A Special Thank You
At the time of this writing, my wife and I just concluded an incredibly emotional week for us. During this week Tina and I began to walk a path that many parents have walked before us and many will after us. Our oldest child, Jacey, graduated from high school. Now I am not the overly sentimental type but I found myself feeling incredibly emotional leading up to, during, and after the commencement ceremony. To be honest, my feelings really caught me off guard. I fully expected my wife to be emotional. In our marriage that’s always been the way it’s gone at major family life events; she gets emotional, I am her encourager, the shoulder to cry on, the voice to assure her everything is going to be ok. That’s not how it happened this time. This time we both required encouragement, both of us were in need of that shoulder, we looked for others to tell us everything was going to be ok.
My daughter’s graduation made me appreciate the local church. Naturally, having devoted my adult, professional life to local church leadership I already possess quite the respect for the church. But this time I considered the church less as the one who participates in its leadership and more as the beneficiary of the love, community, and service contained within. In my nostalgia looking back at the past 18 years of raising my daughter I was reminded of the role the church has played in her upbringing. You see, Tina and I made the decision years ago to raise our children in the church. Church attendance was going to be the priority above all else.
In making church attendance the priority it meant that many people over the years would play incredibly important roles as our children grew up. As I reflected back on my daughter’s childhood, adolescence, and now young adulthood I could not help but become ever more emotional thinking of all those sweet saints who invested in her at key moments of her spiritual, emotional, and physical development. Yes, Tina and I raised our daughter. We put in the hard work but it was not without a wonderfully loving and supportive network of caring men and women willing to give of their time, talents, resources, and lives investing in Jacey and walking alongside Tina, me, and Jacey as she grew not only as a woman, but as a Christian.
So, to all you nursery workers who lovingly rocked Jacey and patiently introduced her to the gospel through memory verses, crafts, and coloring sheets...thank you! Your investment has paid dividends. To Tammy G., you BASECAMP MCs, teachers, and check in personnel…Tina and I are in your debt. I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter because you welcomed her and invested in her life of faith. To those who served as camp counselors and VBS volunteers, your service created priceless memories from which she draw upon for a lifetime. To all you youth workers, and Neil H. and Bryan E…my family appreciates your being there by her side, supporting us as we navigated the treacherous years of junior high and high school. You have been Christ-like examples providing a safe place for her to mature, ask difficult questions, and grapple with her faith without judging or condemning her. To those precious couples in whom Tina and I have relied and kept a close eye upon as you walked this path right before us, thank you for your allowing us into the lessons you’ve learned and sharing your hearts with utmost transparency.
Many have said that it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t really give this cliché much credence unless that village is the church. You see, Jacey is who she is today for several reasons. There are the obvious genetic and environmental reasons. She is without a doubt a product of her family of origin, but she is also the product of a host of wonderful men and women who comprise the church and who took the time to invest in her spiritual development. You will forever be a part of her spiritual legacy. You have been incredibly instrumental in the development of her faith, a faith from which I pray she never wavers. Thank you!
If you currently serve in the nursery, preschool, elementary, or youth ministries please do not lose your passion to see the children under your watch grow in their faith in Jesus. What you do on a regular basis is tiring, it can be frustrating, it is emotionally draining; but I am here to tell you, the reward is great! Please do not see what you do as a burden, time wasted, or as something you “have” to do. This is something you “get” to do. What a privilege it is to be a part of someone’s spiritual adventure. What a joy it is to see someone in whom you’ve invested much transition toward adulthood with her feet firmly planted upon God’s Word!
Perhaps, you’ve been on the fence as to whether or not you ought to get involved in one of these areas of ministry. Maybe you’re seeking that place where you can meet the Christian’s mandate to serve. Do not underestimate the importance of investing in the generation that follows.
