Interview with Northwoods Vineyard's Tim & Megan NelsonBy Evan Nehring
EN - Well, hey Tim and Megan, it's always fun to hang out with you guys but I want to dig a little deeper today. I'm really pumped to hear what you both have to say. For those who don't know, I'm Megan's stepdad and a longtime friend of the Nelson family. Tim's dad, Ross Nelson, is our family's senior pastor as well at the Northwoods Vineyard Church in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. It's an amazing church and Tim and Megan do an unbelievable job with the youth group. Tim's the youth pastor at NVC. Megan has been an RN for about a year.
So when I look at the two of you, I see authenticity. I see two young adults very committed to become what God created you to be, but still very real and down-to-earth. Where do you think that raw, gutsy, love-God-and-love-people faith comes from for each of you?
TN - 1) My Parents and their continual effort to raise us to be strong, courageous followers of God. We learned how to read his word, pray for people hands on (no I'll be praying for you later stuff, how many times do you actually pray for that person when you say that?), care for the poor, invite people into our home no matter how little or much we had, we learned how to fellowship as a family through family times, meals, morning devotions and other activities. 2) Public School. Public school taught me to love people, in the gospels Jesus said "It's not the healthy that need to the doctor, but the sick." In public school you do get exposed to a lot of crap, junk, relational hurt and other things; but to be honest didn't Jesus go to those spots? Public School gave me the opportunity to see hurting people and do something about it, invite nonbelievers to Youth Group and other functions, and also it help me to be a social bug. If you are to make it in public school as a Christian who stands for your faith you will have to talk, be talked to and have people argue with you; that's the beauty of it.
I feel these two things helped me create a huge love for God first and then love for people. Note please that public school can be a nightmare for kids if the parents aren't training their kids in the way they should go. read scripture together, pray (Out Loud) together, go on missions together; the more you train your child to be a strong follower of Jesus the more they are likely to fight the schemes of the enemy and remain strong but more importantly bring the kingdom of God to a whole bunch of hurting people who need the love of Jesus.
MN - My story is a bit different from Tim's, I came from a background with a supportive Mom who lead me as close to Jesus as she could and a Dad who hardly knew how to be a Dad. Coming from a broken family I always struggled with trust, my sense of worth, and having security. So naturally as a young highschooler searched for anyone who would accept me. Through that searching...I always ended up in the wrong place further and further away from Jesus. My first year in college I realized all this searching, and I have not gotten any closer to being more secure or feeling worth it to someone. It was a matter of me asking the question, where can I go. Then I was very convinced by God and I threw my hands up and surrendered. The best decision I have ever made. Now that gutzy love God and love people character comes from me...throwing my hands up everyday surrendering to God, saying I'm all in. Use me!
EN - Megan, obviously we've watched your journey into the nursing profession very closely. Tell us what drew you to nursing and how you're finding life as an RN at 23 years old.
MN - When I was a young teenager my Mom gave me a subscription to this Brio magazine, it was a Christian based magazine and there was an article in there about a labor and delivery nurse, and I felt God there on my bedroom floor in Mosinee, WI telling me, this is going to be your calling. I have yet to venture into the labor and delivery part of that dream.
I love being a nurse, I feel like God did make me for this profession, but I am struggling with continuing my education in nursing and diving into the ministry. At this point, I feel strongly that ministry is my focus but am hoping that eventually those two paths of nursing and ministry will intersect. (I may see this happen in Mexico next summer, so exciting!)
EN - Any regrets on that path?
MN - Not regrets, just a desire for more.
EN - And Tim, 24 years old, pastor to a dynamite Axiom Youth Ministry...did you ever feel like you sort of had to be a pastor since it's a Nelson tradition? Or what made you feel like giving some of your best years to a bunch of young 'uns was a good idea?
TN - Actually, I told myself I was NEVER going to be a pastor all my life. I lived it my whole childhood and I wanted to do a "Normal" job and make a lot of money. So no, I never thought I was going to be a pastor and I was never pressured to be a pastor; my parents supported my decisions. Even when I wanted to be a Jedi or Robin hood.
Where I got my passion from youth ministry and young adult ministry started when I was 18 years old and a senior in high school. I was dead set on going to college, going into a promising profession and making a lot of money. Then one morning my father ask me "would you want to be the youth pastor at our church?" I chuckled and said "No" he said "well how about you pray about it and see what the lord gives ya?" So I did and for my final 3 months of high school I prayed every morning and within those 3 months my desire to leave Tomahawk and make a lot of money disappeared and my passion for people went through the roof. God opened my eyes to people and I started reaching out to people I never really knew. It was, is and will always be awesome meeting new people.
EN - What are the best moments of youth ministry? (both of you) And what are some of the toughest?
TN - Best moments are by far when the Kingdom of God comes and people are saved! But the best best is when our youth ministry leaders do it and I watch. It's so awesome to see when people who are doing the works of God with you get to share in the awesome joy of people being set free from a lifetime of darkness and be brought into the light and saving love of Jesus. Awesome!
