GraceConnect eNews, No. 135, Week of Janury 18, 2016


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
A group of Grace Brethren Boys (GBB) on a backpacking trip this past June. GBB is in the midst of being restructured and renamed Skywatchers, after 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. 

New Name, Deeper Purpose

Since 1974, Grace Brethren Boys (GBB) has taught young men about Christ while engaging them in outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. First established in Kenai, Alaska, the ministry has been utilized by Grace Brethren congregations mostly in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In recent months, following years of thorough prayer, the ministry of GBB is undergoing a major overhaul -- beginning with the name.

Now dubbed Skywatchers, the organization is also under new leadership. Mark Abel, pastor of
Southview Grace Brethren Church, Ashland, Ohio, has been encouraged by his congregation to guide the re-designed ministry as part of his regular pastoral duties.

“We found that all-volunteer leadership [model] lacked accountability,” he notes.

“We’re using a teaching style where we parallel biblical principles with outdoors or life skills,” Abel explains. “In doing so, we incorporate the Word of God into every aspect of life, as Ephesians 4:15 teaches.”

While the change was announced for the first time at Flinch Conference (the national conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches), Abel says this is a transitional year. Still, God has been opening doors of ministry even while the Skywatchers board continues to fine-tune the program. Units affiliated with GBB are transitioning to the new focus. Some activities will remain the same, including two Outposts a year -- one in the spring and one in the fall. Along with these annual outposts, Skywatchers will have a Winter Quarter in January, as well as a weeklong summer Rendezvous.

The fall outpost of the Ohio District of Skywatchers was held at the Joy of Living Camp in Brinkhaven, Ohio. The 760-acre facility has often been the site of GBB programs in the past. With the new focus of Skywatchers, officials at Joy of Living Camp have indicated a desire to partner further, including constructing buildings to meet their programming needs.

“We are excited to provide Skywatchers with a permanent home for their outposts and related outdoor activities,” says Jeff Eagen, executive director of the camp. “As a former pastor, I am blessed to serve Skywatchers and the churches they represent with whatever tools JOY has to provide as a Christian camp and retreat center.”

Skywatchers is designed for boys. The ministry also plans a similar track for girls, Gemseekers (which will be complimentary to an existing Grace Brethren ministry, SMM). They are the beginning roots of an umbrella ministry called “Keep An Eye To The Sky, Mission to America.” Abel says that the ultimate goal is to have a board comprised of pastors who have the Skywatchers ministry as part of their job description in their local churches.

There are also plans to offer the program to local schools, many which are dropping life-skills classes, such as industrial arts or home economics, from their curriculums due to budget restrictions. Dan Hazlett, Skywatchers’ board member and long-time GBB leader, states their motivation is in becoming better stewards of God’s ministry. He says that renewed focus will be on digging deeper into God’s word and delving into more deliberate discipleship. Hazlett also notes that the name change gives the ministry opportunities with other churches not affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.

Abel says Skywatchers has been blessed with great men who are excited about what God is doing and where He is leading. He uses one word to describe not only the ministry’s, but also the community’s response to Skywatchers: “incredible.”

“The support and prayers from the congregation prove how they are grasping the potential of Skywatchers’ vision,” he adds. “Not only grasping, but also believing in the necessity of its vision to the younger generations of God’s family.”

Click here to send Mark a note of encouragement. 


[Your Turn]

Pastor Mike Pumphrey of Awaken Churcha Grace Brethren congregation in Virginia Beach, Va., blogs over at Click the link to read the blog or follow his posts. 

Prayer is the topic of the new GraceConnect magazine, which was mailed last week. In it, you’ll find thoughtful articles from some best thinkers on the topic in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, including Tom Julien, Roger Peugh, and Sharon MacMillan.
Click here to download a pdf of the magazine or read it online here.

If you’d like to receive a free subscription to the magazine, mailed directly to your home, click here.
[Leader's Corner:]
"It is my contention that for far too long we have placed the burden of sanctification on group meetings that were never meant to transform a soul, but to give transformed souls a place to join and interact in a healthy manner."

A Grace Brethren church planter and founder of Church Multiplication Associates, Neil Cole was published in
 Verge, an "advocate and champion for movements of gospel-centered Missional Communities" according to their website. His article, "Can Groups Be Missional and Make Disciples?" can be read here

Events in the FGBC

January 22-23, 2016   WLS: Equipping Others for Ministry, Orange, Calif. (WGUSA)
January 22-24, 2016  Kalahari Retreat, Sandusky, Ohio (FGBC)
January 25-27, 2016  Southwest Focus Retreat (FGBC)
January 27-19, 2016  Fellowship Council (FGBC)
February 5-6, 2016  WLS Spiritual Formation, Auburn, Calif. (WGUSA)
February 26-27, 2016  WLS: Women and Scripture (Spanish), Tampa, Fla.  (WGUSA) 
March 14-16, 2016  South Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
March 14-15, 2016   CELS CE Leadership Summit, Philadelphia, Pa. (CEN)
April 8-9, 2016  WLS: Spiritual Formation, Winona Lake, Ind. (WGUSA)
April 21, 2016   Day Away: North of 55Hagerstown, Md. (CEN)
April 22, 2016   Day Away: North of 55East Earl, Pa. (CEN)
June 13-17, 2016   Encounter SoCal (EWP)
June 19-25, 2016  The Great Canadian Adventure, Toronto, Canada (GBC)
June 22-28, 2016  Mission Trip to Haiti (WGUSA)
June 27-July, 2016  Encounter Atlanta (EWP)
July 4-10, 2016  StreetWise (formerly Crosswalk, Philadelphia, Pa. (CEN)
July 22-25, 2016  Margins Conference (FGBC) 
July 26-31, 2016  Momentum Youth Conference (CEN)
October 16, 2016   Day Away: North of 55, Dublin, Ohio
November 20, 2016   Day Away: North of 55, Duncansville, Pa. (CEN)
CEN – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBC – Grace Brethren Canada
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

Send events for the calendar to
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