In over a decade of youth ministry, Sean has transformed 7 spaces into youth rooms and two vehicles into advertising, multi-purpose, eye catching, coach-machines. His creativity, vision, and ability to delegate and partner with gifted people makes for unique opportunities.
Big Oak is Sean’s non-profit that develops some of his unconventional ideas. Speaking at camps, developing devotional materials, and partnering with other youth ministries works well under the name of a non-profit instead of a name of a specific church.
Sean’s creativity always has him dreaming outside the box, whether it’s church ministry, Big Oak type ministry, or other ideas entirely. One day he may open a barbershop- he has plans created. He’d love to build a shop house and reminds me of the perks of concrete flooring- pressure washing is more effective than mopping after kids have eaten spaghetti!
Another one of Sean’s loves is the small Dutch town we live in. He’s not Dutch and he often sticks out like a sore thumb (or uses my Dutch maiden name for clout to fit in a little better) but he’s made every effort to be part of the community.
The Front Street to our little town has a little Dutch Village Mall that historically has had a pull for tourists. The first time I visited Lynden as a kid my family stayed in the hotel there, watched the koi fish in the indoor canal, and shopped for Dutch trinkets. When my family came back to consider moving to Lynden in the late 90s our first stop was at the Mall to eat at the Sidewalk Café and peruse the lace shop.
After a nearly two year stint doing other things, S. returned in December to the church that in a sense, raised us. We started there after only a year of marriage and spent eight years learning and building a ministry.
Now being back, ministry looks somewhat different. We, certainly, have grown and changed. We knew there would be surprises and didn’t know what to expect after time away.
Without question, the biggest surprise and kindest gift God gave was adding former students back into our lives. When I showed up to train new leaders in January I was humbled to see about eight former students who have returned to lead small groups or serve in various capacities.
The same week I received an email from a former student (turned friend) who serves as a missionary in Argentina.
I remember when this beautiful missionary was an awkward, broken middle schooler struggling with addiction and deep loneliness. I remember being overwhelmed at my lack of insight or ability to meet her needs. I couldn’t be everything she needed but I did know the One who is, so with my shortcomings I simply pointed her to Him. I felt like it wasn’t enough- not enough time spent, not enough wisdom to pull her through, not enough prayers for what she was going through.
Yet I learned having her in my small group that God isenough. He spent time with her, He began speaking and giving her wisdom, He surrounded her with other believers to walk with her.
When she wrote me this winter she was preparing to go India for an outreach and said:
Did you ever imagine 9 years ago this is where I would be? You may never leave Lynden my friend, but people all over the world know now Jesus because of your investment in one little girl. Way to gain inheritance in the nations my dear friend
A little love goes a long way.
I love you! And that’s for spending time on me : )
I thanked God.
I was encouraged and drawn to my knees realizing that my flawed efforts were used in a mighty way.
The fantastic thing about doing one thing for an extended amount of time is the perspective it brings. My heart has been broken over many students’ choices and over their own heart breaks. I’ve prayed, agonized, and worried about many of them.
After a decade in ministry I have seen God’s faithfulness. I have seen many who walked away return. We have had former students show up at our door for many reasons this year. They’ve come to announce an engagement, to ask for advice about future plans, or for prayer over personal struggles. Some still come for food and our kids invite them to their birthday parties.
In these few months we have already cringed at some of our current students making poor choices. Working with people is never clean. Investing our hearts can be exhausting. Hearing that another disappearing student was picked up by the cops is disheartening.
My aunt once told me that sometimes in life it’s as if we have a curtain in front of us and we’re unable to see what God is doing behind the curtain. It looks fruitless, hopeless, and mystifying. Then in certain moments He (and here’s where she mimics pulling back a curtain with her sparkly painted nails and opens wide her animated eyes) pulls back the curtain and gives us just a glimpse- “Oh! A glimpse!” of the amazing things He is orchestrating. The glimpses excite and fuel us to continue on in His work.
When I walk into a youth ministry night to see our amazing student led band lead students in worship, I experience a moment of the curtain being pulled back.
As you know, Shilo and I have been on sabbatical for the last several weeks due to anxiety, stress, and spiritual duress. A few years ago I had a severe anxiety attack as the result of years of fast paced ministry and unhealthy habits formed by my overworking, driven, undisciplined nature. For the past two years we have sought health and healing through our faith, better boundaries, counseling, and medication. In moving to Mount Vernon last summer we hoped the slower pace and new job would bring to completion the restoration we prayed and hoped for.
In October I encountered a spiritual attack that was more debilitating than I realized at the time. In one day I had calls from 3 separate people regarding being woken in the night and told to pray for this battle I was facing. Regardless, I lost fight and resolve. Over the next two months I battled isolation, apathy, depression, and anxiety. Without realizing the depths of my wounds I continued to bleed with the infection of poor choices and an unhealthy pace. Ultimately I had another severe anxiety attack in December that left me debilitated, left my wife wounded, and my family a casualty.
These past six weeks have been the most significant time in my spiritual life and in my marriage. I have rediscovered my identity in Christ. I see that pride is the root of my sin and anxiety. I know the purest calling of my life is to honor God alone. Shilo and I have found healing, restoration, and hope for the future of our marriage and family. I am learning to die to myself, to my dreams, and my own plans.
As you can guess this process has involved confusion yet clarity; excitement yet sadness; fear yet faith. Ultimately we have decided that I am unable to serve as Pastor at this time.
At this time I am stepping down from my current pastoral role at MVCTK. Matt C. will be taking my responsibilities in youth ministry along with Grace L. I will be part-time helping the staff here at MVCTK while Shilo and I seek further direction for this next season of life.
We love our Mount Vernon family and have experienced unconditional love and grace from this church family. We have been unbelievably blessed and are so proud to have MVCTK as our home. We covet your prayers and continued support as we seek the Lord’s will for our family.
Sean and Shilo
Attending a church with the slogan “always a place for you” gives me warm fuzzies. Ahhh, I’m welcome, loved, and they have to accept me- their slogan says it!
Christ the King has a heart for lost and broken people, a model comprising of small groups, a vision to keep the main thing the main thing.In being part of the CTK story I have learned that a church that draws transparent people is always adventure. It isn’t always warm fuzzies…but itis always adventure. We regularly hear crazy stories of where people have been, how Christ has redeemed their life, and look forward to future with them.
In over eight years of full time ministry you start to think “we’ve seen it all”.There were 3 weeks this fall when this was proven wrong.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...