Friday, July 10, 2020

Leadership Selection and Preparing for Fall!

Hey guys! With only a month or so left in the summer, our staff is hard at work preparing for the fall!

We are right in the middle of selecting our student leaders for this next year. At UTA we have a little over 40 students with whom we are in conversation about leading our ministry to reach the campus this year. With UTA doing a mix of in-person and online classes, we're looking into how we can responsibly and safely meet students on campus and still use our methods of small group and one-on-one discipleship to point them to Jesus. So yes, it does look like we will be limited in what we can do, but we still need all hands on deck if we are going to bring the Kingdom to the campus! Even if only half of our leadership prospects say yes to this call, that's still 20 young men and women who will be sent by God to the plentiful harvest that is the college campus this year. If you could be praying for these future leaders as well as the students they'll meet this year, that would be so appreciated!

Our staff is also hard at work preparing our own hearts for the fall, as the state of our hearts as pastors is going to have just as much of an impact (if not more) on our fruitfulness this year as our ministry methods. This summer our staff has been reading the above book to examine our roles and identities as the pastors of our ministry. So far we've looked at the roles of leading hearts to God in worship, interpreting and teaching God's word, counseling, and evangelizing in our mission field. Reading this book has been a constant reminder of the weight of what I've been called to do and who I've been called to be on the college campus. I'm thankful to God for his equipping and training to fulfill this calling well and I praise him for his grace as our team grows into these roles.

Lastly, while much of our effort is currently focused on ministering well in our next season, there is still much work to be done now! We are still meeting every week for a digital service and discussion groups, as well as for weekly PACCS, where students are spending time reading scripture together and having real, personal conversations about how their walks with God are doing during the summer. We are making preparations for a socially distant, mask-covered in-person service next week, so please be praying for our diligence and safety as we seek to serve our students well.

Thank you for your continued support in this confusing and different season. God is still very much at work in the lives of our students and your support makes it possible for us to join him in that work. So thank you!!

With love and gratitude,

Thursday, June 11, 2020

God is Still Good

This has been a rough couple of months. From COVID-19 to so much racial tension, this season has been one of pain and sorrow for many, both inside and outside of our ministry. It hurts to hear our students talk about the job loss, sickness, fear, anger, and despair that they are experiencing right now, and it hurts almost as much to know that there's very little I can do about any of it. But I also know that we serve a God of healing and justice, who is present with us in our mourning and promises to use our current suffering for good before ultimately making the world right. And I also know that this time more than ever in many of our staff and students' lives, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in seeking justice now while pointing those around us to the only One who can offer true and lasting hope. This is what I've seen from the Church around me. Praise God that he has equipped his people with hearts to do the hard work of ministry even in such difficult seasons and Praise God for the fruit he's bearing through his people.

Clarissa and Peter leading us in worship on Twitch!
Despite the challenge social distancing has posed to being together as a community this summer, our students and staff have shown resilience in their consistency in meeting together online. This summer we have been hosting our large gatherings on Twitch, where we have gotten to worship together (above), hear from our campus pastors (below), facilitate virtual small group discussions, and mobilize our students to take initiative with one another this summer. It has been such a blessing!

Brandon interviewing Darby on how to be faithful to God while we wait for him to fulfill his promises
We've also been hard at work this summer training our next generation of student leaders. This week was Summer Leadership Training (SLT), where we gave our students a vision for campus ministry and the role they are invited by God to play in it by being a light to their classmates. I was actually able to give two of the talks at SLT, covering some of my favorite aspects of what we do as a ministry: small group discipleship and evangelism. Click here if you want to listen to any of the talks from day 1, and let me know if you want access to any of the other days of teaching!

One last piece of good news: we are *finally* an officially registered student organization at DBU! 
After a year of looking for a professor who would sponsor us to no avail, we decided to write a letter to the University President and he put us in contact with the Vice President of Student Affairs, who agreed to sponsor us until we can find a professor. This means we can now advertise on campus, do evangelism, and reserve classrooms that are big enough to accommodate our growing ministry. We are so thankful to God for blessing us with this opportunity for ministry!!

