Since our Church Planter’s Equipping Retreat, several people who attended the retreat or who’ve viewed parts of it online asked about how a church planter’s responsibility to focus on reaping impacts relational evangelism. The underlying question seems to revolve around whether relational evangelism is effective and should remain a priority. I believe the overwhelming answer is yes, but with some qualifications. I’ll provide some context for the conversation. Continue reading
Crime in Burlington
This is a real headline from an Associated Press article: Woman slams dead raccoon against Vt. city building.
According to the article, crime is getting crazy in Burlington Continue reading
Networking in VT- Missional Communities
This post will probably only apply if you live in VT and are…
a. Planting a church centered around the missional community model (a.k.a. gospel communities or home fellowships).
b. Pastoring a church that already uses the missional community model.
c. Pastoring a church where you’re considering transitioning to the missional community model.
d. Are still interested although none of the above apply. Continue reading
Changes to the Serve Burlington site & blog
This past Thursday I received an exciting letter from the Vermont Secretary of State’s office: Serve Burlington is now an official Vermont nonprofit corporation! God has provided an amazing platform to mobilize churches, campus ministries, the faith based community, and the greater Burlington community to serve our city’s at risk populations.
Due to this exciting news, you’ll notice a few changes:
- The Serve Burlington website is now dedicated exclusively to our nonprofit/community service work.
- I’ve moved my blog to a new site: kevinpoundsblog.com. Not a very original name, but it does the job.
- In the near future we’ll be launching a church website that focuses on our efforts to launch home fellowships around the Burlington community.
Since it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, I wanted to let you know how things are progressing with our church planting work, starting a Burlington based nonprofit, and our expanding family . One thing I can say for certain- life and ministry are rarely boring here.
SO in no specific order, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in our life and ministry in Burlington.
*Serve Burlington Nonprofit- We’re still in the beginning stages with this local community service platform that we plan to launch in the fall. Our goal is to mobilize volunteers from our Home Fellowships, local churches, campus ministries, and also from the surrounding community to serve with different community service partnerships and projects. God has already opened doors for us to partner with several local organizations such as Kids Alive, COTS, and the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, as well as help start a Conversational English Club. Additionally, three friends of mine who are connected to different local ministries have stepped up to serve on the board of directors and help get this nonprofit up and running: Phil Corriveau (involved with Navigators campus ministry and Kids Alive), Steph Hobold (involved with Navigators staff, St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, and Kids Alive) and Rebecca Vickery (involved with North Ave. Alliance Church and leads the Conversational English Club).
*Conversational English Club– In April and May , I helped a group of volunteers start a Conversational English Club for mostly Somali refugees in the Riverside Apartments community of Burlington’s Old North End. Although we worked through some kinks along the way, our six week “trial run” went really well. We had six-twelve adult students each week and a group of highly motivated volunteers. Last week, we started our second six week round with eleven refugee students present and their excitement was palpable. We’re also developing a great relationship with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program as they’ve opened up their tutor trainings to our volunteers. My favorite part of Conversational English Club, though, is my growing relationship with a student named Shadir. Although we come from very different backgrounds (he’s from wartorn Sub-Saharan Africa & I’m from middle-class American suburbia, he’s Muslim & I’m Christian, he’ fluent in four languages and I’m OK with English), we’re becoming fast friends. One of my happiest moments was one day when I unexpectedly saw one of his daughters walking down the sidewalk and she said, “Hey! Your my dad’s friend, Kevin.”
*Navigators Service Days– Every summer 30 students from around the country connected with the Navigators campus ministry descend on Burlington for 9 weeks for what they call Green Mountain Summer. Just so happens that the Green Mountain Summer director this year is my good friend and Rutgers University’s campus minister, Joe Violi. With two Saturdays (June 11 and July 9) committed to sacrificially serve the community, this has provided a great pool of highly energized volunteers to serve some of our community partners. On June 11, we sent groups to love on children at Kids Alive, run a “kids day” at the COTS Family Shelter, move furniture for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program’s tutor trainer, and “mud out” homes impacted by flooding. All of these organizations knew these were Christian college students and all of them have asked when we can send them more volunteers. Thanks Navs!!!
*Father-Son Camping Trip- One big need in the community that came to my attention a few weeks ago was that refugee dads don’t get a lot of time with their kids. So, me and some friends had the “brilliant” idea of planning a father-son camping trip for refugees on Father’s Day weekend. I learned two big lessons from this endeavor. Lesson #1: the boys absolutely love camping. Lesson #2: the dads absolutely hate the idea. After plenty of promo and talking to numerous Somali and Burundi families, we had the grand total of one refugee dad and three boys sign-up. After being at the campground for a few hours, the one dad told me: “I don’t like this. It reminds me of the jungle. I want to go home.” The end result was a fun weekend of camping, canoeing, swimming, and hiking with lots of other kids asking when the next camping trip will be and lots of other dads thinking just don’t take me. Lesson learned.
