Finishing the Fourth Chunk!

On December 30th Jim Kramer will preach his last sermon as a pastor of Steamboat Rock Baptist Church. This marks the end of an inspiring and fruitful tenure as Pastor of Community Life. Jim Kramer was one of the first people I met from what was then First Baptist Church of Steamboat Rock. He was probably the first person to meet many of you. He and Gary Vander Wilt were at the North American Baptist Triennial convention in Sioux Falls, and I met them in the exhibit area. Jim had a beard then; I think he was growing it for the 150th celebration of Steamboat Rock.  

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When I arrived as pastor several months later, Jim was the chairman of the Deacon Board. Driving back from one meeting in Iowa Falls at Gale Bengtson’s house I broached the delicate subject of an accountability partner. He agreed, and until my sabbatical this summer, we met regularly to encourage each other in the struggle to follow Jesus further.

When we were developing our 2020 Vision, Snapper Corporation was in the process of buying out Luiken and Sons, where Jim had worked. Jim came to my old office, took a seat across the desk from me, and said, “You need help!”  Now this was not news to me, but it did catch me off guard. Then he explained himself:  “If we are going to achieve this vision you are going to need help.”  

He volunteered to be a staff member of the church with no salary. He started in 2006. We gave him an office in the basement and a laptop. He paid Ralph Gast to build some of the nicest office furniture ever seen for his office!  His title was Minister of Community Life. He agreed to work 20 hours a week, but he never kept his agreement.  He has always put in full work weeks. He did so much work and cared for so many people that the congregation felt guilty not paying him. We started paying him a salary in 2010.  Jim agreed to work for 20 hours a week, actually worked 40-50, and received a salary for about 6.

In 2011 we licensed Jim as our Pastor of Community Life. He has performed several weddings. He and Jane are sought after for premarital counseling. He has preached some great sermons during the years too. He often has wonderful visuals to aid in communication. Once he built a door on the platform to convey “the narrow way.”  He was the advance gifts coordinator in two hugely successful capital campaigns. He has hosted or instigated some incredible fellowship events, the Ladies ‘ Gala being perhaps a culmination of his good work in this regard. He always helps wherever needed.

Small groups are a staple in our church because of the work that Jim Kramer has done. He has gone through a few organizational iterations, and he is still is not satisfied with his efforts. However, he has connected 100s of people in meaningful relationships. He found some young leaders to start the young adult group called Thrive that lived up to its name, until the young leaders had to move on. We all have to move on sometime.  

Melissa M., a recent attender of our church and an astute observer of church life, coined a name for Jim during AWANA night, where he greets everyone at the door. She said, “You are the Connection Man.” Our Connection Man has made it possible for us to call a Connections Pastor full-time.  

In Jim’s bio on the church web page, he divides his life into four chunks; the fourth chunk he labels “The Present Years.”  Jim and Jane thank you for sharing this chunk of your life with us all. You have blessed and enriched our lives and we pray that God will richly bless you both in the years ahead!  

 

Blessings - Pastor Harrison


 
 

Jungle Tiger or Zoo Tiger

At our last Small Group meeting, someone told us about hearing a speaker on educational issues use the analogy of comparing a “Jungle Tiger” to a “Zoo Tiger”. I kept thinking about this after our Small Group had ended for the evening. As I consider my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, would I be considered a “Jungle Christian” or a “Zoo Christian”? Here are some differences between the two:

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  • Zoo Christian—Comes to church on Sunday and is fed through the morning message.

  • Jungle Christian—Studies God’s Word on a daily basis and is searching for more.

  • Zoo Christian—Keep my faith to myself as I don’t want to offend others.

  • Jungle Christian—Is out in the world, sharing my faith with others

  • Zoo Christian—Takes risks. Takes time to be with people who need help.

  • Jungle Christian—Takes risks. Takes time to be with people who need help.

  • Zoo Christian—Becomes lazy and lethargic. 

  • Jungle Christian—Is always alert and watching for opportunities to serve and help.

  • Zoo Christian—“SSDD”—Same stuff—Different Day

  • Jungle Christian—You are an adventure through life.

  • Zoo Christian—Pays no attention to the world or the people in it.

  • Jungle Christian—Knows his terrain and knows what needs to be done.

  • Zoo Christian—Listens to the music on Sunday mornings.

  • Jungle Christian—Sings with a roar to praise God and give him the glory.


