By Ryan Giegling
June 18, 2018
In the 16-18 months leading up to our 20th Anniversary as a church this spring, we have been working through a process to clearly articulate our philosophy of ministry as it relates to several aspects of life within the church. These core convictions flow directly from our best understanding of what the Bible teaches, as well as the experience we’ve gained from doing 20 years of ministry in central Michigan. We’ve included a few sections of this document below which speak to some of the issues raised in recent articles. Our hope is that the information provided below gives those who are interested some helpful insight into our core convictions as they relate to education, family relationships, and the essential role that women play in the life and ministry of the church. These core convictions guide our teaching and practice at Grace Church.
Pursuing a College Education We support the value of post-secondary education. We recognize it as an important and necessary training ground for many professions. We have a thriving group of students, known around Grace Church as the Young Church, ranging from high school and college students to those pursuing graduate degrees and beginning their careers after graduation. It is a privilege to serve these followers of Christ, especially during this unique season of growth in their lives. We want them to be contributing members of the community in their area of expertise. We are grateful for the ways God has blessed the people of Grace Church with important and strategic roles throughout the community in a wide variety of fields. We truly believe the church should be a place where people can discover and develop their unique gifts and abilities. We also recognize that post-secondary education is not for everyone, and we wholeheartedly support those who choose to pursue other avenues after high school. Whether students choose to take classes or not, we encourage them to consider this very important decision with their family. Over the last few years we’ve had a limited number of students who have chosen not to go to college for various personal reasons, but this has been the exception within our church body. To give a little perspective, 91% of our college-aged students at Grace will be taking classes this fall or have already graduated from college. When looking at the broader group of members of all ages at Grace Church, 80% have completed undergraduate or graduate degrees and all but 2% of our members have taken classes at the post-secondary level. (Nationally, approximately 65% of high school students enroll in post-secondary education and 33% of those 25 years or older have at least a 4-year degree.) In our current group of Young Churchers who are college-aged or who have recently graduated from college, just over half of them are female and all but one are either working toward the completion of their degree or have already graduated. Education is also the number one employer in Mt. Pleasant between the public school system, Mid Michigan Community College, and Central Michigan University. Many of our members are also employees or students in each of these places and we value their Christlike contribution to the educational environment throughout mid-Michigan. The Value of Family The importance and value of relationships with family and friends would be hard to overstate. Our families have an immeasurable impact on our lives, and we believe this is God’s design. God has blessed us with so many awesome kids at Grace Church. We love them dearly and desire to model a life of authentic and genuine faith in our homes and when we’re gathered as a church. In particular, we believe that parents play an essential and irreplaceable role in their child’s growth and development. As a church, we do everything we can to teach the Bible to our kids in ways that are relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate, but we believe that Children’s Ministry is just one piece of the bigger picture. We believe that the parents have the primary responsibility to raise their children and help them to grow in their faith, and we strive to honor and respect this unique and God-given authority. Although the relationship between parents and children changes as kids get older, we believe that parents are to be honored and respected through every stage of life. Our parents have valuable insight into our character and their counsel should be not only be heard, but strongly considered and heeded whenever possible. The relationships that students have with their parents during the college years pose some unique challenges. Many students are away from home from the first time, or still living at home, and desiring more autonomy and independence. We see this as a natural and necessary part of growing up. That being said, we recognize that when students are also learning to rely on God and consider His will for their lives as they make decisions, these added dynamics can be especially challenging for parents who may feel at times like their input into their child’s life has been diminished. We’ve thought a lot about this over the last several years and sought, in both counsel and practice, to make sure that students are actively seeking out their parents input and that parents still feel they have an “open door” into the lives of their kids. From our experience, the communication of our students with their parents is not always the best, which can lead to some understandable questions or concerns. For those in our church with kids at this stage of life, we too wrestle with the tension of giving our kids the space they need to make their own decisions and mistakes in life, while also providing appropriate support, counsel, and feedback along the way. This can be tricky to navigate and we’re constantly trying to learn how to best help our students during these formative years of their lives. We feel a sense of responsibility to encourage our students to seek out their parents’ input, honor their counsel, and to practically express their love and commitment to their families by making the effort to visit them whenever possible. The overwhelming majority of our members, both students and otherwise, have great relationships with their families, and that’s the way we think it ought to be. Women in Ministry God has blessed Grace Church with so many godly, faithful, and capable women who add incredible life and energy to the Body. The women at Grace Church set an example for us all in terms of their love for the Lord, their roles in the workplace, and their love for the people at Grace Church. We have a broad mix of women who serve God in a variety of settings, and who are at different stages of life in terms of their family dynamics and work life (both in and outside the home). The same goes for the men at Grace Church. We seek to strengthen and encourage the women of Grace through ongoing ministry initiatives. Women at Grace Church serve in key leadership roles in each of our ministries and are encouraged to use their gifts to the fullest possible extent. We are so grateful to God for all of the women at Grace Church, and we’re excited about how God is using them to strengthen, encourage, and lead the Body of Christ.