A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of ‘A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition’.  Let’s recap:

Part 1: Housing, Jobs, Finances, Food

Part 2: Getting Around Town, Things To Do, Keywords & Phrases, Making A Revival Group Map

Part 3: My Bethel Is Not Your Bethel, Class Life, Out-of-Class Life, Why You’re Here

Part 4: Bethel: Relationship Powerhouse, Relationship with God, Revival Groups, Small Groups, Spiritual Parents, Being Social, Dating

This is obviously a multi-faceted and far-reaching topic, so what am I trying to say in this part of the guide?

I want you to walk away with a better understanding of how relationship is seen in a general sense at Bethel, give some examples, and then give general advice pertaining to specific types of relationships.

Bethel: Relationship Powerhouse

Bethel is a church founded on relationship and honour, and so is BSSM.  Let’s compare this to a university, which is governed by rules.  At BSSM, if you are late on a financial payment, they meet with you and work out a plan.  At a university, they simply kick you out.  At BSSM, you are known to the staff by your face and name.  At a university, you are known by your student ID.

In general, BSSM is more like a family than an institution, with Kris & Kathy, Bill & Beni, Danni & Sheri, your RGPs, and many others acting as parents, while the students are like children.

It is important to learn that everyone is different, yet we are all people.  In the same way, everyone is given grace differently, but are asked to follow the same rules.  Here’s an example:

Ruth is a student who didn’t read the guide and now lives way out of town without a car.  Because of this, she is often late to class.  Sven, however, did read the guide, and got himself a bike to make sure he can get to class on time.

Good on you, Sven.
Good on you, Sven.

While Ruth and Sven both have to get to class on time, Ruth will be given some more grace about being late, given her situation.

Now, don’t misread this and think your situation can exempt you from the rules.  Ruth will be in for a confrontation if she doesn’t work on her problem.  But BSSM is more interested in seeing you succeed and grow past your problems, than discarding you for having them.

So what kind of relationships will you run into here?

Relationship with God

This is the first one, and the last.  More than anything you are here to cultivate a relationship with God, and he’s there (well everywhere) to do the same with you.  To any of the social butterfly types that are reading, remember to put God first.  Part 3 has some great points on making time for God, but generally your mornings are free, so use them for God!

Ok, now human relationships.

Revival Groups

The revival group was an idea from Paul Manwaring, to help keep the family feel of the school’s students as the school grew.  Treat yours like a second family.  Every week you have the privilege of meeting and growing with these brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents.  I think of interns as big brothers and sisters.

Staying close with your revival group is a key way to staying in the body, to finding support, and to finding fellowship.  You make friends with people you spend time with, and when you spend time with a lot of people, you don’t miss the ones that are not around.  So go to your revival group and connect with your family because, sadly, you probably won’t be missed if you don’t.

Life Building Tip: Use RG time to get to know someone you haven’t met before; and non-RG time to strengthen relationships you have already started.

Small Groups

The tight, inner circle:  small groups are your accountability group, your confidants, and your stalwart friends.  Whether you are a group of guys, or a group of girls, make sure to meet at least once a week.

Life Building Tip: Our group always could have used more time.  Meet at other times to activate yourselves, or discuss/share life that may be beyond the topic of the week’s discussion.

Spiritual Parents

Being a spiritual parent means different things to different people.  I was not a spiritual parent myself, so I asked two couples for help with this section.  Thanks to my own parents, Jon and Kathleen Lenton (class of ’12), and Momma and Papa G (class of earlier) for their help.  In both cases, most of the conversation was from the mom, and I’ve paraphrased and distilled to help with the flow.

Q:  Were you asked directly or did it just happen organically; and would you have had a preference?

J&K:  Both, but more asked straight up.  Being students ourselves, we preferred being asked directly.  It was a DTR (define the relationship) moment right away, and gave us more access and input to the student; because we’d been invited. Either way being a spiritual parent is an honour and a joy.

G&G:  Just let it happen naturally! God knows which students He will highlight to ask you.  That has happened a lot; in conversation someone will just ask, “will you be my mom?”  God is so good!  He brings those connections together in His timing.

Q:  What does/did being a spiritual parent mean to you?