One of my favorite movies is “We Bought a Zoo”.  Here is my favorite quote from that movie: 

“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Here is the question that I ask myself and that I ask each of you—Are you living in the jungle or the zoo? As I finish my time at SRBC, I do not want to live as a “Zoo Tiger”. It is my desire to live as a “Jungle Tiger” and take some chances and maybe even have “20 seconds of insane courage”. It is my desire to continue serving God by serving those around me. I am looking forward to the adventure ahead!

 

Jim Kramer - Pastor of Community Life


 

Women’s Ministry Plans New Women’s Sunday School Class & Event

We are excited to announce that on January 6th a new women’s Sunday School Class will be offered for 8 weeks in the Fellowship Hall. 

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Our NAB conference women’s ministry team has encouraged women to take part in an IF: Gathering Study entitled “Enjoying Jesus: Twelve Experiences That Will Draw You Closer”. In a time when “busy-ness” seems to steal our joy, we often miss out on simply “being” in Christ. This study is intended to “reconnect” us with our spiritual foundation by resting and depending on Jesus in our relationship with him. We are also hoping that you will find joy in connecting with other women around tables as we view a short video and have meaningful discussions. 

At the first session – study books will be handed out and the women’s ministry team will share about upcoming events for 2019. These books cost $20. The women’s ministry team has covered the first $10 expense of these books, but asking that, if you are able, to pay the remaining $10 at the first session. Our final session will be celebrating with tea/coffee and refreshments as we share how God has worked in our lives through this study. 

Here is an excerpt introduction from the book:

“Enjoying Jesus is intended to be immensely practical. The spiritual disciplines are where theology meets everyday life, but only you can put them into practice in your life. Our hope is that you will try each of the two disciplines we’ll cover each week. The spiritual disciplines aren’t meant to simply be studied, they are meant to be put into action. Their power is in their practice.”

IF: Gathering 2019 Event

We are encouraging women to participate in the Cedar Falls area IF: Gathering February 7-8 2019.  During the event you will get to listen to gifted speakers like Jenny Allen through live-streaming. Our hope is to host one of these gatherings for our area in February, 2020. More information on location, cost, etc. will be shared in January. But mark your calendars now if interested!

 

Blessings - Women’s Ministry


 

A New Resource for Parents

I’ve mentioned an author and longtime youth ministry veteran Jonathan McKee many times in my newsletter articles. He has insightful articles on music, media, and pop culture that highlight how teens act and interact with each from a Christian perspective. He has been working on a new book called The Bullying Breakthrough, which was just released. Over the years, I’ve talked about the bullying issue with students one-on-one, in small group settings, with parents, and families as a whole. I know this continues to be an issue in our teenagers’ lives. And if your natural inclination is anything like mine by thinking things like, “Suck it up buttercup,” or “They would have never called that bullying in my day,” I would challenge you to give this article a read and consider how we can do better for our students. 

Just Ignore It by Jonathan McKee

“Ignore them and they’ll ignore you.” This is obviously the advice of someone who has never experienced daily torment from their peers. It’s nearly impossible to ignore the entire class when they’re all laughing at you.

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I was thirteen years old when I first considered taking my own life. I never told my parents or my teachers about these feelings. I never shared the extent of what kids were saying and doing to me because it was embarrassing. In fact, it was actually a little unbelievable. In eighth grade a kid I’ll call Dennis actually started the Kill Jon Club. Absurd as it sounds, they actually made T-shirts with a gun sight drawn over a caricature of my face and the initials KJC. Four kids wore the shirts to school. The rest of the class laughed hysterically.

The teachers didn’t have a clue. Let that sink in for a moment. The teachers didn’t have a clue.

How can a teacher miss an entire class laughing at one kid, knocking his books off his desk, smacking his neck when they walk by, and actually wearing T-shirts with a picture of a gun scope on his face?

I finally did tell an adult about everything that happened. When I told her, “They made T-shirts,” I’ll never forget her response. “No, they didn’t.” She actually told me it didn’t happen. She thought I was making it up. Was this some freak occurrence? Let’s fast-forward thirty years to the present.

No One Did Anything
An overweight boy called “lard-***” daily. A girl who was physically assaulted because she liked the wrong guy. A crowd of kids taunting a kid with a prominent red birthmark on his face: “Hey, Kool-Aid!” An overweight girl named Carla heartlessly labeled Cowla, simply trying to navigate around campus without being mooed at day after day. These are just a few of the voices I heard as I began interviewing young people about the way they were treated at school. Hundreds of young people surveyed. . .and the one common denominator I kept hearing over and over again: “No one did anything.”

