“Dear Emily” I Timothy 4:11-16 NCV

Dear Emily,

          The Apostle Paul wrote many letters, many of which are included in our Bible as Scripture.  Letter-writing has become almost passe, somewhat like the lost art of cursive.  But we know that Paul was writing to his younger minister friend Timothy as a means of encouragement.  That is my hope today.

          Paul instructed Timothy to “command and teach these things.  Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young.”  When you began as our Summer Intern in May 2015, you were barely twenty-three-years old, and we “threw you into the deep end.”  Vacation Bible School was to begin within two weeks of the congregational vote on May 17 to call you.  You and I enlisted almost the entire Vacation Bible School faculty with the exception of four people.  You then directed a great Everest VBS; then the next year, you enlisted all the faculty and directed Cave Quest VBS; and then did the same last June for Maker Fun Factory.  Each year, the numbers for our Vacation Bible School rose.

           Your first summer, I asked you to plan a weekly activity for Youth and a weekly activity for children.  That summer, Terrific Tuesdays included a Youth Scavenger Hunt; trip to Dale Massey’s farm with zipline and ponds; cookout; Movie Night; Six Flags; Camp Twin Lakes Ropes Course; Pizza Party; Parent’s Night Out; Volunteer Day; and Game Night.  Wacky Wednesdays for children that summer included baking/decorating cookies for Meals on Main; Water Day in the Pecan Grove; Movie Night; Pool Party; Skate Party in Buckhead; and Game Night.  You also took children to PASSPORTkids! In Spartanburg, SC and took youth to PASSPORTchoices in Greensboro, NC, which included a trip to Carowinds Amusement park.

          As the summer progressed, many came to me and asked if there was a way to keep you full-time.  On August 16, 2015, our congregation unanimously called you to serve as our full-time Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries. You immediately enlisted 20 workers to lead Youth and Children’s Sunday School; Children’s Wednesday night activities; and Sunday night Youth Bible Studies.  You led the youth on Wednesdays in worship, activities, and Bible Study.  On Sunday nights, high school girls met separately from high school boys in homes for Bible Study.  You led all middle-schoolers; I had asked you to attempt to grow this group, and you have done a fabulous job. 

           You had enjoyed a Youth Prayer Breakfast growing up at First Baptist Church of Dalton, and on September 1, 2015, you began a weekly Youth Prayer Breakfast at Chick-fil-A for middle and high schoolers.  You even drove the Middle Schoolers from Chick-Fil-A every week to school. Last school year, the group gathered weekly at the Youth House.  Volunteers are needed to continue this ministry; and can sign up to assist by picking up breakfast on Mondays, serving and cleaning up on Tuesday mornings.  When we made a request, money began to pour in so that the youth could eat for free.  I hope that you felt appreciated by the generous donations from so many anonymous church members.

          The advice Paul gave to Timothy was to silence the criticism of his critics with his conduct.  No one could say that your work ethic could be challenged.  You continued to plan events and trips.  You took a Back-to School Retreat to Tybee Island and Savannah in August 2015; a Youth Ski Retreat in February 2016; and a Youth Fall Retreat to Bryson City, NC for Fall Retreat in October 2016.  You joined other Christians for Faith in 3D in Disney World in January 2017 which invited youth from different Christian backgrounds to explore their common faith in Jesus Christ through worship, education, and community building. This summer you took kids to Student Life Camp at Lee University, and took our youth to Generate Student Missions Camp at Covenant College.

          You planned Whirlyball; annual Easter Egg Hunts; went to Winter Jam Concerts; planned Christmas parties for children and youth (including Tacky Christmas sweaters); encouraged our children as they began school each year with the Blessing of the Backpacks as we did today.  You provided crowd control for Tiny Tunes and Music Makers on Wednesday nights and assisted when they blessed us in worship on Sunday mornings.

          The summer of 2016 also included weekly activities for youth and children.  Our youth enjoyed Bible Studies; Six Flags; and successive weeks of Youth Summer Olympic Games in the pecan grove.  Tuesday Toss-Up activities for children included a Bible lesson and a variety of activities each week.

          But the week-to-week discipleship and Bible Study were never overlooked.  You continued to enlist workers for all Children’s Discipleship classes for fall and spring and for Children’s and Youth Sunday School Classes.  This was no small feat given families’ attendance patterns and schedules.  This past summer our youth taught our Children in Sunday School, and you met weekly with our youth on Wednesday nights for supper and activities

         You planned two Children’s Sundays and two Youth Sundays when our children and youth led in all aspects of worship through prayer, ushering, singing, and reading scripture.  You enlisted youth to participate in a memorable rendition of “The Tonight Show,” and to be speakers on Youth Sunday.  You have enlisted children and youth to read scripture and lead in worship in other ways.  You helped plan our Graduate Recognition Services and other special emphases.