J&K:  It was different for each student, it depended on what their need was.

Ask them what their expectations might be.  For some it’s praying together and occasional encouragement.  For others it was regular coffee dates and mentoring.  Some students want more connection than others, and asking shows what they are hoping to gain. You can make a decision if that’s something you can offer.

We discovered at the end of the year that one young man, had been blessed and comforted just knowing that we were there in the same seats every day. He offered an emotional thanks for helping make him feel safe. (I had never met him!)  For another student, sitting together in class was huge for her. Just being a physical presence, a comforting back rub and feeling part of a family was what she needed.

It makes you realize how easy it is to give love and give life. As a natural parent, it is really an extension of your established identity.

G&G:  It is not as time consuming as some might think.  You can have them over for dinner or go for a walk.  Have them join you for something that you are going to do anyway.  Invite them to sit with you at church; save a seat or two and see who the Lord brings to sit with you and then have lunch together after church.

Most of the students we have relationship with (from 20’s to 80’s) just like knowing that you are there.  Knowing that they can call or visit, borrow a book, ask a question, or run an idea/thought by us.  Usually these are fairly quick and always interesting.

Q:  How many children did you have?

J&K:  Twelve (12) close ones, and twenty (20) that just needed occasional encouragement.  More for Jon who was more available and present at many off school events (I homeschooled our daughter.)  He connected to varying degrees with several dozen young people; he loved it!

G&G:  We have now been a part of two RGs that we can say call us Momma & Papa.  It’s possible over 250 students of all ages call us their California/Bethel parents.

Q:  How do you keep in contact with your spiritual children after BSSM?  How often?

J&K:  Very often on Facebook, but also with Christmas cards and Skype.  Reaching out to your parent is your best bet.

G&G:  Staying connected is challenging, but the ones who really need a connection will be intentional about asking for time together.  No matter the reason those times are really special.

Staying in touch by text, email, or Facebook is great for the ones who are back in their homelands.  The ones who are still in Redding we may see in a church service or in the community.  You can see the change in their countenance! They may take a moment to share a testimony and we will celebrate with them.

Advice for Parents?

Stay open to the possibility:  It’s a very enriching experience, an opportunity to grow and give, to love on people in a time when there’s so much change.  It was a surprise to discover that it was much easier than I would have thought.  Just being real and ‘soft’, your heart turned towards them, is really all that is required.

Manage yourself first:  Whether it is your time, your money, or your spirit; you have to manage yourself before others.  Know how much time you have to give, especially if you are a student.  It’s supposed to be a fun thing that adds to your experience, not a drain.

You should find someone you yourself can connect with, even if you are an older student. At the very least, a peer group of similar life experience (married, children, job, retired, …)

Have good boundaries:  Know how far you are willing to go for a son or daughter.  If you cannot keep that level of commitment, don’t accept the responsibility; again, ask how much responsibility is being asked of you before saying yes.

Advice for Kids?

Be intentional:  Tell me!  I’ll pencil you in!  You matter!  We will have coffee, a smoothie or a walk’n’talk!

Seek God on who to approach:  Don’t just look to the nearest parent-figure.  The relationship should be life giving for all concerned.  If you ask someone and they turn out to be broken or have a lot going on, you are not committed to this connection, be released.  If something arises that should be brought to the RGP’s attention, then as a parent make sure it is.  As Danny Silk would put it, “are you going to tell the RGP, or would you like me to?”

Final Thoughts

J&K:  In hindsight, some of those relationships [with our children] are the ones that hold the most meaningful memories from our time at BSSM.  It is an honor to be invited into someone’s life and break off pieces of your own to help them on their journey. It’s humbling to have strangers see value in what you have to offer.

The response of their natural parents when we met them, was one of overwhelming gratitude, for us to have loved on their kids. It caught us off guard. It was cool that they didn’t feel threatened, but were rather encouraged and thankful. It feels good to know other people think your kids are amazing!

G&G to parents:  We have found in God’s economy love and get more love back, bless and you receive more blessing, give and receive abundance, it’s the way of the King.  So I would say to those couples that are thinking about doing what we do, start small and bless two or three students and then see what God does to your heart.

