Missional Community Spotlight: Church of Another Chance

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Each Thursday evening at Davidson County Jail, a group of 20 to 40 incarcerated men gather in a classroom for church—Church of Another Chance, as it’s come to be called.

What makes the service meaningful is that the men behind bars are looking for a place to find restoration and hope. What makes it unique is the fact that they’re not just attending a church service, but leading it as well.

They are the ones greeting outside community members at the door, welcoming them inside. They are the worship leaders, Scripture readers, and givers of communion. They pass the plate, as everyone is encouraged to give written prayer requests as their offering.

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The only thing they don’t do is deliver the sermon, which often is given by Tim Knapp. Along with speaking at this weekly church service, Knapp also leads the additional ministry efforts of Church of Another Chance, which include regular group mentoring dinners for men who’ve recently been released from jail and are now trying to rebuild their lives.  

Knapp, a member at Christ Presbyterian Church, also heads up Church of Another Chance (MC), a missional community which has grown to include 40 people from 20 different area churches over the last two years. Members of the missional community attend the weekly church services and mentoring dinners, coming alongside the incarcerated men to foster friendships, offer encouragement and extend grace to those who often feel stuck in a cycle of pain, addiction and isolation.

Church of Another Chance (MC) is unique in the sense that most outreach efforts for incarcerated men focus on prison ministry instead of jail ministry. Prison is the permanent place for those who’ve been through the trial and sentencing process and have been found guilty of a crime. The city jail, however, is more like an anxious in-between ground. About half of the men at Davidson County Jail, for example, are serving a six-month sentence for probation violations, while the other half are awaiting trial. Knapp says he knows one man who has been waiting 11 months in the city jail just for his trial to begin.

While it’s understandable that many ministries focus on those who face incarceration for the long haul, Knapp and Scott Jamieson (the ministry’s founding pastor) began to see several years ago that the men in flux at the city jail were a group worth reaching, especially when they realized that Tennessee prisoners rotate in and out of jail an average of 11 times in their lifetime. Many find their past patterns of destructive behaviors impossible to completely shed without help and support, while others try but fail to keep up with stringent and unforgiving probation requirements and other uphill complexities of the criminal justice system.

“These are people who are hurting, lonely and have been rejected by society in many ways,” Knapp says of the men at the city jail. “Many of them have childhood trauma and their lives eventually spin out of control in their attempts to cope. The result is pain, addiction and criminal behavior.”

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The blessing of how Church of Another Chance (MC) operates is twofold, Knapp says. The inmates experience a judgment-free zone where they can speak freely about their pain, mistakes and the redemption they desire. There’s no pretending. The men love interacting with the missional community who are willing to take time to listen, offer a hug or share a word of hope. In the process, their dignity is affirmed—even within the confines of jail—as they’re able to extend hospitality to those who join them for the weekly church service.

In exchange, those in the missional community receive the gift of coming face-to-face with people who are living in vulnerability and hungry for healing. “Their pain is at the forefront,” Knapp says of the incarcerated men. “There’s no hiding it or disguising it. Their lives consist of dealing with it. I think this provides the missional community with the realization that there’s great freedom when we’re honest about our own struggles, pain and shortfalls.”

Attending services and participating in the rehabilitative mentoring work once men are released is an answer to Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves, Knapp says. It’s a transformative, healing experience for everyone involved. “I don’t think someone can attend one of our church services without being changed,” says Knapp.

To get involved with this missional community, contact Tim Knapp.

Missional Community Spotlight: New Hope Academy (MC)

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“There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view. You have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.”
- Dr. John M. Perkins, Christian minister and civil rights activist

Perhaps there’s never been a time in our recent history when true reconciliation among people from different ethnic or economic backgrounds is more needed. One local Christian school has found the most effective way to accomplish this mission happens when we reach the very youngest among us.

Founded in 1996, New Hope Academy (NHA) in Franklin is committed to building unity through racial and economic diversity down to the number of seats it fills in each classroom.

Fifty percent of the student body is comprised of non-white children from African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American or other ethnic backgrounds. The school relies on fundraising and local support to help offer financial assistance to more than 61 percent of its pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade student population, enabling children from a variety of economic positions to attend school side by side.

Headmaster Stuart Tutler says New Hope functions as a school where families can learn from each other and grow in relationships through an educational experience that priorities purposeful community and begins with embracing a key gospel mandate.

“We believe every single person who walks through our doors holds intrinsic value and dignity because of his or her God-given identity,” says Tutler. “We know Jesus has an interest in every individual person, including every single child. No matter their background, strengths or challenges, they matter to God. Consequently, they matter to us.”

