Student Ministries Summer Trips

 The Four Oaks New Orleans team

The Four Oaks New Orleans team

By Rob Pifer

Last week we too about 50 of our middle and high school students to Wild Adventures, and it was a blast. In addition to just simply having fun, summer trips like this serve to build unity within the group and to allow our incoming 7th graders feel like more of a part of our Four Oaks Students family. It was really cool to see some of our older students taking time to help and include the younger ones today, I’m so proud of them.

Speaking of trips, it was just a couple of weeks ago that we were traveling back from New Orleans with 30 of our high school students after having spent a week ministering with Urban Impact Ministries located in the inner city area of Central City, New Orleans. My heart is full as I reflect back on a trip that saw our group become more unified and centered in Christ, hearts awakened to the call of ministry, and younger students stepping up to take on the mantle of service the older students have built over time.

As you can see in the pictures below, there was a lot of work and ministry to do which kept us all very busy. One of the things I’m most thankful for is the desire and passion the students have brought home with them, all ready to make an impact for the Gospel back here in Tallahassee. So please, will you join me in praying for God to provide clear direction on how to lead and mobilize our students for the work required?

Thank you church for loving and supporting our students. It shows. Here’s to looking forward to what God will continue to do in the lives of our young people!

Practical Wisdom

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By Scott Stake

I am really looking forward to our 5-week series on the book of Proverbs, which we'll be in during the month of July. There are so many rich truths and practical wisdom found in this book written by King Solomon, the one whom “God gave wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29).  

But more than the wise content of the Proverbs, what I’ve been most struck by recently is the relational context of these writings—it’s a dad speaking to his son. Solomon begins his book in Proverbs 1:7 with the words, “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching.” He goes on to use the word “my son” 23 times, and each time you can sense Solomon’s fatherly love and affection for his son, as well as his heart-felt instructions, warnings, and pleas for his son to walk in the way of the wise.  

As we walk through Proverbs this month, here are a few things I’m hoping and praying for all of us:

1. As parents (and grandparents), we would lovingly, patiently, and intentionally instruct our children to fear the Lord and follow His commands.

2. Our children would welcome, trust, and follow the counsel of the Lord and those whom He has sovereignly and graciously put over them.

3. Our church would grow in godly wisdom and forsake the foolishness of the world, resulting in the Lord’s blessing on our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our city, and our world.

4. Those who don’t know Christ would see the joy and freedom that comes from obeying our wise God, turn from their sin, and trust and follow Jesus (“the one who became to us wisdom from God”—1 Cor. 1:30).

5. All of us would see Proverbs as not just instruction from an earthly father to his son, but ultimately an invitation from a loving Heavenly Father to commune with His children each day.  

Intentional Hospitality

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By Josh Hughes

“God calls us to practice hospitality as a daily way of life, not as an occasional activity when time and finance allow. Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), and he intends to use your house as living proof.” 

This quote comes from Rosaria Butterfield’s latest book entitled, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key.” This book is - to be frank - all up in my business (in the best possible way). Simply stated, Butterfield’s thesis is that for a post-Christian culture that is skeptical of the Church, hospitality is an essential component of an authentic witness to who Jesus is. She boldly calls upon Christians to make sacrifices to know their neighbors, and to prioritize the meaningful and costly extension of the love of Jesus through table fellowship and intentional friendship.

We adorn the gospel and lend valuable credibility to our witness when our lives demonstrate the reality of our message. In a particularly compelling paragraph, Butterfield says that “In post- Christian communities, your words can be only as strong as your relationships. Your best weapon is an open door, a set table, a fresh pot of coffee, and a box of Kleenex…”

We’re busy people, it’s true. But we must remember that we are also sent people. The blessings of the gospel are given to us for our enjoyment - but also so that they might overflow to those around us. Our proclamation of the gospel is most powerful when it is coupled with our demonstration of the gospel as we cultivate friendship and hospitality toward those who are are in closest to proximity to us.

The book has been a challenging read, and it’s forced me to ask some hard questions about my priorities. I’ve been compelled by the example of Yaacov and Erin Petscher, who have been opening their home weekly to their neighbors and co-workers to share table fellowship. As Katie and I are thinking through our rhythms for this summer, we’re feeling impressed by the Lord to make more room for those who are close to us and far from Jesus.

Where Did My Summer Go?

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By Paul Gilbert

I always have big expectations for the summer months. Walks on the beach. BBQ in the backyard. Loads of books savored and enjoyed. The next Food Network Star on Sunday nights. Sleeping past 6:00 AM. In other words, everything that the school year is not. Everything that I count on the summer being. Everything that I feel like I need in order to have ultimate pleasure and enjoyment.