G&G to kids:  It means the world to us that you would invite us in to your life!  Humbled that The Lord put us together.  He knows what we have to share with one another. So many times He knows exactly what is needed at the right time!

Being Social

There are no great mysteries here, it boils down to being available and being open.

Be Available

Be reachable:  Get a phone, get a Facebook account, and connect with some of the myriad of Facebook groups.

Be around:  Hang around after class, get there early, make a point of talking to someone new.  Same goes for church.

Start early:  The start of the year is the best time to meet people because nobody has anything to do yet;  so everyone is willing to hang out as long they’re willing to take a chance (see Be Optimistic).

Do Your Homework:  Amazing how this keeps coming up, maybe because it’s important.  Get it done early so when opportunities come you have the chance to take them and aren’t stuck at home.  Or you can kill two birds with one stone, and:

Start a study group:  Even calling a friend over to do homework in the same location is great if you are a quality time person; and talking through an idea is essential for external processors.

Be Open

The first step to something new is outside your comfort zone.
The first step to something new is outside your comfort zone.

Keep an open mind:  Never roller skated before?  Try the rink.  Not a fitness guru?  Go on a short hike.  Not a film buff?  Go to the dollar theatre.  Not a prophet?  Renounce that lie and start encouraging someone in faith.  Be willing to try things you never have before, it’s the only way you’ll change; and if you don’t change by the end of the year, what was the point?  Plus, you may actually enjoy it.

“When it looks like everyone knows each other, and you think you’re the only one that doesn’t know anyone, it’s not true! Just start talking, think about it later.”  ~ Alumni Advice

Get out of the house:  Being friends with roommates is great (and important) but you need to remember to get out of your house once in a while, so if all you do is stay at home then you should think about widening your friend group.  Sven, who read Part 1, knows that eating together is a great bonding experience.

Branch out:  Be willing to make new friends even after you have an established circle.  Welcome new people into the fold, and spend time hanging out in other people’s circles.

Believe in the relationship:  Do not make the mistake of avoiding connection because of the impending severance.  It’s true that most people don’t stay over a year, but it’s still important to develop meaningful relationships, even if you might never see these people again.  These relationships are life-giving, affirming; and increase your capacity to love by showing you different situations and perspectives.

Saying ‘no’ is ok:  Never feel guilty for turning something down, just know that every decision has pros and cons.

“There will be tons of opportunities to get involved, parties to go to, people inviting you to things.  It is ok to not go to all of them.  You will miss out on some things, and that is totally healthy.  Be intentional in your ‘yes,’ because every ‘yes’ to one thing may be saying ‘no’ to something else.”  ~ Alumni Advice

“You only do first year once in life; so max it out. Take advantage of every opportunity.  Absorb.  Soak.  Rest.  Work.  Play.  Socialize.  Love.  And most important trust in, and lean upon, Him.”  ~ Alumni Advice

Single Life Workshop

Besides reading up on Things To Do for inspiration (like Sven has), I encourage single people to consider signing up for Single Life Workshop.  It’s a great way to meet people and learn how to do life better.  I personally learned a lot. The downside to this is that one of your nights each week is taken, but it’s time spent building relationship, so your call.

Dating

There is an entire week dedicated to relationships in first year (a whole month in second year.)  Dating, courting, pursuing is a big enough topic in both that I don’t have much to add, except:

Hold your horses! So many stories of students meeting in September and being married by the next year.  To these couples I wish nothing but the best of love and life.  That said, if you are in first year, then you probably are in the process of learning about who you are; and the last thing you need is someone else’s processing to confound your own.

“Don’t waste your time looking for your better half. Become a whole person [first] looking for another whole person.”  ~ Danny Silk [emphasis mine]

“Wait until the new year before you pursue someone, you’re in the middle of figuring out who you are, and so are they.”  ~ A wise pastor’s wife

Men, be honourable: If not, I just explained above how this girl has a huge family (her RG, small group, and spiritual parents), so watch it.

Little-Fockers-Robert-De-Niro-Close-Up-25-10-10-kc
Because we’re watching you. Punk.

“That there are big brothers that will hurt you if you mess with their sisters.”  ~ Alumni Advice

Ladies, be forthright: This isn’t high school, the games are over.  If a guy isn’t catching on that you like him, just tell him; we won’t think you are pursuing us.

