• Will Spink
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  • Wyketa Shipman
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  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
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    Director, Community Development
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Pastor’s Note: A Beautiful Evening

A couple of weeks ago on a Tuesday night about 75 parents of young children gathered in the Lodge to eat tacos, share the joys and struggles of parenting, and be encouraged and equipped for pointing their kids to Jesus. Across the street about 80 of their kids ate pizza, shared toys (and germs), and demonstrated their need for being pointed to Jesus.

Actually they behaved perfectly (mostly), but you get the idea. It was a beautiful evening. What a delight to see people connect with each other and consider the common calling God has given them as parents. In the midst of busy lives, what was happening around those plastic tables will undoubtedly have eternal impact. This night is indicative of the heart that we have at Southwood for impacting the next generation. We believe that parents have a great responsibility for the nurture of their children and that we have the great privilege to partner with, encourage, and equip them in that gloriously difficult task.

You can read more of that heart in the middle of this issue of BRANCHES, as Pastor Derrick and Pastor Peter describe a vision for more such evenings and more such relationships with parents in our congregation and community in the days and years ahead. We can’t wait to see the Gospel transform lives now and impact generations for the future through these relationships.

But I haven’t even told you the most beautiful part of the evening yet. In order to feed and care for the 150 people mentioned above, we needed a lot of help. And the majority of that help came from Southwood members (more than 20 of them!) who no longer have young children at home. Some of them have spent many years raising children of their own, and others of them have for many years made the children of Southwood their family. But they cooked, they served food, they chased kids, they cleaned up after spills, they talked with young parents, and they prayed for young kids.

Now that’s beautiful. When we show up to serve rather than consume, when we help pull off events not designed for us, when we treat others as more important than ourselves, we are loving in the beautiful way God has created his family to love. This happens in many ways in the life of our church, but I didn’t want you to miss this one!

As I thanked some of those volunteers, they said things like “I can’t imagine parenting these days; anything I can do to help these parents, I’m happy to do,” “It encourages my heart to see these young people looking to Jesus and connecting with each other,” and “O, I wouldn’t be anywhere else; please let me know when you do this again so I can help again.”

As I talked with some of the young parents, they said things like “What a huge blessing to have people I look up to so much serving us at an event like this,” “I love the fact that our church has people ahead of me on this parenting path who care enough to share what God has taught them with us,” and “I hope we do this more often. And I hope we as younger people can return the favor to those who served us tonight.”

Wouldn’t that be beautiful? It may not be age differences every time, but when we love and serve those who are different from us in any way rather than focusing on what we need and want others to do for us, we’re loving a little bit more like Jesus. One generation commends his works to another, and the greatness of the grace of Jesus spreads exponentially to more who need to know Him.

I hope you’ll take a moment to thank God for loving us enough to put us in this kind of family together. And I hope while you’re praying, you’ll ask him to give us hearts that continue looking to welcome others into this family – so they can learn about parenting, so they can serve alongside us, but ultimately so they can experience the beauty of the family of God.