by Ashley Barnes
This year has been a year of unbelievable growth and change for me. If you’ve been around either campus this year, you’ll know that I spent over half the year back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan- running both Kidstuf programs. I am more thankful than words can express that we were able to hire Marlee (you know her from part 3 of this blog series), because I would have probably died of exhaustion without her. So, in a word, my year was BUSY. But I’m here to give you some insight into what things have shaped me through this very hectic year.
The first is this graphic. I went to the Orange Conference (a conference for Children’s and Youth Ministries) earlier this year and they handed this to me on an 8.5x11 piece of paper. It’s from a book series called “Playing for Keeps/Losing Your Marbles” which I, of course, bought at the conference. But this graphic really says it all. These are the 6 things that if we do them, and we do them well, will shape the children we interact with. It stretched my humility because I had to put these in the context of showing God's love. This isn’t just something I can do alone, it means partnering with the parents and with volunteers to make sure children are getting these 6 things. There are so many quotes and charts that have shaped me, not only how I do my job but also how I live my life. I really want to make sure everything we do in Kidstuf and Student Impact points to our church’s values and fit in these 6 points. If you want a 130 second explanation of this concept, go watch this video.
The second is dodgeball. The whole staff is reading this and saying, “Of COURSE she had to bring dodgeball into this, she brings it into everything!” Exactly, because dodgeball has shaped my life so much that I couldn’t leave it out of this list! Last spring a group of people from Forefront Brooklyn decided to join a dodgeball league together. None of us had ever played before and we got destroyed! But it was the most fun thing I’d done since I moved to New York. I just finished my third season with Sandlot Sports, and it shaped me in ways I’d never have imagined. First off, it was a nice way to do some light exercise each week. It’s nothing like dragging myself to the gym. I want to go to dodgeball each week and I forget that I’m running around for a couple hours every Monday night. But more than the exercise, it was a great way to meet new and diverse people. I have made some amazing friends there. Friends who are so different from me that they challenge the way I think and see the world around me. It has given me the chance to live in Intentional Diversity, which is one of the values at Forefront. Now, I’m not saying you should all join my dodgeball league (though I wouldn’t discourage that), what I’m saying is that you should find something that gets you out of your normal group of friends and out into the big world that is New York City. Do something YOU enjoy. For me, I love competitive sports and nice people, so Sandlot Sports Dodgeball was the perfect place for me. But maybe you like reading? Go join a book club! Maybe you like gardening? Go volunteer in a garden! Whatever it is, do something OUTSIDE the boundaries of a church group. Bring a couple church friends and get to know some new people in this community.
The third thing is my Small Group! These crazy people have shaped me more than anything else. They have literally become my family in New York. We get together each Wednesday night, eat dinner and have really thought provoking conversations. We push each other’s views. We question each other’s perspective. Sometimes we even yell at each other! And we do it all in the most loving way I’ve ever experienced. Seriously! We respect each other so much, that even when we disagree we aren’t upset. We learn so much from each other. We’re from such different places, we’re in different life stages and we’re from different cultural backgrounds which allows us to speak into each other’s lives in really amazing ways. Beyond Wednesday nights, we really are a part of each other’s lives. We live life together, worshipping, volunteering, praying and even just playing. If you aren’t feeling authentic community in your life, join a small group! It’s not going to turn into your family overnight. It took me a good year before I opened up and actually let these people fully in my life, but I’m glad I took the time and stuck with it. Otherwise I never would have grown in the ways I have this year.