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,