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Is God still in our schools?

By Nehemiah, Local FP Communities

Rachel Camarota, FP Director Johnston County

This blog was written by Rachel Camarota, Director of FP Johnston County, NC.

Before I stepped into this role with First Priority, I was a teacher and the sponsor for an FP club at a local high school. Every day I saw the need for Christ-centered clubs in our school and among our students. But do you know what else I saw? Students who love Jesus, who were unashamed to share their faith through First Priority.

For the past decade, we have been told that God is not present in our schools anymore or that young people aren’t interested in Jesus – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?”

While in recent years there has been a noticeable decline in Christian beliefs in our schools and among our young people, as long as we have students who walk the halls and believe in Jesus, God is still there.

This is where First Priority comes in. We train students to be disciples of Christ and to share the Gospel in their school – and it is working. Just in the last weeks of 2019, 2 students accepted Christ in a local high school!

But those students would’ve never been given that opportunity had it not been for student leaders being brave enough to share the Gospel at First Priority – and they can’t share the Gospel without your help. Click the button below to find out more info about how you can start a club in a school in your area.

Start a Club

Rachel Camarota
FP Director Johnston County

FP Podcast Episode 35: Roundtable with Joel Rowland discussing the Enneagram

By Podcast

Joel Rowland Executive Director FP Front Range

Joel and his family are following their passion to plant First Priority Range. Joel and Amber have been married for 13 years. They enjoy playing music, exploring the outdoors, and finding joy in the simple things of life. Lincoln is 4. He loves baseball, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, and anything fun. He has an Australian Shepherd named Zuma.

Joel and Amber have walked through life-changing tragedies including the loss of Joel’s parents, Amber’s father, and a devastating miscarriage. They are passionate about sharing the hope and healing they have found in Christ. They have served in ministry together over 13 years including Lead Pastors of a Church Plant, Prison Chaplains, Founders of a Non-Profit for at risk kids, Drug Court Representatives, and most recently, Executive Director of First Priority in North Carolina.

Joel is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and Certified in Apologetics with the Ravi Zacharias Institute. He is currently on the journey of becoming a Scholar in the Hebraic Context of the Bible and Biblical Linguistics through the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has enjoyed studying abroad in Israel, Canada, and Ecuador with Operation Christmas Child. Amber has worked with youth and at risk women and has ministry skills through Vineyard Institute.

The Rowland family have a passion to missional lives of love that bring hope to their community.

Below you will find the documents referenced in this podcast.

Can-the-Enneagram-Make-You-a-More-Effective-Leader

Enneagram-Spiritual-Formation-Plan

Enneagram Cheat Sheet

Enneagram Notes

If you don’t measure it, you don’t care about it

By Nehemiah, Leadership Development

I recently heard someone say, “If you don’t measure it, you don’t care about it.” Whatever ‘it’ is, he is totally right. The new year always evokes change in people. But because this is not only a new year, but a new decade, it has us writing goals and making adjustments to our life; spiritually, physically, financially, emotionally, and so on. A few weeks ago I shared a quote I heard from Toby Mac. He said, “if you are not changing it, you are choosing it.” there is that ‘it’ again.

Let’s talk about physical goals for a minute. If you don’t know how much you weigh, how are you going to know if you are making progress? If you don’t know how big your arms are when you start lifting weights, how can you celebrate the win? I know you can see the results eventually, but isn’t it more fun to celebrate your achievements from where you started? I love to step on the scale after a week and see that I have lost 5 pounds. I need to lose 20 pounds, but how rewarding is it to celebrate the 5 and then be motivated to do the next 15? We measure so that we can celebrate us changing the situation, not choosing it.

Financially, you need to know what you have coming in so you can make a budget based on your measurement. Whether that measurement is small or large, you set goals on saving, giving, etc.

Spiritually, I need to measure the time I spend with God. I heard a guy say that the hallmark of discipleship is discipline. If I do not take time to spend reading the Bible and continuously putting God first in life, I, like everyone else, will fall back into the worries of this world and be defeated by the enemy.

In your ministry or business, you have to have something to measure. If you don’t, how can you get anyone to join you or partner with you if you can’t measure your accomplishments. No one wants to be a part of a ministry that can’t show results.

Why do we at First Priority bug you so much for your numbers? Because we want you and everybody else to celebrate the win that God gives us. I heard someone ask a campus ministry guy how many schools his ministry was in, and he said, “I don’t know, the Lord is just doing incredible things, and we can’t keep up.” What? Are you kidding me? My first thought was, man, I would never give that guy a dime of money or a minute of my attention. He told me loud and clear that he does not think being on the school campus is important even though that’s what his vision statement says! I know in the ministry world we like to say, if just one person gives their life to Christ, it was worth it, and I agree, but God also wrote a whole book on Numbers.

Hey, in this new year, this new decade, let’s make sure we measure so we can celebrate the win with God.