The toughest thing that Megan and I struggle with and have been since we started youth ministry is making time for each other... Well mostly me making time:-) I love working, doing, sharing, talking with people, going out for coffee and hearing people share about how God has been doing great things in their lives or just hanging with people who are hurting. Those will always be great but my family is and should always be my first and favorite ministry. If I fail to lead my family in the way they should go and teach my wife, future kids how to be strong, faithful followers of God than in my mind I failed. My family IS my first and most important ministry! I learned from my father that, there will always be hurting people and there will always be something that has to be done; but you will never have the time back that you missed with your family. Family comes first. I Struggle with this because I love to be active, I love seeing things done, I love doing what I do but I love my wife more then all of those! Beside eternity through Jesus, my wife is the greatest gift that God has given me and if don't value that gift shame on me.
Making time for family is the toughest part of my walk but I love with all of my heart Megan and my future kids more than anything in the world.
MN - This may seem strange, but I love seeing students and young adults just falling apart, crying and humbling themselves before Jesus! That's when you know the holy spirit has touched them. These young kids have so much stress in their lives they do so good at hiding it and building up walls to hide their emotions. I also love the amazing kids that stay committed to things, you don't see much of that in our teens lately. Toughest, oh that's easy, burnout. Just being tired of the attitudes some kids have. So many times us leaders get together after youth group and we say Ah! He or she needs Jesus!!!
EN - And really, you're still newlyweds. It's just been a couple of years since that amazing summer afternoon lakeside wedding. Has the honeymoon become real life for you? Any advice to new newlyweds, or soon to be?
TN - Haha Honeymoon and newlyweds:-) real life hit us pretty hard and pretty fast. Megan was in the midst of a tough section of school and was working so she was going, going, going right when we got married and I was and remain in youth ministry and a football coach, so real life sunk in fast:-) The best advice I can give to newlyweds is this, it's a prayer I pray a lot "Lord, love Megan through me" I do this because I will and do fail a lot and without God leading me, giving me ideas, blessing my actions I will fail in marriage but if I ask God to love Megan and to allow me to follow along that will be great! Marriage is tough, very tough but it also is a joy, the greatest joy! Read scripture together, pray together, ask God to bring into your life good Godly friends and read the 5 love languages(especially guys; dudes learn how to love your wife how SHE needs to be loved and become a pro at it).
MN - Always invite Jesus into the center of things. And pray, pray, and pray. Then when your done with that pray some more!
Realize, your spouse is not God they cannot be everything all the time. Only God can.
EN - Talk to me about God's presence. What do you do when you don't feel Him there? How does it feel when you do?
TN - I cry! Literally, when I am absent from my maker it breaks my heart. When I sin that separates or pulls me away from God and it hurts, it sucks and I don't want any part of it. What I do is I cry out to God to forgive me of my sins and reveal to me anything that isn't right within and I seeks full repentance from God. I seek him, pray to him, read his word until I feel that presence again. (Oh and sometimes God will bring up some hurting, tough areas; be strong enough to let go and let God come in. It's way better for you)
I feel at Peace, secure and like I have purpose. God gives me my purpose and if I don't have it or feel lost I feel like "what am I doing?"
MN - For me, it is an adrenaline rush, I want to conquer the world. Then I get goosebumps and I'm brought back to reality
EN - Alright, I'd like to take a whirlwind tour through the seven core values I talk about on the blog.
1. What does worship mean to you?
TN - Honoring God with all that I am. Which can be through singing, walking, going to the store, posting something on facebook - is my life and what i'm doing Honoring and glorifying God?
MN - This is how I feel Gods presence the most. Anything I do with God is all about surrendering to him. Worship is a vital part of your walk with God. Period.
EN - 2. I love seeing God books all over your apartment. Is that part of what keeps prayer and God's Word fresh for you? Got any tips on devotions together?
TN - My bible is my most prized possession. It wasn't that way 7 years ago but when I started diving into the scripture and asking the Lord to speak to me he really did and I don't ever want to be away from my bible again. Tips - commit to reading your bible 5+ times a week. It's a must, you can't do walk faithfully with out it. Doing church once a week isn't going to cut it, you need his holy, breathe taking, life changing words speaking into your life; making you into the person that HE is calling you to be. Reading the bible is a must. Other Tips - Simple read your devotionals out loud together, or sharing what you felt was cool when you read. Sharing verbally what you read with another person actually helps you retain it better. Try it sometime and see.
MN - Yes, unlike Tim, I have a hard time reading the bible alone. But in the context of a book I get so much more out of it. Honestly, do what works for you. Tim and I have gone through passport, five love languages, and read proverbs together. I have individually done Captivating, Power of a Praying Wife, and Resolution for Women. All excellent reads!
EN - 3. Newlyweds are infamous for losing touch with friends and sometimes family. It doesn't strike me that you have. Why?
TN - A big reason is because our family hasn't lost contact with us. Like any relationship it takes two to tango, we need to invite and be invited, we need to host and be hosted. I dislike the thought of "my children are gone and married so now I can let them lose," ummm we still love you guys and want to spend time with the families that we came from:-) That's I think a huge reason why we are close with our families.
