Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Matthew Gregg (Dialogue Column 9.9.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

This past Sunday at the beginning of worship, Matthew Gregg announced that he is stepping down from the position of Director of Children and Youth Ministries here at First Christian Church. After two and a half years in this position, Matthew has decided that the time is right for him to leave it. He has shared with me that the decision is based upon his belief that the program is ready for a new level of ministry and his realization that this new direction would require time and energy from him that he needs to spend on his family and his new job at Missouri Western. Matthew’s last day at work will be September 30. Between now and then, the leadership of the church will be working on appropriate ways to celebrate the ways God has used Matthew at First Christian.

Matthew volunteered to work at First Christian after our last youth director left. What started out as a short-term commitment meant to last until the church found someone else developed into a long-term ministry to our youth and children. During his time here, Matthew has used his considerable relational skills to create a welcoming atmosphere for children and youth. Currently, we have 10-15 teenagers who show up on Wednesday nights for youth group meetings. Many of them are not church kids—ours or any other church’s; they are friends of youth who grew up in our church. I believe it says a lot that the youth who have family connections to First Christian feel comfortable inviting their friends, especially friends who have no faith background or church connection. Similarly, parents report to me how much their young children love coming to church on Sundays to attend Children’s Church. I believe this too is due to Matthew’s ability to welcome kids.

As we celebrate Matthew’s work at First Christian, it is also time to celebrate the growth of our children and youth programs. Even in the short time I have been at First Christian, we have seen a growth in the numbers of kids attending and the vitality of our ministries. We stand on the cusp of some really exciting times for our youth and children as new young families find their way to First Christian.

Given Matthew’s great work over the last two and a half years and the bright future ahead of us, it is time for First Christian to recommit ourselves to our ministry to children and youth. In the coming weeks and months, I will be asking for input about where we should go from here in our children and youth ministries and about what kind of person or persons we would like to see lead this work. I will be seeking the counsel of the Administrative Board, the Christian Education Committee, the Personnel Committee, parents of youth and children, and the youth themselves. I believe it is time to consider all of our options as we look forward to what will come next for our young people.

This process of discernment will not be done before Matthew steps down. We will be moving forward deliberately but carefully in our efforts to find the right person or persons for the future staff position(s). While this is going on, we will be in real need for church members to step up and fill in the gaps left by the end of Matthew’s time on staff. I am especially counting on the parents of youth and children to lead Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings beginning in October.

First Christian has much to thank Matthew for and much to be excited about in days to come.

Grace and Peace,


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