Archive for the ‘Volunteer Rockstars’ Category

Often times when I think of a volunteer Rockstar, I’ve tended to stereotype the requirements or limit them to the amount of “time-served.”  Although that’s an impressive way to grab the attention of any ministry leader, it’s not the sole measurement.

There is one Rockstar you won’t see here on the weekends, serving alongside the hundreds of other volunteers that make a typical weekend run so smooth. And you won’t see him during the week, serving with our ministry outreach teams across the communities or the world. You won’t even recognize this volunteer because his primary serving capacity takes place inside the walls of his business.

I first met Tim Markley in April of 2005 when his name came to me as someone interested in helping with “graphics.”  Having no clue what he meant by that, I called and found out that his business was graphics-centered.  After a long conversation, I grabbed a few staff members and took a tour of his business.

I remember the feeling of awe when he told us “whatever you want, just let me know.”  That was the beginning of a new look for our church.

Be honest for a moment … haven’t you known someone who thought, “I wonder how much “that” church pays for all those series promotional posters?  I’ve enclosed a few to remind you of how long this has been going on.

That” church – our church – is being blessed nearly every week or series since 2005 with the generosity of Tim’s graphics company.  Not only does Tim’s company print these dynamic, eye-catching gems, but he or a member of his team delivers the finished graphics to the Granger site.

These are ginormous scenes require a great deal of preparation, management and a commitment to excellence that Tim has overseen. I would venture to guess that his incredible gift through the years has reached into the thousands of dollars.  Now, as you may remember I’m not good at math, so let’s just agree that whatever the gift, it’s been amazing.

The amount of the gifting has never been a concern of Tim’s.  He loves the church and its mission, vision and values so much that he’s doing what he’s been blessed to do to help reach people for Christ.

I wish I could post my favorite 50 pictures of Tim’s work over the years but I’ll just conclude by saying this: If it’s been displayed as a poster board or vinyl on our campus, it’s probably because of Tim Markley and his gifting to the church.

Thank you Tim.  You’re a Rockstar in the eyes of the few who know you and now that you’ve been exposed, may others celebrate in the gift of your ministry to us.

Photos: Jeff Petersen

The first time I met the “better half” of this duo was about five years ago. Mayra Sandoval-Cooper came into the arts department speaking to me of creating imagery out of sand or some such discussion (it could have been sculptures or paintings, too) What I do remember was thinking “this lady’s got passion and loves the arts; I think I’ll see if she can run words for our weekend services.” My job isn’t rocket science.

That was Mayra’s entrance to volunteering. Although she remains a member of the arts team, her first passion in ministry is with her husband, Ken, as the two of them partner to lead Son City Kids.

Son City Kids, I’m convinced, is where Jesus would be spending much of His time if He had come to South Bend in 2001, the year the ministry was birthed. The Coopers, along with their team of volunteers, specialize in loving children and creating an environment where the love of Jesus is exposed to “their kids” and to the children’s parents.

Ken and Mayra have intentionally downsized their business venture in order to lead this amazing ministry and its volunteers into one of the most heartfelt ministries offered through Granger Community Church. Just a weekend ago, the annual Son City Kids Carnival exploded into action again. A fire truck was made available to spray water to help quench the 100 degree temps along with activities such as face painting and water slides. Like any good carnival, hotdogs, popcorn and snow cones were served up…only without the cost. There was no end to the action as hundreds of children visited the annual event.

Here are a couple of stories I’ve been able to dig about these two rock stars:

“Ken and Mayra can be caught often walking through the Monroe Circle meeting with kids and their parents. Ken is like a Rock star of sorts. When you walk through the neighborhood with Ken you realize they all love and respect him as you hear nothing but the chants of kids and parents alike calling out his name, “Coop!”

“Coop walks through the middle of gangs, some of which have grown up in SCK. ‘I know a better way,’ Coop suggests. The boys smile, shaking their heads at this old white guy wearing a lime green SCK t-shirt with a smile as big as Texas and saying, ‘I know Coop.’ Coop can always be found walking through the community making sure kids are signed up for the upcoming events.”

“Currently, Coop took on the head coach position of the SCK sports program after the original coach relocated out of the area. Even after putting in a full day at his business, he makes sure he gets everything together for the baseball game … then he puts on his coaching hat.”

