Being Like A Sponge

This week in On Mission Prep we looked at what it means to be ‘On Mission’. We discussed how being On Mission really begins with investing in ourselves as believers so that we can impact the lives of others. One thing I mentioned to the students was that you can’t give someone what you don’t have yourself. In regard to sharing the gospel with others, we talked about how you can’t share an authentic experience with others if you don’t have a personal and intimate relationship with Christ yourself.

We looked at Isaiah 9:6-7 and Luke 1:30-31 which prophesied Jesus Christ and what His ministry would be during His lifetime. We also compared it to what the Bible has to say about believers and what our ministry could look like during our lifetime. This comparison was made so that the students could see that just as Christ’s ministry was prophesied, so also we as believers have the Bible that teaches us what we ought to be doing for God with our lives. We even looked at how Jesus Christ Himself prayed for us as believers today as we are On Mission (John 17:20-22).

I used the analogy of being like a sponge for God. I poured water into the sponge while the students read several verses aloud. As I was pouring, we talked about how we can apply these verses to our lives. I mentioned that as I poured the water on the sponge(which represented the Holy Spirit) there was no difference in the outside appearance of the sponge. It still kept its form and shape, however it was different on the inside. I then squeezed the sponge and the water flowed out of it symbolizing how the Holy Spirit within us should overflow into others as the water did into the container below.

Also, to give the students the practicality of what it looks like to live On Mission, we went through several more verses and discussed how when we do what those verses tell us to do, we become like sponges that absorb the Word of God. By being ‘like a sponge’, we are full of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit within us can drip out of us because we are so full. When the Holy Spirit pours out of us onto others that’s when we can truly live On Mission. I reminded them that you can’t share the love of the Holy Spirit with others if you don’t have the love of God within yourself.

Careem McBean

Always A Greater Purpose

I enjoyed my return to spending Sunday with you talking about our awesome God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We discussed the idea that everything we do – EVERYTHING –  has a greater purpose. That greater purpose is serving our Lord, God.

I asked the students what were their favorite things to do.   We had some great answers: video games (Fortnite is apparently popular), sports (a lot of basketball players in our group), reading, spending time with friends.

These are all fantastic and fun things to do. But what should always be our end goal?  I asked the students if they knew there is a greater purpose for everything they do.

Then we read Romans 14:7-8 and Colossians 3:23-24 which sparked some great discussion. I think we all realized that even in the things we do for fun, we serve God. We can use video games, sports, reading and spending time with our friends as a way to connect with others. That means also connecting with people who may need a friend.

As Christians, no matter what our age, we should seek out ways to connect with others and share the word about God, how wonderful He is, and that He sacrificed His son, so that we could go to heaven.  Think about that. Isn’t that worth sharing?

You bet it is!  So how do we take these steps to reach out to others?  Well, that’s what we are going to talk about the next time I am with the students in June. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I hope the students remember to spend time every day reading their Bible and thinking about what they read.  They can start small with maybe 5-10 minutes. The important thing is for the students to get into the Bible daily, spend time with God, and get to know Him better.

Until next time, I pray that the hearts of the students reflect the awesome heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Your friend,


What Is Life’s Most Important Subject? And Yes, There Is A Test…

I asked the question: “If you could ditch all your classes tomorrow except one, which class would you choose to actually attend and why?” The students gave answers ranging from lunch and athletics to band, math, and science.

I was trying to lead them to see that throughout life we are always learning and that life is the ultimate school where we learn.  In school, the students will learn about subjects they will use during their entire life. Here at church we learn about the love that God has for us and His purpose and plan for our lives. Social media is a place where they are constantly being taught about the different issues and topics that are happening in our world and the opinions of others.

Then I shared with them that there is one subject that is the most important in all of life and that this subject not only affect them in this life but also for eternity. That is the subject that Jesus asked His disciples about in Matthew 16:13-20 when He said, “But who do you say that I am?”