Creating a culture where students, families and teachers continually affirm this perspective has become the secret to the school’s flourishing, Tutler believes.

Inspired by this vision, a group of individuals from at least a half-dozen churches have recently formed a missional community group to support the school and its pioneering work – called New Hope Academy (MC).

Throughout the last two years, with support from its leadership team, Susan Garvey has spearheaded a mentoring program that pairs members of the missional community group with a NHA student. For one hour each week, the mentors work individually with each child, building relationships through playing games, reading books, or working on math or reading skills. The time is particularly valuable for students who have parents both working fulltime and are limited in their ability to help with homework or other skills.

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Upon completing the 2017-2018 school year, the mentoring program grew to include eight mentors from several area churches!

Garvey has personally mentored the same young student for the past two years and says she’s found great joy in watching the girl grow in her confidence and self-esteem. “Over the course of playing games or creating a craft, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about life skills,” Garvey says. “We’ve discussed how to lose graciously, how to play fair, the importance of telling the truth, and how to receive a compliment.

“It hasn’t been perfect every time,” Garvey says. “Sometimes she’s got things going on in her life and she’s not in a good place. But those have become teachable moments as well. We talk about the importance of using words to express yourself and how to deal with frustration.

“A highlight for me occurred when we were reading Green Eggs and Ham together,” Garvey continues. “This sweet little girl didn’t realize she could read. Suddenly she started saying the words off the page and her eyes got huge. She could do it!”

Garvey says a male mentor spent time throughout the recent school year developing a relationship with a pre-kindergarten boy as they used tools to take apart and then rebuild an old telephone. “The mentor wasn’t sure this sort of activity would even interest the boy but it ended up being the highlight of the student’s year,” she says.

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In addition to the mentoring program, the missional community group also helped host several annual events, including a parent dinner in August and a school-wide Cinco de Mayo celebration in May, which drew 400 people and allowed many Hispanic and Latino parents to share their culture with the school as they cooked for the large crowd and offered a variety of games and crafts.

The overarching purpose of this missional community group is to support the parent community at NHA, Garvey says, whether it’s through offering opportunities for parents to connect and build relationships or investing in students as they continue to realize their worth and potential.

“It’s an incredible school with a powerful mission so needed in the world today,” Garvey says. “We feel privileged to come alongside a place that is truly transforming lives and culture.”
 

Missional Community Spotlight: Single Women Celebrating Life Together

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In June 2017, Jill Khan entered a season of loneliness, unlike anything she’d ever experienced.

Her marriage of 26 years had come to an end.

“I never imagined I’d be in that position,” she recalls. “I was heartbroken. It was an entirely different world.”

Although she’d attended Christ Presbyterian Church for 15 years, she realized after her divorce how isolating it can feel to participate in congregational life as a single, especially when someone is no longer part of the ‘young adult’ age group. Whether a woman has always been single—or has recently divorced or lost a spouse—Jill discovered a significant number of ladies who could greatly benefit from community and care.

Seeing the need for connectedness and encouragement among single women both at church and throughout Nashville, Jill worked with Christ Presbyterian to launch a new Missional Community last fall called Single Women Celebrating Life Together.  

Jill joined with two other single women who attend different congregations—Christi Wilson from Church of the City and Kristi Mcintyre from Christ Community Church in Franklin—to create a group aimed at connecting single women from a myriad of churches in the area and those who don’t currently attend church.

“The group exists to empower and encourage single women of all ages who are living on their own by getting together a few times each month for celebrations, social outings, monthly meals and learning opportunities that provide fellowship and an avenue for building meaningful friendships,” Jill explains.

In the past eight months, the group has drawn interest from more than 75 women, ranging in age from those in their 30s to their 70s and geographically spanning from ladies who live in the West Nashville/Kingston Springs area to those in south Williamson County/Spring Hill. So far, the group is comprised of women from seven different area churches, as well as many ladies looking for a home church. Interest and growth of the group has occurred organically, often just through word of mouth. At least one woman became connected through discovering the group’s Facebook page, Jill says.  

A few recent activities included meeting for brunch at First Watch and a fun after-church Mexican lunch at Uncle Julio’s in Brentwood. Some members also participated in the Christ Presbyterian women’s spring overnight retreat. In past months, the group attended Handel’s Messiah together and organized Christmas and New Year’s parties. They also painted pottery and gathered at Maggiano’s Italian restaurant for Valentine’s Day dinner. In April, the group is planning to have brunch and see the spring blooms at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. The May outing will include a meal at the Loveless Cafe and hike on the Natchez Trace.

