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What a College Student Needs from the Church

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share a guest blogger with you, but I am overjoyed for that guest blogger to be Miss Erin Jagus!  I had the privilege of getting to know Erin last year as she is a Berry College student and have loved learning more about her heart to love the people around her fiercely.  Erin shared her experiences on what she’s learned college students need from a church congregation.

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I have had the wonderful blessing of being a part of a revival that is taking place at Berry College this year. With the scholarship that I have, I live on Berry’s campus year-round (yes even summer and most of winter break) and work. This past summer, a student started to lead a worship night in our dorm’s common space. It was simply a night to come and worship each week. A friend of mine, and a LifeCast (read more about LifeCast here) short term intern last year, was on campus during the training week before LifeCast. On that Thursday, he came to the worship night and the Lord gave him a beautiful vision—to keep this going even when the school year starts. When school started, my friend asked me to speak. We were expecting maybe 20 people to show up, but the Lord had other plans. Fifty-nine people packed into a common space on campus that first week. Since then, we have continued meeting under the name “Common Worship” in different spaces across campus each week and the Lord has been moving in mighty ways. Now, I get to do more behind-the-scenes work along with seven others who have a heart of leadership and a passion for seeing our community grow closer to the Lord.

Part of being behind-the-scenes means that I get to sit in on a lot of meetings. A lot of the meetings thus far in the semester have been discussing whether Common Worship needs to become a Student Organization. When we are asked this, we always are told to be thinking of how to answer the questions “What need are you meeting on campus?” and “How is what you’re doing any different from what other religious groups are doing?”

This is a slightly weird thing to think about, because in simple explanation, it might sound similar to any other religious group meeting. We gather, pray, sing, someone speaks, we sing, pray, and then we disperse. Why is what Common Worship is doing different? What need is Common Worship meeting? To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer. Common Worship is completely student-lead and most of us are under the age of 20. In talking to the leadership team and those that come every week, here were some of the common themes:

 

  1. Prayer: Priscilla Shirer would tell you that prayer is part of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 (see verse 18), and I would wholeheartedly agree with her. Instead of having prayer be the last thought, God is teaching us to make it one of our first responses to any situation. In preparation for our weekly event, the leadership team spends a great deal of time on our faces—both as a group corporately thanking Him and asking the Lord to have His way in us, then individually asking the Lord to guide us and make us bold. One of the sweetest parts of my week is after Common Worship is over. After hanging out and packing up, we go to next week’s location and just pray over the space, the speaker who will share, and the community that will come. We know that our gathering only happens once a week, but we believe that the Lord is working in the hearts of His people always.

 

  1. Community: A huge part of the college experience is finding where you belong. A huge part of the human experience is wanting to feel known. Our hearts were made for connection; our souls were made for community. One of my personal passions is a community that is intentional. Not just a community that knows names and faces, but a community that knows each other’s joys and sorrows. A community that does not just come together once a week, but a community that does life together. College students love coffee, love food, and love conversation. Conversation leads to connection and connection leads to community. I think intentional communities give us a small taste of heaven on earth.

 

  1. Authenticity: Everyone wants to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, genuinely and really. No one wants a performer, someone who will put on their “Christian mask” for a night and play a role. Be willing to stop pretending like everything is alright. Be honest. Be open. Be genuine. Be real. We learn from each other’s stories. I love how the Lord teaches through trials and pain but does not leave them to be painful. He uses them for His glory in His timing. What I love about an authentic environment is that it spreads—from one heart to another to a community to the world. I think authenticity is the place where shackles of religion break off and lead to a real relationship with the Father.

 

There are people who regularly attend Common Worship each week who do not regularly attend a church in Rome. To be completely honest with you, I am still on a journey to find a church to attend and serve.

But the church is not just a building to attend each Sunday and Wednesday. We are the Church. You are the church. I am the church.

As believers, we are image bearers. A synonym for bearer is “bringer”. We bring the image of God, the kingdom of heaven, to the Earth through the power of Christ at work within us.

I cannot express to you enough just how in awe I am of what God is doing here. He is reviving this campus, realigning our heartbeats to His. He is preparing the hearts of this campus for greater things. Getting to serve at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Getting to worship with fellow college students at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Our generation is yearning to know the Lord. Our generation is asking the Lord to lead us from dead religion to dynamic relationship.

