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Class of 2020

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed May 20, 2020

Class of 2020,


We're thrilled to celebrate this achievement in your life. Through more than 1,000 Sunday mornings and 250 Wednesday nights, you've been shaped by God's church on Shades Mountain. Know as you step into this next chapter, we're praying for you and we love you.

Take a look at this short video commemorating your milestone!

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Summer Snapshot: Brittany Martin and GenSend

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Aug 22, 2017

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMin students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up, we'll hear from Brittany Martin who is a student at Samford University.

This summer I participated in GenSend through the North American Mission Board. I was sent to the incredible city of New York for six weeks to live on mission and spread the gospel. We did many different types of ministry such as prayer walks through our neighborhoods in Brooklyn, handing out flyers for our church planter, and holding picnics for the community in the parks. We also got the opportunity to volunteer in Coney Island working with another church’s summer children’s program. It was so humbling to work with those children but such a blessing to pour into them. 

One of my favorite things that we did was spiritual surveys. We went into an area and asked people spiritual questions about themselves and the community, but what was great about these conversations was that many of them led to deep Gospel conversations where we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. It was so encouraging to see that New Yorkers actually crave community more than we typically think.  Even though they are in one of the most densely populated cities in the United States there isn’t much sense of community and therefore, everyone is lonely. I found that more times than not if I stopped and just asked someone how they were that they would instantly open up and start a conversation with me. 

I think the hardest part about the trip was being away from home for so long. There were also days when I really didn’t think I had anything left to pour out, but God always found away to help me through whatever I was going through. 

Overall, this summer was an incredible blessing. I am forever changed because of this summer, but the main thing I want to take away from this summer and continue this fall is to “step out of the boat.” During our training in Phoenix, Steve Turner told us something that really stuck with me. He said that we are all called to step out of the comforts of our boat and walk on the water with Jesus, and follow Him wherever and whenever He calls us. So that is my prayer that I won’t hide in comfort, but will step into uncertain and uncomfortable waters this semester with Jesus.

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Summer Snapshot: Jake Adler and Life Community Church

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Jul 25, 2017

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up we’ll hear from Jake Adler who is an upcoming senior at Samford University.

Hello people of Birmingham! It's good to be writing to you from Life Community Church in Nolensville, Tennessee. For the past two months, I've been interning here with Jay Watson and Kevin Johnson. Jay and Kevin used to be pastors at Shades that have devoted themselves to serving the people of Nolensville. It’s been a fun ride the entire summer.        

We started off with a bang at our student camp in the woods of Tennessee. During this week the students were able learn about Jesus and how he loves them. For many of them, this is a new concept, and they were hearing it for the first time. I was given the opportunity to lead worship for the students which proved to be a difficult task, because for some of them it was their first time to sing worship songs. The students learned quickly and loved getting involved. We also played tons of games like flag football, glow in the dark kickball (which was chaotic), and water balloon fights. It was a fun start to the internship, and it gave me a good picture of how engaging the summer was going to be.

One of the families from the church volunteered to house me for the summer. They are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. Their three young children are full of energy and the youngest boy, Declan, is my number one fan.  They have served me so well this entire summer, and I've come to see them as my Tennessee family. 

Kevin has been an excellent boss for the past two months.  Jay, the lead pastor of Life Community, has been on sabbatical for the summer.  Thus, Kevin, the associate pastor, has stepped up to lead us interns. 

He put us in charge of leading the Wednesday night events for the student ministry. So we come up with games to play, what Bible lesson to teach, and what crazy snack food the students will be eating. My favorite Wednesday night so far has to be the glow-in-the-dark mini-golf night. We rented several portable glow in the dark mini golf stations and set them up in the worship center, then turned up the LED lights and made the room look like a laser tag arena. It was crazy. CRAZY!

I have also had the opportunity to lead worship on Sundays.  Ethan Asters, a Samford graduate and the worship leader at Life Community, made it his goal to mentor me this entire summer and give me many opportunities to lead worship.  He has allowed me to assist him in planning the worship sets, modeling each Sunday to the needs of the congregation and to theme of the sermon that morning. This has given me a glimpse into what it would be like to be a worship pastor full-time at a church. I'm really thankful for Ethan's leadership over me this summer.

Kevin also put me in charge of leading a small Bible study with three of male students. This has been the most rewarding of all my tasks this summer. These three middle school guys have been so eager to read the Word and fellowship with God. I’ve been able to teach them the importance of reading their Bibles, the power of prayer, and the beauty of Jesus’ grace in their lives. I'm hoping that these concepts will carry on in these guys' lives for years. They have the passion to do so. I'll keep praying for them as they enter high school and begin that new stage in life.

