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building a community to reach a community

Going Public

Our first real cold front hit Johnson City this week, and the briskness of the air instantly made me think of the holidays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Extra quality time with my family...

"Family" is something I mean in a big picture kind of way today.

I treasure & love my immediate family. If you don't know me well, I'll happily share that I have 2 amazing parents who raised me to love & serve the Lord with everything I've got. They taught me that family is something worth investing yourself in. There are traditions and invested time I am looking forward to this holiday season with them. But one of the things my immediate family has instilled in me over the years is that there is a bigger concept of family.

Today as I say family, my heart means the bigger, broader, deeper kind of family that spans through the last 2,000 years of history. I mean the big family that identifies us all as brothers & sisters for the namesake of our savior, Jesus Christ. The holidays are a special time I cherish with our big faith family, especially with you, my brothers & sisters who call GFC home.

Holidays all come with traditions, and one of the traditions that I am looking most forward to here at GFC is our big baptism celebration. In the rhythm of my last 4 years here at GFC, this baptism celebration usually falls right after Thanksgiving, as is the case on Sunday, November 25. During both services at 9 & 10:45 we will all come together and worship as a big family (aka we strategically plan no Sunday morning ministry programming for Kindergarten-12th grade because we think it's such an important time to be one united family). On that morning we'll gather together for our parent-child dedication and a family baptism celebration.

We set aside this kind of morning 3-4 times a year to cherish & recognize how our Grace family grows. We celebrate the newness of life, both as it begins in the flesh & as it begins in the Spirit. It's a morning when we pray and commit as a community to build each other up, supporting & encouraging each member in our church family as we grow physically & spiritually. We promise to come alongside each other. We celebrate the public declaration of faith in our body as kids, students, & adults follow in Christ's example of baptism.

It's a morning we celebrate life together and feel God's Spirit alive & at work in our church family.

One of the parts I love most about my role in preparing for this special service is helping our K-6th graders express and verbalize their faith as they walk through the baptism preparation process. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes with our families who are preparing for this special mile marker in their child's faith journey. Here's a few of those details...

We believe that parents are the spiritual leaders in the home, so at Grace Kids we want to come alongside and support families each step of the way as each child readies themselves for baptism. When we hear of a child's interest in baptism, we give each family a packet full of goodies: a letter from our Grace Kids team that shares our excitement, a DVD that guides each family through a clear conversation on Christ's gospel message, a special workbook to help each child express why they are choosing to be baptized, and some other information for parents that communicate what to expect next. Once a family works through the packet and feels that their child is ready for that next step of baptism, we get together and talk about it. A member of our Grace Kids staff sets up a meeting time to circle up with each family and let each child express their faith and their understanding of baptism. We talk through the Gospel and clarify what going public and being baptized is all about. We then ask each child to write down their testimony (that's the part you will hear as each child climbs into the baptistery on the 25th) and we tell them how much we love them & how excited we are as a church family to celebrate this big step in their faith. We tell them how blessed we are to walk with them as they keep grow in their faith to support and encourage them when they have questions or need help because that is what it means to be part of  a family - their church family.

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