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The Joyners – From risk to reward

Every Sunday the Access volunteers and staff share and celebrate “win” stories – the ways we’ve seen God at work in people’s lives. Christina and James Joyners’ story is one such “win.” Both James and Christina grew up going to church. But after a painful experience with church as adults, they stopped attending altogether. For 10 years church was not a part of their lives. They were done with church.

JoynerphotoThe Joyners’ neighbors, Troy and Stacey Youse, started inviting them to Access Church – repeatedly – throughout several of their kids’ soccer and football seasons. “Troy just kept asking and asking,” Christina said.

Finally the Joyners said “yes” and visited Access. Their kids, James (now 10) and Devon (now 6), loved it. “Access was different from any church we had been to before,” said James. “And everyone was so welcoming.”

Once they walked through the doors, the environments and the practical teaching at Access kept the Joyners coming back week after week. “The messages are from God’s word and are laid out in a practical way,” Christina said. “You get the ‘how to’ on applying the message to your life.”

Hearing the messages every week started to affect the Joyners outside of church. “I started to see changes in the way we parented and the way we responded to each other,” Christina said. “Things that would’ve become a big conflict before—we handled them differently.”

The Joyners decided to take the next step and join a Community Group. Making the decision to join a group was a tough one for Christina. “I’m an introvert,” she said. “It was also hard because of my past experience with church. I didn’t want to go through that again.”

But James and Christina soon found that being a part of a Community Group was worth the risk. Their group members became their close friends, and their time at group became a vital part of their spiritual growth. “Hearing the messages on Sundays and then hearing from each other at group and being able to talk about what was going on in our lives was a great combination,” James said.

Taking a risk and experiencing such a positive result made a difference in Christina’s life. “A year ago if there was something hard or tense, I would just shut it out and walk away,” she said. “But now I can keep the door open. That is a huge change for me!”

It wasn’t long before Christina and James added Strategic Service to their involvement at Access. They jumped into volunteering on Sundays, making available for others the environments and experiences that had become so meaningful to them.

The Joyners have gone from being “done with church” to making church an integral part of their lives. “Being a part of Access has been the best decision for our family,” James said.

The Joyners’ story is an ongoing “win” for their faith, their family, and their lives. It’s about being willing to take each next step in their faith journey as it comes and saying “yes” to what God would do in their hearts, even when it feels risky. Stories like the Joyners’ are worth celebrating every Sunday because of the difference God is making in all the days between.