by Michael Guyer
ANN ARBOR, MI – When COVID-19 hit and swept across the nation, we scrambled to move services online and pressed pause on a lot of our normal routines. We still gathered regularly (and virtually) for small groups, discipleship, prayer, and fellowship, but there wasn't much structure or order to it. We pressed pause on our strategy or goals, and we clung to the Lord and one another to walk through this trial. However, even in this chaotic time, we rejoiced in the fruit that was borne – relationships within our young Body were strengthened. Our church served one another sacrificially. We gathered virtually multiple times a week during lunch for prayer. We found ways to meet tangible needs in our community. We prioritized worship and hearing the preaching of the Word. We were trying to figure out how to share the gospel with our neighbors and friends virtually.
This entire season has been marked by prayer, but our prayers increased as we sought the Lord for wisdom for how exactly we were to go forth. We had no meeting space – the public schools canceled all building reservations. We looked for spaces to rent on our own, but that was a dead end too. However, we knew that we were no longer facing a season that we needed to grin and bear it. We had to find a way to grow and thrive.
We went to the drawing board – assessing the needs of our church family and community and aligning those needs with our mission and our vision. After a few weeks, we came out with a fresh strategy for ministry this year.
We started to unpack the boxes and get settled into this new life, and we called those in our church to join us in the process.
Our Refreshed Strategy
We developed a few ministry focuses for this year:
Prioritize gathering with our church family on Sundays for worship and preaching of the Word.
Cultivate healthy, biblical community within our church through virtual small groups and organic relationships.
Establish Men's and Women's Discipleship ministries to add focus and support in growing our members in their relationships with the Lord and one another.
Focus on strengthening our families with children as well as reaching new families this year.
Continue to be present in our community – sharing the gospel, meeting real needs, and seeking the welfare of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and the University of Michigan.
Remain committed to developing leaders and sending our members out on mission in their everyday lives.
Here are a few ways these things have happened:
During the months of August and September, we gathered for corporate worship outside at a local park. This was such a blessing to us after months of isolation. We were able to take the Lord's Supper together, worship and sit under the preaching of the Word together, and connect in-person with one another. We also were able to welcome new guests and visitors more easily who have since become more integrated into the life of our church.
In October, it gets cold and the weather can be very unpredictable and will remain that way until May (However, God has been gracious to give us a few days in the 70s this November!!). We transitioned our Sunday morning gathering to a virtual format – live-streamed online – but we are urging all members to gather together at host homes to worship together in small groups of 10. We currently have 4 host homes on Sunday mornings.
Fostering Biblical community
Right now, this is one of the biggest joys of ministry at TCC. God is knitting together our hearts, forming deep friendships across life stages and generations. We are seeing a lot of momentum and excitement with college students, young professionals, and families with children. Our church genuinely loves one another, is encouraging one another in our walks with Christ, and sacrificially serving one another. We recently added two new members to our church, and we have quite a few who are in our membership process preparing to join. One of these individuals recently said, during her membership interview, "I wrestled with the idea of church membership, but after gathering with you for a while now and seeing you up close, I am realizing how similar TCC is living life like the church in the Book of Acts. It's just really cool and transformative to witness. I really want to be a part of something like this." (We tried to hold back our tears and keep it together-- I'm not sure it worked.)
Growing our ministry to men, women and families
This year, our church started a Men's Discipleship ministry and a Women's Discipleship ministry that focuses specifically on gender-specific learning environments and discipleship. These are in addition to the Equip Classes that we began last spring for co-ed learning. These new avenues of ministry-- particularly in the form of Bible studies and book discussions-- have produced a lot of fruit. We have seen brothers and sisters in Christ grow in holiness together. They have also been pathways for leaders to be developed (they have been led or co-led by non-staff members) as well as pathways for visitors and unbelievers to participate. This past summer, we had 4 unbelieving women participate in our women's Bible study through the book of James with a few of our members who invited them to join. It has provided several opportunities to talk more about the gospel, and those women are still remaining connected at TCC.
We also have invested significantly in ministering to families. We have reimagined our Kids Ministry to meet the needs of families in this unique and difficult time. We are doing this through a few key ways:
An all-new Jesus Kids Club aimed to facilitate family discipleship
Serving parents through providing free date nights, blessings, and resources to encourage and equip them
Beginning a gospel-centered Kids Library for families to use.
In October, we hosted a free family outing at a local farm. This was a huge success for us as it provided us an opportunity to connect with lots of new families in our community (whom we are following up with now), and it allowed us to be a blessing to unbelieving families that we have been building relationships with for the past two years.
Gospel-Witness In Our Community
While everything during this season tells us to turn inward and focus on your "bubble," the gospel compels us to face outward towards our neighbors, friends, and community. In this season, our church is regularly serving at the Maize and Blue Cupboard (food pantry for University of Michigan students), Peace Neighborhood Center with their weekly food distribution, and has been a part of discussions about racial unity in our local community. We also had the privilege of providing 300 USDA food boxes to local non-profit organizations to distribute to families in need.
A lot of amazing gospel-work is being done out of the limelight too. We are hearing stories of our members sharing the gospel for the first time with friends, neighbors, and family members. Specifically, our family has been focusing a lot of time on building relationships with our neighbors and fellow parents in our daughter's school. During this time of darkness and difficulty for so many, our family is committed to being a light in that darkness. We want to be a blessing to other families – loving their children, listening to their struggles, and offering hope through Jesus Christ. Many of our friends are closed off to the gospel, but we pray that we can love them so genuinely that we would be allowed the privilege to be let into their deeper struggles and tenderly offer them the hope we have found through Jesus. We can see the Spirit is at work in their lives. We know He is pursuing them. Would you pray for them with us?
How can you pray for us?
Are you wondering how you can shoulder burdens with us during this time? Below are a few ways you can pray:
Pray for gospel fruit. Many of us are sharing the gospel with friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and yet, many still remained closed to the Lord. Would you pray that the Lord would open their eyes and save our friends?
Pray for wisdom. We need wisdom on how to lead through this difficult time. Pray for us to depend on the Lord for every decision, to discern where He is leading, and step out in faith when it is time.
Pray for a meeting location for corporate worship. While we know that the Lord has led us to gathering in small groups of 10 for worship in host homes on Sunday, we desperately want to worship together corporately in a space of our own. Would you pray that the Lord would lead us to the right location, so we can gather again as a whole church family?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael started following Jesus when he was a teenager. Before starting Treasuring Christ Church, Michael served in various roles within the church, including missions, student ministry and college ministry. Michael is married to Emily, and they have three children Amelia, John, and Caroline. Michael loves serving alongside Emily, who oversees Kids Ministry and Women’s Discipleship for Treasuring Christ Church. In addition to hanging out with his family, Michael loves a good cup of Ethiopian coffee, anything with peanut butter, and just about every sport. His greatest desire is to see Jesus treasured above all things and His church established right here in Ann Arbor and to the ends of the earth.