Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Summer of Ministry in Review

Greetings All!
As we're nearing the end of the summer, thought I'd send a quick update to all of you wonderful supporters of New Day! It has been an interesting few months for New Day and many positive things have happened.

June brought Spud Fest and New Day's successful involvement in the parade and food tent work. Last year we threw out crowd pleasing beach balls at the parade, this year it was bubbles - equally crowd pleasing and a lot easier to handle! Along with those two events, we were involved in 2 others. Some of our New Day community put together a "Tator Tot Festival" on the Spud Fest grounds, which was an area devoted to Preschoolers with age appropriate activities (Inflated Jumpy thing, bean bag toss, face painting, etc.) Although like everything else new, it was not well attended this year, it was very well received by the Spud Fest Board and shows promise for growth as the word gets out! Secondly, Jim worked hard at gathering 3 other pastors from the Big Lake community (Lutheran, Catholic & Assemblies of God) to share in creating worship under the Big Tent on Sunday morning. About 250 people came and Jim helped lead a liturgical movement piece that was incredibly inspiring in that large space! I helped coordinate awesome hospitality (many of you heard about the 5 gallons of lemonade spilled in the back of my Prius - good grief!!!) and there were many positive comments about this event as well.

New Day celebrated 3 baptisms this summer, 2 youth who were immersed in the lake, and one baby - all from active families at New Day.

Jim officiated at a wedding in July - a young couple from the community who do not have a church home and were married at the local reception hall. Much good feedback from family and friends there, although we have not seen the couple at church yet...

Kids and Youth programming continued all summer every Thursday evening. Also, about 15 different elementary aged kids attended 2 day camps and 1 overnight camp throughout the summer - a first time experience for all these kids. And about 6 youth spent a day together in August: starting with a service project downtown Mpls. (sorting clothing for a homeless shelter) and ending with fun (time at Como Zoo).

45 folks associated with New Day attended the United Methodist day at the Twins Game on August 19th and had a great time even though it was a terrible game! Many of us ventured to Target Field on the train! Fun!

Then in August, we celebrated our first year of full-time ministry and raised some much needed funds for year two with our "Gala of Stars" - a Hollywood themed banquet complete with excellent food, entertainment, a fire-eating demonstration, and decadent desserts. Thank you to many of you for attending, working and supporting! About 60 family, friends, and United Methodists from around the Twins Cities area attended, while about 20 of our New Day community came to serve, sing, coordinate the auction, etc. It was a lively and enjoyable evening and will generate $9000-$10,000 in ministry support for New Day!!

Worship attendance averages during the summer dropped to 60, but commitment levels from many families increased. Their hard work on many of these extra projects was uplifting and hopeful to us. And their increased ownership and devotion to New Day is being expressed in many ways.

All of this is very positive and hopeful, however, we are facing some big issues as well. This fall will be a critical time to evaluate sustainability of this new church. Although momentum is positive, continued significant increases in numbers of committed families and financial support will be needed in order for New Day to survive the long haul. Changes will be made in staffing and worship this fall and we hope to begin a "Discipleship Process" that will guide adults to a deeper level of faith and teach the principles of sacred inviting and giving. These next few months promise to be even busier and harder, different work from last year for us and if you are so inclined to lift a prayer for God's guidance and provision, and for our physical, mental and emotional stamina, that would be most appreciated!

We are passionate and convicted that this work and new churches like this are vital to the health and well-being of young families in our world. Rob Bell has some great educational videos which we have been sharing this summer, and in a recent one he was talking about 'Rain' (hard times/storms in our lives.) One of his quotes is, "It always rains, doesn't it? WHEN the rains come. It's not like they might. They DO. It rains in our lives... a lot." Our burning question has been, what do the unchurched young families in our midst do when the rains come? Where do they turn? How does anyone face the rains without faith and the company of the faithful to offer support? We truly believe that Christ offers abundant life in each day, (peace, hope, joy & love that can overcome the struggles of daily life) and that the "church" can provide the best means to deepen that faith. The challenge continues to be convincing these young people that church can be this source of life for them.