As I read versus 13-15, I stopped and asked, “Who here is a Christian?” For those who said they were, I asked how they became a Christian. I then proceeded to read the rest of the verse and then highlighted for them Peter’s response about who Jesus was: “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I then began to share with them that when we were born into this world we were all born as sinners, separated from God (Romans 3:23) and that we are enemies of God.  Because of our sin we deserve death (Romans 6:23a) but Jesus died for us in our place on the cross, His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins, He was buried and on the 3rd day He rose again from the grave. He was seen by over 500 people as evidence that He had risen from the dead, then ascended to heaven until He returns again. I explained that if they would be willing to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, believing that He died on the cross for their sins, rose from the dead and are willing to receive Him into their hearts as their Lord and Savior, that they would be saved, born again as a child of God, that their personal relationship with God would begin at that point and they have become a Christian. I then invited them to make that confession of faith, to receive Jesus into their hearts as Lord, confessing that they were a sinner in need of Jesus to be their Savior. I am happy to report that four students accepted Christ for the first time and one student recommitted her life! Praise God!

Steven Thompson

It’s Up To You…

Thank you guys for letting me spend three weeks with you talking about quiet time and developing a relationship with the Lord. If there is anything you learned, I hope it was this:  God wants to spend time with you, but it’s up to you. 

Our lives get busy. We have our family, friends, school, sports, band, video games, and the list goes on and on. I urge you to carve out a little time each day to spend with God, get to know Him, talk to Him, and listen to Him. The Bible is where you start. It’s our foundation. 

Remember, there are 1,140 minutes in a day. Start by carving out 5 or 10 minutes to read your Bible and think about what you read. You don’t have to read a chapter or an entire book all at once. You can read a verse and spend the time dissecting it like we did this Sunday. Not every day will be a “wow” moment, but over time, I promise you will have more than a few. God does speak to us. We just have to take the time to be with Him, talk to Him, and listen. 

Though our three weeks are over, I want to remind you of my invitation. Feel free to chat with me and ask me questions. You see me almost every Sunday. I am here for you. 


God Wants You!


We had another great Sunday session of Strength and Beauty!  After a week of studying Proverbs, we shared our thoughts. It was amazing what Proverbs has to say about taming the tongue and disciplining the words that come out of our mouth. We could all pay attention to that.

We also talked about quiet time. Some of you struggled carving out 5-10 minutes a day for God. But we all had time to play video games, sleep 8 hours, and hang with our friends. Well, our friend The Lord Almighty wants time with us too. Let that sink in – The Lord Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Master of all the Universe, the reason for our very existence, wants to spend time with each of us. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”.  Now that’s a promise!

There are 1,140 minutes in a day. If we take the time to give Him ten minutes, that still leaves us with 1,130 minutes to do what we want. Sounds like a pretty generous God to me. So let’s find the discipline and desire to spend just ten minutes a day with God this week.  Put down the video game controller.   Put down the TV remote. Wake up a few minutes earlier.  Tell your parents you want to spend 10 minutes with God every day, reading the Bible, and reflecting and talking to Him. I’m sure they will support you.

So this week, read Proverbs chapters 18-24. One chapter for each day. So on February 19, you will read Proverbs 19. On February 20, read Proverbs 20 and so on.  Again, write down or highlight your favorite verse each day.  Also, mark down on a sheet of paper how many minutes you spent with God each day, how many minutes you spent playing video games, how many minutes you spent on TV.  We will share next Sunday. Remember, you make time for what you want. Let’s commit to wanting time with God.


Get In There!

I enjoyed our time together this past Sunday getting to know you all and hearing your stories.  I also enjoyed sharing my story with you. Now you know I am just an Ordinary Joe, just like you!  The beauty of God’s love is the fact that He not only loves us Ordinary Joe’s, but He wants us to have a relationship with Him and the best way to start that relationship is to spend time with Him.

