A Confession, A Celebration, and A Commission

Dear friend,

As we thought about this post, it isn’t so much a post as a letter from the Velvet Ashes leadership team about our plans for the spring.

In two days registration for the Velvet Ashes Retreat for you, right where you are, will open. In two days we’ll have a post and you’ll get to see the promotional video, so at this point, we just want to be sure you know about registration and have a half-day or day blocked off in your schedule on April 14-17.

Tomorrow will start our spring book, What Women Fear by Angie Smith. Tomorrow’s post won’t be one you want to miss, even if you’re not a regular part of the book club. Let’s just say, for those of you who shared a favorite movie in response to last week’s Grove post, we’ve got a treat in store for you.

But but the bulk of this letter is dedicated to Connection Groups. On Friday I, (Amy), met with my spiritual director via Skype and she started our session with a prayer that included the line “if there is anything to confess, celebrate, or commission, God may you do it in this time.” That phrase perfectly captures what’s been stirring in me since last fall when I think of Connection Groups.

Connection Groups have been a part of Velvet Ashes from early on and are a tangible way that Velvet Ashes lives out our values. For the first time, in the fall we had a fairly high drop out rate after people had signed up. Some drop outs will always be a part of things, and is understandable (and if you dropped out and feel a bit guilty reading this, please don’t. It really is okay between us). But the percentage was high enough to let me know, as the coordinator, there was a problem and to try and figure out what it was so we could fix it.

And here is what I need to confess.

We hurt some of you. I am truly grieved by this and sorry. If I knew who you were, I would reach out and personally talk to you to make it right. In our enthusiasm for Connection Groups, we created an unnecessary sense of urgency without letting you know more about what you were getting into. I am sorry, please forgive us for the disappointment and hurt we caused.

And here is what we can celebrate!

Some of you are reading this wondering what in the world I’m talking about because your experience with Connection Groups has been life giving and life altering. We rejoice with you! This is the vision and hope for CG’s.

In Made to Stick, authors Dan and Chip Heath talk about the curse of knowledge. Once you know something, it is challenging to pretend you don’t know it and to approach it as someone who has never heard of it. We are so familiar with CG’s we assumed all of you were too. Since we first launched CG’s over two years ago, we knew what we are talking about when it comes to CG’s but many of you may not have been around when we first rolled out and explained CG’s. Oops, our bad!

As a brief recap, “What is a Connection Group?”

Unlike talking to friends back home where you have to explain so much of your life, when you sign up for a CG, you are joining a small group who get your life, allowing you to go deeper more quickly than you might in other contexts.

  • Each group has a mentor who acts as the facilitator and will initiate your weekly gathering.
  • In general we have two types of groups: Skype and Facebook.
  • Skype is our preferred method because it allows for you to actually talk with other people! Many of you are isolated and not able to have these kind of conversations. Skype groups also have a private Facebook group to allow for connection at other times too.
  • We also have Facebook groups because we know some of your internet is not reliable enough for Skype or you travel or have other reasons Skype doesn’t work.
  • We will also have one email only group for those of you not on Facebook.
  • In all groups: after hearing about your week, your mentor will initiate a conversation around the weekly themes and posts, allowing for the discussion to be mildly focused without being prescriptive.
  • Each group is limited in size, which is why if you sign up for a group, we need you. Please know that you may be in a place where you have nothing to offer but you desperately need a group. That is more than okay! That is why we have Connection Groups! But it isn’t a place to sign up to just watch others be a group. There is a subtle, yet profound, difference between, “I’m going to be here as an observer but won’t participate” and “I’m going to be here. I don’t have anything to offer, but I need you.”

Changes we have made this spring: We have made two big changes and several smaller ones.

  • The first major change is this letter :). Instead of telling you two days before we open Connection Group Registration and creating this false sense of urgency, we are letting you know that in just over a week, on Tuesday, March 8th, 6 p.m. EST we are opening registration. Please be in prayer this week if a Connection Group is something God has for you. We are super, super, super excited about the spring groups! We have nearly 30 mentors ready to go! Shout out to the mentors—we love you! We need you. :). We thank you! But we also understand groups are not for everyone and may not be what God has for you this spring.
  • The second major change is that we do not want to unduly favor one time zone over others. In the past, Skype groups haven’t filled up overnight, so all Skype groups will be opened when we start registration. Facebook Groups will be staggered in three waves with wave one opening Tuesday, March 8th at 6 p.m. EST, wave two Wednesday March 9th, a little after 8 a.m. EST, and wave three Wednesday March 9th a little after 2 p.m. EST.
  • One small change is that groups will start meeting the following week March 13th.
  • Daylight Savings (or as I like to call it, “How to annoy a global community!) — to keep all of us on our toes, Groups will start meeting AFTER daylight savings in America (March 13). So, when you are signing up for groups, keep time changes in mind. All Skype mentors have selected times based on Daylight Savings time in America. I know there are other countries that have time changes on other weeks. I am convinced this is to make us long for heaven. Mission accomplished!
  • Two TCK groups!! We will have a Skype group for TCKs (15-18) who will be preparing to transition back to their “home” culture and a Facebook group for TCKs (ages 15-18) who will be staying on the field.
  • We also have groups for: those in transition, moms, singles, re-entering, and lots of wonderful regular groups!

We truly have much to celebrate!

And here is where we commission. 

Would you join me and place your hand on your computer or lift it in the air or whatever you do in your tradition and join with me in commissioning all that we have going on this spring in Velvet Ashes:

Almighty God, we praise you, we give you our thanks for your grace toward us in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose again, through whom we have life, hope, and purpose. We thank you for your Holy Spirit who truly is our comfort. 

As we think of all that will happen this spring in and through Velvet Ashes, we ask for your leading and blessing. Thank you for the ways you will weave together our endeavors through the weekly themes, posts, book club, Connection Groups, and VA Retreat in ways that only you can weave. Thank you for the special lessons and encouragement you have for each person reading this, for the ways that you will form and grow us this Spring. For the ways you will woo and love us. For the ways you will invite us into the deep.

God, we see how you are at work in Velvet Ashes. Strengthen those who serve us as writers, on the social media team, with graphic images, bookkeeping and administrative skills, and mentoring, all the roles seen and unseen. Strengthen those who read and those who comment. We ask that your hand is on all that Velvet Ashes does and that love is the heartbeat of our work.

We commission the work in this space for your glory and our good.


Since this is a letter . . .


Amy on behalf of Danielle, Kimberly, and Patty.

p.s. We really do love you!


  1. Kate February 29, 2016

    Just wanted to say a huge thank you for this, stating what was obvious to some I know, but so good for us who joined you later on. I was so excited about the fall connection groups, I rushed to my computer the morning after they opened and was crushed to see everything full. I’d not long discovered the beautiful nourishment of the velvet ashes. I had a really busy day or two around that time and in a mammoth catchup I scrolled far enough down my Facebook news-feed to see the final announcement for groups… I had no idea they were released in waves. This time round I so hope I get to join one.
    My one request is that you do a similar post for the retreat. I’d love to join in but I’m not sure how it will work, what it involves, and frankly what the commitment is – blocking out a day/ half day means what? I can clear work but lets just say our toddler isn’t at nursery! Thanks in advance.

    1. Amy Young February 29, 2016

      Kate, you’re welcome :). And thank you for the comment and feedback. I know that we will still have some mis-steps in the future (that is not a huge shock, but I do hope we can minimize them because of the very REAL people it negatively impacts). Thanks for being a part of VA and not giving up as we try things out — some to success and others to failure. I know Danielle is working on retreat information and her post should help clear up questions you have. If it doesn’t, please, please ask :)!

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