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 :->

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Day Launches

(Reflections from Janet, co-church-planter with husband Pastor Jim)

Well, week two of "launch-o-rama" (as niece Kristi called it!) is complete... and somehow the stress level is not yet reduced! I feel like I'm barely able to catch my breath. Jim was noticing that some of our staff and volunteers were getting sick last week, and he said something about how people get sick after a big, stressful event is over... OVER?!? Not yet!!

The biggest stress this past weekend came at 7:59pm Friday, and 6:29pm Saturday (one minute before each of the respective worship services). My best analogy for what this is like for me, is preparing for an open house 3 times every weekend. Preparations are intense, all the hosts are excited about celebrating, and there is no clue about who and/or how many will attend! When NO ONE has arrived a minute before the event is to begin, I'm about ready to throw up!! But prayers are answered and people did come - we had nice groups both nights (23 and 27). Sunday morning brought visitors from Elk River UMC and we had a full house of over 50. So, totals were larger than last weekend (over 100, up 10% from week 1). The most positive sign for me were that 3 new people from last week returned, and 2 of them brought friends! That, truly, is how I think this church will grow - we haven't started with huge numbers, but those who come are being touched in some way and wanting to bring others. It's a safe, meaningful and fun place to bring a friend!

Jim is doing an incredible job with his messages - making them relevant, meaningful and creating non-threatening ways for people to engage instead of being "passive pew-sitters"! God's message is loud and clear, and Jim's spirit, sincerity and love for people is very evident. It is a pleasure to watch the response from the congregation as Jim engages them and God warms their hearts!

Amanda, too, is making incredible, spirit-filled music with various musicians, instruments and levels of ability! God's love just shines from her and her spirit adds beautifully to the energy and power of the music. She and Jim work so well together - she responds to impromptu changes and needs during each service, and their banter is genuine and fun.

And Melissa has the childcare area organized and working beautifully! We're sharing our childcare room with the Driving School (who are also leases in this building,) for two weeks while their classroom is being finished. Melissa has been very flexible: moving into Jim's office for the Friday night service and rearranging furniture, etc. to accommodate "Wreck-less Driving School" (clever, eh?!). There were children during all three services this weekend and she did a marvelous job with the children, volunteers and all the logistics!

We're still working on staining and varnishing the A/V booth and Smartboard wall - waiting on carpet for both. Hopefully those two big projects will be completed this week or next - and we can start using this great technology!!

Jim has arranged a "Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony" with the Big Lake Chamber of Commerce for this Saturday (Sept. 26) at 5:30, followed by a light dinner and worship. Our District Superintendent, the Conference Director of Congregational Development and Jim's coach will be coming. YOU ARE ALL INVITED AS WELL! We've been putting the word out, to try to get a full house to celebrate...

That's it for now!

Blessings and love,
Janet :->

Friday, August 7, 2009

Broadcasting to the Masses Begins

OH MY GOSH! Can you believe this?! Never in my wildest dreams did I think New Day Church would be featured on a billboard!! Pretty exciting! This along with direct mailings, brochures & beach ball give-a-ways for the Picnics in the Parks this month, and possibly a 30 second video spot at the local theater are all thanks to the $10,000 grant we received from the national United Methodist Church. Hopefully all these will provide great name recognition and many guests in the opening months! Hopefully, too, we'll be prepared for the people to come... YIKES!

Jim and I had a GREAT time in Door County, and we were able to visit with MANY friends and family from the WI/Chicago area before the conference in Chicago. We're glad to be home and busy with the many preparations that are before us these next 6 weeks.

Funds for the rest of the A/V equipment, computer system and childcare room are lacking right now. Some of the avenues that Jim has been pursuing have not provided as much support as we anticipated. Please pray that God will reveal some answers to this dilemma - we're trying very hard to have faith and not be anxious. But Sept. is looming large in front of us and we're feeling ill-equipped and poorly prepared at this point. Answers will come - they always do; a church planter's most important trait is flexibility!! Who knows what this Launch month will end up looking like?! (Well, of course, God does! THANK GOODNESS!) We trust that whatever it is, it will be enough. Of course, if any of you know a benevolent person of wealth who would be interested in helping a struggling new ministry... ?

Prayers for enough time, energy, people support (from Launch team and partner UM churches) and for God's joy, love, and peace to permeate this Launch process would also be greatly appreciated.

Blessings to you all,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Having a Ball Now!