If you can remember, I used the analogy:  you spend lots of time with your friends, so if you want a relationship with God, you need to spend time with Him.

So how do we get started?  It’s easy.  You open up that Bible.  His 66 book love letter to us is in there and that’s how we get to know Him, and His son Jesus.  So this week, I asked you to read one chapter of Proverbs a day, corresponding with the day of the month.  So if today is February 14, you will read Proverbs 14.  I also asked you to work through Proverbs 12 -17 this week and write down the one verse from each chapter that spoke to you or clicked with you.

I am looking forward to hearing your favorite verses this Sunday.  Then, we are going to explore how we can talk to God.  It’s going to be a great day!

By Paul Willingham


Who Are You?

The boy’s strength and beauty session covered a small introduction in getting to know me (John Banta) and getting to know them a bit. The group then moved into identifying the influences that shape our identities.

The questions were raised:

  • Who are you?
  • What one or two things do you tend to label yourself as?

The list amongst the group was long and varied but centered mostly on personal interests like gamer, athlete, hunter, car enthusiast and student amongst others.

We began to look at John 1:12 that gives clarity as to our true identities if we are Christians, which are “sons of God.” While our interests may change and how we or others may perceive who we are, our identity of being “sons of God” will not change. This identity should be a prime motivator for wanting a closer relationship with our God the Father.

The other verse we focused in on was Galatians 4:6 which says if we are “sons of God” we can call God by the Fatherly name “Abba” which infers close intimacy. This understanding should push us to regular and meaningful quiet times as we reflect and remember who we are and our true identities from God’s perspective.

-John Banta

Quiet Time and Psalm 23

This week we began our discussion time with an explanation of what my quiet time looks like.  I explained that my quiet times have looked very different at different times in my life.  They always begin with a prayer, sometimes very brief, asking God to open my ears and my heart to what He has to say.  From there it includes reading or listening to the Bible and asking God what He wants me to do for the day.

I had each of the students read Psalm 23 to themselves for a few minutes and then we came back together to discuss what stood out to us. We discussed what that showed us about God and how we should relate to Him.  The challenge for this week is to read and meditate on one chapter of John each day.  The students were encouraged to journal their thoughts and prayers as well. I’m really looking forward to meeting again with you ladies next week!

-Stephanie Baker

Two Rules

Strength and Beauty starts in a couple days and we wanted to share some specific details about what to expect.

Where do we meet?

All students can be dropped off and picked up under the blue sails near the children’s building. After the service starts we will pray as a large group and then split into smaller groups that meet around campus.

What can we expect?

Any time something new comes around there are mixed feelings of anticipation and hesitation. That’s all very normal. To put your mind at ease we have come up with two rules that have been communicated to the students

Rule #1: Every student must bring a Bible. We encourage students to bring the Bible they use and that means we are not going to shy away from allowing students to use electronic devices as their Bible. We want to show them how to use their devices in a productive way and we feel that the potential distraction is worth the benefit of redeeming their devices for Jesus. Also, if someone brings a friend, we will have Bibles available.

Rule #2: Every mentor will be required to answer every question with a Bible reference. This ensures that what we discuss is biblically sound and also models the practice so students can be equipped with answering questions they encounter with Scripture.

Can’t wait for Sunday! See you soon and don’t forget your Bible!


On Mission

The start of Strength and Beauty at The Brook is almost here. We want to take some time to share the thought behind the name. It comes from Psalm 96:6 which says:

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

If you read this psalm in its entirety, you will quickly recognize how well it fits with our recent On Mission emphasis. Since starting to teach the On Mission attitudes back in May we have been looking at how we do ministry in every area. When we evaluated our student ministry, we all agreed that we needed to up our game in the area of intentional and practical discipleship. Our staff wanted to lead the way in investing in our students and we began to meet as a Next Generation team to come up with ideas about how to get the already growing student ministry to be On Mission.

Strength and Beauty is the first step that will lead to more exciting things after the first of the year.