Sadly, in less than two months our family will be bidding Uptown Church farewell. Lord willing, I will graduate from RTS and simultaneously complete my Uptown internship as a Pastoral Intern assigned to Children’s Ministry. What a joy these past 3 years have been for our entire family!
Little did we know in the Fall of 2014, all that the Lord had in store for us at Uptown. That Fall, I jumped in to working with Christy Talamo and it was a joy assisting her in running the Children’s Ministry and planning events. God continues to bless the Children’s Ministry and it has been great to now work with Sage Andrews and Kat Powell and see Christy start her a children’s ministry in her own home with her and Joey’s precious Rosie!
I began being mentored and discipled by Dave Kulp. What a blessing those lunches have been these past three years. Not only was a great friendship grown, but I benefited so much from his insights into my strengths and weaknesses. He told me things no else would, to assist me in my sanctification and was quick to remind me of the gospel. I am forever indebted to Dave for his investment in my life and future ministry!
Mid-way through my time at Uptown, Tom Hawkes graciously agreed to start mentoring me as well. This has been a meeting I look forward to every month! His sacrifice of his time to pour into my life has been of immeasurable value! My respect for his wisdom has grown greatly. Uptown Church, you are so greatly blessed in the pastors God has given you! Please never take them for granted, though I know you don’t.
Our family joined Grae and Laura Garrison’s Life Group and became great friends with that amazing couple! We were blown away by the vulnerability and genuine love in the Life Group prayer time as people shared their real struggles and fears. I learned so much from Grae during those two years together in Life Group. Then this year, God opened a door to start/plant a new Life Group. That has also been a wonderful experience and a joy to lead along with Mark Wimberly and Robert Huggins. These men are great examples of servant leaders and I will miss leading with them.
Something for Everyone (Our Whole Family)
I certainly have not been the only recipient of the blessings at Uptown. Lori has so enjoyed everything and everyone at Uptown! She will so dearly miss her friends here. Mentoring groups, weekly Chick-Fil-A with Karen Smith, intern & wives dinners, Life Group, Sunday worship services… basically everything, Lori will profoundly miss! Our girls also will so greatly miss the youth ministry and children’s ministry. It has been a great blessing to enjoy getting to know Wes Andrews both as a friend and also having a child in his ministry to the youth! My hat is off to the amazing youth ministry Wes has created through the Lord’s blessing.
Three Lessons Learned
During these three years of internship, I have learned many lessons, but I will share just three: jump in, be proactive, and pay attention. I learned that the first step to being an intern is to jump in with both feet. An internship is not so much like a boot camp where all the training will be dictated and you just have to do what you’re told. The internship is flexible enough to allow the intern, in addition to managing the assigned responsibilities in a specific ministry area of the church, to volunteer in other ministries of the church. I found this flexibility essential to my training. It allowed me to explore ministry areas I didn’t know I was gifted in. My only regret is not volunteering to teach adult Sunday School more.
It is not only volunteering, but interns must also jump into engaging relationally. God has blessed our family with some amazing friendships at Uptown Church that we pray will last for many decades to come. This only came about because we invested relationally and others did the same with us. I’m sure it is costly for the members of Uptown to invest in friendships with seminary students that they know will be gone in a few short years. Praise God for Uptown’s willingness to make this costly investment for the sake of the Kingdom!
An intern must be proactive and can’t be passive or just reactive. As the adage goes, “you get out what you put in.” Much of the benefit an intern gains from an internship is determined by whether they are proactive.
Related to this, is the need to really pay attention. It is not only the ministry I’ve gotten to do during my internship but what I have observed that has been so valuable to me. Attending staff meetings, staff retreats, and shadowing session meetings has allowed me to see the inner workings of a healthy, vibrant, growing, and church planting church.
Many times, I have taken notes not just on what is done (e.g. how staff meetings and retreats are structured, how events are planned, debriefed, and improved, etc.), but also what is said (i.e. how Tom or Dave respond to people, how difficult situations are handled, etc.). I have sat in session meetings asking myself how would I respond to that comment or this question. I have many times asked pastors questions and learned so much from getting to hear their thought process. I have learned much from just watching these great men of God lead this church and the staff.
Thank you, Uptown Church, for your countless hours you have invested in me and my family! We will never forget these precious three years at Uptown Church! You will never know what these years have meant to us! May the Lord continue to bless the Kingdom labor you all are so earnestly doing with all your might! Thank you for the opportunity, for this short season, to join you, laboring shoulder-to-shoulder with you! What a blessing and joy it has been!
In closing, I would be amiss if I did not say: Uptown Church, you are blessed with amazing unity among the pastors, officers, and staff. This is of immeasurable benefit to the entire church! In many churches, the front stage is bright and polished, but the backstage can be pretty dark. That is not the case at Uptown. The back stage at Uptown is where I’ve seen Godly men leading the church, self-sacrificially, humbly, and while deeply loving each other and the church. God alone be praised for the church He has grown and continues to grow and reproduce throughout Charlotte and around the world!
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)
With great gratitude,
Author: Nathan Francis, Children’s Ministry Intern