FP Podcast Episode 34: Curtis Zackery “CZ” talks about finding rest for your soul

By Podcast

Curtis Zackery, Author, Communicator, Pastor

My story contains a bunch of twists and turns that have shaped who I am today. It began when I was born and raised in New Jersey. It took a beautiful turn when I started running with Jesus in college. It continues today with a focused sense of purpose:

To invite people into the story of God, so they feel seen, known, and loved.

I’ve had the privilege of opening the word, serving, and working with some super cool folks, partnering in pointing to hope. It’s a beautiful mystery as to why the Lord has allowed me to experience such grace, but I’m just a beggar trying to show other beggars where the bread is.

Along the way, I wrote a book called “Soul Rest” that came from a season of deep learning and growing. It connects to my absolute belief that God’s desire for humanity is that we would find rest in His finished work. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to share this hope with churches, ministries, businesses, and organizations around the country.

When I have the time, I enjoy reading, running and exploring coffee and food spots around the country. I live in Franklin, Tennessee with the love of my life, Monique, and my two boys, Noah and Micah.

Students spread Christ’s love this Holiday Season!

By Local FP Communities

Stories of students sharing Christ’s love from FP Birmingham, AL

Throughout the year, and particularly at Christmas, many First Priority clubs participate in various mission and service projects to serve their school, community and the world for Christ. We would like to share several of those awesome stories with you!

  • Spain Park High School students raised money to purchase 16 water filters for families in the Dominican Republic. Each filter will provide a family clean water for up to eight years. Until They Know is the ministry that will deliver the water filters and as a result these families will have the Gospel shared with them at the time of delivery and each time someone checks on the filters. Once the families receive a filter, Until They Know will continue to follow-up with them throughout the eight years. These students are passionate about reaching others with the Gospel at home and abroad.
  • North Jefferson Middle School First Priority students collected gifts for Lovelady Center children.
  • Pelham High School First Priority students gave out hot chocolate and candy canes to students to kick off exam season.
  • Thompson High School First Priority students passed out candy canes and Bible verses to students.
  • Oak Mountain High School’s First Priority club served hot chocolate to students to say “Merry Christmas” and share Christ’s love this holiday season!
  • Calera Middle School First Priority student leaders blessed the school with goody bags containing candy, life books, and an invitation to First Priority. Just about every student and teacher at Calera Middle went home with a goody bag! “We pray that all who received them will read the life books and maybe even come to First Priority to hear more about the Gospel,” said Campus Coach Savannah Grace.
  • Forest Oaks Elementary School’s FPKids club partnered with Liberty Baptist Kids Ministry in Chelsea to provide 244 candy goody bags to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. Kids brought in candy for Military and First Responders for a mission project.

We’re super proud of these students and their passion to serve others and reach them with Christ’s love. Students are inviting their friends to First Priority. Students are sharing their testimonies. The Gospel is being shared on campuses every week and students are responding with questions and professions of faith. God is using First Priority to change lives. Please pray for these students as they strive to reach Every Last One.

FP Podcast Episode 33: Mary Margaret West author of Show Her the Way: Your Guide to Discipling Teen Girls

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Mary Margaret West, Author of Show Her the Way: Your Guide to Discipling Teen Girls

Mary Margaret West served as the Girls Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, which basically means that teenage girls and the women who lead them are her favorite people on the planet. She has a passion to equip girls and women to dive deeply into God’s word and live out their calling, and does this by training, consulting, and speaking to women and student ministry leaders across the United States. Mary Margaret is the author of Show Her the Way: Your Guide to Discipling Teen Girls, is a former Girls Minister, and holds a master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Mary Margaret and her husband Jonathan just recently moved to Florida where she works as a Bible Instructor for 7th and 8th grades.

New Year, New Goals, New Opportunities

By Nehemiah

New year, new goals, new opportunities, and the list goes on. I am sure you can add a lot to your list of things to be new. When I was in college, my buddies and I went and played golf almost every day. We would go late in the afternoon. We could only get in 9 holes, and we had to walk, but it was cheap. I think I spent more money on golf balls than green fees; I had a bad slice! If you have ever played golf, you know that feeling when you hit that perfect shot. You replay it in your mind and remind your buddies of how good it was, to the point of being irritating. Those good shots are what make you keep coming back. What I love about a new year is we get another shot. A shot to change something, a shot to start over. I heard Toby Mac say, ‘whatever you are not changing you are choosing.” Wow, that is good! IF we don’t like something or want to make a change, we have to take a shot.

