Isaac Jones joined the staff of Forest Hills UMC mid-January. He's an East Tennessean through and through, but moved to Nashville in 2011 to attend Vanderbilt University. After getting a degree in Religious and Spiritual Community Development from there, he pursued my Masters in Divinity at Lipscomb University. His ministry experience includes working in a variety of roles at Ethos Church, working with youth at Rocketown, and founding the organization United Nashville.
He's known as a coffee nerd because of his love for craft coffee. He is always available for a nice cup of coffee at The Well and a conversation about superheroes. Likewise, when he's not at a coffee shop, he's with his lovely wife, Chalice. Together, they love to travel, cook, eat, and go on adventures.
The verse that has impacted Isaac's life the most is Isaiah 26:8: "In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul’s desire." He memorized it when he was 18 after attending a Passion Conference in Atlanta, GA, and it has been a verse that has carried him through many trials.
We are very excited to welcome Isaac and look forward to the exciting future of our youth group and the ministries of Forest Hills UMC!
How do you write a letter that can cover everything that has happened in the past seven years? I don’t know if I can, but I do want to share some of the things that I love about Forest Hills UMC.
It is undeniable that when you walk through the doors on Sunday mornings that you will be welcomed by a lot of smiling faces and warm conversation. I can tell you that this is not true of every church you walk into. Your welcome makes you special, continue to be a place of welcome to those who need a place to belong.
When you are a part of Forest Hills, you are a part of a close knit family. There are so many connections and stories of how people have shared life together. While so many amazing things have happened, don’t lose sight that so many more are to come; keep making memories.
There are few churches who are as open and excited to have all ages lead. Forest Hills embraces people of all ages and stages to lead in worship, music, mission, and so much more. It is your willingness to allow young people a place to practice and be the church that will continue to develop amazing leaders from the congregation as it has in the past. Continue to listen to the young people as they have a pulse on what our community needs.
Forest Hills has always been a place of mission, not only locally with 61st Ave, Habitat for Humanity, Pack-N-Praise Bags, and Tutoring at Norman Binkley; but also through mission work at A.I.M., youth missions, and the Bahamas.
I am encouraged by the life and energy that Kristin has already brought to the church. My prayer is that you will all step up and use your gifts to continue to the amazing work of Forest Hills. Open your eyes to the needs of our community and find ways to meet people where they are; and there you will find Jesus.
Thank you for opening your arms to Joanna and I and for the grace and love you have showed us over these years of ministry together with you. Thank you for these amazing seven years, and I cannot wait to see what you do next.
What a wonderful week we had together at VBS! 55 children were impacted by the Bible points, stories, and songs that we shared together. Over 30 youth and adults' lives were also affected as they ministered with the participating children and made a difference in the lives of so many - a difference that will last a lifetime! As our Interim Children's Director, Rev. Nancy Speas Hill, shared, "I love how our week of games, stories, crafts, and snacks can shape our kids in such powerful ways, and in ways that will stick with them much longer than our four days together."
Thanks to all who volunteered, prayed, provided supplies, and otherwise supported this important ministry in our church. Through events like this, we are making a difference in the lives of those in our community, loving God and loving one another!
Please enjoy some of the images from VBS below.
June 1-5, sixteen of our youth and six adults made the long trek to Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Franklin to spend five days serving our fellow Nashvillians. Youth from Forest Hills, Bethlehem, and Cornersville UMC teamed up to spend the days with shut-ins at their homes, developmentally disabled adults at the Center for Living and Learning, and contractors building tiny houses for homeless people. Our projects consisted of building, cleaning out and moving sheds, repairing porches and ramps, and lots and lots of painting and gardening. Mindi even chopped down a tree with an ax. After each team got cleaned up at their respective YMCA’s, we would return to Bethlehem UMC for dinner and worship.
The worship theme for the week was “I am not normal,” so we discussed how our lives as Christians should look differently than those around us. In a culture where things like lying, busyness, looking out for ourselves, and underage drinking are the norm portrayed in media, we discussed how it is actually rebellious to tell the truth, serve others, and pray and study the Bible. In his talk, Chris spoke about how pausing is not normal and encouraged all of us to take intentional moments everyday to connect with God. Youth shared their experiences of how painting and pulling weeds provided quiet moments of connection with God.
I was the assistant leader for Team 7, also known as “The Pink Rebolution,” which consisted of 6 teens ranging from 7th-12th grade. We worked at the Center for Living and Learning where adults with developmental disabilities live in supervised and independent housing and work in the adjacent garden to provide produce to buyers in the community. Our days consisted mainly of pulling weeds and other forms of yard work, but one afternoon we got a tour of the houses. There are two supervised houses where residents learn about hygiene and money management - many of these residents work in the garden before they transition into independent housing, many of these residents hold outside jobs in the community. While we were in the independent residence, we met a man named Dex. Dex was a photographer with a portrait studio set up in his room. He was also in the process of becoming a mentor for the psychiatric ward in a local hospital to help those in the midst of their journeys. My group learned a lot interacting with the residents of the Center for Living and Learning, and they worked tirelessly to help in the garden.
Overall, the Youth Mission Trip was a week full of God, service, and fellowship. Youth and adults quickly embraced the theme of going against the cultural norm to love God and others, which coincides with the Forest Hills Youth Group summer theme of putting our faith to action during The Summer of ING. We departed from Bethlehem UMC wearing shirts that say “I Am Not Normal,” and we will continue to strive to go against the norm for God.