Group participants range from women who’ve always been single and are happily unmarried to those who are praying and waiting on God to provide a spouse. Others are widowed or divorced. “Some of the women have been through serious trauma,” Jill says. “They’re dealing with brokenness from their past, while also working full-time and managing their homes and children. Everything is on their shoulders, and it can be exhausting. The opportunity for them to relax and be rejuvenated with others walking the same road is a blessing. We’re here to support, love and pray for these women.”

In the future, the group desires to continue planning social gatherings while also offering education and practical learning opportunities that can empower single women, such as career development, financial planning, caring for aging parents and learning how to complete small home and auto repairs (Jill says she needs to take on the project of sealing her deck this summer.)

Reflecting over the last year, Jill is grateful to see how God used her own painful, unexpected journey of becoming single to meet the needs of other women in the same position.

“In the past, I never would have imagined myself leading a group for single women,” she says. “Throughout my life, I’ve known a few singles, but I never really thought about their daily walk. I’d be sad when I heard of people getting divorced or becoming widowed. While I prayed for them, I never really gave much thought  as to how their circumstances had truly impacted their life.”

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Yet her perspective changed when Jill’s own marriage ended. “I felt great sadness and fear of being alone,” she says. “Yet I also felt amazing joy as Christ lifted me up, made his presence known and gave me hope amid chaos.”

Single Women Celebrating Life Together exists to serve as a place where Christians and non-Christians alike can prayerfully find fellowship with women who are ready to embrace them, love them unconditionally and share with them the message of Colossians 2
—that as women come to know the Lord, they’re complete in Christ, Jill explains.

“We encourage women to view their singleness as an opportunity and privilege that God will use for his glory.”

Missional Community Spotlight: Sweet Monday Nashville

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Sometimes the greatest movements start from the most simple of ideas.

That's certainly the case with Sweet Monday Nashville -- one our missional communities here at Christ Presbyterian. One Monday every month, women from around Nashville meet in small groups to share their stories, sample a little sugary something, and connect with each other and Christ.

One Sweet Invitation at a Time

True to Sweet Monday's mission of "reaching women for Christ, one sweet invitation at a time," the group keeps its focus simple as well. Each gathering is an outreach of "fun and faithfulness."

"We laugh a lot and learn from each other," hostess Paula Nelson says, adding that her "hope is that women leave with encouraging words from scripture."

Each month is focused on a different theme. For example, January was all about time management. The March gathering focused on comfortable and fashionable shoes. In May, the group will talk about new, fun smart phone apps.

The leadership team wraps up each meeting, tying the theme into a spiritual focus. And don't forget the dessert--there's always something to sweet to sample during the conversation.

So What's the Catch?

Here's the beauty of Sweet Monday: There is no catch.

There's no obligation, no guided curriculum, no pressure to sign up for a long period of time, no need to be part of a church, no need to be a Christian. Nashville friends and neighbors come and go as they like, stay a bit longer for more conversation, and never have to register for anything. The entire experience is guilt free--well, except for the dessert.

The group isn't preachy or stuffy -- so it's appealing to a lot of women who may never step inside a church. So many women are hungry to hear the gospel and desperate for connection.  Sweet Monday, over time, has helped fill that void.

Because it's based on the Great Commission, the mission statement of this missional community will never go out of style. "It will evolve and may be different based on the leader, the topics will change over time, but the core of Sweet Monday will always be the same," Paula says.

If you have questions about Sweet Monday, feel free to contact Sarah Catherine Wheeler directly at scbwheeler@hotmail.com.

You can also find the local Sweet Monday Nashville group on Instagram: @sweetmondaynashville

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Missional Community Spotlight: Putting Faith to Work

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Every parent desires to see their children flourish and become increasingly independent as they enter adulthood. But for moms and dads of children with disabilities, this hope can feel uncertain. 

“Once an adult with a disability turns 22, almost everything vanishes in terms of schools, programs or camps,” explains Christ Presbyterian Church member C.B. Yoder. “On average, 95 percent of these young adults are unemployed.”

For many years, Christ Presbyterian has offered a Sunday morning class for young adults with disabilities, providing great support to families on the weekend. Three years ago, however, a new opportunity arose that’s given the church an additional way to come alongside families with disabilities throughout the week. 

It began when faculty from nearby Vanderbilt University proposed a grant-based study in partnership with several area churches, including Christ Presbyterian, to discover the best way to find meaningful work for adults with disabilities.

What started as a year-long study paved the way to the formation of the Christ Presbyterian missional community, Putting Faith to Work. Yoder was one of the group’s founding members and has seen it flourish as she and others have found ways to support families through finding both paid work and volunteer opportunities for young adults with disabilities who attend Christ Presbyterian.

