When I began at Crossnore as the Winston-Salem campus’s Spiritual Life & Recreation Coordinator, I learned that I would be forming relationships with local churches which the primary purpose of connecting them with our different cottages on campus. We call these connections “host churches.” I was excited. Well, excited and intimidated.
A Tall Order
It felt like a big weight to be the one responsible for helping cottages find the “right church.” I knew that for just my small family of three, it was a big task to find a church that fit our needs. I wondered what it would look like to choose a church to partner with a cottage full of different aged children (that sometimes come and go), all with different needs, and alternating cottage parents. “How do you sell that to either group?” I wondered to myself.
I soon entered into a phase of what felt like speed dating with local church leaders and staff. I quickly had to learn more about their congregations, values, and core beliefs. At the same time, I immersed myself in learning what our cottages hoped for in worship and sought that out in our local community. This may sound glamorous but, I promise, was never the easiest or “prettiest” looking activity. During this time of seeking and learning within local congregations I found myself meeting some of the most amazing folks. These people are surely salt of the earth. And soon host churches campus cottages were matched together. And I held my breath and waited.
Thankful for the Task
Well, over a year later I am so thankful for this part of my job. It is still one of the trickiest parts of the work. Many of our students come to us with trauma that might be triggered by church or even the thought of it. In connecting with our amazing host churches, I am learning alongside different communities of faith about Trauma Resilience. Together we have sought out training from our very own CTRC team to learn more. These churches do the very best they can to love our students right where they are. I often find myself in meetings at local churches where the only purpose the community has is to check in and see how our kids and staff are doing. They only want to know what they can do to best support their everyday lives.
Recently, within one week, I had two of the most powerful experiences interacting with a couple of our host church partners. It was during one of those super hot summer weeks I was meeting with church leadership and laity who work closest with a cottage. I was thankful for their willingness to meet and chat about the youth they love so well. We talked about how they could offer them support in the summer. After the meeting, one of the church members walked me out and then handed me a pack of LaCroix Grapefruit sparkling water. Somehow she learned this was one of my favorites. She shared it as a gesture of loving support and a reminder to take care of me and the baby I am growing. I left the meeting with eyes full of thankful tears for the ways that this congregation loves Crossnore so fully.
A couple days after, another host church learned of two students from their cottage who were leaving for a new foster home. They had written cards of love and well wishes for me to pick up and bring back to the students before their departure. Again, selfless love lived out right in front of me. I have learned so much about selfless love and compassion from the host churches that we connect with. I see churches loving students as they help to lead worship. Or even in holding them accountable for being teenagers who talk too much during a worship service. And the most beautiful thing continues to happen in these relationships. Churches and cottages are doing life together, whatever that looks like on any given day.
Prayers for the Future
Sometimes I still find myself feeling like I am holding my breath when I think about host churches. But nowadays it is for an entirely different reason. I hold my breath because I know just how significant of an impact these connections have made on so many of our students. And as new connections are formed I pray that they are as meaningful as those that have already begun to blossom.