Thanks again for being the incredible support you are to Jim and me and for your prayers for New Day. You are blessings beyond measure to us!

With love and hope for each new day,
Janet :->

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Greetings Everyone!

It feels like I have been holding my breath ………………………….. for a long time ………………. and I don’t even realize I’ve been doing it. Breathing again these quick, deep lungfuls of oxygen makes me realize how long it’s been. Faith has sustained us, until God has provided. And today, a ray of sunshine has renewed the hope, faith, and conviction of our souls. Today, an email came with good news for New Day.

Probably all new-church-starts face this hurdle along their journey. New people are coming, ministries are growing, but giving is not matching spending. A little shortfall this month depletes the reserves; another shortfall the next month we cover ourselves; reimbursements for personal expenses get put off, then start accumulating; cash flow squeezes by for one more week. Hold your breath, keep praying, share your needs humbly with others, readjust your strategies, keep going, dare to ask, hold your breath…

Doubts linger like dark clouds on the horizon of the soul. Faith pushes them back. Rejection upon rejection creeps forward like a cold front. But today, a ray of sunshine breaks through to warm the heart and chase away the chill. Today, faith is not just rewarded but overwhelmed! Today, we were made aware that a major financial contribution to the ministries of New Day will be coming our way.

One sentence introduces the email’s content: “Some good news for you today!!” The sender has no idea! The gift was practically three times larger than we dared to hope. Tears leaking from the corners of my eyes surprise me, and make me realize just how long and hard we have been at this. All gifts are valued, but this one was necessary, for with it came the renewing breath of God:

“So I prophesied as [the Sovereign Lord] commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.” ~Ezekiel 37:10 NIV

And so, we bob to the surface and drink in the wind of the Spirit before diving in deep again. One breath is sufficient to renew and restore for now. We praise God for every breath, and the life which comes with it.

We pray for whatever you need to breathe again as well.
Pastor Jim

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yes, Jesus is Here!

(The following is an excerpt from an email recently sent out by our Director of Worship and Music, Amanda Weber. In it are some amazing faith stories of kids, youth, and families at New Day that we think will warm your heart!)

... New Day UMC is home to me. It will never be my “home church” like Coon Rapids UMC, but it is another place I feel like home – I suppose it’s like having all of my “second moms and dads.” Our faith community is small but growing in so many ways. Most of the people in our congregation grew up without a church home at all, or have not been a part of one in many years. It is our mission field; we are “journeying together, encountering Christ, and growing in faith.” That’s our mission statement. If I were to sum up my life with Solid Rock (Coon Rapids UMC's traveling youth choir), that’s the best way I could put it. That’s what this mission is all about – whether it’s at Coon Rapids, or Andover, or Big Lake, or Mexico, or from Coast to Coast and Boarder to Boarder across North America.

At this juncture in life, my mission field is Big Lake, MN. I serve a growing worship community of people thirsting for Christ, asking for more of His Word, wanting to live life together, and to serve Our Lord more. It’s incredible to be a part of that each and every week. I was able to lead almost 30 kids and youth in a Christmas musical in December, and after that, they were begging to continue, so we are working now towards a spring kids & youth musical called “Down By the Creek Bank” ....

I don’t know all of the numbers to be exact, but we have over 100 “regulars” now at New Day (not always weekly, but becoming more and more active as time goes on). This morning (March 21) we had 25 children and about 10 youth in church – out of 69 people total, and we were missing several more families. They LOVE to be at church; they run to the door smiling on their way in. Because of limited resources, our children’s group (1st-5th grade) and our youth group switch off which Wednesdays they meet. Both age groups want more: they want to meet weekly. They are curious and inquisitive.

Their questions about God and the Bible never cease to end. At youth group the last couple of times, I had questions asked of me from as simple as, “How did the snake in the garden talk to Adam and Eve?... Snakes can’t talk.” to deeper questions about why the Jews and Romans wanted to kill Jesus as a criminal if He was supposedly “perfect” and not a sinner. They want to know what it feels like to “experience God.” They want to know how to recognize His voice.