So anyway, those are some of the awesome things I've been able to do in this internship. It has given me a good glimpse into what full-time ministry would be like. It has also strengthened my desire to be in full-time ministry. The people of Life Community are growing in faith thanks to the hard work of many faithful leaders and thanks to the faithfulness of our God.  

It's been an amazing summer.

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Summer Snapshot: Luke Thompson and Life Romania

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Thu Jul 20, 2017

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up we’ll hear from Luke Thompson who is an upcoming senior at Samford University. 

This summer I chose to serve with Life Romania, a ministry that organizes camps and shares the Gospel with kids ages 6-19 all over the country. For the past three years, I have been working with middle school and high school students but never in a camp setting. I didn’t really know what to expect. I only vaguely knew what I would be doing. I knew I would be in charge of the finances and sports/recreation activities for one of the camp locations along with preaching occasionally. 

Prior to arriving, I wasn’t given a lot of detail about how those jobs have been done in the past or the expectations for my roles at camp. Even after arriving in Romania, meeting the team and officially going over details, I have had to learn as I go. That can be even more difficult when not everyone speaks the same language. But as with any mission trip you go on, it requires a flexible attitude. Things aren’t always going to go according to plan or instructions might not be clearly communicated. That can be discouraging at first, but if you don’t allow yourself to let go of the control and let God use you then you’ll miss out on what all He has in store for you.

Forsaking My Own Strength

I like to think of myself as a laid-back, easygoing guy, and yet week after week I have been challenged by the flow of the camp. I have been here for three weeks, and two of those weeks we’ve had camp and they could not have been more polar opposite. I remember after the first day of camp sitting down and being so discouraged. I thought, “How am I going to get through four more weeks of this?” I was angry and frustrated for being here, annoyed at how chaotic things were. But throughout this experience, God continues to teach me two main things. The first is to rely on Him every single day. He showed me that before I got here, I wasn’t relying on his strength and power, but that my tendency was to do things on my own. I had to rely on His power. There is no way I would have made it this far on my own strength. I would be bitter and angry if I tried to fulfill all of my responsibilities on my own.

In Mark 10:13-16 people are bringing children to see Jesus and be blessed by him, but the Disciples get angry at the people for bringing them to Jesus. They think that children are unimportant and not worth Jesus’ time. When Jesus sees this happening he gets angry at them, and in verse 15, Jesus says that those who don’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Jesus is saying is that those who don’t rely on me like a child don’t truly know what it is to follow me. As humans we have the tendency to shoulder all the responsibility, yet Jesus calls us to rely on him. It’s an insult to Him and His sacrifice on the cross when we try to go through life on our own. It’s easier at camp or in tough times to rely on God’s strength to get us through, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to rely on Him in all circumstances, both the good and the bad. When things are going good we think we have everything under control. Yet slowly but surely as we rely on ourselves we distance ourselves from God.

Finding True Satisfaction

The second major lesson God has been teaching me is that He is so much greater than anything in this world. True Joy is found in Him and not in this world because God is the only one that can sustain us. The big question is, “Am I living for the heavenly kingdom or for this earthly world?” And too many times I choose the things of this world over the Kingdom of Heaven. It can be so tempting to choose this world and all it offers, but in the end it leaves us empty and unsatisfied. Every day we have the option to pursue our own desires or to surrender to God and allow Him to use us and be satisfied in Him. And that is all God asks us to do, surrender to Him every day to be used by Him and show His love to others.

I have seen God use broken sinful, exhausted people to pour into the lives of kids that have never heard of Jesus only because they surrendered and allowed God to use them. I have seen counselors pour out the love of Christ to some of the most frustrating campers, and in the end are crying when they leave because they’ve never seen love like this before. I have seen God use something as simple as a ping-pong game to open the door for a conversation about how God’s love never runs out and that it’s never too late to follow Him. Allow yourself to be used by God every day, rely on His strength, and live for the Kingdom. Because God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. And when we allow Him to use us, we experience what God has designed for us. What God has in store for each person is much greater than anything we could ever come up with on our own.

Integrating What I’ve Learned Next Semester

Even though camp is still chaotic and challenging, I know this is where I need to be and I wouldn’t trade this experience and what God is teaching me for anything. My challenge to myself is that I will surrender to God every day and be found completely in Him, choosing the Kingdom of Heaven over anything the world has to offer. And there will be struggles and temptations, but we serve the God of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth. There is nothing to big or too small for our God. 

