My Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2022

Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2022

It’s that time of the year for retrospection.

After posting my Top Ten Songs of 2022Top Ten Books of 2022, and Top Ten Hikes of 2022, I thought that I would turn my attention to things that might be considered more substantial, if perhaps also more intangible. Specifically: ministry and family life. The very nature of ministry, in particular, makes it hard to summarize and hard to point out “finished products.” It’s also challenging to represent ministry highlights with a single image (if indeed there are images at all) or a single paragraph, like the other categories I’ve considered. Still, I appreciate the way that a retrospective exercise like this helps to heighten my awareness and appreciation of everything God has been doing. So I’m going to do my best, even if the results might be imperfect…

So anyway — without further ado, here are my Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2022, in ranked order:

  1. A Reminder from God to Faithfully Farm my Forty Acres
  2. Spiritual Conversations with Centennial Students
  3. Staff Cohorts at Estes Park Leadership Training
  4. The Inaugural H2O Youngstown Tailgate Party (September)
  5. Saul’s Baptism in Emerald Lake (July)
  6. H2O Akron Transition Weekend (April)
  7. Hearing Morgan Explain the Gospel According to “Spirited” (December)
  8. Prioritizing the Presence of God in Joshua Tree National Park (January)
  9. Milan Melon Festival with Centennial Life Group Friends (September)
  10. Watermelon Wedding (May)

And again, for any who might appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:

Wedding for Jesse Setliff and Rylee Crowley

#10 – Watermelon Wedding (May)

When college students get engaged, I often tell them, “I know that there are a lot of moving pieces, when it comes to preparing for a wedding. But it only has to be as complicated as you want it to be. You don’t have to cave in to all of the pressures of the ‘Wedding Industrial Complex.’ Just file the required paperwork at the county courthouse, and then I will serve as the officiant for your wedding whenever and wherever you want. I’ll even bring along a watermelon — so I can be both your officiant and your caterer!” Nobody had ever taken me up on the idea, though, until Jesse and Rylee did in the Spring. I enjoyed officiating another, more-traditional, wedding in August, as well. But it was fun to see that “Watermelon Wedding” idea come to life in May.

Milan Melon Fest with Centennial Life Group Friends

#9 – Milan Melon Festival with Centennial Life Group Friends (September)

I love small-town festivals. And Labor Day Weekend is prime “real estate” for these small-town festivals where all the locals can see and be seen by other members of the community, while also providing a source of entertainment and economic activity for both insiders and outsiders. So, ever since I heard my friend Bri talk about the Milan Melon Festival, in her hometown, I’ve wanted to visit. And this year the stars finally aligned. We got a group of people from our H2O Centennial Life Group to go on a road trip together to see the Milan Melon Festival for ourselves in the first weekend of September. And it ended up being a great group bonding experience on the front end of a new semester, which couldn’t even be dampened by a little bit of rain.

Joshua Tree WilderneSS Experience

#8 – Prioritizing the Presence of God in Joshua Tree National Park (January)

In January, I got to travel to Southern California for an eight-day experience of practicing spiritual disciplines in the wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park. And I really did feel the Presence of God in the wilderness. But I was also impressed with the reminder that one doesn’t need a desert, or five days of solitude, or three days of fasting to enjoy and benefit from the Presence of God. Coming back from the wilderness, I felt especially compelled by the model of Moses in Exodus 33:7-11 — regularly carrying my gear just a small distance away from my community to pitch this small “tent of meeting” and commune with the Lord face-to-face, “as a man speaks with his friend.” For the rest of 2022, I stayed remarkably committed to this on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. And I think this trip in January was a significant part of the reason why.

Morgan's Last Time at H2O Centennial Life Group Coaching

#7 – Hearing Morgan Explain the Gospel According to “Spirited” (December)

I’ve been working with a group of student-leaders this semester, trying to increase their “gospel fluency.” So we’ve practiced a few different tools for sharing the most essential elements of the Good News of Jesus. And every week, we’ve had a different person share this Good News, or Gospel, with the rest of the group. I think it’s been a really helpful exercise. For our last meeting of the semester, my friend Morgan shared the Good News through a PowerPoint presentation about the new Christmas musical, Spirited. There really do seem to be some interesting access points for the Good News in there. And this particular iteration of the Good News was extra-special because Morgan developed a profound personal understanding of the Good News during her time in Kent, and this meeting was Morgan’s last time with us before graduating in December.