I don’t want to be an alarmist, and I definitely don’t want to insinuate that parents, teachers, and principals don’t care. I’ve interviewed countless caring adults. I’ve met with counselors who recognize the problem and are striving to come alongside hurting kids. I’ve attended assemblies, even all-day programs proactively addressing the issue and providing caring adults to follow up.

But somehow kids are being missed. Many—dare I say most—of these kids’ voices are being drowned out in the crowd. Too many adults simply don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Literally every story I’ve heard contains the same element:

  • “I told the adult on yard duty, and they said to just ignore it.”

  • “I told my parents and they dismissed it.”

  • “I told the principal, and he called the boys in and warned them. Nothing changed.”

I don’t have any problem believing these stories, because I’ve experienced all of this firsthand.

So let me ask this: In a world full of caring adults, how is it that we keep missing the cries of hurting kids? The communication channels in many of today’s school systems need a total revamp. A youth worker I know told me a story of her daughter being bullied in eighth grade so severely that she ended up seeing a counselor and suffering depression. No one likes me. I’m not good enough. The mom didn’t find out until the end of the year when an incident occurred where parents were finally contacted. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” she told the principal. The principal just backpedaled. The same mom ran into some teachers at the school over the summer and they offered their condolences. “Wow, the situation was really bad. I don’t know how she made it through the year.” No one had reported a thing the entire year.

Why is it that a teacher would assume someone else was handling it? Why is it so many of us just become “bystanders who don’t want to get involved? How can we miss crowds of kids at recess hurling insults at an autistic kid? How is it that in a high school locker room kids are constantly ridiculed, tormented, slapped on the back of the legs, even hung up by their underwear? How can an entire campus know that there is going to be a fight after school—and adults actually warned about it—and yet a kid gets chased by a mob and beaten to the ground until needing to be hospitalized, while campus security toss a football back and forth? These are all very true stories.

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As I embarked on this research, I was pretty confident I had a grasp on the issue, having worked with teenagers for the last twenty-five years. But honestly, I was surprised how I kept hearing the same story over and over again. . .the story of a young person crying out for help and an adult saying, “Just ignore it.” It was the one phrase that seemed to appear in almost every interview. A kid cried out for help, and his or her voice was dismissed by an adult. The adult responses came in many different forms. Let me share one specific example involving Lindsey, the daughter of a friend of mine. The story began like many: Lindsey liked a boy, but another girl also liked the boy, so this girl began humiliating Lindsey out of jealousy and spite. She and her friends ganged up on Lindsey, making subtle comments as they passed her in the hallways, reaching through the crowd and knocking her books out of her hands, even pulling her hair. At junior prom, Lindsey wore a dress that tied in the back. In the crowd a hand reached out and untied the back of her dress, causing it to fall down in the front.

One day Lindsey was knocked to the ground and threatened, so much so that she feared for her safety. She fled to the bathroom, hid in a stall, and texted her mom: “Mom, please come get me. I’m scared.” Her mom rushed to school and told the front office what happened. “My daughter was just threatened by a group of girls and is now hiding in the bathroom terrified. She just texted me from a stall.” Wanna guess what the lady at the front office responded? “She’s not supposed to be texting at school.” As I share stories like this with my friends in the school systems, they are horrified. “That would never happen at our school.” 

Are you sure? Are you absolutely positive that the person supervising the playground is truly keeping watch, or is there a chance they’re just hanging out with a select tribe of kids? Are you sure you’re aware of what’s truly going on with your kids at school or in the most popular place today’s mean kids ridicule others: social media?

I missed many of the signs with my son, and I had experienced bullying myself at his age. Why are we missing these cues?

As I reflect on those painful years when kids humiliated me every day, I realize I never said a word. I just became more removed and isolated. No one would eat lunch with me. After all, it would have been social suicide. The one saving grace was at 2:43 the bell rang and I got to go home where I was loved and encouraged. It was safe. . . for about fifteen hours. Then I had to go back to school and live it all over again.

Today when the bell rings, kids might leave their school campus, but they can never escape the other world, a world where mockers and intimidators thrive. Ironically, they carry a gateway to that world right in their pockets with them, because they see that world as an avenue of escape—but in reality it’s putting them in bondage. Kids across the globe are searching for friendship with someone who understands them. Often their search leads them to social media, the gaming world, anywhere they can connect with someone. . .from a distance. But it’s not working. Social media isn’t filling the void. In fact, it’s making things worse. The voices of the bullied are still unheard…

To read the entire book, The Bullying Breakthrough, it can be found on Amazon.com or you can borrow my copy in my office.