Greetings All!

Pastor Jim's wife, Janet, here again to report that, well, life at New Day continues at a fast pace - the changes are becoming a bit more dramatic now!

SPUD FEST: About 20 - 25 New Day supporters marched in the Spud Fest (local community weekend event) parade on June 27. 500 beach balls with the New Day logo were handed out, 2 large earth balls were tossed back and forth to the crowd and the large parachute was unfolded 3-4 times en route to engage the children on the sidelines. We had a blast!! The rain held off and a spirit of fun was in the air! Next year we'll order twice as many beach balls - they were a hit with young and old!

STAFF: Becky Robinson (Childcare Coordinator) and Amanda Weber (Music/Worship/Youth/Adult Ministries) have agreed to join the New Day adventure!! We are THRILLED to have both of them sharing their incredible gifts with us and the New Day community. Sharing the tasks with these energetic and spirit-filled young ladies is a joy and a relief for Jim and I! More on these two will be forthcoming in a future blog. Children's Ministry is still without leadership - God has been nudging the teacher in me... but we'll see what He has in store.

WISH LIST ITEMS: New Day has been the blessed recipient of many items (some we didn't even know we needed!) from Hopkins UMC and Edgewater-Emmanuel UMC. As they transition into closing their buildings they are providing tangible grace in opening ours! We are SO THANKFUL! We picked up 3 trailers + pick ups full of much needed items last Friday, including a refrigerator, "altar" table, children's table and chairs, children's slide, toys, puzzles, etc., 3 rocking chairs, Christmas trees, banners, coffee carafes, bibles, songbooks, microphones and stands, music stands, etc., etc., etc.!! The abundance is overwhelming and awesome!

PREVIEW WORSHIP: Worship last Sunday was a celebration of legacies - spiritual and tangible! Attendance was up by 10-12 and the childcare room was filled to bursting with 12 young children!! Total count was a healthy 45. We embraced the Habitat for Humanity family who was displaced by fire last year and will be receiving the first HH home in Big Lake this year. New Day has agreed to be the family advocate support for them and it was a joy to meet them and share worship together! Also visiting was Jim's church planting coach, Per Nilsen, who shared words of encouragement and challenge to us at lunch following worship. It was a morning filled with grace and spirit - we rejoice at the wonders of God's work in this place!

UPCOMING: Jim and I are attempting to complete 3 weeks of work in one, so we can head out of town next Monday for a little R & R and some training. We'll be gone July 20 - August 3; first to Door County (our honeymoon locale 25 years ago!), then to Green Bay for Jim's 30th HS Reunion and then down to Chicago for "School of Congregational Development." We're looking forward, but it is stressful to leave when so much needs to be done. "Have faith," my inner voice of God implores...

While we are gone, New Day will be hosting a "Children's Treasures" Rummage Sale, Sat. July 25 and Sat. Aug. 1. Please pray for the leaders of this project who have run into scheduling issues, and for others to step forward to help out. Any gently used children's items will be gratefully received; and if anyone has a couple hours to spare to help host the sale on those dates (timing is 8:00-1:00), just let us know! The first time for every event is an experiment and a learning experience - as they say, "we live and learn!"

In August, the plan is for 3 weekends of Picnics in the Parks (like we did last year) on Saturday followed by worship on Sunday. We're hoping that the picnics will provide opportunity to invite folks to worship in order to grow the critical mass before launching weekly worship in Sept. Prayers, prayers and more prayers for these next several weeks... There are still many, many unknowns... Do I hear that inner voice of God AGAIN?

Finally, financial gifts have continued to come forth, but the expense for equipping the worship space and childcare room before September is a bit daunting. Ok, 3 times a charm: I'm listening, inner voice of God, and I will HAVE FAITH!!

Thank goodness He is patient with my fear...
May your summer days fill with blessings of God's peace, joy and love.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Forming the New Day Family

"It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." Acts 6:2-4 NIV

For the past month now, we’ve been focusing a lot of time on the process of hiring for New Day UMC. Here’s an inside look on what this important piece of pre-launch involves...

  • It starts with prayer over who is necessary, and what positions the mission field requires. No matter how hard I tried to eliminate a position or two, the Holy Spirit kept telling me, “No, no, no. You can’t do without that one!”

