Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's time for Fall

Hello friends!  I can't believe it's November already and our students only have about five weeks of school left this semester.  October was a busy month, but so many incredible things are happening at FOCUS!

UNT, TWU, and NCTC students at Fall Camp
 Fall Camp

I mentioned last month that we were getting ready for Fall Camp.  Well, it was a blast!  Our students spent a day and a night together strengthening friendships, worshiping Jesus, and having fun.  The them of the camp was Defining Moments.  We encouraged students to look back on moments in their lives when they made choices or experienced events that changed everything.  We challenged them to prepare themselves for upcoming defining moments by seeking earnestly after Jesus.  One of the statements made by Amy Knoles in her sermon was this: "You can't always plan for your defining moments before they come, but you can decide who you will be when they get here."  Our students were blessed by her sermon and the time they got to spend together.  I have already seen in the few weeks since Fall Camp how the relationships fostered there are impacting students in big ways.

Everyone at our annual Leadership Conference

UTA intern April sharing during worship at Leadership Conference
Leadership Conference
Each year, our family of churches and FOCUS ministries gather for a one-day Leadership Conference.  This is a moment to celebrate the ways we've grown and changed over the past year and to prepare ourselves to move forward.  We talked about the power of friendship to have a transformative impact on people's lives.  Jesus set the model for friendship in his own ministry.  He surrounded himself with twelve friends and lived his life in close contact with them.  They were transformed by that relationship, and after Jesus' death and resurrection, it was those twelve who carried the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Our goal is to follow the example of Jesus in every way we can, including our friend relationships.

The Leadership Conference was also an encouraging time to reconnect with friends from our different churches and campus ministries.  I think we all left feeling reinvigorated and inspired to build God's kingdom wherever he sends us.

Last Friday, I preached a sermon on dating relationships.  Our Cores also discussed the topic of dating and healthy relationships that week.  Every year, we talk about dating in FOCUS at least once (often more).  I sometimes hear students who have been in FOCUS say things like, "Didn't we just talk about dating last semester?"

We talk about dating a lot in college ministry because many of our students are actively dating, whether that's going on dates with different people or pursuing an exclusive relationship.  Many of our students (even those who aren't dating) want to get married within a few years of finishing college.  This topic matters because it has a direct bearing on the lives of all our students, and because dating is a confusing, emotionally fraught thing to do!  In my sermon and in our Core discussions, we called on people to love each other the way Jesus loves us, by sacrificing our own rights and preferences for the sake of what's best for others.  This is the attitude I believe we should take into every relationship, including dating and marriage.  We also encouraged our students to seek advice about relationships from wise, godly counselors.  Too often I ask students who their advisors are and find that they are asking advice from other 18- or 19-year-olds who don't have a track record of healthy dating.  We all need to seek advice from people who have wisdom, experience, and a true knowledge of God.

If you'd like to read some of the resources about dating that we recommend to our students, click here.

As we look to November and the end of the fall semester, I ask that you would pray sincerely for our students and the upcoming events that we are planning for them.  Please pray:
- that our students would be a blessing to their families as they travel home for Thanksgiving.
- for Pizza Theology as we guide our students in thinking critically about major issues in our culture today
- that our students would date in a way that blesses individuals, strengthens the community, and leads to healthy, God-honoring marriages.

Please keep an eye out for a series of videos to be released in conjunction with our 2nd Annual Keep FOCUS Growing Initiative.  You can Like our Facebook page here in order to see all the videos!

Denton campus pastors Sarah and Miriam dressed as Jessie and Mrs. Potato Head from Toy Story.  Hope you had a great Halloween!

Thanks for your prayers and support, and Happy Thanksgiving!