*Home Fellowship– We still have a small yet very committed group meeting at our home on Sunday mornings. Although we’re still a church without a name, it’s exciting to experience me, Christin, Brian, Jan, and Steve growing closer as a spiritual family and to see people on the periphery become interested in what we’re doing. Also, as we’ve been praying for God to grow our core team, three couples independently contacted me over the past month who are praying about moving their lives to Burlington. They all have strong track-records of leading and engaging others with the gospel. I’m both humbled and excited that God is placing this on their hearts.
*The Family– Christin and I are loving our time with Jude and Wren. Although Jude has gone through an “adjustment phase” with not being the center of attention, he loves his little sister. Sometimes he even wants to hug her, kiss her, and pat her on the head a little too much. While Jude is a little boy full of rambunctious energy, Wren is the most laid-back baby I’ve ever seen. I can already see some serious similarities between Jude & me and Christin & Wren. Christin continues to amaze me with the way she mothers our two kids- I’m pretty sure she’ll be remembered as the best mom ever. Also, Christin has a great post on her blog describing Wren’s birth (don’t worry guys- there’s nothing graphic).
Please know we appreciate your prayers. We’re so thankful for all God is doing here and for your partnership in the gospel.
As I was watching my little boy Jude crawl down the stairs today, I was overwhelmed with a sense of thankfulness for the gift of life. The life God has given Jude. The new life God is soon bringing to my family. The life God has given to me personally. If knowing joy means I must experience sadness, if knowing peace means I must experience pain, if knowing love means I must experience rejection, and if knowing life means I must experience decay and one day death… I’ll take it. Thousands of years ago God challenged the Israelites with a simple put profound choice: see, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. (Deuteronomy 30:15)
I choose life.
Thank you God for giving us a choice. Thank you for offering us life.
Launching first Home Fellowship
As some of you know, yesterday evening I returned from our “tour” of the sunny south which included attending two excellent conferences at Shades Mountain and Valleydale Churches in Birmingham, getting some very brief time with family in ATL, and consuming as much southern BBQ as is humanly possible. Since moving to Burlington in November, we have been so encouraged to know that we have an extended spiritual family in places like New Jersey, California, Alabama, Georgia, and North Dakota who believe in what God has led us to do and who back it up with their time, energy, prayers, and resources.
This Sunday will mark a very significant milestone in planting this church as we begin our first Home Fellowship. Our game plan for Home Fellowships is rooted in Acts 2:41-47 and fairly simple: meet weekly for a time of focused worship which includes praising God, studying and discussing the Bible, praying for each other, and often sharing meals together. Each Home Fellowship will also focus on serving a specific neighborhood or network of relationships in the Burlington community. We expect to have six people meeting in our home this Sunday. God has already opened a door for us to volunteer with the Kids Alive ministry in Burlington’s Old North End, and we believe God is also opening a door for us to begin teaching English to Somalis and other refugees.
Here are some specific ways you can pray for us and our ministry:
*Please pray that within our Home Fellowship, we will quickly cultivate authentic relationships with each other and grow into a real spiritual family. As we grow in our relationships with God and each other ask God to draw others into this spiritual family.
*Over the past few weeks several people have expressed interest in joining our “core team” here. For a few of these individuals and families this would involve transplanting their lives to Burlington. Please pray that God would give them clear direction. Specifically pray for Matt & Tirzah from New Jersey as Matt looks for a job in VT and Miles as he prepares to move from North Dakota this summer and pursue a job in law enforcement.
*As God continues opening a door to teach English to refugees, pray for wisdom in bridging the language barrier, the Muslim-Christian barrier, and learning how to best serve the refugee community.
*Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program has asked Christin and I to be “family friends” to a Bhutanese family which has recently immigrated from Nepal. We’ll be meeting them for the first time this Sunday afternoon, so please pray for wisdom concerning how to best serve this family as they adjust to life in America.
*Pray that God would show us how to best represent Jesus to a community that is disinterested in church, resistant to the gospel, and has misguided ideas about who Jesus is and what he is about.
As always, thank you for remembering us in your prayers.
As I travel around to conferences, meet with different churches and ministries, and chat with young Christians in my present ministry context I often meet young men, women, and couples with huge leadership potential. They get who Jesus is and what He’s about, they have innovative ideas and know how to think outside the box, they share Jesus’ heart for the lost and the least, and they want to make a lasting impact on the world as the hands and feet of Jesus. I like to refer to these guys as racehorses, because they’re at the starting gates restless, revving, and ready to take off.