  • Then came gathering a Staffing Team to help guide the process, and man, did God come through with a couple of the best guys for that job! John and Jason have been incredible;

  • Then there was the writing of job descriptions, and getting a very clear set of priorities on what we were looking for in each candidate (not as easy as it may sound);

  • Spreading the word through various networks -- emails, newspaper ads, university and seminary sites, United Methodist electronic bulletin board, facebook, Craigslist, and more;

  • Securing a Federal Employer Identification Number;

  • Researching equitable compensation by contacting sister churches;

  • Responding to interested parties; etc. etc. etc.
After 2-3 weeks, we had 27 people apply for our 5 part-time positions, many applying to combine several roles together for more hours for a total of 46 individual applications. There were so many wonderfully gifted people who came forward, and we gave thanks for each one of them! Further prayerful discussions lead us to invite 9 candidates in for interviews. You’d think it would be easier at this point, but truly it was not. It felt like a jigsaw puzzle to all of us, and we needed patience as we turned over more pieces of people’s stories and gathered their information.

This afternoon, we completed the interviews and tried to get a picture of the future New Day staff together. It includes 3 Godly people. It is not the same picture I had in mind even last night. It is not with all of the roles as neatly laid out as originally intended. It is not without risks. It is one more exercise in taking one faithful step at a time.

For us, this process is not simply about getting the job done, or bringing any warm body on board. It is a process of forming a dynamic team, better yet, of gathering a family together. The chemistry has to be right. The family has to harmonize well. The family has to be built around people serving Christ by serving people. The Spirit within the group has to be paid attention to. Right now, the potential family portrait has some amazing people in it, and I am excited by the possibilities. But it aint over yet, people!

What if he doesn’t feel at home with us? What if she needs more hours or more benefits than we can offer right now? What if they are set in their ways and unable to adapt? What if she turns us down? What if...?

We’ll keep you posted, but for now, keep the prayers for the new family comin’!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leaps of Faith

News from Janet...

Never a dull moment here at New Day Church, and wanted to let you know a few newsworthy items! Last week Jim and the "Staffing Team" finalized job descriptions and started advertising for 5 part-time positions for New Day! The 2 most important will be Childcare Coordinator and Director of Worship & Music. The other 3 are Directors of Children, Youth and Adult Spiritual Growth. These are all very part time right now, and we're thinking that some may be combined depending on applicant's skills/needs.

We are taking a true LEAP of faith in hiring - and those we hire will understand that they will be entering into a "risky business"! They will be an integral part of expanding the New Day family and actively fundraising for parts of their salaries as well as their more normal duties. Jim has contacted about 45 UMC pastors requesting a special offering, or some other financial support, and the indications are that donations from these churches will come close to covering staffing salaries for the remainder of the year. So we take the leap, knowing we have planted seeds and worked the plan, and believing that God will do the rest! It will be just so interesting to see who will step forward for this ministry! Please pray for this process; people, funds, timing, etc.

New Day Church now has a BEAUTIFUL sign on our door! Thank you, Jim Baller, for this wonderful gift! Also, Jim's office is now finally complete and functional thanks to some awesome gifts from Delano UMC. We are so grateful! Things will be much more efficient with everything in one place. Working between home and church was creating much chaos!

The next Preview Worship will be this Sunday, June 14th, 10:45. We're anticipating another smallish crowd - if you would pray for God's spirit to be present in the preparation this week and during the service on Sunday, we would appreciate it! Guests are always welcome!

The launch team is very active now - working on staffing, hospitality plan, advertising and some special projects like marching in the Spud Fest parade, neighborhood picnics, farmer's market , etc. It's exciting to see their enthusiasm and ownership in some of these projects. And the Bible Basics class has been very well-received. Fun to see the excitement around learning about the Bible!

That's it for now! Hope all is well with all of you. Keep in touch - we love hearing your news as well!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 Plus 2 Equals 5000

It is mid-May. Not only is the sun shining, the grass is greening, and the flowers are ready to be planted outside (well, almost – frost warnings are still on for tonight), but it is now only 4 months to Launch for New Day UMC. Starting the week of Sept. 12-13, we will have regular, weekly worship services, followed shortly thereafter with regular programs for children, youth, and adults. It is exciting, and yet overwhelming, to realize this. Thank the Lord our Launch Team has developed to the point of tackling more on their own; I have faith we will accomplish many of the items on our Pre-Launch To Do List. (If there are any others out there who could lend a hand, please let us know – we need you!)