Her name is "Good Girl Gina" for a reason.
Don’t be weird, just tell us.

I’ll close with this:

“Stay intentional with the people around you. Live in community, even if it’s just a few.”  ~ Alumni Advice

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A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of ‘A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition’.  Let’s recap:

Part 1: Housing, Jobs, Finances, Food

Part 2: Getting Around Town, Things To Do, Keywords & Phrases, Making A Revival Group Map

Part 3: My Bethel Is Not Your Bethel, Class Life, Out-of-Class Life, Why You’re Here

My Bethel Is Not Your Bethel

“throw out the rulebook and be flexible, listen with your heart.”  ~ Alumni Advice

All the advice/wisdom from me, or other alumni, has to be taken in context.  The BSSM experience of this year (Your Bethel) is not the same as last year’s (My Bethel).  Every year the staff at BSSM spend hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours pouring over feedback from their students and seeking God for the ways the school can be improved for the following year.

This means that advice from students of previous years can be inaccurate, so before talking about class life at BSSM I wanted to confess my potential wrongness.  Side note: If I am wrong about something do tell me, no need to stay wrong, right?

Because of BSSM’s radical growth over the years, most classes will have new, challenging problems that didn’t need to be addressed previously.  According to Kris Vallotton, my first year class (2012-2013), had a problem with authority.  We’d ignore direct instruction from RGPs and Mark Brookes, and were talked to by Kris Vallotton and Mark Brookes on more than one occasion.

Now this doesn’t mean that 2013-2014 even has a problem, our ceiling your floor right?  What it does mean is that in general the leadership is going to focus on different topics with you guys than they did with us.

Testimonies

Speaking of ways that the school improves, here’s an example of how a new mandate was integrated into BSSM over time:

  • 2011-2012:  Bill feels God stressing the need to collect testimonies accurately and thoroughly to edify and encourage the body.
  • 2012-2013:  This becomes a growing initiative and is talked about at the start of the year
  • 2013, February/March: bcrr.us/bssmtestify is launched
  • 2013, May: Testimony book is published (credit Dave Harvey)
  • 2013-2014 (Present): bcrr.us/bssmtestify is on the back of your name tag

Another example could be the city project, how it’s gone from a few dozen people to an army of over a hundred, transforming the city on a weekly basis.

Let me summarize all this:

  1. The school is always transitioning positively, from glory to glory as it were.
  2. If you hear complaints from alumni, assume they’ve been fixed.
  3. If they haven’t, see if you can help fix it.

Class Life

Ah, class life; homework, due dates, assignments, lectures, notes, what a wonderful time!  You’ll be exposed to a ton of information while you’re at Bethel, so let’s compartmentalize class life to make it less overwhelming:

Schedule
Your schedule! Once things settle into a groove.

Your day: Class is from 10:30 to 17:45 (5:45pm), Monday to Thursday.  This is the best way to think about it, because then:

Days are the same length: Plan to be busy in between these times.  Do reading, homework, reserve seats in the morning, meet and talk to people upstairs at the civic.

Everyone’s more available: If you plan hangouts or gatherings outside of this time frame, way more people can come.

Schedules

There are morning and afternoon schedules.  Morning means 10:30-12:00 and afternoon means 16:15-17:45.  Monday and Wednesday this will involve your revival group or small group; on Tuesday it involves your AMT/Track, and Thursdays, for most people, means your activation.

Day-to-Day

Each day has a similar “middle schedule,” from 12:00 to 16:15:

Prayer/Worship  [12:00-12:30]

This is a time for you to press into God and join in some amazing corporate prayer, or get drunk as a skunk with Holy Spirit.  This is not a time for:

  • Talking with friends or catching up in the auditorium
  • Reserving a seat (do that before)
  • Being obnoxious or loud in any sense (unless that’s how the prayer is going)

If you see someone you want to talk to, and you are in the auditorium, quietly ask to talk to them outside or upstairs.  If it isn’t worth the 15 second walk, it can wait.