One of the two year olds asked his mom after Solid Rock Singers concert finished singing, “Mom, is Jesus here?” She started to say “no” - but caught herself. She told him, “Yes, Jesus is here.” He pointed a direction and asked if Jesus was over there. She said He is here with us always, but we can’t see Him. This family has 6 kids – from that two year old on up to a senior in high school. This is the first place they have felt like “Home” in a church – a place their whole family enjoys. And how amazing is it when a two-year old makes us stop and think so deeply about our faith – and helps us to truly “experience God” and His presence?

One youth has been singing with our Praise Team off and on for several months now, but I’ve never met her parents. Her mom drops her off and picks her up. The youth usually is there alone and sits with the rest of us adults on the worship team, unless other youth are there. I never had much of an opportunity to ask her about her parents – the timing just wasn’t right. Last night after Solid Rock left the church to head home though, my youth stuck around. We had some great fellowship time as a small group and got to know each other better. This youth expressed that her mom was not a believer; that she had told her daughter years ago that the Bible was “Fictional.” The faith in this young high schooler amazes me. To have faith when your parents don’t and to seek out a church home on your own... When you didn’t grow up in the church... It just shows me even more how truly amazing God is. GOD IS GOOD – ALL THE TIME.

New Day’s youth and children swarmed me after Solid Rock sang for us at the Carousell Works – both Saturday night and again on Sunday morning. They were GLOWING! They want what the youth at CRUMC have – they aren’t looking for a place to perform – not at all – they are looking for a ministry to touch their lives, their hearts. They are looking for a place where they can truly “Journey Together, Encounter Christ, and Grow in Faith.”

This morning several of my youth came up and said, “We want to go on a mission trip this summer!” First I thought, “whoa.... We’re still growing!” They must have read my mind’s hesitation and concern... They want to do something here... locally... They don’t care... They just want to do something that makes a difference. They want the “God High” I experienced for years with SRS and at Star Lake and JUMY’s and UMY’s.

These are just a few of those stories of new found faith. I am at New Day for a reason. Not many people my age had the opportunity to be a part of something so impactful like I did. The youth at CRUMC are blessed; I truly hope they know that and appreciate it for all it’s worth, because I have youth begging now to be a part of something similar. Because of my experiences with Solid Rock, I am now able to follow God’s lead and to help create new opportunities for such amazing encounters with Christ.

... Always and Forever,
Your Friend in the Faith,

Friday, March 19, 2010

And the Award Goes To ...

Greetings Everyone!

Once again we are in the midst of a whirlwind of spirit-filled activities here at New Day! It’s been more exciting than the Academy Awards (at least to us). In case you haven’t been able to catch all of our recent releases, here are the highlights of our special features:

Sweethearts’ Delight – A romantic-comedy which opened Valentine’s Eve. Entire families enjoyed an evening of special activities in which the sanctuary was transformed into a dreamscape complete with balloons, dance floor, and full-flowing fountain for the adults, while the youngsters were entertained down the hall or at the bowling alley. 50 people enjoyed this debut. A sequel will be coming out next year.

Expo 2010 – A blockbuster which hit the town the first weekend of March. 2,000 eager attendees swarmed through the high school doors to take in this ever-popular annual event sponsored by the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce. Held on a Sunday morning and afternoon, this double-feature revolved around trying to clone the pastor so he could be two places at once. 600-700 visitors walked away with New Day coffee sleeves, coffee candies, coffee cups, and coupons for free coffee mugs. Tagline for this showing: At last a church that wakes me up! We hope to capture the buzz of next year’s expo as well.

Death by Fundraising – A suspense-drama which may keep you up at night (as it has for its church-planting leads). This classic saga captures the epic quest for survival of the young and faithful as they seek investors for their God-given visions. Will there be enough treasure found in time? Will they beat the odds with the help of outside angels, or will they crash in defeat after coming so far? No one knows how this one will end, but faith, hope, and love prevail throughout.