“At anytime you can expect that Mayra or Ken will receive a text or call from the teens they have poured their lives into stating how much they love and appreciate Mayra and Coop for all that they’ve done. For many of the kids, the Coopers have stepped in to assume the parent role.”

“Ken and Mayra are often caught finding and moving furniture to anyone needing it in Monroe Circle.”

You two are changing the community for Christ! You are truly Rock stars in ministry here at Granger Community Church. Thank you!

Who is this guy who shows up with teams of gifted construction workers to gut an entire building and transform it into a place that rocks our community with the love of Christ?  An entire building would be an understatement-more like an entire block.

Mark Scott would be the first to tell you that it’s a team of volunteers who’s combined effort has impacted the community for Christ. He’s right too-without his team little would have happened. That’s not the point though.  Mark’s been leading charge with this ministry for several years and because of his love for a transformed heart, he’s willing to give hundreds of hours every year to make sure things continue to happen.

Jack Magruder, Director of Life Missions for Granger Community Church puts it this way:

“Mark is one of the most ‘all in’ people that I have ever met.  Nothing in his life is off-limits from Jesus or his devotion to the Kingdom of God.  In all aspects and spheres of his life and world, Mark simply brings all that he is and all that he has to bear to whatever mission is at hand.  His family serves both as individuals and as a group in a variety of capacities on and off-campus, and Mark brings his workplace and business expertise as a master builder and construction company owner to projects ranging from MC3 to 2nd Saturday to the Veteran’s Center initiative.  He leads the GCC Construction Team, is incredibly generous with his time, his finances, his talents and his resources, and can always be counted on to not only show up, but deliver with excellence on any project.”

Mark will always shine the light back to Jesus and his team, and he’s not willing to let that light stop as long as long as God gives him breath.  Mark’s a leader of leaders, pulling in partners and resources in the community for an impact that goes far beyond what his incredible team could do on their own. When recently asked to take on the directorship role for the renovation of the Veterans Center in South Bend Indiana, Mark accepted the challenge under the condition that the entire forced salary would be used to purchase all the tools and equipment the team called Carpenters Hands Ministry will ever need. Can you say generous? Amazing.

If there’s one thing this Rockstar hates, it’s any type of recognition that points to him. Fortunate for me, he’s not my editor. To Mark, it’s all about team and following God’s call.

Mark’s team of volunteers will forever be grateful for his vision, leadership, his care, his compassion and drive that takes on projects of seemingly enormous unreachable goals.  He and his team, transform not only buildings, but lives so that Jesus is honored and hearts and lives can be changed for eternity.

Thank you Mark Scott for making a difference in not only the lives of volunteers but in the lives of those who are the recipients of Christ’s love through your leadership.

Here’s a Rock star that’s been around since the inception of Granger Community Church: Sheila Beeson. OK, I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, pick the senior pastor’s wife – that’s not going to hurt.” Well, get over it.

Without apology, I’ve decided to spotlight Sheila because her influence in the children’s ministry has marked the lives of thousands of children for the Kingdom. She’s placed the name of Jesus before children nearly every weekend for the past 25 years. For decades, Sheila has the led charge in the Penguin Room (5 year olds-2nd grade). Her influence on the lives of these impressionable souls is paralleled only by her influence on the leaders she’s mentored along the way.

You know you’re a rock star leader when you’ve got volunteer rock stars that willingly follow your lead. John Maxwell says, “If you think you’re leading, and you look over your shoulder and no one’s following, then you’re just taking a walk.” Shelia’s never been known to “just take a walk.”

Although this rock star post is about Sheila, she’ll divert all the attention back to her team – and she should; that’s a prerequisite for entering the category of rock star. Her influence on her team of volunteers has kept them in the “game” for 10, 15, even 25 years (and everything in between).

Sheila, like every great ministry leader, has cried and prayed with her team. She’s opened herself up to them and has earned their friendship and trust.  She’s led with dignity and humbled herself while never forgetting the children and the incredible privilege of presenting Christ to them. She’s prepared for over 1,000 weekends and then given those very weekends to live and breathe in that privilege. Want to know one of the things Sheila likes to do in the middle of the week? She loves volunteering. Serving guests and encouraging volunteers on their journey has become part of the life she’s modeled in her 25 years at GCC. Mark captured the above photo of his bride at the most recent Food Drop. Can’t think of one of those she’s missed either.