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Hope

I’ve found myself a little behind on my Advent reading, how about you?  I shared a couple years ago how observing Advent was new for me until about five years ago (To read more click here.)  But gracious, I have fallen head over heals into every way of observing this season of remembering the waiting, hoping, needing, and even sometimes doubting the arrival of Jesus.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

But hoping has changed for me in the past two years.  When you embrace a hope of clinging onto and believing with everything that you can, when you put your whole heart on the line with no other option of believing anything else and that hope is deferred.  All hope feels lost.  And empty.  And silly.  And a waste of time.

Yet Advent, is a season of hoping, believing, and knowing that Jesus will come gently and quietly into a lost and grieving world.  Amidst groans and cries for relief, his very presence whispers, “I hear you.  I see you.  I know.  I’m coming.”

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Yet in my own groans and cries, hope seemed too vulnerable to put on again.  I could never again face the hurt I felt of hoping and believing with my whole heart to see healing, to see a miracle, to spend more Christmases with my Dad, and my hope was unfulfilled.  It only brought to mind so many other things I had prayed, waited, and hoped for that also were unmet.  Unfulfilled hopes I still carry.

But I’ve learned to see hope differently.

Hope is far more a waiting for something in a hot, sticky mess than it is a peaceful, orderly affair. – Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts

Hope is not just knowing.  Hope is trusting enough to place your every bet on what may make absolutely no sense to believe.

And knowing if not, He is still good.

Hoping, vulnerably placing every single ounce of our weak and scared souls onto God fulfilling his promises is one of the absolute bravest things we can do.  And for me, one of the hardest things I’ve ever recovered from.


(Warning: I will probably get some facts wrong.  Friends who are knowledgable about space/science/etc. please correct me.)

On October 15, 1997 the Cassini satellite was launched on a twenty year journey.  Cassini ventured further into Saturn than any other previous explorations, observing its moons that may be suitable for life and its rings.

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Upon reaching its 20th year, NASA planned for Cassini not to return back to earth, as it had consistently sent all images and information back to NASA’s headquarters.  Rather, Cassini concluded its pioneering through its “Grand Finale” by going further and further toward the surface of Saturn until Cassini could no longer endure the conditions.

On April 26, 2017, Cassini began its Grand Finale, sending images of Saturn as it reached closer and closer to its surface until after 20 years of discovery, Cassini’s mission was completed.

This video explained it’s Grand Finale in a way I loved.  The narrator describes Cassini plunging 22 times around Saturn’s rings then making its final decent to the surface of Saturn, “fighting to keep its antennae pointed at Earth as it transmits its farewell.”  On September 15, 2017 Cassini sent its last images of Saturn to NASA, concluding its 20 year mission.


If I’m honest, I think learning how to hope again, has felt significantly more like fighting with all I have toward something that feels so unsafe I may be destroyed, than it has felt simple, safe, or peaceful in any way.

Lacking the energy and sometimes faith to hope, in many situations I haven’t.  And I’ve regretted walking away from loved ones who are hoping and holding onto believing in a miracle with all they have.  And I’ve called that silly deep in my bones because I didn’t have the faith to claim and believe in my own miracles.  I only had space to hold my unmet hopes.


But in the sweetest of ways, this Advent season has felt really different.  Really hopeful.

Of sharing in the waiting of centuries.  The waiting and hoping that looked much more like groaning, doubting, and grieving.  And amidst that waiting, believing and knowing that “Unto us, a child [will be] born.”

Hope is vulnerable.  It’s pressing deeper and deeper into our Father’s ability while simultaneously pulling us further and further from our own control, even our guarding our hearts.

But the beauty of our Father that Advent keeps bringing me back to is that He is a God who “fulfills His promises.” (Hebrews 10:23)

And as I read through the prophecies that point to the life of Jesus, God the Son, I am overwhelmed once again with how dependable and sure our hope is.  How God will always prove Himself true.

And I’m writing HOPE all over my Advent book as I read:

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.  In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
– Colossians 1:13-14, CSB

“What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, GOD DID.”
– Romans 8:3, CSB

“Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”
-Hebrews 2:14-15, CSB

I’m learning to hope that my faithful Father will do what He says, even though He’s proven it time and time again, while the enemy loves to whisper the times my help felt unseen.  I’m working to allow myself to vulnerably lay all my heart deeply hopes for at His feet, and to know this is what He calls me to.  I’m learning to believe that I will receive, like a child who lays their head on their pillow, knowing Santa will bring them just what they asked for.