But right now, the challenge which is just as big as getting projects done is raising the money to fund the projects which need to be done. For the most part, these are projects which coaches and church-planting experts have taught us need to be in place in order to make a solid first impression when people come to check us out those first launch months. With many people, you only get one chance, and first-time guests, we are told, often make up their minds if they are coming back again within the first 7 minutes after arriving. If that is true, what needs to be “ready”? Well, consider these...

SIGNAGE: along roads pointing the way ($500 - $2500), out front of the building ($400), above the door ($3000), on the door itself ($500), and inside the entry ($50-250)... TOTAL ~ $5,500

GATHERING SPACE: living-room style furniture ($2500 - $3000), computerized guest registration station ($2000), flat-screen announcement monitor ($1200)... TOTAL ~$6000

CHILDCARE AREA: rolling toy shelves ($2100), age-appropriate toys ($400), closet organizers ($300), tables and chairs ($3,500) TOTAL ~ $6300

WORSHIP AREA: projection equipment, sound systems, band instruments, microphones, etc. etc. etc. TOTAL ~$12,000 - $24,000

OK, you get the idea. Long before I stand up to share a life-giving God message, our guests have decided to return or not based on appearance, environment, and how well we have satisfied their family’s needs to this point. We get it. The frustrating part is knowing what needs to be done, but not having the money in-hand to get it done. We will obviously need to prioritize and make do with whatever we have at that moment.

Nonetheless, it’s like looking forward with sails hoisted, ready to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, while an anchor temporarily keeps the ship locked in place.

Perhaps I am simply another product of our instant gratification society. Perhaps my worrying about tomorrow should be replaced simply with prayers of thanksgiving for today. Perhaps all of this is simply another exercise in faith, in relying on God to work through the hearts and minds of others to collectively achieve what I am unable to accomplish on my own. Perhaps I am like the disciples who looked out on a crowd of hungry people (over 5,000 to be exact), and felt overwhelmed by the expectation to feed them all with so little in the treasury. Perhaps I should simply trust Jesus, who takes the smallest of offerings from the least among us, and satisfies the needs of all.

Sigh. All right, Lord. I turn all of this over to you.

Is there anyone out there willing to share your 5 loaves and 2 fish with the thousands of spiritually hungry folk here in Big Lake? If so, I believe Jesus will make it an abundant blessing for many. Thanks for sharing!

[Contributions to the ministry of New Day UMC can be made by contacting Pastor Jim via their website or by simply leaving a message under “Comments” below]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day Blessings

Although chilly, the sun is shining and God's love is abounding! I sincerely hope that all the moms are having a blessed day, knowing the abundant love you have for your children is just a sliver of the love God has for us all. Amazing Grace, Amazing Love - WOW!

New Day's 2nd Preview Service this morning was uplifting, joyful, full of spirit, fun and meaning! Rejoice and Praise! It seemed that the small (35) but significant congregation were touched by God; and Jim and I certainly felt the humble joy of sharing just a bit of His grace today. It was a one-man band, as Jim lead praise songs on his guitar; other music came from CD's. The borrowed projector and screen worked perfectly and the untrained amateur running it, (me!) managed to get most of the slides up when needed! Jim had the congregation create a bouquet of "tributes to mom" - each person was given a carnation when they arrived and then were asked to come forward and share a sentence or two about their moms and place the flower in a vase. The words spoken were so wonderful; a precious time of sharing. Jim's message was about doubt (scripture from John about Thomas), and he had interaction with some of the congregation and visual aids that kept everyone engaged. The service ended with communion and the smiles that carried out the door warmed my heart!

I've put pictures on the website ( - many thanks to Karla Vieau for some great shots!

Next worship will be Sunday, June 14, 10:45.

We'll be starting two small group classes in two weeks (Bible Basics and Discovering Your Spirituality Type). Please pray for people to attend and for meaning to be found in these small groups.

The "call" for the grant money to be provided by the United Methodist Metro-West Builders Assoc. was mailed out last week. Please pray for those folks who are receiving the brochure to be generous. To be ready for full launch by September, New Day has some very significant needs which we're praying this "connectional ministry" will help provide.

As always, your support and prayers are such huge blessings to us and this new, young community. Bless you all!