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Summer Snapshot: Josie Pelham and Kids Kamp

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed Jun 28, 2017

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. First up – Josie Pelham!

Hi friends! My name is Josie, and I am about to enter my senior year at UAB as a Secondary Education major concentrating in Social Studies. This summer is my first time to stay in Birmingham and also my first time to work full-time.

During the school year, I work at After the Bell at Shades which is an after school program for kids who go to Vestavia elementary schools. Because I work there, I was given the opportunity to work at Kids Kamp, which is a summer program both for the kids at After The Bell and other students around the area. A day in the life of Kids Kamp could basically be described like this: play games with your kids, try to make sure no one gets hurt, and most importantly love on them in a way that teaches them who God is and what a relationship with Him looks like.

So here I am, four weeks into Kids Kamp where I spend 10 hours a day with a bunch of crazy nine- and ten-year-olds (I am a counselor for third grade), and there are honestly no words to describe how much God has changed my life through this awesome ministry. 

I hear people who work with kids in a ministry setting say something along the lines of “I’m learning more from them than they could ever learn from me.” I’ve never really understood how this could be possible until Kamp started. Through these kids, God is teaching me how to love others in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. He has shown me that if I am to love others the way that Christ loves us, I must rely on His strength and His love because believe me, nine-year-old boys and girls are HARD to love sometimes. Like I mentioned, Kids Kamp is 10 hours every day and is absolutely exhausting. I get tired, the kids get tired, and everyone gets a little difficult to be around sometimes. However, our God is good and He has taught me that on my own, I can’t love these kids without resting in His grace.

I don’t know what the next six weeks of Kamp will look like, nor do I know how God is going to continue working in these kids’ lives and continue teaching me. 

But I do know that when we allow ourselves to be available to work for His kingdom and open our hearts to what He is trying to teach us, we will be changed and we will grow in a way that only God can accomplish. 

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Focus your soul on Jesus this Christmas

Posted in Children, Students, Adults, Worship, Community Life  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Mon Dec 19, 2016

You guys, Christmas is great.  

What’s not to love?! It gets a little cold, but not too cold (I see you, January.) so you have a chance to pull out your best jacket and drink warm drinks. There are lots of parties, so you get all caught up on the happenings and the goings-on. There are some great things on TV. It’s a season with it’s own music that you already know the words to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take a tree that normally goes outside, and put it inside! Seriously, what’s not to love about Christmas?

I’m writing a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but these parts of Christmas truly are fun and something to look forward to. But without the Christ-child, they’re meaningless. They’re window dressing. They’re liquid butter without the popcorn.  They’re a parade without purpose. They’re an appetizer without a main course.  

The Christmas season is a season of anticipation and remembrance. If the object of our anticipation is wrong, our celebration will be misguided. And if our remembering is weak or fuzzy, our worship is miscalibrated.  

It’s tempting to only anticipate the “season” of Christmas instead of the event. And it’s tempting to remember the Christmases of years past and their memories instead of the original Christmas and the hope that comes with it.

But succumbing to those temptations leads us down a road of misguided praise and misplaced worship. We become the misinformed child who becomes enamored with the cardboard box and unaware of the treasure inside. 

So this Christmas season, practice ways in which the coming of Christ (and his coming again!) is more anticipated than the coming of Santa.  

Read the Christmas story together as a family. Talk about who the Biblical characters were and what they would have felt like. Name out loud how your life would be different in the Christ-child hadn’t come.  

If the Christmas season is about the presence of God with us, practice presence with your family. If the Christmas season is about God’s greatest gift, consider making a gift to someone in need.  

Find a baby, hold him, and think about him as the savior of the world. Consider putting that baby in the dog bowl and ponder the humility of Christ.  

Whatever you need to do to focus your soul on Jesus, strive hard to do that thing.  You were created by the Almighty God to worship Him and know Him. 

Let Christmas be the season for you to do what you were created to do. 

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College Students: 5 ways to avoid a restless winter break

Posted in Students, Adults, Community Life  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Mon Dec 12, 2016

Most of us run so hard during the semester that by the time we get to winter break we don’t know what to do with "free time” – whatever that is. We think that simply having free time will mean that we will rest. But we have all had breaks where we had all the free time we could want and yet end up more restless at the end of the break than when it began. Simply having time off from homework and class does not ensure that you will be able to rest. We do not rest by simply not having anything to do. That can actually make us rest less. In order to rest we cease doing things that drain us and focus on things that refresh us. So here are some suggestions on how to have a restful and not a restless winter break.