The truth is rock stars like Sheila hate all the attention. To alleviate some of the attention, I want to call out the rock stars who continue to partner with her in love and prayer as they teach children the values of the Kingdom.

For 15- to 20-plus years: Joanne Rendall, Karen Nowak, Liz Ditto, Kathy Avery, Ann Snyder and Claudia Volheim (Yeah, I know. That’s not going to hurt either).

For about a decade: Otto Taylor, Connie Kamerer, Dan Sipress, Chuck Atwell and Betty Stafford.

An amazing group led by an amazing leader. Their service has been – and continues to be – a privilege and blessing to GCC’s children’s ministry. Thank you, Sheila, and thanks to your team for setting the pace for volunteerism.


Ever wondered what serving “outside the box” might look like? If so, just follow the lead of this man, Les Rassi. He is the model of a Volunteer Rock star that has discovered opportunities outside the walls of the church.

A retired biology teacher in the public school system, Les – along with his wife, Velma – has probably served in 25 Habitat builds locally, nationally and internationally. I would think an abundance of ministry like that would be enough to get a free dinner with President Carter.

Les might be able to squeeze that dinner in, but it couldn’t have been on a Saturday during the two years that the Monroe Circle Community Center (MC3) remodeling project was taking place. Les and a team of construction volunteers were at MC3 nearly every weekend, transforming a rundown building into a safe community environment that has become the national model for what the church can do outside of its own walls. What an amazing ministry.

How about trying to squeeze this in – since the opening of that community center, Les and Velma can be found serving the guests that walk through MC3’s doors. They’ve given up nearly every Tuesday to serve coffee and pastries and distribute food and personal care packages to those in need.

That’s enough to be called a rock star in anyone’s book, but when you add to that the fact that the couple took this same servant spirit to the lower caste villages of India (five times!), then you’re really getting outside the box.

Les’ heart for helping others has found him putting new roofs on the homes of strangers and neighbors who’ve been left with far less than anyone reading this post has gotten by with. How do you explain hearts that give as much as the ones found in this couple? It can only be ascribed as complete devotion to loving others while following the call Christ has put on their hearts to serve.

Let me tell you what else Les has been up to lately. There’s this little place being transformed called the Veterans Center. It’s on the same scale of remodeling that MC3 experienced. It’s going to be another place that offers help to those who’ve found themselves in a difficult place in life. It will take hours of labor, weekend after weekend, and Les will be there – you can count on it.

There’s more but you’re getting the picture of what this rock star looks like. The simple truth is Les and Velma would say that helping others has transformed their lives more than the difference they’ve made. And they’re right. Les and Velma: Thank you for all you’ve done to be Jesus with skin “outside the box.”

I’m going to call these Rock Stars the dynamic duo of volunteerism at Granger Community Church (GCC). As always, my goal is to keep this post short – this is a difficult task when these two individuals do so much.

Mary and her son, Austin, have dedicated a number of years to Son City Kids, a ministry of the Monroe Circle Community Center (MC3) in South Bend, Ind. MC3’s goal is to transform an environment of low-income, subsidized housing into a vibrant, self-sufficient community. Son City Kids aims to provide after-school mentoring and tutoring, artistic programs and Christ-centered lesson plans to show love and hope to the children of these lower-income families. Mary and Austin spend countless hours each month giving their time to Son City Kids and to other MC3 programs.

I’m told that when you watch Mary in action at Son City Kids, there’s complete focus and dedication to engage the children. Because of Mary and Austin, these at-risk children are fed physically, spiritually, creatively and educationally; it’s no wonder they’re adored by the kids. The Son City Kids team leaders have expressed that they consider this duo to be the model and example of a successful relationship between those being served and those doing the serving.

When Austin isn’t being a role model for kids, you can find him behind a camera serving on our I-Mag team. What a gift he is to us. He has a natural tendency to point his camera in the right spot at the right time. That Austin takes on the additional responsibility of other ministries shows how much passion and commitment he has toward serving others; whether it’s with kids or behind a camera, Austin shines in the volunteer spotlight.

Mary and Austin are also regulars on the Guest Services team, where they can be seen assisting guests most every weekend. In addition, they both serve in Guest Services during our Wednesday Journey classes and 1st Wednesday services (when Austin’s not running a camera). They are the first to volunteer at MC3 as well as at the church during workshops and conferences for our WiredChurches ministry.