With much love,
Janet :->

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Service

Last Saturday evening we held our first service ever at New Day UMC. A month ago, I told my Advisory Team that I was worried – worried we’d have too many people show up. How many do you think might be there? Well, I told them, 50 weren’t out of the question, and in my mind I was thinking 75. A week ago, I was approached by the local newspaper wanting to do an article in anticipation of our first service; I am probably the only church planter in history to turn down this free publicity, but I was worried we’d have more people than we could handle. How many do you think might be there? Well, I told them, the space holds 100, and in my mind I was hoping 110. Saturday night came along, and I was right – adults and children totaling just under 150 people showed up! We were filled to the walls and out into the gathering space ~ it was fantastic!

Representatives from 8 of our 14 partnering churches were present to help bless our inaugural service. They symbolically carried forward the lights of Christ to our darkened community and prayed that this would be a place where Christ’s spirit would shine. Blessings were also posted and shared from others in the family of believers, from as near as Becker to as far as Nashville, TN; over 40 prayers, well-wishes, and notes of encouragement surrounded those first gatherers in this new space of sanctuary, silently giving witness to the saints from all times and places who continue to bless us. One woman we discovered, has been praying for this particular church for over 25 years.

But the baptisms were the most spiritually touching for many. This celebration of God’s love was poured or sprinkled on the heads and hearts of three babies, one pre-schooler, and one senior high student. The three-year-old was my assistant for the entire ritual, helping me to pour the water, show off the babies, and announce loudly when his name was read “That’s Me!” “Alleluias” rang so loudly through the air at the conclusion, they practically knocked me over. The mood spilled over into the parking lot and carried people home with Easter joy.

Now, what I haven’t told you, of course, are all those things that kept Janet and I tossing and turning all night long afterwards: Things not said. People not talked to. Rituals that did not go as planned. A sermon that did not flow in its expected order. Childcare that was ... Wow! Does that need work! Staging that blocked the projected prayers from half the crowd. A lack of sound equipment which kept God knows how many people from hearing what was being said. Passing-of-the-Peace near the end which spontaneously turned into Forget-the-Last-Song-Announcements-and-Benediction-cuz-That’s-All-Folks! Flowers which did not get gifted to the partnering churches....... Need I go on?!

But a wise friend reminded me come Monday, “But practically everyone went home with excitement, a big smile and having experienced a very holy time. Forget the little stuff. The big stuff happened, and that’s what matters.”

So, that’s my advice for you as well ~ whenever your best-laid plans keep you up at night, ask yourself if this is the big stuff or the little stuff. If the holy has been experienced and sent people home with blessings, then just forget everything else. What matters most has been achieved.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Philippians 1:18

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Counting the Blessings

(from Janet, Pastor Jim's co-church planting wife)

Being human, and in the "over 40" crowd, our feet hurt, our backs ache, and we are exhausted! Being also God's humble servants, our spirits soar, our gratitude is immense and we are praising God for enormous blessings!

The move-in was such a great day! Throughout the day about 16 of us vacuumed, washed windows, hauled and wiped down tables, chairs and platforms, and just enjoyed being in the new space. It looks soooo nice! Still many things to finish up, but after yesterday, and help from our son and his girlfriend with hanging the desk cabinet, the list we had made on Saturday is pretty much checked off. Blessings!

Also on Saturday, one of our launch team informed us all that she had found about 200 white coffee mugs that will be donated to New Day by one of the local restaurants! Blessings!

After worshipping and hanging the cabinet with Adam and Amanda yesterday, the remainder of the day was spent preparing for and attending the Metro West Builders event. We set up a display area similar to the one we had at the Expo and spent about 2 hours giving out planting kits and talking to people about New Day. Following this came the program and dinner, then Jim was able to give a short presentation to the whole crowd, which went VERY well! The group voted immediately afterward to make New Day the spring call!!! Blessings!

On top of all those blessings, before her benediction at the end of last evening's event, our former district superintendent (the one who had contacted Jim initially about this new church venture), asked those present to "throw something into the pot" to help supply some hospitality items for New Day's first preview service in April. Jim and I were so surprised by this totally unexpected gift, and so humbled by the response of over $500. WOW!!!!!!!! God continues to amaze us by the generosity and love pouring forth from so many sources. We are blessed, and more blessed, and MORE BLESSED!!