MN - To us, family is everything. The good, bad and ugly part about ministry is you are your friends pastors typically. Meaning you are always hanging out but also keeping them accountable which I have found to be the hardest part of ministry. I think because I am a nurse and I see people die all the time I just feel like life is too short to short change these relationships. Besides this is what Jesus is calling us to do, and if you cannot do it with your family and friends you cannot do it with strangers.
EN - 4. You guys are so busy. It must be a challenge reaching out and connecting with people outside church circles. Is it?
TN - Yes and no, yes because it's difficult to find time to go pray for people on the street, randomly share Jesus with people, or doing encounters where you have to go beyond what you usually do to do the Jesus stuff. And no because in everything we do we should be around people who don't know Jesus. Example - going to grocery store (look for hurting person and pray for them, or see a mother with a ton of kids - pay some or all of their bill) going do outings, go to restaurants, go to the gas station, go workout the list in continuous. Do what you do but simply ask the Lord "God what are you up too? Open my eyes to see where you are working and give me the courage to act." Reaching out to the unchurched isn't hard and most people are open, so stop being scared and get out their and invite people to Church, small group, your home, prayer groups etc. Have fun!
MN - No. Tim and I are always in the school, "undercover" we are constantly in the weightroom playing heavy christian music when everyone is working out. We have a young adult small group and over half of them come to church once in a while or won't step into a church unless it is for our group and we greet them with coffee. That is one thing that challenges me with reaching out. So many churches do small groups or bible studies, but the problem is, they just do it with each other That's not reaching out, thats staying within the church walls.
EN - 5. I wonder if Christian young adults think much about character. What do you see, say, with high school juniors and into the college years? And what do you think it means to be like Jesus?
TN - To be honest most don't know what it's like to be like Jesus. How can they want to be like Jesus if they don't know who he is. They're is a need for Christians to be "ALL IN" for God and step out and share to love of Jesus because sooooo many people have not experienced his perfect love. I hear people say that it takes 7 times for a teenager to respond to Jesus, or 21 times or 300 times for a Muslim to hear Jesus before they respond - I completely disagree it only takes 1 time of experiencing the powerful, forgiving, all nurturing love of Jesus for someone to respond to Jesus, so are we offering that love to people when we talk about Jesus?
As far as character, yes I view it as an essential to our faith. When I was a teenager I so disliked how people would come to youth group, church, bible study and be "model Christians" then be someone else outside of those events. Why would people want to come and get what you have if they don't like what they see. Character is huge, and it's formed through reading the bible, going to church, attending an accountability group and etc.
People need authentic people.
MN - This all depends on what is going on at home for them. These christian young adults need to have character re-defined to them after coming into a relationship with God, and i mean a real relationship not just a sunday morning christian. A christian that lives according to God's will and command. What I have experienced with several of them is that they do you think about character because they are challenged with it everyday at school and in their social groups.
Being like Jesus is living for people. It is loving them and speaking truth into their life. It is reading the bible, sharing the word, and doing the acts that God has called us to do.
EN - 6. For personal management, please rank these four things from easiest to scariest, and tell us why.
2. Money and career
- Possessions - because everything I own will eventually be outdated. even our new tablet.
- Money and career - Because God is faithful and has always taken care of me when we trust in him. He is faithful!
- Health - Because my family has a history of bad health and it's a concern.
- Time - because I struggle with always being on time, giving my time away and most importantly giving my quality time to God and Megan.
- Our easiest is health. We are both very active and love to keep our bodies the healthiest they can be.
- Second, possessions we are in the process of being debt free...and so we just have the bare necessities meaning no tv channels and dumb phones.
- Third, money and career. We are both doing what God called us to do so we have all we need in these departments. We are not rich by any means but we are comfortable and satisfied.
- The hardest thing in the whole wide world for us is time. Neither of us has a normal 9-5, weekends and holidays off kind of job. Any struggle we have had in our marriage has to do with this...stupid 4 letter word!
EN - 7. No pressure here but what difference do you want to make in the world? Where do you see yourself in the broad story of God's kingdom?
TN - Well, right now I feel that God has Megan and I exactly where he wants us. I feel called to Young Adult and Student ministry and seeing God do awesome things and I coach high School Football. Both I feel are visions that will be 10+ years before altered, but if the Lord calls me elsewhere we are open. But right now my heart is to see the teenagers and young adults whom I get the rare opportunity to impact go out to the world and demonstrate the love of Jesus! I think God has called Megan and I to be senders; we get people, show them the love of Jesus, teach them how to share it, and then send them out.
MN - Well God has not revealed all of this too me yet. But I love educating young women and pregnant women about their health and I'm hoping to do this in foreign countries. Medical missions.
EN - If you could shout one thing to 18-to-20-somethings all over the world trying to follow Jesus, what would it be?
TN - Love God and Love people - Love the Lord our God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
MN - Two things. Bad company corrupts good character, so surround yourself with good people.
If your relationship with god is worth anything to you, it's worth EVERYTHING. So be all in with God.