Despite the physical and sickness so apparent around us right now, God is still at work through his people. Thank you for being part of what God is doing through his people in this season. People need to hear the good news of Jesus right now and through your partnership, you are playing a role in bringing it to college students.

With love and gratitude,

Friday, May 1, 2020

Developing Leaders

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:2 NIV

With over 45,000 students on the two campuses where I get to do ministry, it is vital that I and the rest of our staff do our best not only to reach as many students as we can for Christ but to empower our young men and women to go and make disciples themselves on the college campus. We are in the business not only of making disciples but of making disciple-makers. This is why we have recently focused a lot of our efforts on leadership development.

With SICM canceled due to COVID-19, we are going to have to get creative to meet the challenge of preparing our students to lead cores, evangelize on campus, and study Scripture with their peers come August. We're looking into alternative ministry training options for our ministry as a whole (i.e., across all of our campuses), but in the meantime, my co-laborer Austin and I have begun meeting weekly with a group of 10 young men who we believe have hearts that are ready to be used by God to make an impact on their campus.

Together, we are currently reading and discussing The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman, where we get an in-depth look at the Master Minister's (i.e. Jesus') way of doing ministry, in hopes that with the empowering of the Spirit, we can apply Jesus' methods to our modern university context. I care so deeply for each young man in our group and am SO excited to see how God knits us together as a team for his Kingdom over the course of our discussion meetings!

Leadership development at DBU has looked a little different. As the only staff-person currently serving at this campus, I have in many ways had to ask for my student leaders to function as a staff. 

For example, as I have mentioned in previous ministry updates, we have faced so many obstacles to becoming a registered student organization at DBU. We have a solid group of men, women, American students, international students, full-fledged disciples, and young Christians who are eager to organize evangelism opportunities and meet for worship in a classroom that can accommodate our size, but we have been kept from doing so due to the lack of a willing faculty sponsor, which is a requirement for registration. Our three student leaders have asked numerous professors, visited several organization offices, and have even written a letter to the DBU president to try to get this taken care of. As frustrating as this process has been at times, what an opportunity it has been for them to experience the perseverance and trust in God necessary to be an effective spiritual leader!

Between this issue, their conversational evangelism efforts, and their resourcefulness in getting all of our students 1-on-1 spiritual attention, our core facilitators have had to think strategically about getting a relatively new ministry off the ground in ways that many staff people and even more core facilitators on our other campuses have never had to, and I praise God for that opportunity for them!

I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your continued financial support and partnership in moving the Kingdom forward on these campuses. If I may, I would like to ask for additional (and more powerful!) support in the form of prayer over this next month. Our ministry at DBU is currently hindered by our unregistered status, and so we need as much prayer as possible dedicated to asking God to make it happen as we continue to try to problem-solve. In addition, summer is a crucial time for leadership development that is going to have to look different this year due to the cancelation of SICM. We need as much prayer as possible dedicated to asking God to make strong leaders out of our young men and women this summer. Will you join me in prayer for these two essential aspects of our ministry?

Thank you again for your partnership in all of this!!

With love and gratitude,

Sunday, March 29, 2020

He Never Stops Working

Okay, I guess he rested on the seventh day... But God has nevertheless been hard at work in this season, regardless of the challenges. Going into these past couple weeks, I wasn't sure what God's work would look like in a season of 100% online ministry, and I wasn't sure that we'd be able to adapt our usual ministry structures (Thursday Night Fellowship, cores, etc.) to an online format effectively. But as usual, I have been pleasantly surprised :)

Challenges turned Opportunities

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
- James 1:2-4 (as paraphrased in The Message )

As you can probably imagine, our students have had a lot more time on their hands. With this time come both the temptation to become spiritually complacent and isolate oneself from community as well as the opportunity to invest oneself in more extended times of learning and prayer than are otherwise feasible. With this time also comes the opportunity to grow in the initiative our students take to maintain friendship and love each other on Christ's behalf.