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Because our faith never calls us to be logical or to trust as much as we’ve seen trust fulfilled, but to have faith like a child.  A faith that cultivates hope.


fdb3Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

 

We sort through our mess on the threshold of change.

To know me well is to know my deep adoration of Sarah Bessey, not for her books alone, though Jesus Feminist was extremely influential in my life and story.  I enjoyed her work and commentary so much that I followed her on social media like any good millennial.  When I stumbled upon Sarah and her husband dressed as Sookie and Jackson from Gilmore Girls, the deal was sealed for me.  Sarah Bessey is one of my favorite Christian speakers and writers.  Beyond her love of one of America’s greatest TV shows Sarah is full of wisdom, interjecting Truth both to the global and local church.  She is a precious mama and her Canadian grammar idiosyncrasies grab my attention and wrap her closer around my heart in each read.

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To know me well is also to know how timely Out of Sorts publishing was in my life and story.  I had not yet purchased the book when news spread Sarah Bessey was coming to speak at the college where I work.  Upon the loss of my Dad and the grief that followed I had not picked up a piece of Christian literature in a while, including my Bible.  I was angry and lost but I knew I loved Sarah Bessey, I mean she dressed like Sookie, so I went and could not put to words how thankful I was.  She shared about braving the wilderness of doubts and questions, pressing into our wrestling and never feeling like we need to protect God.  It felt like a scene in a movie when the lights go off in a room and one single light was on me.  At a time when I felt completely missed, I felt completely seen and understood by her words.  I waited in line to speak with her afterword and shared about her voice in my life and story and how sweetly the Truth God laid on her heart had met me that night.

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But you didn’t come here to hear me fan girl about Sarah, you came to hear about Out of Sorts.


Real life is the undignified life and it is the classroom for holiness.

Sarah Bessey begins this book by describing the process of cleaning out her grandmother’s attic upon her passing.  She then opens up to describe the “sorting” of our faith and theology that grief brings.  Grief of losing a loved one, grief of hurt from a friend, grief of a divorce, or grief of losing a job.

She shares of her own journey of walking away from the Church for years as she questioned her faith while her husband was still working in ministry.

She unpacks the preconceived notions about faith and ministry she and her husband carried for years, without ever bringing them into the light of analyzing their true weight or faithfulness to Scripture’s call.

Out of Sorts is honest about the difficult tension of holding allegiance to the evangelical church amidst watching many actions and decisions taken and made in the name of Jesus and disagreeing with them deep in our bones.  How do we reconcile the Church we claim and the Church we are ashamed of?

She speaks of taking off the cape and crown of being a modern, evangelical hero and learning to be the faithful friend that brings over dinner when a friend just had a baby.  In a world that applauds those who take big steps of faith in obedience to move and sacrifice, she affirms those who stay, who brave it out in movements that are slow to change.

I believe we don’t give enough credit to those who stay put in slow to change movements.

 


I recently listened to a podcast by Annie Downs, in which, she encouraged us to pay attention to the trends of Christian books as they represent the heart of believers.  Recently, especially within women’s circles there were trends of bravery and courage and more recently friendship and finding your “tribe”.  I have found this idea of real sorting, of reaching back to the broken places to be a recent trend in Looking for LovelySearching for SundayOut of Sorts, and more classically The Inner Voice of Love.

We are in a unique age in the Church.  A changing age.  A time of sorting, reorganizing, and reorienting.  Sarah Bessey sets an incredible stage through her own story of how we on and individual level and collective level can truly sort our faith, returning to the often hidden Truths of Scripture’s true call.

 


 

dalton-31Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Fall can be beautiful again.

While I will immediately claim many of my “basic white girl tendencies”, I have never been one to freak out about Fall, at least as much as many of my friends.  I remember my freshman year in college feeling like everyone around me was truly worshipping Fall, collecting leaves, putting pumpkin in every possible thing you could dream of, and wearing scarves while it would still reach 80 degrees each afternoon in Northwest Georgia.