H2O Akron Church Care and Celebration Retreat

#6 – H2O Akron Transition Weekend (April)

My friends at H2O Akron were grieving the end of their time together as a church. They’d cobbled together a patchwork leadership situation for several years, hoping for a viable, long-term leadership team to emerge. But when all the possibilities were exhausted, they decided the wisest course of action was to shut things down. So, they decided to pull together a special retreat to process this transition together, to practically prepare for transition, and to celebrate everything that God has done through the years. I was asked to serve as a facilitator for processing and preparing for transition; and as macabre as it may sound, it was an honor to be with H2O Akron for this weekend.

Sunrise Hike to Emerald Lake for Saul's Baptism

#5 – Saul’s Baptism in Emerald Lake (July)

Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Saul had been struggling with depression, to the point that it caused him to drop out of his studies at Purdue University. But something supernatural seemed to be calling him to Colorado for the summer. When some of his co-workers started talking to Saul about the Leadership Training (LT) program that had brought them to the Rocky Mountains, Saul felt like he was being led to join the program on the spot. He embraced the opportunity to follow Jesus over the rest of the summer in Colorado, and Saul eventually decided that he wanted to get baptized in the Rocky Mountains, among his LT friends. So, about twenty of us from LT did a sunrise hike to Emerald Lake and witnessed Saul’s public profession of faith in Christ.

H2O YSU Tailgate Party

#4 – The Inaugural H2O Youngstown Tailgate Party (September)

A group of us from H2O Kent traveled to Youngstown, on the first Saturday in September, to meet up with our friends who moved to Youngstown over the summer and work together to host a tailgate party outside of Youngstown State University’s Stambaugh Stadium before their home opener against Duquesne. And it was honestly a lot more fun than I expected it to be. What made it extra-special, though, was the way that it signaled the dawn of a new era for the H2O Church at Youngstown State University. We’ve been thinking and praying in this direction for years. And over the summer, the H2O YSU Team laid a lot of groundwork, settling in and making connections. The first week in September was special, however, because it served as YSU’s Kickoff Week. And the tailgate party provided the perfect space for planting a flag, staking a claim in YSU circles, and celebrating with newfound friends.

EPLT 2022 Staff Dinner

#3 – Staff Cohorts at Estes Park Leadership Training (June)

We experimented with a new initiative among the Collegiate Church Network staff who relocated to Estes Park, Colorado for our summer Leadership Training program. Once a week, we broke down into groups of four or five, and we spent a couple of hours doing a sort of Compare-and-Contrast exercise. “How does your church stay intentional about developing ethnic diversity?” one week… “How does your staff team manage conflict?” another week… And “If you could share one thing with the staff who are older / younger than you are, what would you share?” to name just a few examples. When I was asked to take on this assignment, I expected that these “Staff Cohort Conversations” would be somewhat helpful — but they ended up being far more meaningful than anyone imagined. And I hope we find ways to do similar things in the future.

H2O Centennial Life Group in the H2Olympics

#2 – Spiritual Conversations with Centennial Students (October)

This “Ministry Moment” is the hardest to summarize and to represent with a picture. But there were at least four significant spiritual conversations happening over the course of the Fall Semester with students from our Centennial Life Group. Four people who were completely uninitiated to the Christian faith… Four paths that converged in our Thursday night Bible studies and more irregularly scheduled coffee conversations… Four decisions to follow Jesus hanging in the balance. These four spiritual conversations really felt like some of the most meaningful ministry interactions I’ve had in a while! They’re still in process, but I’m praying that we’ll be able to see some of these students get baptized in the Spring.

#1 – A Reminder from God to Faithfully Farm my Forty Acres (July)

I bit off a bit more than I could chew in the Spring of 2022. So I feel like God called me back to the basics in the Summer of 2022. I was impressed with the phrase, “Faithfully Farming my Forty Acres” as a way to keep my focus on soberly and sincerely serving as a pastor, or shepherd, for the congregation in which I’ve been placed in Kent. Not trying to single-handedly save the world (because Jesus already did that). Not aggressively expanding to adjacent territory. And definitely not trying to seek fame or fortune for myself in the process. “Faithfully Farming my Forty Acres” speaks to consistency, season after season, year after year. Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in my life, and in the lives of students at Kent State University. Sustaining our own operations and sending out surplus crops to market, as we’re able.

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