Solid Rock – A musical of youthful vitality to get your heartbeat a-pumpin’. Opens tomorrow night (March 20) at the local reception hall (Carousell Works) for a one time performance. Presented live by the Coon Rapids United Methodist youth, this special community event comes to Big Lake thanks to the heartfelt talents and connections of New Day’s Director of Worship and Music, Amanda Weber. A spin-off group of up-and-rising younger singers will be presenting their own inspiring performance at New Day on April 24th-25th; reserve your seats early since their last performance brought out record crowds last December.

These are the most recent highlights from New Day. The outreach to the community continues; new people continue to visit us each week; children continue to love our childcare room and new ministry programs; more and more adults are deepening their connections to God and each other; and the Holy Spirit continues to transform lives for Jesus Christ. Although the challenges are many, the people of New Day deserve all awards for the major and minor roles they play. For them, and all of you, we’d like to thank the Producer of us all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reaching Out to the Nuns?

Merry Christmas!

What a wonderful celebration of Jesus’ birth we had this past weekend at New Day Church! About 20 kids ages 4 – 15 poured their hearts and spirits into sharing a message of love and hope Saturday evening and Sunday morning (Dec. 19-20) to all who came. The story revolved around 2 little guys who were trying their best to come up with the BEST present for Jesus’ birthday, only to be disappointed at every turn. In the end, they discover that what Jesus really wants is their/our hearts, and the best gift we can all give is ourselves! Through all the glitches of missed lines, forgotten solos, late music cues, etc., etc., etc…. the charm of the smiles, energy and simple faith of the kids was spirit-lifting to everyone. The congregation left with bows pinned to lapels and a reminder that WE (our hearts, our hands, our feet, our voices) are the most important gift we can give to the world in Jesus’ name.

The attendance total for the weekend was 190 (which was GREAT! Our largest weekend thus far), but even more impactful, were the interactions we had following the program each day. The kids touched our hearts, but what brought tears to my eyes were the multiple parents/grandparents/aunts, etc. of various kids who sought us out afterward, to thank us for New Day’s ministry and to share how they thought they would never see their families participating in church. Some had been praying for years for this very moment!

And isn’t THAT EXACTLY what we were called to Big Lake to do?! In our Bishop’s words: go, find the “NONES” (not the NUNS) - the ones who claim no church affiliation on census forms. Find them, love them, create a space that allows them to claim Christ, to change that “none” into joy and hope that comes from faith and community. Many times I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, by financial concerns, by low attendance at worship, classes, events. Although we have had a sense that New Day is impacting lives, this experience is a shining star of encouragement lighting the dark night of doubt.

With the encouragement, however, comes an unexpected weight of responsibility! New Day is becoming important to people besides just Jim and I! Oh Dear, and Praise the Lord!! (If I sound confused, that’s exactly how I feel!) I still don’t know how we will continue to finance this ministry, and this still seems like an impossible task! But somehow, God is using New Day to reach at least a few of the people we intended to reach. Lives, hearts, families are being touched, changed, renewed. They are finding God’s home at New Day.

Please pray for all these wonderful families and all the families who are still searching. Please pray for all the mundane, logistical details to fall into place, so God’s amazing work can continue in Big Lake at New Day United Methodist Church.

May the New Year bring New Days filled with God’s hope, joy, peace and love to us all!

Janet :->

What Goes Into 10 Seconds?

Let me try to describe one of the recent events that is an example of our work at New Day this year. Imagine you are attending the Grand Opening Celebration (Nov. 14) for the new Northstar Commuter Rail that now transports commuters from Big Lake (& 4 stops in between) to downtown Minneapolis. You are one of about 2,000 people who are walking through the huge tent which has been erected for this event. You find a cup of hot cocoa and a snack and then you walk by a booth with a Christmas tree decorated with yellow stars and a big screen TV showing slides. You are greeted with a warm smile and the words, "Don't let the holidays stress you out!" as you receive a flyer and a stress ball in the shape of a yellow star. The back of the flyer has info about New Day United Methodist Church, including the worship messages for December:
"Unplug the Christmas Machine"
"Stuffing Candy in Your Socks
(and other inane traditions)"
"Grown Up Christmas Wishes"
"Shhh... Did You Hear That?"

