Grieving a loved one at Easter

If you have lost a loved one you can probably resonate with the feeling of holidays being bittersweet. Gathering around the dinner table to celebrate a joyous occasion, but remembering the ones who are not sitting there with you. I know this sentiment well as Easter Sunday, April 16, marks three years since my dad passed away.  

As my mother, my siblings, and I surrounded my father while he took his final breaths, some of us were able to choke out the words to an old hymn. “ To God be the glory, great things he has done, So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life our redemption to win, And opened the life-gate that all may go in.” Even through the tears and sorrow in the moment of my dad leaving this earth, the Holy Spirit brought peace to my heart knowing my dad had just entered heaven. 

While Easter will be a difficult day for me, it also brings me peace knowing the reason I celebrate this holiday is the same reason I know my dad is in heaven today. Jesus came so we could have an abundant life here on earth and eternal life as well. 

Whatever state of mind you might be in on Easter, in joy or sorrow, in anxiety or peace, in love or in anger, it's okay. Bring your heart, and God will meet you there. Let’s join together and give praise to God the Father for sending His Son, Jesus. Praise Jesus for coming to earth to rescue us. And praise the Holy Spirit for comforting us through the heartache that comes in this life. 

Martha Young
Administrative Assistant, Connections and Students

Leading students to authentic faith

Navigating your faith as an adult is hard, so imagine how students feel trying to connect their faith with their day-to-day lives.  I remember fighting my parents on Sundays about wanting to sleep rather than go to church.  The days that I wanted to go were on special holidays like Easter and Christmas, when an old lady from our church would make homemade donuts.  These were life-changing donuts.  I’m not messing around here.  I mean melt in your mouth goodness.  But even on those days church was an adult experience that left me feeling disconnected and confused.  The pastor would give a message on how to be a good husband or what role our jobs play in our faith.  I was disengaged from the start.  I spent the entire message wondering how this all connected to me.

I don’t believe my experience is much different from some of our students’ here at Five Oaks.  We need to make a deliberate effort to engage our students on their own faith journey as they discover where they fit in the story of God.  I want to offer three very simple ways you can begin to engage your student and over time lead them to discover an authentic faith. 

Question Truth
No matter how far along you are on your faith journey you should never stop questioning.  When we question information it has the opportunity to become truth in our lives with unshakable roots.  As parents and leaders we need to create an open environment for doubt.  By creating an environment that is welcoming to doubt we allow our students to explore their faith in a real way.  Doubt is not something to worry about; rather, it’s something to embrace.  Doubt leads us to greater understanding and a faith that can withstand the ups and downs of life.  One clear way we can create a safe space for doubt is to share our own doubts and questions with our students.  By opening the conversation it allows our students to bring their own doubts to light.  The next step is to explore these doubts by saying, “That is a hard question; let’s do some research and explore what answers are out there.”  Move doubt to understanding and understanding to faith. 

Apply Truth
As parents, it is important to help our students take biblical truth and apply it to their everyday lives.  While a student may agree that a certain biblical principle is true, they may lack the ability to apply it to real-world experiences.  For example, let’s say on Sunday the main principle of the message is that we have received grace from God through Jesus and we should in response give others the same grace we have received. To adults this may seem like a straightforward application (although not easily lived out).  To students it may not be clear.  Middle or High school students tend to be asking the question, “Who am I?”  In this stage of development, they tend to be inward focused rather than outward.  Even if it seems simple, take the time to connect the teaching principles to your student’s everyday life.     

Live Truth
We often forget that our students look to us as examples of what faith lived out looks like.  This means that your student notices what your priorities are.  If we want it to be a priority in our student’s life it has to be a priority in our own lives.  This means taking time to have a devotional, pray and serve those around you.  Be an example of faith that is lived out daily, but remember we are all on a journey so don’t fake spirituality in your life, but instead let it flow out of you as a natural response to the love and grace God has shown you.  Share your struggles and questions with your students, and allow these moments to push them in the direction of discovering a faith that is their own.  

Something is Better Than Nothing
Don’t let fear tell you that it’s too late or that you can’t be an example of authentic faith because you’re still discovering what it looks like for yourself.  It’s a lifelong journey.  Remember that doing even one of these three things is better than doing nothing at all.  Take steps to create moments for your student to discover their faith, but remember that your journey of faith is not perfect, and theirs won’t be, either.  That’s the beauty of this journey, of parenting your student, of helping them develop their own faith. It’s imperfect because we are.


Aaron Parsons
Student Ministry Associate

“The ‘couch of peace’ is part of the armor of God, right?”