It's another busy week ahead! Prayers for stamina and wisdom would be great. Also, the next fellowship event is being mostly planned and implemented by one of the launch team members. Families will be invited to come to New Day and spend an hour or so, Sat. morning, March 28, planting seeds, singing songs and sharing fellowship. Please pray for Tammy and Bonnie (the organizers) and this event. Getting the word out is always one of the greatest challenges!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Starting From Scratch

In just over a week (on Saturday, March 14th), we will be moving into our new space. I have been joking with people that the move shouldn’t take too long, because we have nothing to move in! Being a brand new church plant, we are starting from scratch, of course. This was dramatically apparent when we started hosting our first community events last fall, and we didn’t have a table to set things upon, didn’t have pens for people to use to take surveys, and didn’t have the basics which used to be at our finger tips in an established church setting. The absence of ministry resources was surprising, but God provided.

I’m sure we’ll move in next weekend and again be surprised by the absence of a pastor’s desk, the lack of over-stuffed chairs and love seats in the Gathering Area, and (heaven forbid!) the nonexistence of a coffee-maker and mugs. No altar? No pulpit? No music stands even? None right now, but God will provide.

Aside from the absence of things, we started from scratch in terms of relationships as well. We came to Big Lake alone. We had no history here, no small group of mission-minded families to bring with us, and none who considered us their friend. And because we are reaching out to those who are disconnected from God and church, we also found ourselves starting from scratch with people in terms of church knowledge, devotion to the cause, and experience with spiritual stuff in general. No congregation at all?! No trust? No commitment? No prayer life? None right now, but God will provide.

What has been amazing is how much God has provided in just over a year: buyers for our home (in less than 45 days); a relatively quick response from the bank to buy a foreclosed home (in less than 45 days); 60 new chairs; 24 sets of curtains; 14 beautiful wooden tables; a desk set; copy machine; computer server; Inkjet (color) printer; a Wireless router; and more!

But more importantly, God has provided us with connections to the wonderful people up here. As a point of illustration, last weekend was the Chamber’s Business Expo. A year ago, the Expo was the first event we volunteered at in the community. We didn’t know a soul when we walked into the High School gymnasium to help set up last year. This year, we walked in to set up our own booth, and before we had three things in place, I probably gave away a dozen hugs and warm greetings to my Big Lake friends. My, how God provides!

Stuff like tables, chairs, trust, and commitment all take time when you start from scratch. At first, we feel the lacking when we notice what we don’t have. Then we feel the coveting when we see what others have. But if we can have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is providing, then lacking turns to abundance, and coveting turns to generosity. Everything and everyone become gifts of grace from God above! For it is written...

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Come Grow with Big Lake's Newest Church Plant!

(from the Pastor's wife, Janet)

Jim and I and two of our launch team handed out about 400 little planting kits yesterday at the Big Lake Expo! The best news is that about 170 registered for the drawings for the prizes and of those, 31 requested more information or were interested in keeping updated with New Day's progress!! Yeah!! This Expo is the first event that Jim and I volunteered at a year ago (when we didn't know anyone and were just getting started), and it was heartening to be back this year and recognize so many people.

The other really fun thing that happened last week was a call from a young couple (engaged) who we had met at one of the picnics last fall. They have been wanting to get connected, but just hadn't taken the time to contact us. They came to the class we held THAT NIGHT (Discovering Your Spirituality Type)!! I thought it was pretty brave of them to come to our home, entering a group of unknown people in a class that had already begun (this was the 2nd in a series of 6)!! The group is a mix of ages, but it warmed my heart to see the younger couples so open and excited to grow in their faith and connect with others on this journey. It reminded me so much of Jim and I in our early years and I pray that these folks will be blessed with experiences to build relationships like we had, that have sustained and nurtured us throughout our journey.

I have been pretty much totally focused on getting the website built this past week or more. What a job! Please visit and send your feedback: I am so grateful to niece Kristi for sending the proper format of the logo (3 times, since I couldn't make up my mind which version was best!!) and to son Scott for technical support via phone and helping improve the first draft IMMENSELY!! It is a work in progress - we'll be tweaking and changing things as time goes on, but for now at least we have something! Let me know especially how your computers handle the links, etc. - or if there are any problems you have getting into anything...

Please pray for our next community event to be held at the new church, Sat. March 28. It's a family planting time - families will plant flower seeds to take home, to share with the community and to decorate the gardens at the new church! Music and story-time included. It should be fun! Also, prayers for the 1st preview worship service -- an Easter Eve Vigil. You are all welcome to join us - Sat. April 11, 7:00pm. Jim will be starting to really focus on getting this together. May God's spirit guide all the preparations and our hearts...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Granted, It's Just Money

(from the pastor's wife, Janet)
Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!!
Here's the latest news from Big Lake...