 
 
 
 
 

 Blessings - Pastor Bryce

 

 

May We Never Lose Our Wonder

My daughter Annabelle and I had the great privilege to join a few other moms and daughters in Des Moines for a play called “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”. This is a play, book and a movie. It was the first I had heard of it, but the majority knew of its story. I want to give you the synopsis:

As the Best Christmas Pageant Ever begins, the narrator introduces the Herdsman’s as the worst kids the world has ever seen. These six kids — Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys — smoke, curse, bully other kids, steal, and once set fire to an abandoned tool house. Their father abandoned them when they were young, and their mother works two jobs and has no time to look after her rowdy kids. The Herdman siblings take care of themselves. The narrator’s little brother Charlie is a frequent target of Leroy Herdman, who likes to steal his dessert at school. Charlie mentions that it does not matter because he gets all the snacks he wants at Sunday school. The Herdsman’s decide to show up next Sunday to see what they can get.

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They are only planning on a one-time visit, but when they hear about the upcoming Christmas pageant, they decide to stick around and participate. The pageant’s usual director has an accident that puts her in the hospital, so the narrator’s mother is brought in to lead the rehearsals. The Herdman kids push their way into the lead roles of Mary, Joseph, the three Wise Men, and the Angel of the Lord. They have never heard the Christmas story before, but they want to learn everything they can. They are angry about the injustices that Mary and Joseph faced when they were put in the stable, and when King Herod tried to kill baby Jesus. They are confused by the three rich kings bringing jars of oil as a gift and start questioning and asking real questions that even make the narrator question her own beliefs about the Nativity story.

However, not everyone is happy with the Herdsman’s, and at the top of that list is Alice Wendleken, a prim and proper girl who always used to play the role of Mary, until she was pushed out by Imogene. She keeps track of every wrong thing Imogene does and says, hoping that the Herdsman’s will make one major mistake so she can get her mother involved and force them out of the pageant. She sees her opportunity when one of the church ladies enters the bathroom during the dress rehearsal and finds it filled with Imogene’s cigar smoke. The fire department is called, and the church is evacuated in a panic. The dress rehearsal is called off, and the pastor is flooded with phone calls complaining about the Herdsman’s. The pastor, Reverend Hopkins, talks to the narrator’s mother and asks her if they should call off the pageant this year, but she has faith and asks him to let the show go on, saying it will be the best one they have ever done.

When it comes time for the pageant, it begins as usual, but the Herdmans soon start adding their own unique flavor to the show. However, the Herdman children have been changed by their studies and are more subdued and respectful than usual. Amid all the usual candlelight and singing, the three Herdman children playing the Wise Men bring a ham that was given to them from the food basket by the church. Imogene is overwhelmed by the kindness and begins to cry at the beauty and wonder of the scene, which she is now a part of. Everyone leaves the church buzzing about the play, talking about how the play was different this year though they do not know exactly why. The narrator, however, says that she understands why. The Herdsman’s did not portray the Holy Family and the story of Jesus’s birth as if it were something dry from a book. Rather, they understood the needs of the family and related to it in a genuine, powerful way that let them truly put their hearts into their roles.

The summary mentions that the congregation may have thought the annual pageant to be “a dry story”, uninspiring and more about church politics than purpose. This description was a humbling one for me. Do we truly consider the “awe” of Christmas?

It also begs the question, who are the Herdman’s in our own lives? Who could we influence? There’s a vast majority who have never heard and/or even pondered the real meaning of Christmas. The largest demographic in that ignorance is children. Not that all are as mischievous as the Herdman’s, but perhaps as absent from our or any church building just the same. Who could we ask to come to church or even our own Christmas Eve Program to share the true message of Christmas? What children or non-believers in general are in our circle of influence? What’s stopping us?

Do we allow the wonderful, awesome and marvelous story of Christ’s birth to take hold of our hearts? The Herdman’s may have been sinners, but from the story it implies they knew they needed a Savior by the end of their pageant. Out of their discovery, came gratitude. Our focus this season is that we keep the true wonder in our hearts and in return we can gift gratitude and “awe” to our children above any other gift. Will you join us in that focus? We may not be perfect, but we know we have a Savior who is! Merry Christmas!

 
 

In Christ — Crystal Carroll

Children's Ministry Coordinator