So far, we've seen both come to fruition. Attendance has admittedly been a bit lower in both of my cores as well as our Thursday Night Fellowship. But students have also responded positively this week to one-on-one conversations I've had with them about making the most of this season. In addition, one of our non-Christian students who hasn't been able to make it to a core this semester due to his class schedule not only has made it to our online core for two weeks straight; he also told our whole core that his goal in this time is to seriously investigate what Christianity is all about. So one of our other students who is finishing up his study with my co-leader Nathan is now going to initiate his own study with this eager seeker! Praise God for these unique opportunities he is currently affording us :)

Below are some pictures of our staff and students getting creative to meet together during this time of social distancing/shelter in place :)

Our first online leader meeting at UTA!

Our first online family group at Arlington Central Church!

My book club discussing Spiritual Leadership by Blackaby!

My Bible study with Sagar. This week we looked at what the Bible has to say about sin!

My Holy Spirit class discussion with Emily and Austin!

DBU leader meeting with Elliot and Joseph!

Our first online core at DBU!

Our first online core at UTA!

Both of my cores are going to meet in smaller groups to engage each other in these 5 disciplines each week so as to minister to each other and engage with God outside of our weekly meetings!

One challenge we've yet to tackle is what evangelism/outreach looks like in this time. Do we find an online forum in which to ask spiritual questions? How to we build new relationships while socially distancing? Would you all please be in prayer that God would lead us in this area as he has been in the other areas of our ministry?

Thank you so much for your continued financial support and prayers in this uncertain time! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you want someone to pray with or talk to. I promise not to screenshot our video chat and put it in my next ministry update. 😉

With love and gratitude,

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

So, what does campus ministry look like when campus is closed?

I am sure you guys have received emails about COVID-19 from every single company you have ever given your email to, but here is another one from your friendly campus minister :) What am I doing with my time while everything around us seems to be on hold or canceled? What will FOCUS look like at UTA this semester given that the campus is basically closed? Will we still send students to Washington for SICM despite the large concentration of coronavirus cases there? All great questions.

I want to assure those of you that financially support my ministry that I am still hard at work to fulfill my calling as a campus minister. I am using FaceTime and Google Meet to get time with students and staff. I will meet with students one-on-one and two-on-one as much as I can wisely do so. I will read and study to be a better and more equipped minister. I will begin thinking through and planning for next year. Campus is closed, but campus ministry is still very much happening!

Below is a letter from our FOCUS director, Brandon Worsham. I wanted to keep you in the loop and ask you to pray for our ministry. Our students are going to struggle. For many of them, FOCUS is their main spiritual community and source of friendship. Many of our students and some of our staff have already been hit with anxiety in this time. Things around us are clearly uncertain, but I can honestly say I feel hopeful and excited to see God work through his people's creativity and perseverance in meeting the needs around us. It is our hope and prayer that we can play a small part in the restorative work that the Lord is going to do through this difficult time. 

"To the FOCUS Community:

I want to update you on how FOCUS is responding to COVID-19, especially in light of so many of our campuses extending spring break and moving to online instruction only afterward. As a community, we need to be praying diligently for our world during this concerning time. We don’t need to panic, because we know our hope is secure in Christ, but we do need to take action in order to love our neighbors well. Those actions may be personally inconvenient, uncomfortable, and/or expensive. The situation is evolving daily, and spring break has disrupted our normal schedules and access to one another, so we will hopefully have more definite plans in the coming 2 weeks, but here are the actions we are currently taking/considering:

The 3 SSI trips from Washington State that were scheduled to arrive on March 22 are cancelled.

Pizza Theology will not happen in its normal format on March 29, but we are considering our options for livestreaming a special teaching time, so stay tuned!

After tonight, we are cancelling our weekly large group fellowships (TNF, TNT, FNF) on our various campuses. We will be following the various policies on each campus to determine how long that will be in effect. We are also considering livestreamed weekly services to replace these. 

One-on-ones and FOJ studies will continue as planned, moving to phone or video calls depending on the health and comfort levels of the students and pastors involved.

For cores and other small groups, we are working with student life offices to determine what policies may affect those. We will not stop small groups of adults from gathering together, but we are also working on developing a video conferencing option. We will certainly encourage all sick or exposed students to stay away from others.

