19 04 2010

The name of our skate park is The Refuge which we chose because we wanted to provide a refuge from this harsh world for kids. This weekend we really got to put the name to use.

First is a story from a kid who skated with us for a while but hasn’t been around much lately. He has had some troubles going on and hasn’t been able to come skate on Friday nights with us. Well this week he made sure to make it to the park because he was in much need of a refuge. The past week had been one of the most traumatic weeks of his life to date and honestly is a week I would consider to be from a nightmare. Friday he was having a particularly hard time dealing with the trauma and he just needed a place of rest–a refuge. His first choice was to come skate with us to escape the heart ache, visions that come when eyes close, and pain he is going through. We were very glad to be the refuge of choice for him and even for his family.

This was another great reminder of why we continue to do what we do. Our chance to be here for him and for his family was developed by consistently being part of the skate community here in Greeley and putting skin to God’s love for those in this community. I know it takes a lot of work, time, and commitment to be able to provide a refuge like we have, but weekends like this continue to show me it is worth every bit of it. I also understand it takes a combination of someone consistently being available and a team of supporters because we never know when life is going to hit hard. Without someone making themselves available on a regular basis this refuge would not have the impact it has now. And without a team of supporters making sure this person is able to be available this refuge would not have the impact it has now. THANK YOU FOR PARTNERING WITH ME TO MAKE THIS REFUGE POWERFULLY IMPACTING.

Secondly we also conducted a survey this weekend to see what the kids are thinking about the ministry we are providing. I’m still analyzing the information, but check out the first thing I was impacted by here.



19 04 2010

Partnering with my sister and brother-in-law, we have come up with a great survey to use at The Farm. Both my sister and her husband are professors who conduct research in the area of communication and youth program development adding a great deal of validity to our research via this survey.

At this time I am still analyzing the data but quickly compiled one piece that was sticking out to me. In one section of the survey the kids were asked to what extent they choose to come to The Farm to hang out. We asked them to measure this desire on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being not at all and 5 being completely. The 2 questions I want to focus on here were how much influence did hanging with friends have when coming to The Farm and how much influence did hanging with the leaders have when coming to The Farm. Hanging with friends average score (to date) was 3.76, hanging with the leaders was 4.24. This means hanging out with the leaders of The Farm scored better than hanging out with their friends. I have seen study after study saying the most influential group for teens is their peer group and yet in our ministry we have successfully challenged that norm. We are positioned incredibly well to be a strong, Christ-centered influence in these kids lives.

Thank you for helping make this possible and for joining with us in celebrating this incredible success of our ministry.

You Better be Good for Goodness Sake

8 12 2009

This current young generation is generating a lot of talk amongst church leaders about how they come to faith.  It looks like a shift is happening where this generation is more interested in experiencing God than in hearing about God.  They don’t want to just be told about Him, they want opportunities to experience His changing love.  They are also more interested in seeing how Christianity is played out in someone’s life than in hearing how it could be played out.

This is something we have grasped and have been implementing for a while now.  We are inviting people to partake in the actions we are taking to live out our faith.  Now, this doesn’t always result in them joining us in active faith, but it has been generating some great conversation.  One question I heard recently from one individual had to do with why we do good things (for goodness sake.)  I don’t think this question had anything to do with Santa but more to do with heaven.  He said he figured Christians only do good things in order to get into heaven.  And then he followed the question with, ‘Or have I just misunderstood Christianity?’  Man what an incredible question to come to before even deciding to follow Jesus.  I got the chance to briefly explain this is a misunderstanding of Christianity.  It has opened the door for me to explain the reason I do the ‘good deeds’ is not to get to heaven but to show God I love Him.  And now when I invite him to join me I get the chance to continually explain the real reason for my good deeds is love  and give him the opportunity to experience what it is like to spread this kind of love.  I have already seen others be surprised by how much they are impacted when they join us in loving those around us–and then we get to explain that it is because God made them that way.

Our other staff have told me of similar conversations stemmed from the faith in action steps we have been taking.  Sometimes they join us, and sometimes it opens doors for addressing misconceptions about God–but it is always a great way for us to worship God.

Love, The Neels

Bikes, Bikes, and more Bikes

4 08 2009

Our church group has been looking for a common mission to concentrate our energies on.  We have determined we want to build relationships with people who won’t hear the gospel via traditional church, but that is still very broad when it comes to looking for ways we can consistantly serve and make an impact.  This has left us with some wonder and even at times frustration.

But light is at the end of the tunnel.  This past week at Youth For Christ we were given the possible answer to our situation.  Someone came in to talk to us about an after-school program he used to run with small engine repair and bicycle repair.  We have actually been talking about how to do more with bicycles anyway, so this was an intriguing opporutnity.  This person is no longer able to do the after-school program but has a great number of bikes stored.  He ended up giving us all the resources he had from his program for us to begin our own program.  We have been brainstorming and have some really great ideas.