The first exciting news is that New Day UMC will be receiving a grant! Our application was 1 of 10, nation-wide, that was selected by Path1 of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church! YEAH!! It is a media grant which could cover things like marketing research, a billboard, TV ad, internet ad, etc. all in preparation for our launch this fall. We don't know how much will be granted, but anything is better than the nothing we started with!! Having some professional advice from the larger church is the best part. So, we're celebrating that gift!!

We also will be receiving a donation of around 20 small wooden tables (card table size) that will be wonderfully versatile to use in our new sanctuary/fellowship hall! These came from Love INC Heartland - you may remember Jim's involvement in starting this wonderful ecumenical non-profit organization that reaches out to the needy in the community. We toured their new space in Delano just yesterday, and were inspired by the growth and the numbers of people (almost 16,000 needs addressed last year!) being served by this great organization after only being in existence for 5 years! Sure gave us hope and encouragement for New Day Church! Terri Harris, the director of Love INC Heartland, also said that everything at their new space has been donated. That, too, was inspiring as we begin the process of furnishing New Day's new space. We were reminded to have faith and to be open to the gifts that God will choose to send... look what He has provided already! AWESOME!!

The New Day Church building is changing each week - front doors have been installed; sheet rock hung, taped and painted; they are working on the ceiling and electricity today. Exciting!! Jim has been showing EVERYONE the progress; anytime you want to take a road trip to Big Lake, we promise a tour!

We've had several small group meetings at our home the past few weeks: launch team, baptism class and Discovering your Spirituality Type class. So far we've learned: 1) that the dog is best shut in his kennel, in the garage, in the back of the car, 2) the cat is best shut in the guest bedroom, and 3) our home is not conducive to child care!! (Ha, ha!) It has been a wonderful blessing, really, to finally open our home to these great people. It is heart-warming to connect in fellowship and learn more about our awesome God and our spirituality together. We are humbled and uplifted by their presence and their openness and willingness to join us on this new church adventure.

Preparations for the Big Lake Business Expo on March 1st are progressing. We're really excited about this opportunity to get the word out about New Day Church! Since we're a new church "plant" we've decided to go with a gardening theme and will be giving away seed packets (sunflowers or pumpkins) each with our new logo on them, clipped onto small peat pots, with peat pellets that expand when watered. (A little family growing project!) A refrigerator magnet/clip holds it all together. And our theme will be something like - "Check out Big Lake's new church 'plant' - Come GROW with New Day United Methodist Church". We have 2 Grand Prizes to give away: one including a "$50 off any room" certificate at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud, and the other including a $100 gift certificate to Dan & Jerry's Greenhouse in Monticello. We hope to add a few more items (gift cert. to a kid-friendly restaurant, gardening tools, etc.) to each prize package. We'll have drawing slips with contact info - and a box to check for those who want more info about New Day Church. Pretty fun!

Hope you all have a wonderful, love-filled Valentine's day! Remember, you're not loved because you're beautiful; you're BEAUTIFUL 'cause you're LOVED.

Looking ever forward to a NEW DAY in Christ,
Janet :->

Monday, January 26, 2009

And They're Out of the Gate

(from Janet, the pastor's wife)

Well, the Launch Team is launched!!! We had a great meeting on Saturday with 8 of us (including Jim and me) with at least another 2 who are committed, but couldn't make the meeting. YEE HA! It was wonderful to have these people meet each other and the enthusiasm, excitement and brainstorming was really exciting for us to see. A couple of follow-up e-mails from some of the participants were especially uplifting. And I was amazed by the immediate offers of help - both time and possible donations. I feel a sense of relief that we truly are not alone in this venture, but also sense the challenges of now channeling and coordinating a group of very enthusiastic volunteers. Please pray for this process; that all (including us) will have open hearts allowing God's spirit to be our guide.

Hugs to all,
Janet :->

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Unrevealed Until its Season

I am getting so excited! Things are really starting to get going around here! God’s timing may not have been my timing, but the timing feels perfect. Here’s what’s been happening or is coming soon for New Day UMC:

10 of our 14 Connectional Churches gathered together for an update on events last Saturday. 30 clergy and lay folk were 1) affirmed for all their support thus far, 2) informed and motivated by presentations from our District Superintendent and our Director of Congregational Development, and 3) inspired by testimonies from a colleague, a lay person, and a real live Big Lake family. We wrote prayers of support for the people of New Day, and we gasped at Wish Lists that are definitely beyond the capacity of any single church (but not beyond the capacity of God working through all of us!). The light of the world (a Christmas votive) was sent back with each church as a symbol of our hope, unity, and connection together. Please pray that all of these other United Methodist congregations may be used and blessed in mighty ways as they commit more of themselves to reaching out for Jesus.

