Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Unplugged: More than just rolls.

A lot of my attention these past eight weeks has been focused on Unplugged, the college ministry at Legacy Christian Church. It started as a "singles" ministry four years ago, and though now we refer to it as our college/young adult ministry, it is essentially still a group of young, unmarried people. It's a grassroots ministry effort that is now serving as a model for college ministries all over the country, as friends have learned here and now taken their leadership abilities and started their own groups. We love our "satellite campuses" in New Jersey and Michigan!

This year Unplugged continues to grow in overwhelming ways. We are trying to better connect the students who meet in the Pauls' house on Sunday nights with the greater congregation that meets in our building on Sunday mornings. Two weeks ago we launched A.M.unplugged, an ABF class during our first service which targets this group.

The following is a recent promo video we produced to share this ministry we love so much.

(You can find a full length version of this video here.)

A year a half ago, our fearless leaders at Unplugged were recognized by Reggie Joiner and Orange. Below is the essay Beth and I wrote to our friends at Orange explaining why we believe Tim and Marilyn deserved the prestigious Orange Award. It's long, but well worth the read, and I hope it inspires you, gives you hope, and encourages you, whatever your ministry.

At first glance, Tim and Marilyn Paul are your average run-of-the millI people--60 years old, running a business, working jobs, having family dinner nights and attending grandkidsʼ t-ball games. Tim is a southern boy with a good accent and a fishing pole and a stocked gun cabinet, and Marilyn is a kind sweet woman with a gift of hospitality (and making cookies with no recipe). I (Sarah) have known them for a few years now as my “Florida parents.” Having moved from Michigan to Florida for college, they were the ones at my church to find me at a critical time in my life and embrace me, take me in, and love me as parents would. I spent many tearful evenings as a college student at the Paulsʼ crying over coffee with Marilyn, and many afternoons gleaning wisdom from Tim on one subject or another.

When I asked Beth to give me an anecdote about the Pauls to share as well, she could really only say they did the exact same thing for her, only she was already post-college. We laughed as we realized (as we have before) that Marilyn and Tim make everyone feel like family, that you are one of their own, that you are more than welcome and you donʼt ever need an invitation (even for Christmas Dinner).

In the fall of 2008, Legacy Christian Church started a ministry called “Unplugged.” At first it was a group of people without a definite demographic--singles, college students, young adults, a handful of young marrieds thrown in. Tim and Marilyn were the couple who felt called to voluntarily lead this group.

It started meeting at their home on Sunday nights from 6:30-8:30 PM. Marilyn prepared an AMAZING home cooked meal (and incredible desserts) which was followed by a teaching from Tim. Timʼs topics of discussion varied, but the thing thatʼs amazing is that he is willing to talk about anything. At Unplugged we cover topics that typically the church avoids, because they are messy or hard or simply easier not to deal with. Those are the discussions Tim takes head on and develops material out of--things young people need to know and talk about in a safe and loving environment. He pours through the Scripture and finds verses and stories and truly shares from his heart and life experiences.

Whatʼs so amazing about Tim and Marilyn isnʼt just the cooking or the lessons, itʼs their hearts. These two people love the Lord with everything they have in them, and that translates out to the people around them. Financially, itʼs a burden, but you would never know it. There is virtually no budget for the ministry, but they selflessly gave up their own spending habits to have more to put into their ministry. They also give up a remarkable amount of time. Though we technically only meet for two hours, Marilyn spends countless hours preparing food, and the same is true for Timʼs lessons. After our meetings, people are there until late in the evening, sharing burdens and stories. But the Pauls know no limits! They are always willing to talk and listen and pray.

In August of 2010, the Unplugged leadership team hit a rough patch. Tim and Marilyn were tired (though theyʼd never admit it). They wanted to transition to solely college ministry, but werenʼt sure how to transition and still provide a group for the “older folks.”Both of us (Beth and Sarah) were out of college and werenʼt really sure where our place was. Our group of 10 to15 was definitely struggling, and we were about ready to throw in the towel.

Thatʼs when God reminded us of just how amazing He is. School was back in session for the three universities in town, and all of a sudden students just starting showing up out of nowhere! We had a week where there were about 25 people, and we were thrilled to see so many! By word of mouth the group expanded significantly. We were shocked when the next week there were 40, and a month after that we were averaging over 60 college students...and still cramming them all into a house!

Simply put, the love pouring out of Tim and Marilyn was infectious. Students wanted to put aside their busy schedules and come be a part of was was happening. Sure, free food is a great draw, but there is so much more than that at Unplugged. One student recently stated that our ministry shirts will read “Unplugged! Come for the rolls, stay for Jesus.” Tim and and Marilyn have made their house “home” to so many of us, and that is something every college student needs. Youʼre not a stranger; youʼre welcome there.

We used to plan events for the ministry--movie nights, putt-putt outings, bowling--but we realized thatʼs no longer what we need. Yes, Marilyn makes cookies every week and we deliver them to all the new visitorsʼ dorms, but even home made cookies arenʼt what are making a difference. All these students long for is someone who cares, someone who loves them and is willing to show it by opening up their home for a few hours on Sunday night.

Marilyn and Tim would be so “angry” at us that we write these words about who they are. They would respond to these words with: “We love unplugged, itʼs one of our favorite times of the week,” and “Itʼs OUR blessing that we get to have all the young people at our home.” You see, thatʼs the thing, the biggest thing, the only thing; Marilyn and Tim give God all the glory, all the honor and all the praise for Unplugged. They are humbled, as we all are, each time we meet at what God is doing around us and for us.


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