As I’ve been reflecting on this over the past few weeks, I’m increasingly convinced that experienced ministry leaders have a responsibility to provide…
1) Permission to go. Someone needs to open the gate and release these young leaders to run. I meet some who are caught in the bureaucratic bottleneck of a missions organization. Others are sitting the bench in a church because they have not put in their time or they make established leaders nervous. Still others are guilted by the responsibilities of life or by relationships with close friends and family to play it safe and hold back. I sense an increasing burden to give these young race horses an opportunity to join the race, to get their hands dirty in ministry, and to provide opportunities to succeed and even fail.
2) Coaching and mentoring. Even the fastest race horse with the finest pedigree needs a trainer to bring out the best of its natural ability. Even the most gifted young leaders need a coach or mentor who sees the God-given potential in them, who believes in what God has called them to do, and is willing to invest the time to help them fine-tune their God-given ability. I can remember being a young leader and the spiritual big brothers God placed in my life who saw what God could do and challenged me to live it out. One thing I realize now is that their investment in me required a sacrifice of time and energy.
3) Focus and direction. The fastest race horse also needs an experienced jockey to steer them to victory on the track- otherwise it seems the horse would run aimlessly around the track. Many of these young leaders have a great deal of pent up energy and ideas oozing out of their ears. I believe that those of us who are a little further down the track have a responsibility to give them clear directed opportunities to use their God-given abilities and to live out the ideas and dreams God has placed in their hearts. The tough challenge for me and other leaders will be providing guidance without micromanaging, and providing encouragement without removing young leaders from the necessary struggle and tension of ministry.
All the responsibility is not on experienced pastors and ministry leaders though. If you are a young racehorse leader, you have a responsibility too. You must say yes to the risk. As my good friend Mike Linch from North Star Church says, put your yes on the table. Before you even know where God is leading or what God is asking, are you willing to say yes because you love Him and trust Him? If you look at the people God uses to make an eternal impact, they are not always the most influential, talented, or gifted. But they are the people who have place their yes on the table.
Reality is that when you say yes you won’t know everything you’re getting into, but everything in your life must be negotiable. You won’t have answers to all the questions- you won’t even know all the questions to ask. You’ll be required to take risks and make sacrifices you did not anticipate. This will require having an open hand with God concerning your family, your home, your resources, your career, your security, your plans…
OR you can play it safe. Your God-given ideas may never be implemented. Your divinely inspired dreams will remain dormant. The fire inside of you will smolder instead of being fanned into flame. And one day you may find yourself wondering what if…
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
-The Apostle Paul speaking to the leaders of the Ephesian church, Acts 20:24-
...fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
-The Apostle Paul writing to a young leader name Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:6-7-
Pray that I would have eyes to see the young leaders God has placed in my point of contact that I need to invest in.
Pray that God would send more racehorse type leaders to join our work in Burlington, VT.
Pray that our new church would create a culture that cultivates young leaders who impact this world.
I’m making a few changes with the blog email updates. You’ll notice the new look. Also, a weekly update will go out each Thursday morning. It will include links to the prior week’s posts. With me blogging more consistently- sometimes concerning prayer requests and sometimes random thoughts on scripture, culture, ministry, etc.- this will prevent you from being bombarded with a blog email on a daily basis.
Thank you for keeping up with us and our ministry!
This Thanksgiving morning I rose early to have some alone time with The Father before Christin begins cooking and Jude discovers something else to get into. Like many of you I wanted to take some time to thank Him for His faithfulness in my life. As I did, I noticed a trend- a great deal of His faithfulness and my thankfulness is connected to the people He has placed in my life. As I thanked Him, I realized that my life’s path would not be the same without these people. WARNING: THIS MAY SOUND SAPPY!
I AM SO THANKFUL…
For my family.
For placing Christin in my life. For that July night 11 years ago, when my brother Scott, his friends, and her friends stood us up, and it was just Christin and me alone at Marietta Square. Only the Father could have known what was to come. I knew within months that she was “the one,” and that God had given me a mate willing to go the ends of the earth to serve Him. She has stuck with me during the good and tough times.
For our son Jude. We thought we could not have biological children, yet the Father orchestrated events for us to get a free IVF cycle. I now could not imagine my life without this little guy. Often I see much of myself in him which both excites me and scares me a little. I cannot wait to see what the Father has planned for our little man. I’m also expectantly excited to meet Baby #2 this May- will it be another son for me to wrestle with or a cute daughter who will wrap me around her little finger?
For my Mom. She modeled for me and my brothers what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I watched her pray. I watched her read the scriptures. I firsthand saw the difference between religion and relationship. She read us the Bible at a young age. She challenged us to do the same and follow God’s plan for our lives. She firmly believed Proverbs 22:6- now I do also.