-Nicole Poland, Youth Ministry Intern
This article by Tanya Eustance first appeared in Romans 12, a publication of Discipleship Ministries, on October 2, 2015, in hopes that other churches would hold Children's Sabbath services in their own worship setting. You can view the original article here.
Let the Children Lead
“There are many ways that I have experienced God in my life. . . One of the biggest ways is through sharing stories of God with others and hearing their stories as well.”
These words, spoken by a sixth grader at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, grabbed the attention of the worshiping congregation as this child delivered the morning’s sermon. Challenging the congregation to share their God stories, this child reminded all who were worshiping that day:
As the community gathered together, they were reminded how God calls all people, equips all with specific gifts, and sends all out to spread the good news, make disciples, and build the kingdom. This holy work is required of all people, no matter their age. On this holy day, God moved in and through children, youth, and adults, using their gifts to bring words of prayer, thanksgiving, encouragement, challenge, hope, and love, calling the congregation forth in their work as disciples in and for the kingdom of God.
Child-led worship is not a new practice at Forest Hills, nor is it something they do only one day out of the year. Instead, this congregation invites all of God’s children to use their gifts in the church, the community, and the world every day and in every service. It is in this intentional place where children discover how they are called and equipped to lead.
As the congregation flowed out of the sanctuary at the end of worship on that particular day in 2014, words of encouragement were offered to the children who served as worship leaders. Through affirming ministry, where all people are called to participate, we are indeed making disciples for Jesus Christ, creating vital congregations, and ensuring that our children not only bring God’s message to the world today, but tomorrow, and over the many years to come.
On September 20, Forest Hills UMC is co-hosting a concert and conversation with Pursuit of Harmony, a musical duo that proves people from different backgrounds and find a common bond. The event will take place at Belle Meade United Methodist Church at 6:00 p.m. There is no admission, but a love offering will be taken up during the evening.
Each time we serve others, we meet Jesus; and when you have an encounter with Jesus, your life changes.
This could not be truer of the mission trip that our youth group went on the first week of June to Chicago. We took 18 on the trip and everyone was excited to serve, but none of us were ready for the amazing experiences that would follow.
Upon arriving in Chicago, we were lead on a 2 hour prayer and educational driving tour of the city. Here we learned about the historical and current racial and economic divides in the city. Our hearts were opened to the city of Chicago.
Each day, our group divided into two groups, the guys and the girls (it just worked out that way). Each morning the girls went to Carole Robertson, a non-profit that provides various child, youth, and family development programs. Our group worked with their Head Start program, which helps provide classroom training and education for preschoolers. “The kids that we played with were so full of joy and wonder, and greeted us with open arms every day we were there. It really made us feel like we belonged and were contributing to the community.” – Katie Vincler (Youth)
The guys group spent the first three mornings working at an inner-city YMCA helping to set up and clean for their upcoming summer children’s program that they provide for the community. We even saw the guys' arts and crafts side as they made beautiful banners to hang around the room to remind the children they were loved. One had the quote “PLAY is the highest form of research” – Albert Einstein.
After lunch each day, there were a variety of projects that the two groups helped with including, leading games and activities at three retirement homes, serving in a local soup kitchen that serves between 90-220 hot meals every day of the year, and helping in a local food pantry that allow patrons to shop for food like a grocery store. Each experience and project allowed us to meet amazing people who ran the organizations and those amazing people who came to them.
On Friday, our group has the unique experience to participate in a “I AM FOR PEACE” march. This march was organized by high school students in the Chicago area who were tired of having some many of their friends dying in gang violence. Our teens marched with 3,000 other teens and teachers down the street of Chicago shouting “I AM…FOR PEACE.” I am not sure any of us will have the chance to be a part of something like this again.
While all of this would have made for a great mission trip, there was one experience that truly changed us all. On Tuesday afternoon, our whole group came together and was led in a sort of homeless simulation. We were divided into groups of 3 youth and 1 adult. Each person was given a map, a city transportation pass, and $2 for dinner. Our task was to take on the persona of run-away, homeless teens. They used the map and city trains to get to their designated areas. Once there, they were to talk to local homeless persons that they met to find out where the best place was to get a cheap meal and place to spend the night.
In doing so, the homeless people we talked to opened up about their stories. They shared about their families, jobs, travels, and their brokenness. EVERYONE HAS BROKENESS, SOME JUST HAVE MORE TO HIDE BEHIND THAN CARDBOARD.
One of our groups was given the location of a church that provides meals for homeless. As they entered, they were immediately greeted and asked if they were there to volunteer; but our group shared that we were there to eat. It was a gut check for our group AND those running the soup kitchen. “Talking with the homeless, while it is something ‘we’ are strongly advised against, proved that these are people with hopes and dreams, and stories that would make anyone rethink their perspective.” – Katie Vincler (Youth)
There was no way around it, we had met Jesus, and our lives were changed.
The day after this experience was when we were scheduled to have a free afternoon to explore the city. We saw the Zoo, the Bean, Millennium Park, and of course ate some deep dish pizza!
Something interested happened as we walked to the pizza place. We walked by many homeless, and our hearts were broken. Why did we get to spend money on this amazing pizza and yet our new friends were left hungry on the street?
An idea was born. We made sure to order plenty of pizza, which was amazing, and we individually boxed up the extra slices. The youth proceeded to write notes and prayers of encouragement on the boxes. Then on our way back, we handed out pizza to the homeless we passed on the way in. Each time we offered to pray with them, and once we had one return the favor and pray for us!
The only way to describe it is that this was a Kingdom of God moment; the typical barriers that each would have towards the other no longer existed and we were all God’s creation.