Announcements  [12:30-12:45, varies]

Pay attention!  If there are announcements on the overhead screens read them, they aren’t always read out loud.  This is not talking and catching up time, or coffee time, or potty time (note: coffee time and potty time are tied together, avoid entirely if possible).  It isn’t getting settled in your seat time either, because you were already sitting in your seat, eager to learn about all the awesome opportunities BSSM is offering at announcements today!

Side note: last year, our class would yell, “ANNOUNCEMENTS!” whenever someone at the podium said they had announcements.  I endorse this tradition, it’s fun and it helps the delinquents pay attention.

Bible  [12:30-13:30, varies]

What an amazing opportunity to dive into the Word of God, to enrich your spirit.  In my year this was usually taught by the zealous Bernie Ooley or the emphatic Dann Farrelly.  Whoever teaches it, take in all you can.

Worship  [early afternoon, about an hour a day]

“It’s a totally new place where you’ll probably see some things you haven’t seen before.  Different manifestations, different ideas. The best advice I heard in Redding is don’t be suspicious and use discernment!” ~ Alumni Advice

Refresh yourself, soak in the presence, go deeper in intimacy with God.  This is a time of praise and worship, try not to be distracted.

Bring recording material:  Carry something to record with so if you’re struck by a sudden awareness of your need to do laundry, you can write it down and release your mind to focus on higher things.

“Have a recording device handy everywhere you go. Start a filing system early so you can categorize: homework, proph.words, notes, bills etc..”  ~ Alumni Advice

If this is really new for you, here’s a look at some beginner moves for worship.

Grasping God’s Word  [12:30-13:30, varies]

Taught by the scholarly Dann Farrelly, you will learn so much here it’s crazy.

Bring the book to school: If GGW is scheduled that day, bring the book so you can write in notes and comments.

Read the book: at least the day before, more on this later.

Core Speakers  [Last thing before break]

This is probably why you came to BSSM, to hear Kris, Bill, Jason, and others dispense distilled wisdom into your earholes.  Their talks are sometimes marathons (it can be over two hours at times) so when you are asked to stand and honour them, sneak a stretch into your applause.  Stay sharp, you do not want to miss a word, or expression, from these brilliant orators.

Let’s look at some of the people you’ll be hearing from:

  • Bernie Oolie:  Excitement embodied, Bernie has a passion few can match.  She believes strongly in empowering women in the church.
  • Dann Farrelly:  The scholar of the bunch, Dann is a gifted teacher who delivers his material in an easy to follow along manner.
  • Kevin Dedmon:  Inventor of Treasure Hunts, Kevin’s passion is for the lost, and to say he likes getting drunk with Holy Spirit is an understatement.
  • Chris Overstreet:  Your local motivational speaker, Chris will also likely be the one who releases you to street ministry (more later).
  • Kris Vallotton:  A father of the house and a powerful prophet, Kris has a great passion for the city (City Project was his baby) and for raising a generation of young people with a value for purity.
  • Bill Johnson:  Considered the father of the house, Bill is a great apostle with a sincerity and humility matched by few in this world.
  • Mark Brookes:  Overseer of first year, he’s kind of like your surrogate father for the year, treat him like it.
  • Jason Vallotton:  Kris’s son, Jason’s passion is helping broken people.  He’ll talk a lot about counselling and inner healing.

There are many others besides these select few, including guest speakers and revival group pastors.

Ear protection: My year the sound guys (who were awesome) didn’t have much control over outbursts from speakers.  The resource table has free earplugs to take the volume down a notch.  I recommend having them handy for Bernie, Kevin, and Chris O depending on where you are sitting.

Stories: Bill and Kris lose track of what stories they’ve told to whom.  Your job is to remind them.  Just remember that if you always say, “no tell us!” they will repeat themselves and you’ll miss out on other, different stories they could be telling.

Break Time  [15:45-16:15]

Do not leave your seat until the speaker dismisses you.  Be honourable and give them your full attention for the whole time.  When it is break time, this is your phone-checking time, your potty-break time, your catching-up-with-friends and your making-final-notes time.

If someone has an afternoon schedule that day, don’t keep them, and that someone is you, don’t be kept!  Excuse yourself and get to where you need to be on time.

Ok, deep breath.  That’s the day-to-day, what about the special stuff?