One, we are going to begin building and maintaining bikes for some of the homeless ministries around town to use.  Some of the resources for homeless people to use are so far on the out skirts of town they become hard to access.  Therefore bikes that are readily accesible for homeless people would make those ministries more usuable.  In addition, we would like to build small bikes for underprivledged children.  We will distrubute these to kids via the schools in Greeley.  Also, we are looking at developing a bike library modeled after other communities.  This would be a place for people in need of a bike but not having the funds to secure one.

We are still working out the details, but we are going to look at how to combine serving our community, inviting others into serving, and leading kids in giving back to their community.  We are pretty excited about the possibilities with this new endeavor and very greatful for the incredible opportunity just given to us.  God always shows up at just the right time.

Love, The Neels

The Call

3 07 2009

As I was writing about the beginnings of the snowdome vision I was reminded of something very important. One very significant event of confirmation came from God’s leading in prayer about the use of the snowdome. Nick (the other guy I was talking with when we came up with the idea for the snowdome) and I both felt God tell us in prayer the snowdome should be used to help kids stay off drugs. God confirmed this in prayer to us both separately and we then learned about it while we spoke about the ways God was leading us.

In addition, I feel God is taking me on a journey to see the incredibly negative impacts of drug use on individuals as well as families. This has lead me to a reminder of the call God has on our ministry, to help kids make healthy life choices which includes not doing drugs.

So I’m now doing all the research I can to find the government agencies and other ministries that deal with drug prevention. I want to see how we can start to be used to make a difference in our community by helping kids make healthy life choices.

I am also putting together a meeting for people I know who have gotten off drugs, parents who have lived through their kids choices of doing drugs, people who develop youth programs, and some kids currently using drugs. We are going to brainstorm about what the issues are, what things have been tried and didn’t work, what has worked, and what can we do in the future to impact drug prevention in our community.

Please pray for wisdom as we run this path and for strength as I become more aware of the negative impacts of drugs.

Thank you. Love, The Neels

The Sweet Taste of Rejection

20 06 2009

You remember that first person you were so nervous to even say hi to?  Eventually you got to strike up a conversation and you finally had the chance to ask this person out.  You remember how great you felt when they said no?  Yeah, me either.  But I’m better able to look at rejection now which is why I feel good about this one.

I was talking to a friend who we have built a relationship with via the skate ministry.  We have been friends for years now and this friend still isn’t accepting Christianity.  Well, the other day we were sitting down talking and I asked why the continued rejection.  The responses were not as important and this next part.  It really boiled down to him not being ready to commit everything in his life to following Christ.  He isn’t ready to make a complete commitment.  Well, that isn’t usually cause for gratefulness, but it was for me on this day.  This rejection meant the thing our skate ministry has expressed to him is that following Christ is something you do with your entire life, not just a part of it.

I don’t know if I can ask for much more.  He has seen the reality of who God is and what it means to follow Him, and he currently rejects that.  But at least he is looking at the truth so he can acuratley make a decision–a decision I still hope will lead him to a complete life of following Christ.

Thank you for being a part of this message being communicated to those in our community.

Love, The Neels


20 06 2009

I don’t think we need to talk much to all agree on the incredible selfless life Jesus lived.  So I’m starting at Jesus being the most selfless person ever.  We also don’t need to do much in-depth discussion to come to the conclusion we are to follow Jesus in the life He lived.  So that pretty much puts us at realizing we are called to live a selfless life just like Jesus did.

Pretty easy to get to that realization, but we hit a huge traffic jam right there.  While we look to see if their is a side road we could take to bypass all the congestion, we have to settle on the truth it just takes some hard struggles to slowly work our way toward selflessness ourselves.  But while we work through this jam, we have time to think about what causes it.

While I have no absolute answers, we have become aware of some situations that may contribute to selfishness.  I’m less concerned with the cause and more concerned with how to make some forward progress, so in Unearthed we have been trying to purposely put ourselves into situations in order to help us become more selfless.

One issue we have learned about while on this journey deals with how we do our gatherings.  We are trying to assess our gatherings based on how helpful are they to our friends who aren’t experiencing God.  We found our tendency is to assess our gatherings based on how helpful they are to us but this was causing more selfishness in us.  Now this isn’t saying anything about how the gathering should look or what needs to be done to benefit our friends, it is a heart issue.  It is the issue of “I’m doing this because my friend is more important than I am.”  We believe this is actually more beneficial to us spiritually.

A second thing we have found is how little we think about others outside of ‘church.’  We are trying to create our ‘service as worship’ experiences to open our eyes to situations surrounding us each day where we could bring God’s love into that situation.  We are finding those in our community are significantly moving toward an understanding of what it is like to live church as opposed to attend church as we partake in these activities.  I believe it is in part due to elevating the lifestyle of Christianity over the attendance at an event and being verbal about that.  I know most churches believe lifestyle is more important than the event, but often I don’t believe this is clearly communicated verbally or by actions from the church.  As we started communicating the significance of living the life both by words and mostly by actions, we are all moving in this direction as a community.

All-in-all as we move toward selflessness either in a traditional church or in missional church, we become more like God made us.  Good luck in this traffic jam and I’ll say hi when we find ourselves close enough to role down the windows and chat a bit.

Love, The Neels