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are so many things I love about Fall.  My favorite festival my sweet little town hosts takes place on a brisk weekend in October full of kettle corn, homemade fudge, beautiful pottery, jewelry, and precious familiar faces.  Each time I pull into the gravel parking lot and open my door to smell the kettle corn and hear the local music being played my heart jumps like I’m riding the ferry across the lake into Magic Kingdom.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Each Thanksgiving I wake up, make my first cup of coffee and sit to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and typically cry due to just how much I love that day.

But I would never be the one in line the moment Starbucks opens on September 1 to get my first pumpkin spice latte.

Yet, this year the magic of Fall hit me.

I am a summer girl.  I love the beach, sandals, pineapple La Croix, watermelon, and just how much simpler and lighter all of life feels.  I love that anytime spent outside is typically spent on the water and I love that vacation is so encouraged.

September to me is usually a reminder the school year has fully set in and honestly since I was 10 been the mark of volleyball season being in full swing.  Somehow though, on labor day I found myself at Target (praise hands!) purchasing a new mustard cardigan, grey nail polish, and pieces to make my Fall table arrangement (I have a new fascination with my table being decorated appropriately for each season).  I bought a small pumpkin from the dollar section, a mustard felt leaf from the home section, and searched all around for whatever Fall pieces I could find.  I even considered buying a PSL from the Starbucks at the front of the store when I left.  WHO AM I?

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I remember how much Fall really felt like a punch in the gut last year.  It already felt like death was at the forefront of my mind, having just lost my Dad less than 6 months before September.  Then, death was everywhere.  So colorfully proclaiming on each and every limb of every tree on the 3 mile empty road I take to my office every morning, shouting how deeply death takes effect.  How intricately.  How it changes everything.  I just couldn’t celebrate it.

So I came home following my Target trip and put out my Fall decorations, even lighting a cinnamon candle.  But it hit again.  The death amidst it all.  No matter how much I loved the decorations on my table, it didn’t cover up the mess in the living room.  The wedding shower invitations I haven’t RSVPd to, the crumbs on the kitchen counter, the leftovers that need to be thrown out, the laundry that needs to be done.  Then, brokenness continued to set in throughout the week in the lives of my people.  How deeply death takes effect.  How intricately.


So last night I found myself determined to not let myself sit down unless I deep cleaned the entire house.  I was going absolutely insane to see death and darkness and brokenness be anywhere else in my life.  I was tired of everything feeling out of control.  If you know me well, you know how deep my deep cleaning can go.  And it did.

I began wiping off counters and putting dishes in the dish washer and soon found myself organizing every piece of Tupperware we have and making sure it had an appropriate lid, folding every blanket we own, and eventually take each and every cushion of our outdoor furniture on our screened in porch and giving it a bath.

I mean a deep bath.  When I told one of my best friends about this, she laughed until she cried.  And now that I’m sharing this, I’m sure so many of you will have ways I could have done this so much better, but it was 11:00pm and I was determined to get it done.  I filled my bath tub with water and laundry detergent, took each cushion one at a time and submerged it into the soapy water.  I pressed and pressed for it to absorb every bit of soap it could.  I held it against the wall and let the shower rinse it, applying more pressure to let the soap out.  Then, I drained the cushion, which was very heavy at this point, as best as I could.

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Somewhere along the way in this process, I was absolutely soaked, along with my bathroom floor, and pressing that cushion against the wall to get all the soap out became deeply spiritual.  I found myself working some anger out in that process that came from deep deep inside that I couldn’t even name.  But I leaned into it.  Eventually I was soaked and sweating with a disgusting bath tub, but let me assure you these cushions are CLEAN.

Clean.  Free of the death it had previously been filled with.

Death I know your sting.  I know your intricacy and I know your defeat. 
And I needed to feel that defeat.  To feel all of the anger in my body well up inside of me and get these cushions as clean as they every could be.

I hate death.

And last Fall as each leaf screamed to me of death’s fury I just felt powerless to it.  I felt like it won.  Read more about last fall for me here.

But last night I needed to win.  And I am sitting in my pristine house today, knowing in about 2 hours it won’t be perfect and I’m okay with that.  But celebrating that Fall is beautiful, that I love a cinnamon dulce latte, and that

DEATH HAS LOST ITS STING.