This coming Saturday (1/24) will mark the formal start of our official Launch Team. For 6 months I have struggled over pulling this group together. But relationships cannot be rushed, and commitments cannot be forced. Calls this week have miraculously revealed that NOW the time is right. So far, 7 people have stepped forward from the community to take on the intense, messy, exciting challenges of launching this new faith community. Please pray for these first faithful responders as they answer this call of Christ’s.

Our space received the city council’s nod-of-approval earlier this month, and so build-out has begun. We’ve been choosing carpeting, paint, lighting, doors, and much more. The basic framing has gone up like a magical outline of what will be. In two short months, we may be ready to move in! Please pray for all those “temple builders” and the holy work that will take place within those walls.

Our first Pre-Launch Service has been scheduled as an Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 11th. We will mark the start of New Day with a celebration of the resurrection itself. Baptisms and a consecrating of the space will bless this budding community, and the extended Christian community will be invited to witness to their support. We’ll then be ramping up the worship schedule through the summer, with regular, weekly services kicking in right after Labor Day. Please pray for vibrant worship to be our norm, and encounters with the living Lord to be commonplace at these services.

All of this and more has me ........ well ........ excited! And I hope it has you excited too! I feel like the song on page 707 of our UM Hymnal is talking about us: In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. (Hymn of Promise, words and music by Natalie Sleeth, 1986). Wonder and awe fill me as I witness these divine promises emerging before my eyes. A new day IS dawning from the darkness, and I AM filled with hope. How about you?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What's a Christian to Think?

Wondering what the rest of the story is on the fighting in Gaza these days (OK, so not the entire rest of the story, but at least more than what you hear on the news)? Here's a well-done article on the background of the conflict from another United Methodist pastor in Kansas City, Rev. Adam Hamilton. It is called, "Making Sense of the Gaza Strip" and is on the website known as I haven't read anything else on this site, but I liked the article by Adam. It's worth knowing, plus it throws in a WWJD perspective at the end. What do you think of the whole Middle East fighting situation? And what do you think Jesus would do or have to say about the situation?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Seeing the Dawn of a New Day

A new year is on the horizon. I can hardly wait! How about you? Who knows if all of our hopes, dreams, or expectations will all come to pass, but I sit on the verge of 2009 eagerly waiting for the New Day to dawn! Want to see what I see? I now see 5 dedicated families emerging from the crowds, indicating a connection to this new faith community. But I also see 5 becoming 10, 10 becoming 20, and so on and so on... I see a rainbow of God’s children coming together and a new sense of family dawning!

I now see 60 stackable red chairs, 16 risers, 4 bookcases, 2 rolling carts, 24 sets of merlot-colored curtains, 1 desk set, and 3750 square feet of sheetrock, electrical wiring, and insulation being readied for construction. But I also see a space that will soon confirm for families that we will take care of their children and we will take care of their everyday concerns. Within a renovated office building and within people’s hearts, I see new temples of God dawning.

I now see people with limited understandings about the Bible, limited involvement with Christian practices, and limited experiences with the living Christ. But I also see a growing interest in spirituality, a growing hunger for authentic community, and a growing need for direction with all of life’s struggles. I see people encountering Christ in dynamic ways and new commitments to the spiritual journey dawning.

I now see gifts of $20, $200, $1275, and $15,000 being deposited for the work of kingdom-building; I see an annual budget of $250,000 already more than half covered. But I also see hundreds of people eager to support the rest so that the Holy Spirit can change lives. In spite of financial woes, I see a new abundance of resources dawning!

I now see 4 infants being baptized at our first Preview Service this Lent/Easter, and representatives from our Partner Churches surrounding them with their promises of support and love. But I also see one service, then one more, then one more, until we are gathering to praise on a weekly basis in the Fall. I see hearts surprised that God has become so real for them and a new spirit of worship dawning!

2009 is dawning for all of us. What do you see ahead for New Day UMC? What do you see ahead in your future? May God bless the visions inspired within our souls!