For my Dad. Although he has gotten off the Father’s path for him, I have not forgotten… I have not forgotten the sacrifices he made for me- I can still remember as a teenager discovering his shoes with holes in the soles while he had purchased new running shoes for me. I have not forgotten the time and energy he invested in me, and the way he believed in me as a kid and teenager even when I had no confidence in myself.
For my two brothers- Brian & Scott. They are my best friends. I know no matter how old we get or how far apart we live that we will always have each others’ backs. One of my first memories is of playing in the sandbox and my mother telling me to share my toys with Brian. Since then I have been awed and humbled by the husband, father, and scholar he has become. I am so blessed to watch him, Noelle, and their amazingly cute and intelligent son Everett pursue God’s path for them. I know it is only a matter of time until Brian becomes an accomplished scholar and people will ask me, “so you are Dr. Pounds’ brother?” I’ll reply with a smile, “Yep, he’s my little brother.”
Scott and his wife Brooke are two of my spiritual heroes. They have literally moved to the ends of the earth. I am amazed at the work the Father is doing in and through them on their little S.E. Asian island that they fondly refer to as Kokomo. Their work, their sacrifices, the fruit of their ministry may never be recognized publicly, but the Father is watching with great pleasure.
For my pastors.
The older I get, the more I recognize the influence these Godly men have had and continue to have on my life. Beginning as a kid and teen at Piedmont Baptist Church, Pastor Duvall and Stan Annandale (my youth minister), displayed how humble yet strong spiritual leadership looks. There are a few pastors and ministers I’m especially thankful for.
For Preacher Callahan at Shady Grove. I was a 19 year old who had just finished my freshman year at UGA with no real ministry experience, and he hired me to be his youth director over an experienced seminary student. I can still remember him telling me I was just a boy but God told him to hire me. For some crazy reason he believed in me and saw potential that only God could have revealed.
For Brother James Cook at New Canaan. He gave me my first full-time job after graduation as a youth minister. I’m sure in the early days he wondered what he’d gotten himself into with this “shoot from the hip” youth guy. He stuck with me. He challenged me to pray and plan ahead as a leader. Most importantly he showed that pastoring is more than leading an organization- it’s about shepherding people including your own family. I am still so thankful for how he pastored me through my parent’s divorce and in the days leading up to my wedding.
For Pastor Russ Shinpoch, Tony Stinson and the other pastors at Wildwood. As Wildwood’s College & Young Singles Pastor, they gave me a shot at my dream job. They gave me the support, the resources, the freedom to succeed, and even the freedom to fail at times. I learned so much with that team of pastors, and they were some my biggest supporters when I sensed God calling me into church-planting.
For my friend and fellow minister Tim May. Tim and I became youth ministers in Paulding County, GA around the same time. We quickly became close friends, partners in ministry, and met weekly for accountability and prayer. I think we prayed through everything together- successes & struggles in ministry, temptations & trial of life, and the whole relationship/dating/marriage thing. We ended up getting married within three weeks of each other.
For Dave Cole- my spiritual big brother. Dave was also a youth minister in Paulding County, but much more wise and experienced than Tim or me. Dave took me under his wing as he did with so many others and invested in me as a person and leader, although I was leading another youth ministry just down the street from his own. He’s told me several times that we are friends for life, and he has more than owned up to that.
There are also other ministers who I thanked God for this morning by name who because of the Father’s grace invested time and energy in me along the way. Men like Jon Messarra, Mike Linch, Wes Cantrell, John Moody, Danny Wood, and Paul Gomez.
For my peeps at the Point Church in NJ.
For Tim & Robin Nussbaumer, Jon & Jen Zila, and Branden & Laura Camp. I am still so blessed and blown away that these guys and their families were willing to move from GA to NJ with Christin and me to start the Point Church. Although I’m thankful for each of them individually, I will always remember the team God molded us into. Even as Christin and I have moved on to VT, they have chosen to put their roots down in NJ. I have leaned so much on them as friends and co-leaders, learned so much from Tim’s teaching (I still would choose to sit under his teaching over any other pastor in America), and am so thankful that they continue to be a huge part of my life and ministry.
For my community group these past couple of years: Kevin, David, Becky, Whitney, Frank, Annie, Matt, Elena, and Pilar. I learned from these guys as well as from the rest of the Point about what it means to be brothers and sisters in Jesus- that the church is our spiritual family.
As you may already see there is common thread weaving through all these relationships- a partnership in the gospel. This list is far from exhaustive, but please know that as my friends and spiritual family that I am thankful for you today. Christin and I are thankful, anxious, and excited to see what God has in store for us here in Burlington, VT. Thank you for continuing to be a part of our story.
“I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5