Monday

Let’s pretend your Revival Group meets on Mondays (if they don’t flip Monday and Wednesday when you read this).  We’ll be talking more about RGs in Part 4: Relationships, but for now think of them as extended family reunions, every week!

Seriously though Revival Group time is awesome, make it a first priority.

Tuesday

AMT/Track time!  These are amazing opportunities to customize your experience and get the most out of your time at BSSM.  Advanced Ministry Training (AMT) is like an elective in school, whereas a Track is like a taking a minor on your degree, in that you take the same AMT for the whole year.

Unless you are absolutely certain you want to take a track, I recommend the AMTs; you can try more things that way.

Wednesday

Small Group time!  Of course your small group can meet any time you decide on, but the default is the same slot as your RG time on the alternate day.  Small Groups will also be talked about more in Part 4: Relationships, until then, consider them to be your best friends, your brothers or sisters in your immediate family.

Thursday

Thursday is Staff Speaker day, where you’ll hear from someone you normally don’t.  Did you know Bethel has around 500 staff?  They won’t all talk to you, but you should know how many people work to keep the place jumping.

Finally, before city services is the City Services Speaker.  For us it was usually Chris Overstreet.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man more passionate for the lost.  I find that if you do whatever he asks to get you pumped up, you’ll have a better day for it.

Activation!  Or is it City Services now?  Either way, this is the time when you get your hands dirty for the Kingdom.  You want to know what’s had the most profound impact on the City of Redding’s leadership?  It’s been us happily, hardily, and humbly serving them in any way they need.

Tips for Class Time

To talk to someone about it:  Just had a revelation?  Blown away by that last talk?  If you really want to get that awesome stuff locked down talk it out with someone.  Explain it to each other, write it down, discuss alternate interpretations; attack and defend it with reason and scripture.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

But don’t talk during class: Just don’t, it’s rude and dishonouring.  Take it outside if you must.

Keep the phone off:  Turn it on during break, but its function should be to record the talk or take notes only, everything else it does distracts you from what you are here for.

Turn-Cell-Your-Phone-Off

Do your Homework: Do it, do it, do it now.  Read your books, read your bible, write and take notes, do your 30 days starting 30 days before it’s due.

Reserve your seat clearly: This was a pet peeve of mine.  Reserving seats is an accepted practice at BSSM, finding a friend on the morning schedule ups your odds of getting good seats.  Just make sure your reservation is clear:

  • Not a pen or torn piece of paper
  • Not something half sitting between two seats
  • Use your binder (no one will steal a binder, and the name helps friends find you)
  • Backpacks are cool too (think big here)
  • Extra classy people put something across the top of the chair so you can tell from a distance that the seat is taken.

Stairwells are for going up or down: Not for hugs and hellos.  There is only one stairwell in the Civic you can use in the entrance area; think of it like cars on a highway.  You wouldn’t suddenly brake in bumper-to-bumper traffic to roll down your window and say hi to a friend.  If you want to talk, wave them over to a place that’s off the “road.”

Coffee timing: If you can’t get your coffee from River Rock and be in your seat on time, you need to find a coffee place on the way to school, or save money and bring a travel mug.

Be Flexible: The schedule will change, mistakes will happen, have grace and roll with it.

Be aware of yourself: Don’t be like school kids who are too self-absorbed to realize they are blocking people’s way.  Avoid standing in doorways or near stairwells, fountains, or RG tables; unless of course you are using them.

Find out who’s taking the great class notes: I recommend you still take personal notes, but official notes can be found if you ask around, or you make your own!  These give you a chance to review what you might have missed.

Out-Of-Class Class Life

Homework

“Do your h-work before you go out on fri and sat….” ~ Alumni Advice

Do it, do it, do it now people.

There’s a method to the madness: If you are doing your homework, you’ll notice that bible, kingdom foundations, GGW, and the speakers afterward end up talking about the same topics at the same time. For example, about halfway to when ‘Culture of Honor’ was due Danny Silk, the author, gave a talk on the fivefold ministry that tied in perfectly with the early chapters of the book.

Challenge yourself: Challenge what you believe and what you are being told.  If something a speaker said didn’t sit well with you, talk to your intern or RGP about it, or your roommate, small group, or friend.  Stay sharp.