As many of you have walked this bittersweet path before Tina and me you know what this next season of life entails. My family will learn all this soon enough. We are excited about the newness of the time. We mourn the end of what we’ve known and appreciated for so long, but welcome the challenges before us. We are so thankful that as we let our daughter go and pursue the life she desires for herself it will be with the manifold wisdom of God, a confidence in God’s Word, a strong desire to continue to serve others through the local church, and with God’s will in mind.
Thank you Victor Valley Christian Church. You’re not done. Our son has three years to go, and there are several dozen other infants, toddlers, children, and youth who need you.
Welcome Shane Cottrell
For over 15 years Tammy Grebel has been a friendly, welcoming, and familiar face through the many manifestations of the VVCC Children’s Ministry. At the time she agreed to provide regular leadership to the ministry Tammy’s own children were well involved. She enjoyed “learning on the job,” growing in her faith and dependence upon God, and creativity while seeing her girls, as well as a host of other children, participate in BASECAMP and eventually graduate toward junior high, high school, and beyond. Tammy and her incredibly talented and committed army of BASECAMP team members have invested in many a child’s foundation of faith; a foundation from which I believe those children will never waver.
This June has seen a transition in leadership in BASECAMP. The entire month of June, Tammy has expeditiously handed the reins of a ministry she’s developed and nurtured to the more than capable hands of Shane Cottrell. Like Tammy, Shane joins the VVCC staff from within the congregation. Shane has been a member of VVCC for several years and was originally introduced to the church through former member and elder, Mike Rader. Shane met Mike while a student at Hesperia High School (graduating in 2004) where Mike served as Music/Choir Teacher.
I met Shane years ago and really got to know him as we worked on a few VVCC sermon videos together, you may remember him from our videos spoofing "The Office". I immediately found him to be confident, talented, and hilarious…occasionally all at the same time! When it came time to prayerfully consider who might take those reins from Tammy, Shane quickly came to my mind (even if he happens to root for the Angels). After months of talking and praying with staff and elders he was affirmed. June 1st Shane Cottrell joined the VVCC staff as Children’s Ministry Director on a part-time basis with the plan being to transition him to full-time in the early Spring of 2015. In the meantime he and his wife, Marissa, are getting accustomed to a new normal; that of being a church staff member and/or spouse.
This is not Shane’s first foray into educating young children. Shane has taught music and directed plays and dramas for youngsters in the high desert for years now. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in education.
I trust that those of you with children in first through sixth grade will find Shane to be a wonderful leader for our BASECAMP ministry and team. He is incredibly charismatic and creative and while he, too, will be “learning on the job” I am confident that God will lead him to continue the legacy of love, commitment, service, and fun that Tammy developed before him.
So what about Tammy, you ask? Tammy Grebel will now serve VVCC as the Connections Pastor. She will be providing vision and leadership over our Life Groups and First Impressions ministries while developing a much needed plan to get members and guests alike connected to service and one another. I can assure you Tammy is excited for and up to the new challenge before her.
With Shane’s addition to the staff and Tammy’s transition to her new ministry I believe VVCC is now well staffed to make great strides toward transforming families that are far from God. I happen to believe that although VVCC has been around for almost 45 years her best years are ahead of her. I ask you to greet Shane and welcome him aboard. I ask you to thank Tammy for all her years of dedicated leadership to BASECAMP. Finally, I also ask that you join the staff and elders alike in praying for the future of VVCC and the Victor Valley. There is such a great need for our friends in this community to know Jesus and to experience the preferred life, the life lived in relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and in community with like-minded believers. As Jesus once told his followers when looking upon the needs of his community, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” There is much to do in and for our local community; join us in exhausting every measure to love the people God puts before us and leading them to Jesus.
Technical Arts Pastor
Every kid grows up looking forward to summer. I certainly remember counting down those final days of school and looking forward to...um... the blazing heat of summer in the High Desert? Actually, I don't really remember what I was looking forward to back then except that I wouldn't have to get up and go to school each morning. So jump to the past couple weeks when as a parent I got to witness the build up of excitement as my kids approached the end of their school year and the start of their summer break. It's been fun to witness this anticipation of summer at home, and just as much fun to witness it taking place in various ministries at Victor Valley. Having the pleasure of being on staff means that these last few weeks I've been witness to an ever-increasing stream of preparations as we head into summer at the church.