“Instead of just searching for job openings, we learned to begin with discovering each person’s talents and gifts,” Yoder explains. “We started hosting get-togethers, called a ‘person-centered party,’ where parents invite people who know their child well. We discuss what the young adult enjoys doing, his or her strengths and so on. Then we begin to pray, asking God to show us a path forward for this young person.”

Throughout the last three years, the group has helped one young woman, Kate, find work in Vanderbilt’s housekeeping department. Another young adult, Clayton, began a position as a greeter at Nashville Predators hockey games. A woman named Katie received a job at a local pizza restaurant. And a young man named Nathan found work volunteering weekly at Christ Presbyterian, helping provide refreshments for church members Sunday mornings.

Yoder says she’s seen each young adult blossom as they’ve learned to take on new responsibilities. She remembers how Katie bubbled over with excitement when she received her first paycheck. “She loves going shopping, so being able to purchase an outfit with her own money for the first time was thrilling,” Yoder says.

For Katie and the others who’ve found meaningful work, the reality of a newfound purpose in their lives has resulted in a noticeable shift.

“They carry themselves a little differently,” Yoder explains. “There’s such value in earning your own money and becoming more independent. Work is a gift from God.”

Giving these young adults an increased sense of independence has also become a way to support their parents. For some moms and dads, the initial process of letting go is challenging (such as allowing their child to learn to navigate Uber in order to arrange for transportation to work). But once the young adults get the hang of it, their sense of freedom and accomplishment has brought pride to both parents and their children. It’s also begun making a difference among those in the community who’ve hired these young people. 

“The employers of these young adults want them there--they’ve seen the value of their work,” says Yoder. “People such as Katie are faithful, responsible and do their jobs well. They’re reliable and cherished employees.”

They’re also image bearers of Christ, Yoder adds--a truth that becomes evident as people both at church and in the workplace gain more opportunities to get to know and work alongside young adults with disabilities. 

“These kind of interactions put a face on a people group that often can otherwise seem invisible because they’re easy to ignore,” says Yoder. “The benefit for us and for employers is that young adults with disabilities go from anonymous to being known by name and valued for their contributions.”

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For other missional community opportunities, and more information on how to start one yourself, visit christpres.org/missional-communities

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

Missional Community Spotlight: Mug and Pencil

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"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word." - Emily Dickinson

If you've ever sat down to write a difficult email and struggled over what to say, you know the importance of choosing the right word.

Words have power. Just a few small words, a phrase that takes seconds to utter, can bring happiness or hurt, encouragement or devastation.

That's the tension Patrick Lockwood, a Worship and Music Associate at CPC, wanted to dig into when he started Mug and Pencil, a missional community here at Christ Presbyterian. Our missional communities were created to serve the city of Nashville. They always include members and non-members who want to meet, get to know each other, and grow as people over shared interests.

Mug and Pencil is a missional community built to serve artists--specifically creative writers.

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"We're a group of creative writers--songwriters, poets, novelists, scriptwriters, article writers, both professional and amateur, who want a place to just be sharpened and talk about writing and the power of words," Patrick says. "We share pieces that we've been working on. Some people share songs, others share poetry, and we do so, usually, in a small setting by a fireplace over food and a glass of wine."

The group has been meeting for four years now, once a month at the houses of different group members. On occasion, they'll have successful and intriguing guest speakers come in to inspire and encourage the community. "One thing I like about our group," Patrick says, "is that we're not about just doing stuff for the sake of doing it. We're about becoming better writers who use our words to make Nashville and the world a better place."

Nashville isn't lacking in writers, but Mug and Pencil's goal is to give those writers a vision that might even go beyond just writing a hit song or a featured poem. One newly married couple wrote their first song together through an exercise in the group. Another member overcame a difficult past and was encouraged by the group to find a new freedom in writing.

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Patrick tells the story of one particular exercise that had a huge impact on Mug and Pencil's members: "We asked them to write their life story in five minutes, no more than eight lines of content. Then we asked them to cut it down to four lines without adding additional writing. Then we asked them to cut it to two lines, followed by one line. Then, finally, two words. The whole process was amazing. Some people were crying as they worked through the words and the feelings behind what they had been through."

Our goal at Christ Presbyterian Church is "to follow Christ in his mission of loving people, places, and things to life." Missional communities, like Mug and Pencil, are designed to empower CPC members to do just that. So, as a church staff, it's incredibly encouraging to see these communities flourish and grow throughout Nashville.

All it takes is something as small as a meeting with others over a laptop and a cup of coffee to lead you to something greater than yourself.

If you want to find out more about Mug and Pencil, contact Patrick Lockwood at plockwood@christpres.org.

For other missional community opportunities, and more information on how to start one yourself, visit christpres.org/missional-communities

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.