I have many fond memories of second grade. It was my first year at St. Mary’s Episcopal Day School–it was the school to attend if you were a dork (which I was) or if your parents had political aspirations for you (mine did not–they were just hoping I would graduate from high school).

The highlight of my second grade experience wasn’t the uniforms, weekly chapel services, or even the Taco Bell catered lunches. It was a woman. Not just any woman, mind you. I was smitten by an older, married woman. Her name was Mrs. Ennis and she was my second-grade teacher.

Our one-sided romance was short-lived, but the light didn’t fade until she taught me a thing or two about life. Mrs. Ennis was the first person to teach me that God, in His perfect plan, causes healthy things to grow.

How did she impart this critical and unassailable truth? Through three simple ingredients: dirt, a lima bean, and a Styrofoam cup.

Though you didn’t learn from the angelic Mrs. Ennis, you probably had a similar experience in elementary school. Later, you probably figured out that you needed to take care of your bean plant if it was going to continue to grow. Sometimes, God uses people to provide intentional and thoughtful care for His creation to ensure continued health.

A church, like everything else divinely created (Jesus instituted the church and is its head), will experience growth when it is healthy. As we read in the book of Revelation, God’s plan for the Church (Church with an upper-case “C” is the worldwide church; church with a lower-case “c” refers to a local church) is to grow so that people from every nation, tribe, people, and nation have the opportunity to respond to the gospel (see Revelation 7:9). I believe God’s plan for our church (little “c”) is growth, too. Not eventually, but right now.

While growth is the automatic result of health, sometimes healthy growth is painful. If you’ll permit a mixing of metaphors, especially since I don’t know if beans have the capacity to feel pain, try to remember the growing pains you likely experienced as a teenager. From time to time, God allows pain to accompany the process of growth, but I’ll talk more about that later.

The Church @ Clayton Crossings is preparing for growth through intentional and thoughtful care of our community. As an example, I’m preparing the church for growth by reorganizing our staff structure. I am absolutely pleased and honored to announce that beginning August 15, Mark Turner will be the Executive Pastor at The Church @ Clayton Crossings. Mark brings a wealth of experience from military, corporate, and church worlds and has been a faithful partner with the church for several years. Mark’s primary role is to champion adult discipleship, plus he’ll lead the team that takes care of the administrative responsibilities of the church.

Perhaps the most visible growth step we’re going to take will launch on Sunday, September 11. Beginning that Sunday morning, The Church @ Clayton Crossings will offer two identical worship services on Sunday mornings: one at 9:00 and the other at 10:30.

What does a Sunday morning with two worship services look like? I’m glad you asked! Keep reading…

How can help during this time of growth?
As embarrassed as I am to quote a line from High School Musical, we’re all in this together. What would help most is for you to do what we’re calling “Attend One; Serve One”. Decide which service you’d like to attend and serve during the other. We need you on a team! For more information about how to serve in preschool, children, or student ministries, as a greeter, or on the tech team, complete this short form and we’ll help you figure out the team that’s the best fit for you.

 What about my community group?
You might be thinking, “You’ve asked me to attend one service and serve during another, but I’ve been thinking about joining a community group in the fall. How will that work?” I identified the addition of another service as the most visible growth step, but it’s not the first. We’ve already been working on creating a new model for community groups that will include our Sunday morning groups PLUS many more groups that meet during the week. You’ll learn more about this in September, but it’s possible for you to attend service, thrive in a community group, and point other people to Jesus by serving. By the way, if you love the group you’re attending on Sunday morning, you can always serve on Wednesday night, on weekdays with our A-Team (administrative team), or any of our local missions partners. Again, we need you on the team. Have you completed the form yet?!

 What is the schedule for children?
After September 11, the kids schedule will look exactly the same as it does today. Crossings Kids meets in groups at 9:00 AM then gather as a large group at 10:30 AM in C111–they have a rollicking good time! Keep in mind, though, that we’re in the process of finding our next children’s pastor, so he or she may have some big plans for the Sunday morning schedule. Stay tuned!

 What about teenagers?
As with our kids’ schedule, the Sunday morning format for Crossings Students (6th grade through 12th grade) will remain the same. At 9:00 AM, middle school students meet for a large group experience while high school students meet in community groups.

What if I’m in the band or on the tech team?
If you know musicians, you know they love to sleep late and rock into the wee hours of the morning. Our musicians and tech team gurus are so committed to God’s mission for The Church @ Clayton Crossings that they’re willing to wake up EVEN EARLIER on Sunday morning! Dana Starnes, our worship leader, has a call time of 7:30 for her crew. After September 11, if you want to thank a musician or a techie, come bearing Starbucks–make sure it has a double shot of caffeine!

Earlier, I wrote about the pain that sometimes coexists with growth. Though we’ve tried to anticipate every possible scenario, we’re probably going to hit a couple of speed bumps along the way, especially a few weeks after September 11, but I’ll ask you to extend grace. We’re a church that will do whatever it takes to lead people to find and follow Jesus, including introducing a little bit of controlled chaos into the life of our church. The mission God for which God created us is worth fighting and sacrificing for.

I’m so excited you’re on this journey with us!


What I need to remember:

  • PROMOTION SUNDAY: AUGUST 21. Kids entering Kindergarten will join their elementary-school friends in C111 at 10:30 for Crossings Kids Worship. Also, that’s the day upcoming 6th graders will OFFICIALLY be part of Crossings Students and the day upcoming freshmen will transition to high school community groups at 9:00 AM.
  • KNIGHTS CLUB NEEDS YOU! To capitalize on the success of VBS, we’re looking for 8 men and women to step in and provide some leadership for kids in Kindergarten through 5th grade for our Wednesday Knights Club (see what I did there?) This Wednesday night program will kick off on Wednesday, August 31 and runs from 7:00-8:00 pm. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact Shannon Burns at crossingskids@claytoncrossings.com.


What I’m reading
I’m still reading Just a Minute: In the Heart of a Child, One Moment Can Last Forever by Wess Stanford and Dean Merrill. Thanks, Shannon Burns!


About me:
John Sanders is the non-stuffy pastor at The Church at Clayton Crossings. His primary mission is to help people find and follow Jesus. Additionally, he longs to write like the child of Aaron Sorkin and Dave Barry, preach like W.A. Criswell, look like Bradley Cooper, and eat like he’s seventeen years old. A more complete (and less snarky) bio can be found here.

Let’s be friends:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jtsandersiii
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jtsanders3