1. Receive Grace. 

Jesus is our rest. He frees us from our constant and exhausting striving to prove ourselves to God. He says to us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) We can have rest through Christ because he bore the greatest restlessness on the cross – separation from the Father and the punishment for sin that he did not commit. This is the good news of Christ. And it is news that our souls need every day.

How do we rest in the rest Christ provides? We do this largely through what the church has called “means of grace.” These are avenues by which God assures us of his loving disposition towards us in Christ, allowing us to know him in a deep and real way – and subsequently to rest. Among other things the means of grace include: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, community, hearing Scripture read and explained, and personal Scripture reading and prayer.

The devotional acts of reading, meditating, journaling, and praying through Scripture are some of the key ways the Spirit reveals God’s true heart for us in Christ. Grab a bible, a pen, a journal, set an alarm to go off in 30 minutes so you’re not constantly checking the time, and see what God might do. There’s no wrong place to start.  

 2. Worship Corporately.

 As Western Christians we tend to focus almost exclusively on private ways of growing in love for God and others. We focus a lot on reading Scripture and praying by ourselves (“devotions” or “quiet times”) – which we should. But we often neglect corporate means of grace such as weekly worship services and community groups. 

What does is it look like to engage in corporate worship? It involves more than showing up and sitting in a pew. It is easy to get into the habit of attending church services just because that is what you do in the South on Sundays.  Even if you don’t always like the preaching or always connect with the music it means attending a worship service with a sense of expectation that God himself will speak to you as the gospel unfolds through the service. 

What if you prayed before the service that your heart would be prepared to receive? What if you prayed for the pastor preaching? What if you prayed for the people you would talk to before and after the service, that you would be able to find ways to encourage and comfort them with the good news of Jesus Christ? What if you finished the service by praying that the church as a whole would respond in repentance and belief to the Word preached?

Engaging in corporate worship can do wonders for our souls. Whether you choose to attend your home church or a different church in your hometown, don’t miss the benefit of the Sundays between the fall and the spring semesters.

3. Expect Temptation.

 If Jesus is the source of our rest, then sin is the key cause of our restlessness. Breaks provide unique opportunities for the enemy to whisper his subtle lies in our ears. Be aware that being back home with a lot of free time will remind your heart of old temptations and stir up new ones. Sin tempts us with the promise of satisfaction, fulfillment, and deliverance. But take hope because we have a better satisfaction, lasting fulfilment, and truer deliverance that are ours perfectly in Christ. 

The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it provides us safety to be honest with ourselves (and others) about the true state of our souls without feeling condemned. The reality is that we are all five minutes away from destroying our lives. So let’s look to Jesus in the moment of temptation, thank him in the moment of victory, and cling to him in the moment of failure.  

4. Stop Scrolling.

 Nothing gives the illusion of rest like scrolling through social media.  We think we are resting because we are on the couch, free from work with phone in hand.  But the constant scrolling keeps our minds hyper-stimulated with a stream of disconnected tweets, blogs, statuses, and images. Our attention is diverted every two seconds with a new post. This constant stimulation makes us restless even as we image it to be restful.  

When we look to social media to give us rest we fail to realize that rest takes work. I’ll say that again: rest takes work. We don’t accidently rest. Rest necessitates focused attention to that which energizes us. Social media scrolling acts as a pacifier for the restless. It distracts for a little while but it doesn’t solve the problem. Always scrolling; never resting.

Often our phones are the main hindrance to our rest. So what if you shut down your phone for an hour each day of the break to put energy towards something that actually refreshed you? Or what if you took a fast from social media for a week? What kind of rest would be available to us if we disconnected for even a little while?

5. Engage Family.

While you’re disconnected from your phone, connect with your family. Ask them questions. Tell them you love them. Share with them what you are learning. Consider their needs and serve them. We can easily slip back into “kid mode” when going home for breaks during college. Kid mode is characterized by taking, not giving. Don’t be alarmed by this, but: you’re an adult. You have the privilege and responsibility to serve your family by giving and not simply taking.

What does this have to do with not being restless? As our Lord said, “It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) By taking initiative to be more present and engaged with your family you will be blessed and find rest.

I recognize that this is easier for some than others. Some of you have a wonderful family that you can’t wait to see and spend time with. But some of you might have a painful relationship with your family and you are dreading going home.  If you find yourself with a difficult family, I encourage you to focus on prayerfully taking small steps in this direction. We can do this because our Lord Jesus made us his family members when we were his enemies.

