Sunday School—It’s for Life!

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

The United Methodist Church wants to re-energize Sunday school and spark new ministries. Can you imagine a Charge Conference where the Sunday school teachers are the first people elected to hold office for the up-coming year? Can you imagine a church where 60 to 75 percent of those who attend worship also attend Sunday school? Can you imagine a Sunday school so vital that it has sparked so many other ministries that the church building is used seven days a week?

Here at Trinity Church, we don’t just imagine these scenarios at Sunday school, they are our immediate goals for 2018-2019, and we’re making things happen. We offer classes for people of all ages, and they’re taught by the members and staff of our Trinity family. Some classes are sharing the teaching and leadership role rather than having only one teacher. New and exciting opportunities for Christian Education are offered this fall and spring. Check them out!

Our denomination, at the national level, is encouraging us to fill in the generational gaps. We’re learning that by doing that it tends to move the local church forward. It also tends to draw people with children who boost attendance in the children’s and youth classes.

As the nation’s third-largest religious body (behind Roman Catholics, and Southern Baptists) we United Methodists are more influential in seats of power than people realize. This means that what is taught in our Sunday school classes helps determine the religious morals and values on the larger scale. Sunday school is where the action is. Trinity Church kicks off the new Sunday school year with a celebration on September 9. On the 9th, we will also have a backpack blessing. All followed by a church-wide picnic. Please plan to join us. Sunday School – It’s For Life!

 

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When Isolation and the Church Intersect

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Loneliness is big problem in our culture, in our society, in our country. You don’t have to look at research to uncover this trend. All you really have to do is pay attention and ask questions. It isn’t only among the elderly. Younger and younger people feel lonely. Is the reason because social media and technology have led us to become more isolated? Is this isolation leading to fewer people attending church regularly?

To look at the topic of loneliness in America, I checked with Barna Group, a research company focused on faith and culture. Here’s what Barna found.

A lot of us struggle with loneliness.

Who are the lonely? It turns out millennials are four times more likely to feel lonely than the elderly.

I found this statistic very telling.

Nearly seven out of ten people say they would call on someone other than a family member to help in an emergency. This is where the church can come in. By getting to know one another, we become the fill-in family. We become the ones others call on in times of need. We must be to all the center of compassion and care.

How do we do that? We do it by coming to church, getting involved in Next Level Innovation teams, and seeing church as more than just a Sunday morning one-hour commitment. Church can and should be a community where everyone feels safe, welcomed and valued. That’s how Jim, Keith and I see Trinity. Won’t you join us?

Graphics and statistics: Barna Group, barna.com.

 

Three Take-Aways from This Year’s Vacation Bible School

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

Intergenerational Ministry

One of the buzzwords in ministry is intergenerational ministry. According to Wikipedia, “Inter-generational or intergenerational ministry is a model of Christian ministry which emphasizes relationships between age groups and encourages mixed-age activities.” It contrasts with traditional ministry style where groups are divided according to age. Traditional ministry style is still needed but it should not be the only method found in the church.

This year’s VBS reflected intergenerational ministry style. One teacher recruited her granddaughters as volunteers so in one group, three generations of Trinity members were represented. In two of the stations the main leaders were older teenagers (a station is where a specific lesson is taught; groups rotate to different stations throughout the day). They did a wonderful job. At my station, the volunteers ranged from rising 5th graders to 7th graders. Even though I was much older, they took a lot of initiative in decorating the room, the way our teaching materials were presented and leadership in many activities. The cooperation and interaction between different age groups truly added energy, creativity and success of this year’s VBS.

Importance of Youth/Preteen Volunteers

This is a follow-up to the first takeaway. I want to emphasize this because they are part and parcel to VBS; they made up over 60% of our volunteers! Most of the time they serve as assistants to main teachers or group leaders. They help with interacting with and supervising students. Having groups that range from 12 to 16 kids, these young volunteers are vital for a productive and encouraging experience. Also, they help make connections with students because the lead teacher cannot make significant strides in relationship-building with all the students.