That as each little leaf so beautifully puts its innermost glory on display then falls to its death, as each tree lays barren over the winter, draped and dusted in snow, creation knows it hasn’t lost.  It isn’t defeated.  It is not scared to hope that new growth and new life will come when the first bird of Spring sings its song.

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The undoing

Last week I went on a trip with college students to the great city of Chicago as a part of my job working in college ministry.  This trip includes countless secrets I cannot disclose, but one of my favorite parts each year is spending time on Navy Pier.  Yes, it is one of the most touristy things to do in all of Chicago, but I love it.  I love the peacefulness of the open water that provides a very welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Each year, I ride the ferris wheel, providing one of the best views of Chicago I’ve seen.  This was at least my third ride on this same ferris wheel spanning over the last five years, yet this one was quite different.  Before, I knew this ferris wheel to be a normal ferris wheel with open cars and two rows of seating facing each other.  The wheel would jolt each time it needed to stop to let someone out and it was easy to talk to people in the cars around you.

But this year was different.  To celebrate its 100 year anniversary of providing a great place to eat, play, and watch the ships on Lake Michigan go by, Navy Pier underwent revitalization.  A great focus of this revitalization was Navy Pier’s iconic ferris wheel, so much that it is now know as Navy Pier’s “Centennial Wheel”.  The Centennial Wheel is taller, faster, updated, and provides enclosed cars with air condition and eight seats inside.

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I boarded the car of the Centennial Wheel with seven friends, unaware of all of that information.  I was thankful for the air condition and break from the sun, but not until our second time around the wheel did I begin to think about how it was different.  Everything about the wheel, its location, the experience it provided, and even the time of day I was riding was so reminiscent of the times before, but it was different.  It was new and changed.

I appreciated these changes and how nice my experience was on the new and improved Centennial Wheel, but it hit me that I was experiencing the new and improved and applauding its changes, overlooking the messiness it took to get there.

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For the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel to become the Centennial Wheel, making so many changes and upgrades it merited a new name, it had to be stripped down to its barest beams.  I’m sure all who were involved in the process can attest to the great amount of work required and mess that ensued.  Demolition of such a large piece of equipment had to have been extensive and time intensive, not to mention the construction that followed.  But I didn’t see that process.  I just saw the new, shiny, beautiful, clean, air conditioned Centennial Wheel.


 

There’s been a theme in my life recently of “undoing”.  I’ve listened to Steffany Gretzinger’s album entitled “the undoing” countless times because it has been with me in my rawest and messiest of places I have had to walk into.  After facing the greatest tragedy of my life so far, I sat across from a trusted counselor who calmly whispered the scariest words to me I had ever heard, “Emily Katherine, I am inviting you to lose it.”

To lose it.

Those words, though spoken at such a low volume reverberated through my head to the point it felt like they were being shouted from one ear to the other.

And she was right.  To come to any place of healing or restoration from the hurt, grief, and confusion I was facing, it took a great deal of undoing.  A great deal of demolition to my barest beams.

It took demolishing habits of people pleasing, stripping tendencies of poor self care, allowing some of the most pivotal parts of my structure to come completely undone.

And I’ve felt completely undone for a long time.  Undone and empty.  But strangely enough, the undoing seemed to take much more work and initiative on my end than the rebuilding.

I worked hard to walk head long into the hardest and darkest places in my heart.  Goodness it hurt like hell.  And I am still on this journey.

But in the most broken places, when I felt like I was sitting in a valley of dry bones lost for any sign of life or love, Jesus met me.  He met me and held me and let me be where I was, angry, lost, bitter, confused, and empty.

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And somehow he took the empty and broken and began building.  He took the fragments I had left and began to piece me back to whole.  And not just whole, but an entirely new one.  So new and revitalized it almost feels like this change has merited taking on a new name.


This theme of undoing, though, has not solely been a theme in my own life and growth, but in the way God has called and allowed me to minister in this season.  Rather than teaching and training students, equipping them with tools and information, so often the role God has given me in students lives this year is to walk with them to the wrecking ball of their own selves.  To know the fear of turning on the machine, to be with them in the hesitation and doubt of wondering what will ensue when they truly demolish all of the control they have built up.  And to sit with them in the ruins, the questions, the hurt.

