By Jennifer Schroeder
Recently, I was visiting with a dear friend and mentor of mine, and we fell into a conversation about all of the different moments in the Bible in which joy figures so prominently.
We spoke about the joy that Lydia must have felt after her heart was opened by the Spirit and her household baptized. We imagined the joy that Miriam and the other women experienced as they played their tambourines and danced in celebration of God’s deliverance. We could hear Mary’s song of praise in Elizabeth’s presence as a joyous reminder of who God is, what God has done, and what God will do. And we joyfully sat in the temple with Anna as she told those around her that the infant Jesus was the reason for praising and thanking God, that God was doing something special in this child.
As we are reminded in Psalm 16:11, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” One of God’s greatest gifts to us is true joy. And what this verse indicates is that being able to dwell in the presence of Yahweh is a promised reality—a fullness of joy.
Therefore, when I think through the many examples of joy throughout Scripture, I am reminded that these moments are a direct reflection of God’s presence—a realization of the unexpected and an anticipation of what is to come.
As I look toward this spring’s ACU Summit gathering, I am imagining an abundance of joy in having the opportunity not only to be in a community of renewal with others who value kingdom work so fully, but also to learn from each other as we travel this path. So often, we fall into the trap of imagining that it has to be one or the other, but I believe it is meant to be both, and by intentionally allowing both to come clearly into focus, the experience will be a truly rich one.
Likewise, as we look ahead to future Summit gatherings and begin planning for each of those, we are committed to three essential ideals as cornerstones of these gatherings.
Building community. God desires for us to be in community with each other, and when we lean into that ideal, we more fully represent the kingdom of God. Summit will continue to foster this sense of connection, helping us thrive as we seek to grow in relationship with Christ.
Listening to each other. What are the leading questions that churches and ministries are asking, and how can we better serve ministry leaders as they seek to grapple with those questions? Listening is no small feat, and we recognize its importance to the work of ministry as a whole. Therefore, we welcome your voice so that Summit truly can be a time of growth and renewal for each and every one of you.
Seeking God. Where is God at work, and how can we join the work God is doing? As we imagine and plan for future Summit gatherings, it is foundational that we continually reflect on these questions, so that at each step of the way, we are drawn more completely to the will of God.
As I look ahead to Summit, both in the coming weeks and in the future, I am excited about the opportunity to spend time with my fellow ministry leaders: learning from them, praying with them, being influenced by them, laughing with them, and maybe even crying with them. But most importantly, I am excited to experience the “fullness of joy” that comes from being in the presence of God with so many of my co-laborers, all for the sake of the kingdom.
Please come join us March 31 – April 1 for Summit: Seeking Hope, Finding Joy.
Jennifer Schroeder is the new Summit director in the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. She also teaches courses in children and family ministry at Abilene Christian University. Prior to joining the Siburt Institute, Jennifer served in congregational ministry for the last two decades. Through her new role, she is excited to partner not only with ministers and ministry leaders as they look for community and engagement through Summit gatherings but also with the Siburt Institute as it seeks to live out its purpose of equipping leaders and helping churches thrive. Jennifer, along with her husband and their four children, enjoys spending time reading and being outdoors. She is also incredibly fervent in her love of bacon.