When I first became a Christian, I had a desire to go out and show the love and grace of God to everyone I met. Years later, that burning desire had dwindled to little more than a passing thought.  I found myself on the ‘couch of peace,’ rather than in the ‘shoes of peace.’ Ephesians 6 lists the armor of God. These are all qualities of God that we “put on.”  Shoes are one of the articles we put on with readiness given by the gospel of peace. This sounds great! Shoes are meant to be put on when we GO places. Shoes protect our feet and provide comfort. Shoes help us to go out and serve God, but what happens when the shoes of peace turn into the couch of peace?

I found myself in a spiritual rut once in which the shoes of peace turned into the couch of peace. I had a personal theology that since I was saved through Jesus Christ, I could just coast and chill 'til I entered Heaven or ‘til Christ returned. I had no spiritual responsibility to others. My shoes turned into a couch. I was fine not going out and seeking relationships with those who didn’t know Jesus. I was fine just chillin' where I was, enjoying my own life. Why go out when I’m good, right? Why take the risk of meeting someone new?

Relationships are messy… people are messy… it’s sometimes easier not to get involved in all that. What’s interesting about shoes is with more wear, comes more dirt and tear. A worn and dirty shoe means someone went out and experienced the mess. It seemed easier to stay home and keep my shoes clean, so to speak.

I remember feeling convicted while reading Ephesians 6. I had turned my faith into a comfortable, self-serving life. I was so me-focused that I had lost sight of other people…of God’s people. The sandals of peace are meant to aid us in going out for others and pointing them to God.  I started realizing how many people I came in contact with daily and the opportunities I had missed. These were opportunities to build up God’s kingdom here and now. 

Once I prayed on this, I put my sandals back on. I went out.  I started to notice relationships in which God was using me to bless others.  I was able to embrace the challenge of meeting new people as an opportunity for God to use me, and if I was obedient, to further his kingdom. This was life-changing for me in the way I view meeting others. 

I always encourage students to realize that every interaction with other people is a chance to be the light. One simple smile and hello can have such a huge impact. One simple call, text, or message of encouragement to someone could be life-changing.  Yes, people and relationships are messy, but they are nothing Jesus can’t handle.

These things all happen when we get off the couch and put on the shoes of peace.  In John 1 Jesus said, “Come and See,” and in several places in the Bible, he said to his disciples, “Go.” As his disciples here and now on earth, let’s get our shoes ready! 

Justin Talk
Student Ministries Associate

New Year, New Me

One of my least favorite things about the new year is the actual date. It takes me at least three months to get into the habit of writing the correct year. This has caused many bills and checks to be returned, as the checks appear to be outdated by a year! This always makes me laugh because it happens during this time every single year.

I often hear many people say, “New Year, New Me” along with a list of many resolutions. For instance, the gym always seem to be busiest this time of year. As the year progresses it seems that many of the “New Year New Me” resolutions tend to dissolve. This has been my experience at least. I always tell myself I’m going to stick with that certain thing this year. “This year will be the year!” turns into, "Next year will be the year!" and so on. What would it take for this year to be different? 

I have found that it comes down to our attitudes and how we approach life. I have served with a middle school mission organization called the The Jeremiah Project every year for the last seven years. We lead middle schoolers in repairing and rebuilding homes whose owners can’t afford the repairs. One “training” tip we always give the students is to say, “There is lots of potential here” when walking into a home that might look or smell different from what the students are used to. It’s this attitude of seeing the potential to help and to make the home better that helps our students overcome the initial shock of the situation. It also helps to show respect to the homeowner. I have seen this attitude change the lives and thoughts of many students and leaders.

I’m starting this new year by seeing all that I want to do and change simply as “a lot of potential." This attitude helps me joyfully journey through every endeavor. I challenge you to do the same: during this new year, try seeing every opportunity or situation as one with “lots of potential." I pray this change in attitude and approach blesses you this year! God is always faithful and able! 

In Christ,
Justin Talk
Associate Director of Youth Ministry

Student Ministry Food Drive

Hey Parents!

We are almost two months into our year and we have been having a blast with your students!  We had such an amazing time at Camp Getaway and are looking forward to Pumpkinfest this Saturday, October 29th!  Both of these fall events are great ways for us to get to know your students better and for them to get to know one another better as well.

Here’s what you need to know for November:

As a church and as a Student Ministry, we will focus on Impact.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with the abundant blessings that God has given to us, we seek to bless those who are in need.  The Union Gospel Mission of St. Paul will be providing thousands of Thanksgiving dinners to people who are in need during this holiday season.  Our goal in Students is to provide 75 of these Thanksgiving dinners through donations of food and finances. (Five Oaks has a bigger goal of 550 bags; we want to fill at least 75 of those bags in Students!)