Another area of contribution they made this year was being leaders for VBS stations. For older high school students who want to take up the challenge of leading a VBS station, we provide appropriate leadership opportunities. Fortunately, two older youth, Sarah Beth and Adelaide took up the challenge and did wonderful jobs in their respective stations. Youth/Preteen volunteers are fantastic!

Serving the McLean Community

VBS is one of the many Trinity ministries that serve the greater McLean community. We had ninety seventy students registered and over sixty volunteers. Because of limitation in space and time, we had to turn away some students. Due to Trinity’s reputation as an open and welcoming church with excellent programs, many parents depend on us as essential part of their children’s summer experience. Most of the VBS students are not Trinity members and are grateful that we provide this opportunity to learn, grow and interact with other children from McLean. Our volunteers and teachers do awesome work! Moreover, Jen Calsyn and Marci Thomas are fantastic administrators who work wonders with logistics, recruiting of students and volunteers, and ensuring VBS operates with excellence. Through VBS, Trinity serves the needs of McLean. Let’s keep up the good work!

 

Making Disciples Through Spiritual Formation & Maturity

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Spiritual formation is the key to making disciples in the way of Jesus Christ. I cannot stress strongly enough how vitally important it is on all levels of church life – from preschool through high school and all through adult life. Spiritual formation, aka Christian Education, needs to be a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on commitment to Christ, small-group ministries, outreach and mission. And, spiritual formation needs a solid grounding in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament.

To form and mature a person’s spirit is not easy. Too often, we teach our children almost by accident – we repeat the same patterns of instruction established by past generations. For parents and teachers committed to the spiritual formation process, itself a faith practice, we have to teach the heart as well as the mind. The faith nurtured through spiritual formation is a faith of generational intentionality. “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God; the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul.”

Although faith is a gift from God, it is learned and practiced and passed on through the community of faith. My mother and father assumed, I think, that I would always have faith. They raised me in Hinton Avenue Methodist Church [United was added in 1968]. It never occurred to them that by the 21st century Christian faith could no longer be assumed. The world changed! And now, faith needs to be taught with joy, intentionally pursued, and given to the next generation. People are not Christians so much as disciples of Jesus Christ and his way of living in relation to the others and the world.

Trinity expects the best from its leaders. Our spiritual formation is overseen and nurtured by Keith, Eileen, Melissa, Jerry, Catherine, our lay leader Peggy Fox, all the wonderful teachers at Trinity, and me. We are committed to making spiritual formation intentional, sound in biblical teaching, relevant to life and challenging. The spiritual formation team at Trinity is committed to deepening our awareness of God, and equipping our children, youth and adults with a strong foundation of the stories of the Bible. Our ministry teams and education teams have everything prepared for the fall season. Join us on for our Sunday School Kick Off, church-wide picnic and Backpack Blessing on Sunday September 9, and the beginning of a wonderful year of learning about God through the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Is Church Relevant to You?

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Nearly every church across the country is seeking ways to attract new members, bring in younger people and encourage folks to attend more frequently. Why is this a common topic of discussions, seminars and web lectures for church folks across the country? It’s because many people find church to be less relevant to them than previous generations. Those are the words that surveys find people use; church is “not relevant” to a big part of the population.

This is a big red flag for those of us (all of us) who are working to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” as stated in our United Methodist mission. The Book of Discipline goes on to say, “Local churches and extension ministries of the Church provide the most significant arenas through which disciple-making occurs.” It’s much harder to make disciples of brothers and sister who find the church irrelevant in their lives.

We are discovering that making disciples may be more possible through the extension ministries than within the confines of our church building. This is where Next Level Innovation (NLI) will come into play. The Community Connection Team is looking at ways we can reach out to the community. What will this look like? Maybe Trinity will hold “church” in coffee shops, people’s homes or parks. It doesn’t mean the end of worship in our Sanctuary or Chapel, it could mean the addition of worship outside our walls.

What do you want church to look like at Trinity? We would love to hear from you. If you would like to offer ideas for our Community Connection Team, just let Jim, Keith or me know. You are an important part of our future and the way we will continue to make disciples in the years ahead.