I know many of you have wanted to help your students have a club on campus, where they can share Jesus with their peers. Well, why not take that shot this new year? Your students get a platform to practice what you are teaching, and you get to see God use your students to reach their friends for Christ. Your congregation in your church can pray for your students as missionaries. It is a win-win, and all you have to do is choose to do it. We train you, you train students, and students start clubs. It is so easy even a caveman can do it. We will have two webinar opportunities (45 minutes in length) for you to choose from. You can choose January 9th or 28th. Click here to register. https://firstpriority.club/club-resources/start-a-club

FP Podcast Episode 32: Nate Stucky talks about his book “Wrestling with Rest”

By Podcast

Nate Stucky, Director Farminary Project

Nathan Stucky serves as Director of the Farminary Project at Princeton Theological Seminary. He grew up on a farm in Kansas where his love for Christian faith and agriculture first took root. After earning a B.A. in Music from Bethel College (KS), Nathan spent six years doing ecumenical youth ministry on the eastern shore of Maryland, and two years farming back in Kansas. After farming, Nathan earned an M.Div. and a Ph.D. (Practical Theology, Christian Education and Formation) from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of Wrestling with Rest: Inviting Youth to Discover the Gift of Sabbath, and he lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife and three children.

Figuring out Life with a God who Hides

By Nehemiah, First Priority Of America

Wow, I cannot believe it is already Christmas! I know everyone is saying that this year because Thanksgiving was so late. It seems like it just snuck up on all of us. Christmas is next week, and I still do not even have a tree up. What kind of Christian am I? Right! I promise I will get a tree tonight so I can get back on the good list.

Well, I wanted to tell you about this book I have been reading. It is by a guy named Tony Kriz, and the name of the book is Aloof: Figuring out life with a God who hides. Did that get anybody’s attention? It did mine. I have felt that way for years. Not that I have never felt the presence of God, just that it seems like sometimes He is just beyond my reach. Is it just me and Tony, or does that resonate with you too? The Author quoted a friend of his name Richard Twiss. He said, “Our problem is not God’s absence. It is that God is everywhere at all times. The problem is we are not attuned to His actual ever presence.” Ok wow there it is…we are not attuned.

So how does Christmas fit in here? Well, Christmas seemed more magical when we were kids. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Christmas. It just seems that most people have greater memories of Christmas when they were young. Have you noticed that God was more real to you when you were a kid? Do you remember just carrying on conversations with Him about anything? Talking to Him like he was your best friend? My oldest son Hayden was riding his scooter out in our driveway when he was about 6 or 7. He was out there just carrying on a conversation with someone. He was saying things like, “did you see that trick, do you like that one, what did you think about that?” I was wondering who he was talking with. I thought maybe he had an imaginary friend. I looked at him and asked, “who are you talking too”? He looked at me real funny like I was nuts and said, God. I said what what are you doing? He said, “I am showing God my tricks.” I said, “did God like them,” which he replied, “Yes, He did.” I told God that if he liked my tricks to make the wind blow in my face, and it did!” There you go, through the mouths of babes. Remember, Jesus told his disciples in Matt. 19:14,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Becoming a Christian takes child-like faith. Kids have faith. My youngest son Cole used to throw his toys on the roof of our house just so I would let him go up there and get them off. When he got all of his toys and he was ready to get off the roof he would just make eye contact with me and jump, trusting me to catch him. Is that not what God wants us to do with Him? There is an old hymn that says, trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey. Seems pretty straightforward though the eyes of a child. When we get older, we get busy with the worries of life, and we trust less and obey less, and God seems aloof. This Christmas, watch the kids and look at the wonder in their faces. I think that is what God desires for you and me, to wonder in Him and to simply trust Him with everything, giving our worries and burdens to Him. Matt. 11:28 says,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Maybe giving my burdens to Jesus every day is the secret sauce that makes me more child-like. Being child-like helps me experience God so God won’t seem so aloof.

FP Podcast Episode 31: Marketing tips

By Podcast

Scott Emerine, Co-founder Branding Iron Marketing

Scott Emerine, M.Sc., is Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Branding Iron Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations, a full-service agency with expertise in financial, health care and aviation marketing. As Co-Owner of Branding Iron, Emerine manages media relations and public relations for clients throughout the world. Emerine’s clients have been featured in some of the largest media outlets in the world.

Scott received his Master of Science Degree in Health Care Communications in 2010 from Boston University and was in the inaugural graduating class. He received his undergraduate degree in Marketing from Oral Roberts University. 

He resides in Bristol, Tennessee with his wife Joy and their three sons, two of which are First Priority leaders. He is a Church of God Ordained Bishop and serves as Associate Pastor at Covenant Fellowship in Bristol, Virginia. He has served as the President of the American Advertising Federation of Northeast Tennessee Board of Directors, served as Chair of Public Relations for the American Advertising Federation District 7, was Chairman of the Board for the Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the Board for First Priority Blue Ridge.

Emerine currently serves on the executive board for the United Way of Bristol TN/VA, is Chairman of First Priority Blue Ridge, serves as the Bristol TN/VA Area Director for First Priority Blue Ridge and the Bristol Morning Rotary Club. He also serves as the Vice Chairmen of the Board for Covenant Fellowship.