Attached to this email is a shopping list of groceries that each donated bag should contain.  The turkeys will be donated directly from a distributor, but we will be providing the non-perishable parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  We need you to partner with your students to create an Impact in our community. We encourage you to get your student involved in any way possible.

On Wednesday, November 16th we will have each small group pack the meals and pray over them at youth group.  If our students can provide 50 meals, Justin and Aaron will take a pie in the face.  And if we reach 75 meals, one beloved mystery guest will be pied as well. 

Need some ideas on how to create a meaningful Impact experience for your student?  Here are a few ideas how you and your student can raise funds or collect food for those in need during this season: 

1.      Have your student do chores around the house to raise money.

2.       Have them talk to neighbors and extended family members about what we as a Student Ministry are trying to do and ask for any possible donations.

3.      Go to the grocery store and fill a bag as a family and bring it on Wednesday night.

4.      Encourage them to think about donating their allowance or Wednesday snack money.

Our goal is to serve those in need during a season when many experience an abundance of blessings.  It’s a time for us as leaders and parents to come alongside our students and provide an opportunity for them make a difference for the kingdom of God.  Please pray for both our students and the people whose needs we are seeking to meet in these coming weeks.

If you have any questions or wish to partner with us, please email Aaron Parsons at



Five Oaks Students Ministry  

Back to School!

When I was younger, I always dreaded going back to school. It meant that summer was over and I would have to return to school. I hated all the clothes and school shopping that Mom would force my sister and I to do. I always wished summer would never end.... Fast forward years later and now this is one of my favorite times of the year! I  get very excited when I see all the school supplies highlighted at stores and all the sales on "new school" clothes. I get excited because it means our fall ministry season begins! I get to again see the students and leaders every Wednesday night. Fall also brings new opportunities to support students in sports, plays, academics, and anything else they are passionate about. Back to School means many new potential friendships to be made! I no longer dread "Back to school"! 

Justin Talk

Student Ministry Associate 

Get in the Game

When our kids were younger, and too little to yet participate in youth soccer, they participated in a fantastic beginners’ soccer experience. On the last evening of a six-week class, as the children wrapped up their 45 minute session, the instructors invited the parents onto the field. 

As the parents all filed onto the field, we were immediately engaged not just with our children, but also with each other. I smiled at, shook hands with, and talked to other parents I had sat quietly next to for the past five weeks.  We were strangers to each other, hiding behind smartphones and tablets, despite having sat on the same bleachers for five weeks watching our kids ‘together.’  Once on the field together, we shared a spirit of camaraderie, community, and of course… our children and the game. We were there because our kids were there. We were in the game together. 

They ran up and down the field, chasing and kicking the ball. There was no order beyond the red and blue jerseys — organized chaos at best —  and it was beautiful. There was joy, there was fun, and we were in the middle of it with our children. 

Our job was to encourage them and cheer for them as they played. We also were instructed to form a perimeter and when the ball came near us, our job was to simply help keep it in play. 

As I reflected on this experience, the metaphor for how we journey with our students ran deeper than I could ever give words to. So let it take you where it will. 

Most notably, it seems as students grow and enter new stages of life, it can be difficult for us as parents to know where we belong in the mix. We’re not sure how involved to be, or when to listen instead of talk. We may begin to feel unwanted, unneeded, and unsure of what we’d do if we were asked to get in the ‘game.’ Naturally, we sit out. And watch. Or worse, we restrict their participation. Not because we don’t want to be in the ‘game,’ but because we’re not sure of our place, and we feel the sense of losing the control we’ve always had, or at least thought we had.

What’s the alternative? Get. In. The Game. The ‘game’ is really not a game at all but is in fact the journey of life that you have the privilege to be on with your student, and your student needs you. They need you in a way that is different from the way they needed you before, but they need you nonetheless. Rather than losing control, your method of influence is evolving. They need your encouragement, your support, and your presence as they learn and experience life as they’ve never experienced it. They need to talk through what they think about what they see. In many ways the role you play in your student’s life, although less direct than before, is more important than ever.

Your role isn’t to control the ‘game’ or what position they play, to take their steps or kick the ball for them. You role is to be there. You don’t have to be an expert at the ‘game.’ None of us is.

Get in the ‘game’…because that’s where your student is. That’s where your student needs you, and it’s where you belong. 

As we ramp up toward fall and the year of student ministry ahead, we face some challenges.  And we will need to face these challenges together as we carry on our student ministry and continue to build it as a place that brings the story of God to life for the next generation. 