 

Confirmation 3.0

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

It has been an honor to be part of three confirmation classes so far at Trinity. I enjoyed getting to know all confirmands through the years. I look forward to the next one, which starts in September. I’m calling it “Confirmation 3.0” because I have made two significant changes in the past and plan to make others for the upcoming one.

The reason for the changes? One, confirmation classes are important to the life of the church and, more specifically, to the youth. Both the church and participants invest much time and energy into this process. Moreover, I enjoy the class through teaching basics of faith, interacting with confirmands, and getting to know their parents. Therefore, I would like to present the best possible content, format and experience. Two, after every confirmation class (even though I felt like I gave it my best), there are areas that I want to improve or feel something was missing. Therefore, there will be noticeable adjustments made for 2019.

What are the changes? First, I want to use a curriculum. When I led Confirmation 2016, I inherited a curriculum which I found not satisfactory. For 2017, I made my own curriculum and made more tweaks on it for 2018. They were good but in the end, the confirmands did not have a book that summarized all the knowledge and experiences to aid their recollection. Therefore, we will use a confirmation curriculum Confirm published by Cokesbury.

Second, we will incorporate confirmation class more into the youth group. For Confirmation 2019, it will meet twice a month at 9:30 a.m. and once at 11:30 a.m. Previously, confirmation and youth group were two separate groups and did not have opportunities to interact. Last year, during the middle of the year, changes were made so that it met during youth group once a month. For this year, this interaction will be built into the schedule from the start because one of the goals is to incorporate confirmands into youth group for continued participation afterwards.

The third change will be to involve more peer helpers and mentors in confirmation. Parents have been phenomenal in terms of their cooperation and volunteering. They provided most of the support for confirmation through being available for mentoring and ministry assistance. Their involvement is critical and vital and therefore, an additional support by youth volunteers will strengthen and deepen the process.

For the upcoming Confirmation 2019, a parents’ preparation session will be on Aug. 26 at 9:30 a.m. in the Chapel. The first class will begin on Sept. 9 at 11:30 a.m. during youth group. Look for more information in the bulletin and E-News. Looking forward to an awesome Confirmation 2019!

 

Christian Education

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Christian education is the key to making the Christian faith a powerful attraction in the 21st century. I cannot stress strongly enough how vitally important Christian Education is on all levels of church life: from preschool through high school and all through adult life. Christian Education needs to be a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on commitment to Christ, small-group ministries, and evangelism. And, Christian Education needs a solid grounding in the Bible.

As a preacher and teacher my personal prejudice is that Bible stories offer fantastic, built-in opportunities for creative interpretation and leave lasting impressions on our children and youth. You and I are entering what is commonly called the post-Christian era. Increasingly, the visitors to Trinity Church, and any other church in the U.S., do not know the stories of the Bible. This makes preaching more difficult. Preaching requires a certain basic level of understanding of names, places, and events, etc. that have Biblical significance. Only Christian education lays this necessary foundation that enables those in worship to hear God’s still, small voice.

Christian education also enables Trinity’s church members to face real life issues from a Christ-centered perspective. Our mandate here at Trinity is to develop disciples for Jesus Christ and instruct our parish in all the essential elements of Christian faith and how that faith is relevant in common, everyday events. People everywhere are starving for knowledge of God and some awareness that God cares about each and every one of us. We desperately want to be taught how to “see God” at work in our own lives. Nothing does this as well as the combination of good preaching and good teaching.

Trinity expects the best from its leaders. Keith, Eileen, Jerry, Catherine, Harriet, Jose, Melissa, the Education Ministry leaders and I are committed to making worship at Trinity beautiful, sound in biblical teaching, relevant to life and challenging. The Christian Education team at Trinity is committed to growing persons spiritually and equipping our children, youth and adults with a strong foundation of stories of the Bible. Our ministry teams and education teams are investing the months of July & August in planning for the fall season. Join us Sunday, September 9 for the genesis of a wonderful year of learning about God. Shalom, Jim