Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Victory Update

Things at Victory continue to grow and expand. We had an average attendance in April of a 170 people per week. Membership is 157 with 103 communicants. There are 20 people in various stages of Adult Bible Instruction. We have just sent off our call to the Seminary for “Call Day” on May 20th to call a second “Tent Minister”. This will be a part-time pastor that will focus on Church In-reach while Pastor Ben continues his focus on Outreach and Evangelism. This new pastor will focus on member visitation, Bible study, Confirmation, youth ministry oversight and things that help develop the members of the congregation. Since Victory is nearly half made up of new Christians or were non-attending members of other churches, we need to have the ability to strengthen new Christians with Bible study and growing in faith. This will allow each pastor to focus on their strengths.

Additionally since we have been self-supporting for awhile now and have a surplus in our budget and a decent amount of money in the Land fund we have commissioned a group to start following the Franklin Zoning project that is reclassifying the city. They will be looking for potential properties and identifying the hurdles there may be in getting land. This is great but it is not a high priority. Right now we have a space to worship that can accommodate a large number of people. We have found that not having a building has actually been a blessing to us. Also it has been shown that often congregations build too early, with not enough money, and too small of a building and they end up shooting themselves in the foot. We will only build when being in temporary spaces becomes a hindrance to spreading the Gospel.

Victory has got some neat new things going on. The first thing is that our Children’s Ministry Director, Cassie, has revamped the Kids Ministry for ages 10 and under to be super-charged. We now have nearly 40 kids per week for Bible Quest. Not bad considering we started with two kids two years ago. After having been Sunday School superintendent and Sunday school teacher I would have to say that anything I have seen synod-wide pales in comparison. Cassie has really created something to note here. We call the program Bible Quest and I am in the process of developing a separate website for it to highlight all the activities and teaching that is going on. I volunteered for BQ last week and wow! I was impressed with just how energetic and comprehensive it is. The engagement level of the kids is sooo much higher. I was exhausted by the end but it was very rewarding.

The next thing Victory has started is a teen group. Our teens have been steadily growing in number so that we have about 10 of them. We now have some leaders that will be doing the teen group and getting them organized and get the Teen activities and bible study going. They are still working on voting for a name.

Lastly, Ike will be confirmed this Sunday. He represents the first teen confirmation at Victory in terms of the traditional notion of confirmation. There will be several others starting to occur in the next months/year. Victory has been working in two ways with confirmation. Either they can take it at one of the neighboring congregations with the “public school” kids in whatever way those congregations run that, or we have been currently having parents catechize their own children with pastoral oversight (soon to be the role of the new pastor). This has been a great thing I believe. I think it helps parents and children learn about their confession of faith and the Lutheran doctrines. So Confirmations with the little white robes that happen every May are probably a thing of the past here. I think it will be very age independent and depend on the timing and thoroughness of the training of each teenager involved.

Runnin' Around

I currently have been coaching Track at St. Marcus. I run 3 morning running sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6:45am – 7:30am and regular practice Tuesdays and Thursdays. As I have found to be the case after Cross Country season last fall that I start out with a large group and it whittles down to just a smaller more dedicated group of runners. This Thursday is the first meet. Next week there are 2 meets. There is a 4th meet the next week after that. I think this year St. Marcus will have some stand out runners for Track.

Through a connection at St. Marcus, I was recommended to be the Cross Country Coach at Hope High School (part of Hope Christian Schools…an independent WELS Lutheran school system…different in that it serves inner city kids and has no specific federation of churches supporting it. It is mostly supported with fundraising, vouchers, and grants. It originally started as a clone of the St. Marcus system when the principal of St. Marcus left to found the first Hope Christian School)

So this summer we will begin summer running and try to recruit, recruit, recruit. They have only had CC for two years now and the teams have languished from lack of a dedicated program and coaching. So currently I am working on the CC handbook and website. There will be some meetings in May to find out who is interested. I will also go to the two Hope Christian Grade Schools to talk to 8th graders and find some interest. Vouchers and Open Enrollment make things more interesting as that has so much more to do with where kids go to school than anything else. The incoming freshman class next year will be from all over and there may be a lot more late-arrival students showing up than I’d prefer in August. The more runners who work over the summer the better.

In any case, I have found 5 student leaders who are interested in helping make the program “run”. This should be an interesting year. As one student asked “where are we going to run for practice…because it’s pretty Ghetto around here and last year, Alissa (another student present) got beat up?” So there are just a few more things to think about in inner city Cross Country than in your typical school. Running routes free of gunfire and beatings are two of those things. However even though my own ability to run is constantly threatened by fragile tendons and worn out cartilage, the thing that attracts me to these schools for CC is that this sport is so under-represented from the inner city. But holy cow have I found so many students who are naturally great athletes and are born to run. They just need to be shown what they can do. Once they see the talent within themselves I see state level competitors all around me. Diamonds in the rough if you will. I’m pretty excited.

I plan to still coach the St. Marcus CC team because we have morning practices there and they wouldn't conflict much except potentially meets I would need another coach to get the gradeschoolers to the meets. However I was wondering if I could combine the two Hope grade Schools and the SM program to make one inner city CC team for the Lutheran Grade Schools. I call this a real feeder program. Perhaps that’s a pipe dream. I would need another coach and assistant and then to figure out how these three schools could practice as one…or run separate practices and combine as one at meets. Ahhh things to think about and discuss with people. It is clear that I need to buy myself a bus. I want a Partridge Family bus. OMG I would love to see the faces on the suburban Lutheran schools when a Partridge family bus shows up with a team called the Ghetto Runners or something similar.