Summer at VVCC really kicked off a couple of weeks ago with Promotion Sunday and watching as wide-eyed and newly-minted "First Graders" walk into BASECAMP for the first time. Seeing these little one's approach the climbing wall for the first time is one of those experiences that makes being a part of the BASECAMP team extra awesome (or so I hear). Equally awesome is the thrill experienced by former "sixth graders" who on that Sunday begin their Junior High journey and experience worship with a live band and hearing the occasionally odd-ball, often funny and always challenging weekly message from Bryan and the team over in Pathway.
From Promotion Sunday it's full steam ahead into Summer Jam, which as I write this blog post, we are smack dab in the midst of. Formerly referred to as VBS, this is the week that Victor Valley plays host to over 175 preschool and elementary aged children. These kids schedules are full as they will sing, play, snack, craft and actively participate in discovering valuable lessons from God's Word over the course of this week. This year's theme sees kids heading to the Summer Jam CIRCUS where under the watchful eye of our ringmaster and 90 volunteer team members they will discover what the Bible has to teach them about strength, courage, peace, direction and finding a place with God. The team has been hard at work creating an awesome environment for kids to have an awesome summer experience and I'm confident it is going to have a huge impact in the lives of our kids.
Almost as soon as Summer Jam ends, we'll be right into the next major summer event as Bryan leads a team of youth and youth sponsors on a missions trip to Tucson, Arizona. The team leaves at 8 AM this coming Sunday (June 15th) and will spend the week ministering to refugees from Nepal and presenting the gospel to local children in a one day Summer Jam like event they will be leading while there. Stay tuned to this blog as beginning Tuesday and continuing through the week as we will be working with Bryan to post trip updates, sharing the experience the team is having and how you can be supporting the team in prayer.
We haven't even begun to hit on the various Summer Camp for 4th-6th graders, the MIX conference for Junior Highers, and the Move conference for High Schoolers, all of which we'll be posting updates about here on the blog. I'm particularly excited about the upcoming teaching series in which we'll be exploring what the book of Ephesians has to say about a person's identity in Christ, so we'll have a bit of a sneak preview of that as it gets closer. We'll also have some exciting news on cool new online "stuff" coming for the VVCC community, and a few more things that I think I'll keep a surprise for the time being (because aren't surprises part of the fun of summer?)
We're looking forward to a great summer at Victor Valley and hope you are excited to be a part of it!
The Cusp of A Transition
It has been my pleasure and privilege of serving, teaching and loving the children of Victor Valley Christian Church. In the past 20 years (15 on staff and 5 as a volunteer), it has been my joy to worship with the children, introduce them to Jesus and watch as their faith became their own and they made decisions to be followers of Jesus. I have also been so very fortunate to be able to work with an awesome team of volunteers who have greatly enriched my life as well as the lives of our children. I am forever grateful for the hundreds of people who have served along side me and had a heart for children.
The past few years have been a time in which many life changes have occurred and milestones reached for my family. I have felt God's nudging me to move into other areas of ministry. It has been a long and prayerful journey but I am excited about the new opportunity that has opened up for me. In the weeks to come I will be transitioning from Children's Pastor to Community Pastor. I am looking forward to the challenge of helping the people of VVCC connect with one another through Life Groups and Volunteering. I am also looking forward to helping our visitors feel welcome and connected. This a a new area of ministry for me and I am looking forward to working with and building up the teams already in place at VVCC.
VVCC has been a home for our family for over 20 years and we love the people here. I will always have a special place in my heart for the children here, and am confident that Shane will do an awesome job leading our BASECAMP Team. Thank you for the privilege of serving with you.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.