No matter their circumstances, Mary and Austin never question that their continued mission is to do God’s work. With Austin always at her side, Mary says, “I know God has a plan for me.” And so they continue to relentlessly serve so others can see Jesus. It never ceases to amaze me to see how Mary and Austin always seem to find more of themselves to pour into others. There’s no question; they are Rock Stars.

I remember the day that I first met this Volunteer Rock Star.  Kathy Geisel came to a gathering of about 80 people close to 10 years ago to hear about volunteer opportunities in the Arts.  It was a great night of enthusiasm and in many ways was a shift in volunteerism within the department. Kathy, although having no tech experience, had a heart to just get involved.  It was a mustard seed thing.

Because of her heart to serve, it didn’t take long for her to engage.  She hasn’t stopped or slowed down since. Kathy is a valuable member of the GCC staff, the only difference is she doesn’t get a check. That makes her just like one of thousands who serves on any of the hundreds of ministry offerings here at Granger Community Church.

What has launched her into the realm of Rock Star is her tenacity for taking on new projects, and sticking with them until she owns them. I used to concern myself with her devotion, commitment, time and energy she poured into the ministry.   Then one day she firmly told me, “Kim, this is golf for me.“  Talk about an effective use of a word picture.  I understood for the first time what it meant to be serving with in ones SHAPE.

Kathy has owned a few ministries over the years.  Currently, she leads a gifted team simply called “Words Team”.  This team assures the words to the music appear at the right time on the screen for our guests to see.  Sounds easy right-I challenge you to try it.

In addition to leading the care and connection, scheduling and all the other intricacies of that ministry, Kathy assures that all of the text for our mid week Journey Classes and First Wednesday services are ready for the operators of the classes. She runs the presentation on Wednesdays in the center of the auditorium.  I can’t begin to tell you the patience one must have to deal with the last minute changes there.  She would just liken that to hitting a great shot out of the sand.

For years, this incredible servant of God would prepare all of the Core Class presentations and lead that team of volunteers as well. More bunker shots than you can imagine and it didn’t even slow her down. Try this for patience-scheduling band and vocal members for weekends. Yep, she’s done that too.

I have no clue what devotion like this is now days, you see, I draw a check.  I’ll never stop giving thanks for Rock Stars like Kathy. As Mark Beeson would say-she’s a giant slayer.

Do you ever just drive through the campus here at GCC and wonder how 18 acres  of campus always manages to look so green? Could it be that God looks down on the campus with favor and sends an isolated rain shower at just the appropriate time? Or more realistically you’ve thought it’s just another paid staff member managing the 1,670 sprinkler heads.

I’m about to expose to you a Volunteer Rock Star who ‘s been around our campus since 2000.  He’s not only “been around” but he’s been actively involved in a couple different departments for a decade. For the last seven years, Greg Koczan’s been serving on the Facility Care/Grounds team, managing the miles and miles of sprinkler lines that keep this place “attractional”. Depending on the week, you’ll see him here anywhere from five to twenty hours a week. Isn’t that amazing! What a gift, what a heart.

Have you ever had trouble keeping your three zones working at home? I do…and Greg’s the guy I pay to fix them too. Greg assures that the 100 zones on our campus are leak free and timed with efficiency and regularity.  He “walks the line” every month to assure “all systems are go”. He blows them out in the fall and turns them on in the spring and everything in between.  What a blessing.

Maybe you’re thinking he then travels to Florida for a few months of R&R. Nope-not Greg. He then volunteers on a team that keeps the 11,000 running feet of sidewalk clear from that white stuff.  Not only the sidewalks, he helps the Winter Grounds team to keep the parking lots clear-helping to save the church thousands and thousands of dollars in a year. Now there’s a great ministry opportunity!

If you see this guy, honk at him and wave.  Chances are pretty good he’ll not notice you because of the focus and attention he gives his ministry….but honk and wave anyway!  Thank you Greg for a behind the scenes ministry that attracts people to the campus so they can hear about Christ.  Its drawn more people than you might think. You’re a blessing to your church-a Rock Star serving beyond the call of duty so that others can meet the Christ.

I’ve been waiting to spotlight this guy for a very long time. There is no one who has served more faithfully for so many years and in so many ways than Mike Schafer. While thousands have benefited from his talents over the years, Mike is so far behind the scenes that outside of the staff, it would be hard to find a hundred people who know him.