Dann will talk to you about logical fallacies and reasoning.  I urge you to do everything you can to understand his talk.  Why?  Because the stereotype that Christians believe whatever sounds good and are uneducated or ignorant doesn’t need any help.  Be smart, you may need it.

Representing Bethel

As a student of BSSM you are a representative of Bethel, and an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Just as a diplomat isn’t simply sent to another country with no training, you aren’t being released until you’ve learned how to carry the culture of honour when you speak and minister.

In general, consider how people would perceive your actions, as an ambassador you are being watched every time you are in public.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:23

Evangelizing

You’ve already been told I’m sure, but in case you haven’t: you don’t have permission to minister to people outside of BSSM, yet.  You will be released later this year when the leadership knows you are ready.

Ministering at Church

You also cannot minister at church, yet, unless you are a second or third year.  There will be training for this, and seek approval from your RG pastor before doing it.  In this case it is better to ask permission than forgiveness.

Why You’re Here

You are here for whatever you and God decide you’re here for.  If you don’t know what that is, press into God and he’ll help you out.

“Don’t get behind in your homework, and pursue Him; not just the signs and wonders.  You’ll see all the signs and wonders you could imagine but if you don’t allow Him to change you, you won’t have the character to hold onto what He wants to do through you.”  ~ Alumni Advice

“Stay focused on the one thing God has called you to no matter what. Stay on task in the path where his clarity is acute.”  ~ Alumni Advice

You get what you put in: If you don’t work at problems, they won’t be solved; and nobody will work on your problem harder than you will.

2nd or 3rd years aren’t perfect: That sounds mean, but I want you to understand that finishing first year shouldn’t be your goal.  Your goal should be figuring out what you need to deal with, what stands between you and God, and then working everyday to bring that barrier down.

I’m also saying this so you won’t be discouraged or surprised if you meet a 2nd year who seems worse off than you; instead be encouraged that they are further ahead than they were last year, and if you work hard, you will be too.

Deal with it now: There is no better time to fix your hurts or problems than right now.  This has always been true, but it’s more true now, if that’s possible.  Just think, a year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.

You are here for you: Not for your church, or anyone, or anything else.  This year is ultimately about you.  Take the time you need to take care of you.

That’s all for now folks.  Tune in next time for Part 4: Relationships!

A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of ‘A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition’.  Let’s recap:

Part 1: Housing, Jobs, Finances, Food

Part 2: Getting Around Town, Things To Do, Keywords & Phrases, Making A Revival Group Map

Getting Around Town

In the housing section we touched on having a plan on how to get to key points in Redding.  Here we’ll look at some of your options in more detail.

Getting Around by Car: Buying a Car

I didn’t buy a car myself, but the DMV website is full of useful information.  You can also go to the DMV in Redding and pick up a brochure on almost any topic.

There are two mechanics I can recommend for getting the car looked at, based on testimonies from other students:

Getting Around by Car: Car Owners

There are pros and cons to having a car.  As I said I did not own one myself in Redding, so I had a friend who did shed some light on the subject:

Having a car requires boundaries: If you’re anything like me, you love to help people out.  Arguably, the number one way you will be able to demonstrate that is by giving rides to those not blessed with a car.

Rides to school, rides home, rides to a party, rides home, rides to the grocery store, rides home again.  Are you getting this?

It may feel good the first or second time you help a brother or sister in Christ out to say, “don’t worry about gas money! I’m happy to help!” But what about the third, fourth, tenth time?

Let’s face it: as much as we would all love to say God will miraculously fill up our gas tanks every time we give someone a ride, it won’t happen (trust me, I actually tried that a time or two).  You have to be brave and let people know you are not a free taxi service, because you’re not!

You are NOT this person.
You are NOT this person.

You need to pay for that gas somehow, and yeah, your friends are probably broke, but chances are so are you.  If you can give them a free ride because you love them, they can open their wallet and hand you a couple bucks for the same reason.

If they literally do not have the money, there are other ways to pay you back (my two favorites: dinner and back rubs).  Chief author’s note: I have also offered to wash and vacuum my benefactor’s car, you have no idea how much appreciation that can bring.