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dGroups | Fulfilling the purpose

Posted in Students  |  By Lesli Travis  |  Posted on Sun Sep 13, 2015

To know God and to make Him known is a statement of purpose for me as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I had never heard this, much less understood this, until I attended college. Through the encouragement of friends, I became involved in a campus ministry that provided biblical teaching and training. This teaching, guided by the Holy Spirit, would ultimately change my perspective of life and for life.

I began participating in a small bible study group we referred to as discipleship. I had one leader who invested her life into me and two other women in my group for all four of my college years. Through the sacrificial example of my group leader - and the faithfulness and accountability of my group members - I too became committed to pouring my life into others. This biblical lifestyle and process was and still is my life’s passion. Through this college relationship, I caught a glimpse of why discipleship was so important to God. It changes lives and creates a stronger desire to be more like Him and “to make God known” to the world.

As an adult, my husband and I have seen first-hand what the benefits are of being a part of an accountability and bible study group. These cultivated relationships are such that will last a lifetime. Our hope is that the importance we place on staying in an “iron sharpening iron” relationship will trickle down throughout our family.

We have had three children impacted by the process of discipleship. At Shades, we refer to it as a dGroup. Without a doubt, this ministry is one of the greatest opportunities for our students to grasp what Jesus has called them to be.

Our oldest son just graduated high school and was blessed to be in a group with the same fearless leader and group members from seventh through high school. He claims the consistency, the accountability and the content of his time with his dGroup was life-changing. My other children are currently involved in a discipleship relationship that continues to provide support (when needed), truth (when required) and fellowship (always). The fellowship, accountability, teaching and commitment that comes with dGroups is a perfect example of what Paul instructed Timothy to do in II Timothy 2:2:

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Our prayer for our children is that through dGroups, they will become better equipped and prepared to live according to God’s plan for their lives and that they too will pour their lives in to others, reaching the world for Christ.

Currently, with the help of a co-leader, I disciple a group of seven senior girls. It is one of my greatest joys in life.

To be able to use what the Lord taught me when I was younger is not only exciting but affirming that God never gets tired of using us as long as we are available to be used. You’ve probably heard the saying “Jesus ministered to the masses, but he discipled only a few." This sounds exclusive but Jesus spent all of His time with just a few because He knew the world could be changed by these disciples … living, eating and breathing Jesus. The entire world was changed through these few men that Jesus invested His life into.

I believe that each student that participates in dGroups will have this same impact on the world surrounding them. This is God’s great design for reaching the lost. We receive training from others and we give training to others so that they will continue this process for generations to come. dGroup emphasis at Shades has taken the biblical perspective of discipleship and planted it in the hearts of many.

Prayerfully, our students will take these principles and be changed by them. Why? So that they can fulfill the purpose, “To know God and to make Him known.”

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dGroups | A parent's perspective

Posted in Students  |  By Walter Church  |  Posted on Sun Sep 13, 2015

In mid-August, my wife and I became empty nesters when our oldest son returned to college as a junior and our youngest son started his college career. In advance of each son leaving for college as a freshman, a flood of thoughts entered our minds.

Is he prepared for this next chapter in his life? Will he meet friends with character? Will he have academic success?

Even though the questions were very important, they did not worry us or distract us because we believed that God had prepared each son by using us, other family members, and people who invested in their lives through school, extra curricular activities and the Shades student ministry.

During middle school and high school, my sons regularly attended Shades, and they participated in many student events. From seventh grade until high school graduation, each son truly enjoyed his dGroup and benefited greatly from a committed leader who continually encouraged and taught each son to live like Christ even when facing difficult challenges, including the pressures and temptations of this world. Over the years, many in the dGroup became their closest friends.

As my sons progressed in age, my wife and I watched them grow in their Christian faith, including their desire to invest in younger students and friends who were not believers in Christ. We are truly grateful that dGroups emphasize this way of life that models Christ. Now, as college students, each son is actively involved in a discipleship group while regularly attending worship. As a parent, these choices bring great joy and gratitude.

More than a year ago, God convicted me to disciple younger students in addition to being a twelfth grade Sunday school teacher. So, last year, I accepted the challenge of leading a seventh grade discipleship group. Even with the busyness of life, the young men who were assigned to be in my dGroup blessed me by their energy, fun nature and general interest in Christ. I have no doubt that this year will be another great dGroup experience.

As we fast approach the first dGroup meeting of the year on Sunday, September 13, let’s never forget the call of Christ to be a disciple who makes disciples, and let’s faithfully pray for God to work in and through dGroups beyond anything that we can think or imagine.

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Crave Weekend 2015

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Feb 24, 2015