          You assisted me in facilitating our New Convert Class for children, and witnessed several of our children and youth make professions of faith.

You led our youth in a study on Christian doctrines, called “Defined,” where you discussed different terms we often hear and use as Christians, but may not fully understand.

          One of the most lasting legacies that you leave in your service to Madison Baptist Church is redecorating the Youth House.  You helped organize a huge Yard Sale on June 11, 2016 receiving donations to be sold and also sold dated furniture from the Youth House resulting in raising more than $2,000.  Renovations included painting, adding new furniture, reformatting the kitchen, putting in new carpet, and remodeling the downstairs bathroom. 

           Another new tradition which you introduced and I hope continues is Promotion Sunday.  In addition to the preschoolers and children moving to the next age/grade up, we recognize those children going into kindergarten, third and seventh grades by receiving an age-appropriate Bible in worship.  Thanks for creating the worship bags for our children.

          Last November, you resurrected a Church-wide Talent Show and added a Silent Cake Auction to benefit youth and children’s summer camps.  We were all overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our children and youth.  Many participated by offering talents and baking pies, cakes, and brownies for the bake auction which netted $1,900.  This was a huge help for those families whose children and youth went to camp this summer.

          Sharing the love of Jesus in tangible ways through missions has been a significant component of your planning and ministry.  You have assisted with Wednesdays Without Walls which has included communion delivery to shut-ins; many meals taken to residents at the Budget Inn; Christmas Caroling; visiting with and singing to residents at Madison Health & Rehab; collection of school supplies.  You led teams to March Mission Madness both years to participate with other Georgia youth groups in a weekend of local missions and worship, and helped plan the feeding of the Morgan County Varsity Football Team prior to their first home game both years.

          You helped organize and participated in Family Mission Day with more than thirty others from our church in physically sharing God’s love here in Madison.  You helped clean a home which had been uninhabited for two years.  You led our youth in making cards for School Resource Officers as our church adopted the Morgan County Sherriff’s Office.  You collected canned goods and cash for The Caring Place through Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday.  This summer, you helped coordinate two missions opportunities to prepare sack lunches at MBC and then distributed them to the homeless at First Baptist Church in Athens through the ministry of Our Daily Bread.  Today, we have blessed the backpacks not only of our children but also the backpacks that have been donated to assist those in our schools that need help.  You have participated in our Young Adult Dinner Club and our church Softball Team.

          You have chosen to support our children and youth personally by attending their soccer, baseball, and football games, cross country meets, play practices, pep rallies, recitals, plays, and birthday parties.  This truly communicated how much you cared for them as individuals 

          Added to your busy schedule was attendance at quarterly Church Council Meetings; monthly Deacons Meetings; and Weekly Staff Meetings where you have been a valued voice in what we do and how we serve.  With ease, you have led Worship in many capacities and offered the Pastoral Prayer when I was away.  What most of us will miss the most is your Weekly Children’s Sermon.  Over the past two years, we have seen an evolution in confidence and depth.  You have been able to take a few comments in Staff Meeting regarding the sermon title and scripture for the day and have offered tremendous practical truths for our children … and adults.  I am keenly aware that your Children’s Sermons are layered, that there is a surface message for the children and a deeper meaning for the adults.  As a Human Growth and Development major from the great University of Georgia, thanks for sharing your developmental insights with us.

          As Paul told Timothy, I encourage you to continue to be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your pure life.  Your example here at Madison Baptist Church has been foundational for a tremendous life of ministry serving Jesus through his Church.  

          As you have offered to our children and youth, and as Paul told Timothy, I hope that you continue to read the Scriptures to the people, that your studies at McAfee School of Theology will strengthen your understanding, and that your ministry continues to be biblically-based, as it has been here.

          Paul told Timothy to use the gifts he had, which is my counsel to you.  You have been given gifts of intelligence, stamina, and compassion.  Don’t be afraid to allow your heart to break for the things that break the heart of God.  Continue to stand for injustice everywhere, and as a “little Christ,” offer kindness and sensitivity to delicate situations.  You have developed into a good listener and are more mature than most your age.  You are genuine and likable; these traits will carry you far, but I urge you to throw yourself into your studies with the same vigor that you have undertaken in your roles here.

          Paul warned Timothy to be full of care in his life and teaching.  I hope that you take care of yourself, and that you take time for yourself when you move to Atlanta.  Many nights, I would leave the office at 7:30 and ask you how much longer you were going to stay in the office.  Thank you for working so hard.  Thank you for taking this calling seriously.  Thank you for giving your all to our youth and children.  Thank you for being an example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in what you say, in how you live, and in how you love. 

          Emily, we will miss you at Madison Baptist Church, and you are always welcome to come back and see us.  As Paul wrote in another letter to the Philippians, I close with his words to you, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for you because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:3-6)

          We love you, and we are so proud of you.