A line my counselor has often said is, “I just don’t want to rescue you from that.”  From the immense pain and hurt I was feeling.  She didn’t want to rescue me because she knew just how much I needed to face it.  To face it and feel it and hold its weight.

And as much as I hated those words in the moment, I have grown to see their value as I have sat with students who also underwent undoing.  Together, we sat in the mess they found themselves in, stripped down to their barest beams.  And at the end of themselves, they have found Jesus in their own valleys.


In my own season of darkness, I sat with a friend and mentor, truly asking what my job would be if I “couldn’t come back from this.”  This disbelief and hurt.  What would my job be if not ministry?

He shared that of all theologians he has read, the most influential ones are those that have walked through seasons of undoing.


So I enjoyed my ride on Centennial Wheel.  And I have so treasured days of feeling whole again.  But it still feels weird for me to interact with people that see and know my newly constructed self that the Lord fashioned so kindly, knowing they never saw the mess. The emptiness.  The work that it took to lose it, and the sweetness of my Father to piece me back together.

But I’ve learned to see that behind every good thing is a messy thing.  Every organized closet meant taking everything out and putting it all over the hallway floor.  Every beautiful tall building meant digging endlessly to provide a deep enough foundation.

I’ve learned every bit of creating and making, first calls for undoing.

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Review of Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

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I read Love Does a couple years ago and very quickly fell in love with Bob’s writing style.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover Maria employs the same style, sharing a story and example and tying it to a deeply profound truth that resonates deeper than you realize in the moment.

Since reading Love Does, I’ve found myself telling the stories Bob shared in lessons I teach and conversations I have.  I have already found myself doing the same with Maria’s stories and examples of Love Lives Here.

I think the best way to explain Maria’s focus of “Finding what you need in a world telling you what you want” is in a metaphor she uses.  Bob is known for bringing balloons to events all over the world.  He is a big, audacious, whimsical personality that I was shocked to find also works as an attorney.  Maria shared that whenever they go places Bob brings balloons and she brings string.  Maria does not similarly share of huge, crazy adventures.  Instead, she shares of loving her neighbors, friends, and family really well.  Maria talks about crafting a home where everyone who enters senses and feels the home and safety she has found in Christ.

“His plan from the beginning of time was that love wouldn’t be traded among the noises in our lives; it would be understood in the places of peace.  Sometimes when we’re asking Him for an answer, He sends a friend.”

Over the first few pages I found myself writing hearts all over the margins, underlining, and writing the phrase “DON’T SKIP THIS” before the foreword and introduction.

“Faith doesn’t eliminate fears in my life; it lets me know I had someone I could bring them to.”

Maria also offers great insight into walking into your own story and scars in order to truly love people well.

“What I’m learning is that the good news of our faith isn’t found in avoiding the pain, but in living through the loss, walking through the ashes, and stacking back up what we know could burn down again.”


“Preparing soil that someone can grow in is hard work, but it’s not all the work.  Preparing your own soil is where the most important tilling is done.”

As I read this book, I quickly began making a list of person after person to give this book to that I love in my life.  So if you’re reading this, go ahead and click here to purchase Love Lives Here.

10 ways your church can reach millennials

“What in the world are we going to do about millennials?”

This is the question I heard the Church murmur and whisper and more recently shout from the rooftops.  Some have given up, some have fared well, but many churches find themselves confused and desperately needing help when it comes to reaching so many that I call friends born mostly between 1980 and 1995.  A few researchers expand this bracket to 2000, but many draw the line between Millennials and Generation Z somewhere between 1996-1998.

Lazy, entitled, man buns, unemployed, essential oils- while some these words are adjectives and some of these words are nouns, these are the descriptions of our generation.  I won’t go on my soap box of why we are often misunderstood, but I think Tim Elmore says it well in his introduction to his book, Generation iY.   He describes that if a seasoned sailor were out at sea and felt a new gust of wind from a totally new direction, he would not turn and fuss at the wind.  Rather, he would adjust his sails accordingly.  Churches, though, respond to millennials’ new and unique nature in quite polarizing ways.

Of each generation currently making up the population, millennials come in dead last on Church attendance.  I have sat in seminary classes, Christian conferences, and across the table from various ministry personnel who have all found themselves either really excited about the changes millennials offered their churches or really lost as to how to handle them, an important piece of information to have under control considering we are now the largest generation.

