This morning I made a pretty life-changing announcement to my students at Flipd. Here’s the email/letter going out to families. I appreciate your thoughts/prayers in this time of transition for First Friends, for me, and for the students and leaders of Flipd that I love so dearly.
This weekend I’ve been speaking at a retreat in Louisville with 200 high school students from across Ohio. One of my favorite things to do while speaking is to reflect on stories and memories from my childhood, often comical in nature, while observing some overarching truth of what God is up to in the lives of his creation.
For me, these stories always remind me about my beginnings. And my beginnings always involve First Friends. My family started to attend First Friends just before I was born and it’s all I’ve ever known as a home church. Innumerable people have spoken and lived into my life throughout my time here and have shaped me in ways great and small.
Four years ago, when Pastor Stan approached me about returning to First Friends on staff, I was humbled and excited to have the opportunity to work alongside so many who had meant so much to me. Having the privilege of serving the community of First Friends has been truly a blessing.
Over those four years, it’s been awesome to witness God at work. The birth, launch, and many projects that we’ve had the opportunity to tackle as the Justice League has been exciting to be a part of, including the Hope Garden, Food For Children Challenge, Faith in Plain, Adoption & Foster Care Ministry, and more. It’s been a blessing to see Flipd grow in so many areas, digging into the Word and training students in living and sharing the Kingdom of God, serving alongside of them in tangible expressions of Christ’s love, and seeking a balance of both being together in community and doing the work that Christ has called us to.There’s honestly too much to list of the beautiful ways that God has moved through the lives of our students and leaders during this season and I’m humbled to have been a part of it.
Awhile back, though, God started to stir in my heart that, as good as this time has been, that there was something “next” as well. Not wanting to launch haphazardly into anything, I gathered a group of close friends and mentors around me to serve as a Discernment Committee (in the Quaker practice of Clearness Committees). I also brought Pastor Stan into the conversation at this point, seeking his wisdom and input. Together we have prayed, discussed, reflected, and sought what God’s direction might be.
So it is today, Sunday, March 4, that I shared with students that I will be stepping out of my role as Middle School Youth Pastor and Instigator of Justice effective by the end of this summer. Pastor Stan and I settled on this before the Christmas holidays and I met with the Elders in January to share with them. At this point, I do not know what’s next, but I know that I feel as if I’m to take a step of faith and trust that God will guide that step to land where he directs.
A couple things I’d like to say:
-I love First Friends and the community that is here. I hope the best for all of you and will always consider First Friends as my home church.
-I love Flipd and the Justice League. One of the hardest parts of this decision has been accepting that I have to lay down these two groups of people that I love dearly in order to step into what’s next. I don’t have any less of a heart or energy for middle school students than I ever have, but I want to be faithful to where I feel God is leading.
-Flipd and the Justice League will both continue to be vital ministries at First Friends. The leadership at First Friends has indicated a desire to continue to see Christ’s love spread through these ministries on their current trajectory. Flipd has an absolutely amazing group of leaders and what’s happening there is about much more than just me. If you have a child in Flipd, you can trust that it will continue to be a place where students will be together in community, come to own their faith, share the Kingdom of God with others, and have their eyes opened to the work of Christ all over this city and world. I will do whatever is in my ability to set this transition up for as smooth of a process as possible.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you again for your investment over the years, for entrusting your children to me, and for your encouragement and prayers. It’s been an honor to serve alongside of you for this season. I do think that our life comes in seasons and First Friends has been a springtime for me, one of new growth and potential blossoming. Now, as God calls me onto summer, I am excited about what space he might call me to expand into and trust his calling. I will do my best to keep everyone up to date about my journey along the way as to where God may be leading.
Thanks again. Much love to all of you…
joel daniel harris