NET Team 11 fires up parents and students at Providence Academy

| Susan Klemond | April 25, 2012 | 0 Comments


Providence Academy hasn’t been the same since eight fired-up young missionaries showed up at the Plymouth campus last fall, and neither has headmaster Todd Flanders’ family, which hosted three of them in its home.

This school year, National Evangelization Team 11 has been inspiring students at the K-12 school to grow deeper in their faith through small groups, activities, hanging out, listening and sharing faith, Flanders said, adding that the entire school community, including families that have hosted team members for two-week periods, have benefited from their “evangelization.”

“They do amazing small group and one-on-one discipling,” said Flanders, who attends Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers. “They bring a spirit of worship and praise that involves lots of our kids.  . . . They actually have a lived experience with a lot of our families and kids and create a very, very rich relationship both in the families and in the school.”

This is the second year Netters have served at the school, but it’s the first time the school hosted a full-time team, Flanders said. Team 11 has had more time for Bible studies, one-on-one sharing and being present at the school’s drop-in “NET Room.”

In their unique role as older peers, Netters take time to listen to students, said Katie Lahti, campus ministry coordinator. “It’s a wonderful blessing,” said Lahti, who attends Holy Family in St. Louis Park. “Simply somebody you can go to that will drop everything just to listen.”

Because Team 11 is dedicated to Providence Academy rather than leading retreats around the country as most of the other 10 teams do, members are there for students every day, said team member Taylor Bettencourt.

“If they’re in a bad mood and they ­really need to talk to someone . . . it’s usually really easy for them to come up to us because they see us day-in and day-out,” he said. “They can say, ‘Hey I’m having a really rough day. This is what’s been on my heart. Can I tell you this?’”

The relationship between what students see in class and at Mass, and Netters’ “organic lived testimony” of faith has been mutually enriching and enhancing, Flanders said.

“Our kids don’t always listen to parents as well as they’ll listen to somebody else. What you have is Netters who actually live the kinds of things that parents want to teach their kids and to be able to have peers model those beautiful realities can be much stronger sometimes than having parents try to tell it.”

Providence Academy junior Ashlen Hagelberg has gotten to know the Netters through many activities this year. She said she likes the fact that they offer everything from guidance on problems to motivation for keeping Lenten commitments. “Even though there’s still an age difference, they struggle with the same things I do,” she said.

Hagelberg, who attends Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers with her family, said she’s considering going on NET when she graduates. “They’ve kind of shown if they can do it I can do it,” she said. “It’s life changing.”

Part of the family

Flanders’ two teenage sons especially got to know the Netters who stayed with them this winter; they were welcomed as immediate parts of the family, he said. He saw spiritual growth in the family, especially in his sons, who attend the Plymouth school.

“We thought it was a great expansion of our family and a wonderful opportunity for all of us, especially our high school boys,” he said. “Everybody in the family wanted them back.”

Bettencourt, who stayed with the Flanders, got the chance to talk about serious faith questions with the boys while hanging out and playing guitar with them.
At school or home, Netters give students a chance to have conversations about God while having fun, Lahti said.

“When Netters are here they provide an environment for these conversations and these opportunities to learn about each other,” she said.

Team 11 members will finish their service in May. Flanders said he hopes Providence Academy will host another team next year. Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from their presence, he said.

“I see lives transformed in my own family and in other families among kids and also among us parents,” he said. “The witness that the Netters bring is not just for kids who are younger than they are but for folks a lot older than they are.”

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