So here are a few practical tips to better engage millennials, increasing their attendance and involvement.

     1.  Hire a millennial.

Many (especially GenXers) love to harp on what a lazy generation we are.  We are so unemployed and lazy, yet what many don’t recognize is that many of us reached a working age when the economy was crashing.  Others of us later in the bracket, came to a working age when many healthcare reforms were made, limiting many employers from the jobs they could offer.  There are less and less blue collared jobs as they are being outsourced to various countries where manufacturing needs can be met at cheaper rates.  There are very few full time jobs available.  Employers are no longer coming to colleges and hiring students.  Instead, we spend hours upon hours in a career center and crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, knowing our resume will typically only be viewed for about 45 seconds.

Churches, this can be to your benefit.  Hire a millennial, maybe even part time.  Invite them to meetings where decisions are made that effect your whole congregation and get their input.  The most influential people to millennials are millennials.  Want to influence us?  Show us you believe in our generation by having one of us on your team.

     2.  Be clear about what you’re about.

Millennials are naturally distrusting of large corporations and organizations.  Have a stated purpose and mission somewhere obvious on the wall, in your bulletin, and on your website.  Don’t assume we will tithe because that’s what we’re supposed to do or what we watched our parents do if a clear budget is not accessible.  When you’re hosting an event or launching a new campaign have a clearly stated purpose for it.  Don’t just assume we are behind everything you are doing because we are a part of your organization.  Our membership has to be enticed and maintained and offered a lot of coffee each step of the way.

     3.  Focus on visuals.

I really can’t say this enough.  Maybe when you’re hiring a millennial, hire a graphic designer.  If you publish absolutely anything typed in Comic Sans font or using WordArt you might as well go ahead and throw it in every millennial’s trash can.  Millennials are experts on brand clarity and consistency.  We are masters at social media marketing and this is a way we can really benefit your church and your ministry.  But millennials will rarely be bought in if your bulletin, slideshow, and website haven’t had a serious facelift in the last 3 years, or really the last 3 months.

     4.  Website.

When we are new to town or looking for a new church in town, the very first thing we visit is a website.  Here’s what will bring millennials to your church:

  • aesthetic appeal
  • easy to find times of when to be there
  • stories of people who have been to your church via video
  • clearly stated mission and purpose
  • diversity of ministry staff (race and gender)
  • up to date calendar of events with good graphic design promoting each event

 5.  Singles.

Our generation is marrying later and later.  The average age a millennial marries is around 28 years old.  If your church drops off in the programs and events it offers between high school and young marrieds or young parents, you are dropping off on millennials.

     6.  Offer events that are solely about building community

While we are the most connected generation through social media, smartphones, etc., we are also the generation most starved for community.  Many of us don’t work in an office where we know what’s going on with John in the cubicle next to us’s daughter.  Many of us work from home or coffee shops because our work is photography, graphic design, social media marketing, etc.  Millennials look to the church as a way to bridge true, deep, and authentic connection with others.  If every event is packed with programming, it’s easy to miss the people around you.  Millennials are looking for nights the church all go bowling together, movie nights in the parking lot, or other events that are just about getting to know each other.

     7.  Stop assuming we are useless.

I think this is a way churches are really missing out.  The millennials in your church most likely cannot cross stitch and quilt like the boomers can, but they are creative.  They can reinvent the same systems you have been using forever to check in preschoolers, often by suggesting new technology that could really benefit your ministry.  Ask us questions.  Show us our input is valid and we have a place in the church.

 8.  Offer services on Sunday night.

We are not a crowd that is okay with anything before 10am.  Remember how you used to have that sun rise service for the boomers?  Change it to a sunset service for the millennials and you’re right on track!

   9.  Share stories.

There is power in story and millennials are particularly captivated by them.  Have members of your church share their story through a video or interview on Sunday morning.  Have the person being baptized share their story of coming to know Christ.  Encourage small group leaders to not just teach, but share about who they are.  We want a place where we can know and be known.

     10.  Use social media.

Use it.  Live it.  Breathe it.  Post your sermons, tweet quotes that stood out, put your next big event on your Instagram story.  Reference social media in your sermons.  Create Facebook events for your events.  Create images of quotes from your church others can share to bring more and more people to your page.

Don’t know how to start? See number 1.


What insights do you have?

Comment below.