What we hope is that you'll take your star home, get on the internet, check out the New Day website and decide to come try out the new church!! What you may not realize in that moment of contact, are the hours of planning, preparation and prayer that had been spent in order for that one small interaction to occur. Things such as, listening for God to inspire the theme, the message titles, the graphics, etc. for the worship series; ordering stars and designing the flyer; traveling an hour to get excellent copying at an afforable price; website updating; taking pictures of events and creating the slide show; finding volunteers and staff to haul the tree, TV, etc. to the tent, set up the booth, hand out the flyers/stars, etc.; designing message, music and interactive ideas to create meaningful worship; finding money (mostly outside of the new faith community) to finance it all.... well, you get the idea!

So, why do we do all this work, when we're not even sure you will come?

Because people who do come are being blessed! And you might be like one of these: The 5th grader who answered the question, "Something that makes me feel safe..." with "this church." The numerous men who, after years of non-attendance, are finding meaning and direction from worship. The mom of preschoolers who commented that coming to the women's gathering is "better than therapy!" The parents who, for the first time since their 18 month old daughter was born, are able to worship because she happily plays in the childcare room.

People need God's hope, peace, love and joy. And we need each other to find them! That's all the reason we need.

We pray that your holidays are unstressed and full of the Prince of Peace who brings hope and joy in abundance at all times!

Wishing you blessings for each New Day...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween Event was a Treat for All

Happy November!
Hope you all had a great Halloween. Thought you might be curious about the TREATS4U event at New Day UMC - especially after last year's "blood" and "fire alarm" and "naked pastor" stories! If you remember those, you'll know how relieved I am to report that everything went smoothly this year!! It was a WONDERFUL event!

The whole process was very similar to last year's - 1000 candy bar invitations were handed out at the local grocery store (Coborn’s) on Sat. Oct. 24. The event was a combination of trick-or-treat (candy and small gifts) and games (with prizes). There was a photographer taking portraits and "Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin" movie playing, and we offered cider (hot and cold), coffee and popcorn. The differences this year included: 1) our New Day Community took about 250 invitations to friends, neighbors, classmates, etc. in addition to those handed out at Coborn’s; 2) the event was held at the church (last year we were at the school); 3) New Day's technology resources enhanced the event (Halloween music playing on the sound system, games played on the SmartBoard, movie projected onto the large wall); 4) there were at least double the number of volunteers who helped out with all aspects of the event.
I wish you all could have seen the church at 4:55pm Halloween night!! It truly had been transformed into a fun, non-scary Halloween maze! The decorations and set up were festive and inviting. There were about 26 volunteers dressed in various costumes scattered all over the church, inside and out, prepared to greet, hand out candy and gifts, lead games (bingo, ring the witches' hats, ping pong pumpkins, pin the mouth on the jack-o-lantern, etc.), serve popcorn, and just be present to share a little of God's love.

And it was at about this moment that I had a bit of a crisis of faith! It's one thing for Jim and I to work ourselves to the bone and pour our hearts into preparing for an event and no one comes. It's quite another, when we have enlisted the help of 35+ volunteers over a two week period, who have spent hours of time and energy also pouring their hearts into it! All I could do at that moment was try not to panic and to PRAY, dear Lord, PLEASE let the people come!!!
Rest assured, my fears were unfounded, and by 5:15, there were children and parents everywhere! In the end, we counted 160 children plus all the parents - our guess is about 225 people total. The best part is that everyone enjoyed it - those attending and those volunteering! Praise God!!!
November is a big month for getting out into the community. Please pray for these upcoming celebrations and New Day's presence out there... 1) Northstar Commuter Rail line opens for business - New Day is one of the 4 major sponsors of the Grand Opening Celebration, Nov. 14, and we will be serving coffee to the commuters from 5:00-7:30am the first 3 mornings, Nov. 16-18. 2) Jim will be preaching at the Community-Wide Ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve worship, held at the Catholic Church this year. 3) In place of regular worship Thanksgiving weekend, New Day is planning a special "We Need a Little Christmas Now" gathering to be held at a community location, Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29. Please pray for the logistics of this event - we thought we had a group from another church lined up to share a special musical, but that may have fallen through...