This summer, though? It just feels a little different. Less relaxing, less slow, less chill, and more – to use an overused term – BUSY.
 
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still getting to do a lot of the things on my list. And, more. There are, in fact, some really fun things on tap for the Gilbert household. Yet, somehow, I keep thinking to myself that it’s not supposed to feel this busy. There still seems to be deadlines, bills to pay, problems to work out, places to be, and "to do" lists to crank through. I’m already starting to feel tired, and it’s only two weeks into June! I have a sense of foreboding that in only 6 or 7 weeks or so, I am going to be looking back at the vapor that was this summer season and be asking myself, “Where did my summer go?!”
 
Can you relate?
 
I ran into a school principal the other day who told me that the summer months are really just an intensive prep time to get ready for the other 10 months of the year. That struck a chord with me, because I think that’s a perspective that I have been lacking. I think some of the letdown I am experiencing right now might be because I have come INTO the summer expecting the wrong things FROM the summer. Maybe I came into June thinking that this summer was MY summer instead of this summer being GOD’s summer.
 
There’s a world of difference between these two things.
 
One perspective puts me in charge and the owner of my time; the other puts God in charge and the owner of HIS time. When I view the summer months as MINE, then I am going to grow increasingly frustrated and deflated when they fail to deliver what I think I need. However, when the summer months are GOD’S,  then I’m just the steward, the manager, the worker – doing the things God wants me to do to prepare for what He wants me to do in the season ahead.
 
Let me encourage you with something. If this summer is not turning out the way you envisioned it, ask God to give you fresh eyes and perspective towards what He wants to do in and through your life this summer season. And if things are still busy or hectic or crazy or whatever, at least you can go forward knowing that this is the kind of summer GOD wanted for you.

Whatever You Do: A Four Oaks Summer in Acts

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by Shannon Pifer, Director of Children’s Ministries

One of my kids made my day yesterday, and he had no idea!
 
Over dinner last night, my son casually asked if I needed help at the church this week getting ready for Whatever You Do Camp. I told him that I most probably did since there is a ton to do! He responded with an enthusiastic, teenager-ly “Sweeeeeettttt.”
 
Then came the part that made my day. I asked why he was so excited about helping me with camp prep, to which he replied, “Hanging out at the church is awesome!”
 
Day made! My child loves “hanging out” at the church.
 
Now, I fully realize that his excitement over helping me sharpen pencils and lay down floor mats might have more to do with the fact that I have a drawer full of candy and proximity to Maple Street Biscuit Company than it does with his love for the church! But maybe not…
 
One of our main goals in Four Oaks Kids is to instill a love of Jesus and His church in our kids from the youngest of ages. We do that in lots of ways...Our classrooms are clean, comfortable and inviting so children will enjoy being in them. Our teachers faithfully teach the Word in ways our kids can understand.  Our volunteers are joyful and enthusiastic, making our kids feel welcomed and loved. We pray over our kids and with our kids. We teach them to worship with each other and serve one another. The list goes on and on, but one thing I’ll add to that list is that we have fun!
 
Not to be confused with entertainment, we have active, purposeful fun in Four Oaks Kids, which we feel is an important part of our ministry. Having fun means acting out Bible stories and playing Bible review games and using silly object lessons. It means earning candy for memorizing scripture and selling lemonade for missions. Having fun means our volunteers play Legos and baby dolls with our kids for a portion of our class time, building relationships with those children who will then believe Biblical truths taught by leaders they trust.
 
This summer, having fun means transforming our youth room into the Ancient worlds of Greece and Rome for our elementary school children. We’re studying the Book of Acts, following along with our Gospel Project curriculum and learning all about the early church and the amazing works of God through people like Peter and Paul. We’ll be singing fun new songs, earning “Caesar’s Coins” for memorizing verses, playing games, and just having fun together while we learn from God’s word.
 
Our “Whatever You Do Camp” starts Monday, and it’s going to be lots of fun as well! We have 95 campers coming for the week to participate in one of our camp tracks, which include Ukulele, Lego Robotics, Art, Drama, Sports, and Outdoor Adventure.  Our theme comes from Colossians 3:17, and we’ll be having lots of fun while we explore what it looks like to do all of these things “in the name of the Lord.”
 
While having fun is not our primary goal, it is a part of our ministry to children because children learn by having fun. It engages their minds and their hearts, which is exactly what we want to happen as we teach them the Word of God and disciple them in the Christian faith. We want all of our Four Oaks Kids to think “hanging out at church is awesome” and having fun with them here is a way for them to experience the great joy of being a part of the body of Christ.
 
Pray with us that all of our Four Oaks Kids will grow in their love of Jesus and His Church this summer!