has been a huge part of my spiritual growth over the last 10 years.  More specifically about 5 years ago Launch {young adult ministry} was born.  I was a new-grad and newly wed who was eager to get plugged in and excited for the opportunity for this young adult bible study. 

I thought I had a perfect understanding on community and what godly community looked like, until about a year or so into Launch.  That’s when I really started to see community being formed in the sweetest possible way.   Let me tell you a little bit about this ministry – it is geared towards 18-29 year olds (and I’m not sure what will happen when I turn 30… Launch may become geared towards 30-40 year olds - watch for the announcement).  We meet on Thursday nights at 7 and have about an hour or so where we talk about life and share prayer requests and spend time in prayer for one another.  We spend another hour and ½ or so for the teaching/discussion section of the evening and then around 9-9:30 most of us go out to dinner where we spend another hour or more in fellowship – we are Baptists so food is a natural ingredient to our fellowship.  Sometimes we talk about the teaching from that night… sometimes we talk about life.  I believe this is a key to community… investing.   

Community TAKES TIME.  It is an investment.  If we met at church every Thursday night at 7 and left at 8:30 after the prayer and teaching time and went home… I’m sure there would still be an element of community.  BUT I can promise you that it would not be as sweet as the one that has been built and continues to build through Launch. 

Now… this isn’t a sales pitch for Launch… however, if you need a sales pitch – see me later because I have  A LOT more I could share about the goodness that is Launch.  But this evening is about community.  I couldn’t stand here this evening and talk about this subject without brining up Launch.  This ministry, the people, the teaching, the discussions, the meals we’ve shared, the questions we aren’t afraid to ask, to comments we aren’t afraid to say, the feelings we aren’t afraid to share… it has all shaped me and my spiritual growth so much over the last several years.  It has bled over to my other relationships and communities. 

So on Sunday nights we’ve been going through 2nd Timothy and it has been so beautiful to learn more and more about the relationship Paul and Timothy had with one another.   During one particular Sunday night sermon Pastor Bret talked specifically about their relationship… and about how we often times personalize with others through social events… we don’t struggle through sin together like Paul and Timothy did.  We talked about how much community we are missing out on when we instead hide our sin because we are embarrassed or ashamed so we just put on the ‘church face’ and go about our Sunday.  How much intimate community we are missing out on… it seriously hurts my heart.  At the end of the message, Pastor Bret asked us to consider the following:

Why don't we get personal?
     - We will get hurt... people won't meet expectations
     - By exposing our hearts to others... gives them ammo to use against us
     - We live in 'what ifs' of getting personal
     - Maybe we don't want others to know the details of our lives/hearts
     - Maybe this type of relationship was never modeled for me and so it has been avoided

Some additional questions to ponder internally:
Why are you afraid of letting someone that close?  
Are we scared of judgment from the other person?  
Will they really be as honest to me as I am to them?  
Are we embarrassed about what information/struggles/weaknesses they might find out about us?
Are we afraid of the time it will require?  The investment? 
What is it that keeps you from letting others in… in deep?

I’m sure some of you are sitting there thinking, ‘Raylene, you don’t understand… my situation is different...’ or ‘I’m an introvert…’  I know all of the excuses… I wrote most of them.  But that is what they are… EXCUSES.  Every community has individuals in so many different situations in life, and different personalities.  The communities I’m a part of have more introverts than extroverts – if you can believe that!  I’m out numbered.  But it is probably good b/c I can talk a-lot! J It is beautiful how we balance each other out. I’m excited to hear from Kandy in a little bit about this subject.

Tonight we are also going to have a panel of ladies that are going to talk to us about serving the church.  These are ladies who serve in our body and do it well.  Some have been serving for years… some started serving the second they walked through the front doors the first time.  They are going to discuss service with us and I’m so excited to hear from these experts.

 There is something powerful about the relationships that are built around serving the church alongside another believer.  Scott and I have been serving in the youth ministry for about 4 years now and there are so many relationships we have been blessed with through serving in this manner… that other wise wouldn’t be there.  I think of the youth students… let me tell you- we have a great group of students.  They love the Lord and they love each other and I am truly blessed to get to watch them grow.   There is something so sweet about getting to have students that are kids of the youth leaders that lead when I was in youth here at SummitWoods.  I also think of the other leaders… Scott and I serve with Chad and Tracey, Heather and Glenn and Tommie Anne.. Scott and I have learned so much from each of them.  If we weren’t serving together in the youth ministry… we would have no reason to get to know them… and the perspective, the wisdom, the godliness that we cherish in each of them … I can’t imagine not having that.  I know that serving in the youth group is different than some other serving opportunities within the church… but is it really that much different in terms of the opportunity to build community?  I really don’t think so..

Similarly…within the committee for this event, we all represent different stages of life, and that makes this group of ladies so dear to my heart.  I’m so thankful for each of them and the relationships I’m getting to build through planning these events with them.  Otherwise I potentially wouldn’t have a relationship with them.  Our paths would not naturally cross.  I hope you realize how important being intentional is… to serving the church and building lasting relationships. 

I am so looking forward to this evening… this is a topic that is dear to my heart and I couldn’t be more excited to hear from Kandy and the ladies on the ‘service’ panel.  Let me pray for us as we get started this evening…

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I have so many notes from the evening that I could share... it was a blast and I was so encouraged and challenged through the conversation with the panel and the discussion Kandy had with us.  It was so beautiful!!

Just a little side-note: I will be forced to take a little break because the time has come for Vinnie's eviction... next week is the day.  So I'll have to take another little absence - but don't give up on me.  I'll be back... with a pretty sweet scar too! :)

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