Far as I can tell, it started back more than 16 years ago when Mike would arrive at the GCC (General Cinema Corporation) to set up portable lighting for the stage.  You see, when they built the cinema, they didn’t think they needed stage lighting. That was until GCC (Granger Community Church) came along.  Arriving hours before the service every weekend, Mike would assure that our visitors could actually see the activities on the platform, then stick around afterwards and help pack everything up week after week, year after year.

In 1996, when we branched out to a Saturday service in the public schools, there were a lot of technical “issues” that needed to be resolved. That expansion wouldn’t have happened efficiently with out Mike’s creative gifts and a whole lot of that special commodity he gives so freely-Time.

Mike is the unknown special projects agent as well.  Say we need to blow something up (yes-at church, multiple times.) Mike has a license to do that. Need a 16 foot clock to spin for say-A Christmas Story-“Let’s call Mike”. Here’s an idea from a big dreamer from the arts department-“what if we build a giant star, light it up and have it cross the auditorium for an effect on cue”. Or, “how about we about if we fly a remote controlled helium balloon to deliver a note”-guess who got the call. Here’s one: Q) “Do we know anyone who has access to a Segway we can use on stage”? A) Mike owns one! “I’ve got an idea”-says an arts staffer-“what if we shoot lasers across the stage during the daVinci theft scene”? Need some heaters for the Baptism pools?  “Let’s ask Mike”…this is starting to sound like a Life Cereal commercial.

What ever it is, fill in the blank but conclude it with “lets call Mike” and you’ll have the desired result. What a Rock Star. Mike had the foresight to petition for the catwalks in the auditorium. My, we could not even come close to doing what we do with out the capacity the catwalks added. Sure glad someone suggested that.

When we launched a remote campus in Elkhart, we needed technology at that cinema as well. Guess who took that on? When the decision to move the Elkhart Campus to the RV Hall of Fame was made, a revamp of the electrical system required the services of someone special-someone very special-my guess is we didn’t have to call-he just showed up and did it.

I’m just going to say it out loud-and give him the honor he has merited-you Mr. Schafer are now Sir Michael Schafer.

Rats-did I forget to mention that Mike and his wife Sharon’s hearts are about as big as our God he serves?  Over the years, they’ve probably taken in fifteen kids from some difficult situations; mentored, loved and offered strength and a foundation to their lives changing their eternity forever.  Details details.

Thanks Sir Mike

It’s difficult to know where to start to describe Elle.  As a Media Intern, she’s been attending weekly staff meetings for a couple of years and serving so faithfully for around seven years. Week after week-month after month-giving her all.

I first met Shelly (as we knew her back in the day) when she volunteered to serve on our I-Mag team.  Elle mastered the art of running camera as quickly as anyone ever has.  It didn’t take long before, as a director, I could close my eyes and take her shot. She was directing from her camera position! It was a no brainer to offer her a shot at calling the service….what a quick study! She continues in that directors chair today as an outstanding example of “art on the fly” or “live editing” as I call it.

Elle tells the moving story of how many years ago, sitting with the weekend crowd and watching a Baptism media, she was moved to the point where she told God “that’s what I want to do”.  After a couple  years of running camera and directing, it was off to school in Chicago to venture into this new calling.

One might think that’s the end of a great volunteer story. Nope, Elle continued coming home one weekend a month to direct the I-Mag team while continuing to create medias and building her photography skills.  Did I mention that she’s an incredibly gifted photographer too?

As an intern for the arts department, she continues as an invaluable part of the team-creating spectacular medias, and learning from the best artists in the country.  Her love for the church, the arts department, and not feeling the call to move from the Michiana area, were key factors in determining that her volunteer role was more valuable than a job offer in the media field requiring her to leave the area.

Look how God moved her!  As a Volunteer Rockstar she’s taken so much off the plate of so many for the cause of Christ. There’s going to come a day when this young lady (24-Happy Birthday too!) will either get hired or have to move on to a career.  I’m selfishly praying that God will keep her around here…but then again, I’ve seen God shuffle the deck and move His players to where they excel in ways only He’s prepared them for.

Elle White-you are a Volunteer  Rockstar and our church is blessed because of the passion you continue to pour into your ministry every week of the year.