A key piece to how we’re going to do this —  through weekend services, student ministry programming, and most importantly,  through your family unit itself —  is with The Gospel Project curriculum. It will equip our church community as well as adults, students, children and families to integrate and engage with one another around the story of God more deeply than ever before. It is an incredible tool that will equip you as a parent while you step into life with your student and your family in the way that God has designed.

-John Eiselt
Family and Discipleship Pastor

Summer in Student Ministries

Summer is officially upon us and we as a Student Ministries Team are super excited about all of our upcoming events, trips, and programming that will be happening over the next several months. Here are a few of the highlights:

The primary focus of our youth group this summer is to provide and create opportunities for our students to CONNECT relationally with each other and with our adult leaders so that they remain connected to God. Opportunities for our Middle School students include BroFest 2k16 which is a lock in for our Middle School guys on June 21-22 and our various gym/game nights on June 8th and August 9th. Connecting events for our High School students include the Fusion Lock In on June 24-25 and our Fusion Pie/Cake Fight at Carver Lake on July 20th. Lastly, we also have some awesome events for both our Middle School and High School students together such as Valley Fair (July 28th) and our end of the summer event called the COLOR Wars (Aug. 17th).

This summer we are giving our students plenty of opportunities to DEEPEN their relationship with Christ through our Rush Hour Bible Studies on Monday Night's for our incoming 6th and graduating 8th graders. And Summer Fusion for our 9th-12th graders. Both groups will be going through portions of the Gospel of Mark.

It's our heart's desire that while our students will be taking a break from school this summer that they won't be taking a break from growing in their walk with God and their call to IMPACT their world for Christ. That is why we are strongly encouraging our Middle School students to attend Project Serve (July 31st-Aug. 5th) and our 7th-12th grade students to attend Challenge (July 2nd-9th).  There is still some space in both of these trips  of which we believe will be spiritual catalysts for our students that will equip and empower them to be able to bring the Story of God to life. 

For a complete look at all of our summer happenings please view our Student Ministries Summer Calendar. Lastly, mark your calendars for Camp Getaway for both our Middle School and High School students on Sept. 30th-Oct. 2nd at Camp Shamineau. Registration will open soon. We are truly excited to see what God does these next few months!

Tea With The Talks

Last month my wife Katie and I hosted our first Christmas Tea with the Talks, with the six grade girls. At first, I was very nervous because what do people do at tea parties anyway? I had nightmares of girls spilling scalding hot tea on themselves and Christmas cookies flying all over the place. The idea of a tea party sounded very boring and scary to me. I am so glad I didn't let my doubts and fears stop me from having this event. We had a lot of fun with drinking tea and hot chocolate and eating elegant finger foods. One highlight was when we played a game in which the girls picked Christmas Carols and genres of music out of a hat. They then had five minutes to rehearse and perform their version of the carol. Heavy Metal Jingle Bells was pretty amazing! It was an awesome time of fellowship and growing closer as a group. God taught me to trust in him and not be afraid of my doubts. It was an amazing time and I'm looking forward to the next Christmas Tea with the Talks!


Go on Mission with EFCA - TREK7 Teams

Matthew 28:19 (NIV) - 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,


On mission and in community. It's hard to find programs that train and equip you for both.

ReachGlobal's seven week trips for college-age young adults will bring you to some of the world's most remarkable locations, forging lifelong friendships with your teammates, all while you learn how to effectively engage in God's mission alongside ReachGlobal's local practitioners.

Is God calling you to mission?

It's time you found out. If you're between the ages of 17 - 27, you can join a TREK7 team this summer and explore God's calling for you over a 7-week period.  Your journey will begin in Minneapolis on June 20, 2015. Over the next three days you will learn team building and be exposed to cross-cultural ministry. On June 24, you and your team will fly out to your destination where you will learn from, and work closely with, local full-time missionaries. Your team will return to Minneapolis on August 3. You will have two days to reflect on all you have learned and experienced. You will debrief with your team and finish by investigating next steps and future opportunities.     

God will work in you and through you to grow you and bless others.    

Cost: $3000 plus airfare.

Where will you serve?

To explore all the possibilities click here:

Shrinking The Elephant

Shrinking The Elephant

God is surely doing something unique in the hearts and lives of our students in Rush Hour and Fusion. But truth be told, there is a wild elephant surrounding our Student Ministries program that needs to be addressed. And that is this, in order for our group to spiritually grow it may first need to shrink.. Yes, you heard me right, in order for our student ministry program to grow it may indeed first need to shrink.