Honestly.. how many of you thought I might be announcing Underwood baby # 4 this week? My dear mother-in-law was panicking a bit. No such announcement. Now that would be crazy..
I’ve been thinking exactly how I wanted to share the new chapter of life for us as a family, and then Ryan agreed to write part two.. right here on the blog! I’m excited for you to get to hear his heart and believe me.. he is a much better communicator than I.
It’s not everyday that my wife offers to let me guest blog, so I guess I’d better make the most of it! Since Liz has created enough suspense, I’ll spare you any more. I’d like to share that as of January, I’ll be stepping down at the Encounter to become the Associate Pastor at Anchor Point Church here in Duluth. If all you came here for was the news, there you go! But obviously there’s been a lot involved in that decision for us as family, and it truly is an incredibly exciting and yet sharply bittersweet thing. So if you’re the kind of person who likes to know the whole story – read on…
I guess you could say that we’ve been on an interesting journey lately as a family, more specifically relating to me and my job. To give you a bit of backstory, I’ll need to go back about three years ago, as I was transitioning into my role as Director at the Encounter with Youth for Christ. At that time, Liz and I had some pretty honest conversations about the future and where we saw ourselves as time moved forward. There was a real uncertainty as to whether I would ever return to church ministry. Our experience at Duluth Gospel Tab had been a really rewarding and positive time, and we felt we were leaving as things were on a high note. Yet, some of the feelings I was having about church ministry in general had left me feeling doubtful that I’d ever return to it. Not that my heart wasn’t in it – I still felt very passionate about God’s desire for us as the Church.
One thing I remember saying to Liz was that in order for me to ever consider another church job again I would want to have actually attended the church for awhile first…something that seemed a bit far-fetched to be sure, as that’s not the norm. I just really wanted to know more what I was walking into and know that it was a place where we would choose to attend and connect as a family (without being on staff). I began my job at the Encounter and immediately found a ministry that I was passionate about and incredibly honored to be a part of. The way God is working there is nothing short of incredible…we’ve seen so many kids who were the ones about whom you’d say “I don’t think he/she will ever become a Christian…” make radical changes in their lives and start following Jesus. My three years at the Encounter have been incredible – and it has stretched and shaped me in ways that I never imagined it would. I really feel I’ve grown as a person and as a leader in significant ways. If I’m honest…it took me the better part of two years to get a handle on what my job actually was…and more importantly, what it really needed to be. I found that more and more of my time was needed in fundraising efforts and building community awareness. This meant less time for me spent hands-on in the program. I really began to feel like I was hitting a wall in what I brought to those areas of my job. Our family had also been struggling somewhat since we’d more or less been out of church since my transition, due to my weekend schedule and responsibilities. Thankfully, this changed at the beginning of this year, when we were able to begin attending church together on Saturday nights at Anchor Point. (Liz wrote about that here).
As I moved into this summer at the Encounter, I think the feelings that I described above were becoming more and more clear to me. I don’t think I could have exactly articulated what I was feeling at that time, but I knew something was going on. As we had been getting more connected to the church, I’d also began to spend some time with our Pastor, Jeff Sorvik. I really enjoyed connecting with him, and hearing more about the vision of the church. It was something that really excited me. We made the decision to commit to the church and began to think about how we could get more involved, being that my schedule was still not allowing us to attend on Sundays. Though I am sure that you can see what is coming.. we honestly didn’t. It took a God-moment of me shooting Pastor Jeff an email with a seemingly innocent question about a role at the church to really open the door to some conversations about what it might look like for ME to come on staff. It’s so cool how those conversations with Pastor Jeff came about, because I can honestly say that they weren’t the result of me pursuing him or him pursuing me – it was simply God orchestrating what the next step was for each of us.
The church had been looking for an Associate Pastor for some time, specifically to help launch a new ministry focus called Missional Communities. This is a super cool concept that brought back some past thoughts/desires that Liz and I have shared, and we are pumped to begin exploring and experiencing it together. As exciting as this is, I think the most difficult part in the whole process didn’t come in discerning that the position at the church was the next step for us…rather it came in realizing (and admitting) that my season at the Encounter was coming to an end. There are so many more things I wanted to see happen, so many more steps I wanted to see us take… I wouldn’t have chosen this time if you’d left it up to me. Then again, left up to me, my life would probably look a lot different than it does to today – much more mess and much less meaning. God has been so faithful to guide us through the different transitions we’ve experienced as a family, and this one has been no different. We’re excited by the way He’s led & opened these doors for us…one step at a time. Now begins the walking part of that process…one foot in front of the other. Thanks for walking along with us – whether you’re here in Duluth or much farther away – we appreciate your support and prayers for our family.
I also could have reminded you that Ryan likes talking more than I do!
Thanks for sharing our story with us. As with big changes, we stand with excitement but also a bit of nervousness at what is ahead. This journey for us has really been one of walking with the faith (seemingly small faith sometimes ) that we already have and trusting God to do the rest. As a wife I am excited to see Ryan in church ministry again. As we had those honest conversations (three years ago) about whether we’d be in church ministry again.. I have always seen and known the very clear gifting he has in teaching.
So.. we’re walking ahead.