Today’s guest post is from Joel Vander Wal, Associate Pastor of Youth & Young Adults at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL. Joel and his team are part of the 2012 Sticky Faith Cohort.
This year we’re experimenting with something new during Advent.
It was sparked in part by a video about two different tables on the Sticky Faith website. One is the kids’ table and the other is the adult table. In it the Sticky Faith team points out that although at times it may be appropriate to separate adults and children for faith development, there are also times when they should sit around the same table and enter into the same conversations.
This fall our Sticky Faith team decided we wanted to have our church family sit around “one big table” to have the same conversation.
So during the season of Advent we took a risk and cancelled all of our normal Sunday school classes. Instead we’re offering one large Sunday school experience. Each week we focus on that specific theme for Advent. We recruited 7 members from our church family to lead us in a few songs of worship, and invited 12 couples and singles to be “table leaders” to help facilitate discussion. Our team put crayons and butcher paper on all the tables and hand-picked a few people to tell stories of how they have experienced Hope or Love through our church family.
This past Sunday was the theme of hope, and we chose I John 1:5-7 as our main scripture passage focused on hope. The Wednesday before, an 18 year-old from our church family passed away. It was expected, but still very tragic. There were over 1,000 people who came to his visitation. On Sunday morning we talked about how hope can be found in true fellowship with Christ and with one another. And sometimes that requires us to go into dark places of despair and heartache.
The woman who shared on Sunday morning recalled how she used to teach Sunday School to 4th graders. On the first day of the new Sunday School year in 2001 her husband had just passed away. The children that morning asked if she was ever afraid. She told them, “There is a moment, every night when I turn the lights off, before my eyes can adjust, that I feel this overwhelming darkness come over me. I’m afraid, because I’m all alone in this big house.” The next week a little boy brought her a gift. It was a nightlight. That nightlight reminds her every night that there is hope. Hope that one day she will see her husband again and hope that when Jesus returns darkness will be no more.
After the story we told everyone there that, although we may not be able to send nightlights to our college students and military servants, we could send care packages with notes of encouragement. So each table then made 2 or 3 care packages for all of our college students and military, to send as a word of encouragement just before they start finals in the next week or two.
As a Sticky Faith team, we hoped that 120 people would come to this experiment. Instead we had close to 200! We look forward to next week as we help families grow closer together in their faith in Christ.