Leader development meetings on Monday nights will move to small groups led by a pastor, whether in-person or virtual.

We are waiting to make a final determination on SICM plans. We haven’t spent any money yet and it’s not urgent for a few more weeks. We will continue to monitor the situation for now.

Thanks for being gracious and flexible. We as a team of pastors are committed to providing pastoral care to the students in our community and beyond.

For the kingdom,
Brandon Worsham"

Friday, March 6, 2020

March Update!

Guys, Showcase went so well! Because we had to have Showcase two months earlier this year, we didn't quite know what to expect as far as turnout, but boy did God show up. These two shows were two of our most packed and best performed shows to date! The numbers are still being tallied, but on the day of Showcase alone, we raised over $17,000 to send future leaders to SICM to learn how to make disciples on their college campuses. And that's just day-of! There is still more financial support to be counted from the days before and after the show. Praise God, and thank you to everyone who came out to/prayed for this event! Also, a big thank you to Sean Do for this amazing photography from Showcase :)

Sirak shredded on the guitar

Zoë brought the house down with some top-tier vocals

Many thanks to our many performers :)

On another note, different pockets of our ministry have been in a season of embracing the spiritual disciplines in order to develop our inner lives and foster intimacy with God. This week I was privileged to preach a sermon on the disciplines of repentance and confession, and this month our staff is embracing fasting as a way to seek God's heart. I ask that you please be in prayer for us as we try to pursue God not just for our own sakes, but so we can better emulate his character in our leadership of the students on our campuses.

Finally, please be in prayer for our ministry at DBU. God has blessed us with more students in our ministry than we currently have staff to study with, and we're trying to think of creative and effective ways to make sure every student receives one-on-one mentorship and spiritual development!

Thank you guys so much for supporting what God is doing on the college campus. He really is faithful!

With love and gratitude,

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February Update :)

Winter Camp 2020 is in the books! It was such a privilege to worship the Lord with hundreds of my siblings in Christ and to learn alongside them how to relate to God through the Psalms (this was the theme of our series of talks). One particularly encouraging story from camp this year: I have a friend who has been part of our community for a few years now. Over the last few years, he's been content to be a spectator; despite regular challenges to adjust his life to meet God's desires for him, he resisted vulnerability and life-change. This past semester, however, things began to change. He was consistent to his core, started coming to TNF more, and started letting people in on his life. Finally, we were given the opportunity to have a one-one-one discussion at Winter Camp in which he told me he was challenged by one of the speakers' admonitions that "those who worship God together must also obey God together." And so he confessed some sin to me that he had been holding in for a while. This semester, he's seeking accountability with his Bible study buddy, coming to church on Sundays, and learning how to reach out to his friends for Christ. Praise God for how he changes our hearts, even if it takes years!

Winter Camp 2020 was packed with hundreds of students ready to encounter God!

Our UTA crew at camp was hype.

Winter Camp worship is one of the sweetest glimpses of Heaven I think I'll get to experience in this age. 

These good-looking UTA/DBU guys loved each other all weekend and I've already gotten to see it bear fruit into this semester!
I have also been so, so encouraged by where our little community at DBU has found itself this semester. Our core of about 15 guys and girls absolutely loves one another, is diverse in experience, nation of origin, and belief, and is steadfastly pursuing Jesus while bringing others into our community to do the same. These past couple weeks, one of our international students brought three more of her international student friends into our community and we got to read our Scriptures for the week in both English and Korean. It was such a cool reminder that the Kingdom is for people from all places who are united under Jesus' lordship!

I felt God in this Braum's that night
Thank you guys so much for your generous support. God is seriously moving on these campuses and I hope that serves as an encouragement to you that your investment is not in vain! He's changing lives, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but he's changing them nonetheless :)

Lastly, I would like to invite all of you to Showcase 2020!! We are trying to raise as much money as we can to lighten the financial burden on our young students who we want to send to SICM to learn how to make and mature disciples on campus. I cannot stress enough how important of an event Showcase is. Please consider coming and inviting your loved ones to enjoy this seriously TOP-TIER talent while investing in the Kingdom. See you guys there!! :)

With love and gratitude,