Church programming continues as well: another New Day Kids’ Night is planned for Nov. 10, New Day Women are gathering Nov. 6, and we're planning a Youth/Children Christmas program on Saturday, Dec. 19th, with rehearsals each Wed. in December. Please join us for any or all!

Wishing you all "new day" blessings,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This new congregation is corrupting its pastor!! Green Bay native in Viking's purple?! Between this JERSEY (which makes us feel a bit schizophrenic!) and the SNOW in October, everything is a little weird here in Big Lake! ?Fortunately, things at New Day Church are not weird, but are spirit-filled and hopeful! Although the number of worship attenders was down a bit these last two weekends (we were warned that might happen), the vast majority of those who have come, are returning and feedback continues to be very positive. God's spirit is so alive and the relationships that are starting to solidify are precious to see.

The Vikings Favre jersey gift ("To Jim, From God" on the package!!) is one example of how well Jim is connecting to the people and how people are feeling "at home" - accepted and welcomed, as well as finding worship meaningful to their lives. Leaders are coming forward and doing tasks without being asked, the rhythm of the 3 days of worship is becoming more familiar, and most of the major "building" projects have been completed. This past week we had a Kid's evening and a Youth evening, which were fun and great starts to those programs.

We're planning to get out into the community 3 more times before the end of the year. "Treats 4 U" (Trick-or-Treating plus games, photographer, cider/coffee, etc.) will happen on Halloween night. You may remember we held this event at the school last year. We'll move it to the church this year - using the parking lot for most of the trick-or-treat stations to draw people who are out and about to us. This event will allow those who want to check out New Day anonymously to do so.

Second, the commuter rail from Big Lake to Mpls. will open in mid-November. New Day Church will be one of the sponsors for their grand opening event. We also may serve coffee those first couple of mornings as commuters ride the rail to work!

Finally, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we plan to have a "Preparing for Christmas" (Advent) event - maybe held at a location other than the church. More details to work out as that time gets closer. Jim will also be preaching at the ecumenical Thanksgiving service held at the Catholic church this year.

Being the more practical of the two of us, I still worry about the small numbers attending worship and finances (they sort of go hand in hand). I am so thankful that God continues to remind me to focus on the ministry and have faith! Just a few examples and stories to share...
  • Sat. evening one woman turned to me after worship with a huge smile as if a weight had been lifted and said, "I always feel so good when I come here!"

  • The mom who told me her son was up at 7:30 Sunday morning, just waiting to come to church to get his copy of the CD with the slide show that he had helped create at kid's night this week. And the mom with 6 kids (senior in HS down to age 3) who so appreciates our casual style, good childcare, crafts for kids during worship, and alternate worship times, that all make coming to church a meaningful experience for the first time for her whole family.

  • All of the young men, who haven't been to church in years, and didn't think there was anything in church for them- finding meaning in worship, projects to help out with and good fellowship that has been missing from their lives.

  • And finally, two of the youth who have found a place to belong and to use their gifts - running sound board/powerpoint and drumming with the band. And there are more...
Those who haven't had a chance to come see firsthand what's happening, you are most warmly invited! The next worship series starts the week after next (we're taking a "bye" this weekend!) and has a football theme "Tackling the Tough Ones!" The website will have more info... As always, all of your prayers and support are blessings beyond measure.

May the winter temperatures not freeze the warmth of God's love in our hearts...

Love and hugs,
Janet :->