You are not obliged to say “yes”: It’s your vehicle.  If you’re tired, heading in the opposite direction, or too busy to make an extra stop, just say “no.”  Your friend will find another ride, I promise!

Getting Around by Car: Non Car Owners

You will be borrowing or bumming rides, so listen up.

Have a list: Try to keep a shortlist of people whose car you can borrow, one of whom has a truck for moving and such.  See the bottom of this post for more information on making a good one.

Have some cash on hand: Always have a couple bucks in pocket to cover their gas/maintenance.  In Canada, $0.40/km or $0.60/mi is what a company would shell out to an employee, and you like your friends more than their boss does right?  Offering $2 for a grocery run or errands is fair.  If they refuse payment, you tried, though I’ve left money in a person’s car while they weren’t looking before.

Stay close: If you aren’t going to have a car, then get yourself close to where you need to get on foot or by bicycle.  Do not make yourself a burden on your friends by living out-of-the-way.

If you live in the following areas then you should be, most of the time, close enough to someone to bum a ride.  This list isn’t complete, but “close to the Civic and cheap” are the basic criteria for student housing, and where drivers live.

  • Clay Street
  • Hilltop Drive
  • Ridgecrest
  • Browning/Churn Creek
  • Mission De Oro

Be ready: Set times and places for pick up and drop off, and stick to those times.  When your ride wants to leave, either stick with them or tell them you’ll find another way.  Don’t make them search for you, or wait around forever.  Respect your driver!

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Getting Around by Bike (Bicycle)

Since people don’t generally borrow bikes this’ll be shorter.

Terrain:  There are some killer hills in the area but apart from that bikes are a quick, cheap way to get around for short distances.

Bring spare clothes: Unless you bike in the cool, early morning, or are incapable of sweating, have a plan for cleaning yourself up for a day of close quarters with classmates.

It's hot in Redding, don't be smelly at school.
It’s hot in Redding, don’t be smelly at school.

Stay on the pavement: Word of warning, avoid going off trail unless you have very durable tires.  There is a weed grass around town that produces sharp spiny seeds.  In the fall, I met someone with a flat tire almost every week.  So stay in the clear, paved areas unless you have puncture-proof tires.

Keep a pump on hand: Have a bicycle pump with you when you bike.  The seeds end up everywhere, and if you spring a leak, pumping up as a temporary fix is the fastest way to get on with your day.  As a bonus precaution, have a tire repair kit at home to fix the bike at the end of the day.

Offer to pay for damages: If you do borrow a bike/car, and you get a flat, or worse, offer to pay at least half, if not all, of the cost to repair it.

Things To Do

There’s too much awesome where you are right now to ignore it.

“Don’t hide!” ~ Alumni Advice.

Hiking

“Tucked away in Northern California’s Shasta County is the charming town of Redding, which over the years has worked diligently to become one of the premier trail destinations in the West.”  ~ TrailLink on Redding

Redding and the surrounding area is a model for beautiful hiking and biking trails, as well as access to rivers and lakes for swimming.  Most parks have an entry fee, check before leaving.

Sacramento River Trail: This trail has multiple access points along the river, and runs past the Sundial Bridge, outside the Civic, all the way to the Keswick Dam.  In general, the area around the Civic is full of beautiful trails for walking and biking.

Whiskeytown: A short, 15 minute drive from downtown Redding, Whiskeytown is home to a man-made lake (great for swimming or kayaking), and a host of trails.  I recommend Brandy Creek Trail as a starter (I don’t recommend hiking the full distance).

I love a beautiful lake.
I love a beautiful lake.

Lassen National Volcanic Park: This state treasure is roughly 2 hours East of Redding.  See boiling mud and steam geysers, or hike to the summit of the dormant volcano itself!  Note: park access subject to weather and season, check before going.  I recommend the Bumpass Hell Trail, the elevation of 8000 ft (2500 m) gives you a certain breathlessness that is quite exciting.

Lava Beds National Monument:  On the topic of volcanoes, this park features numerous caves, some filled with ice year round!  You have to book in advance.

This is an ice cave, outside it was 85 ºF (29 ºC)
This is an ice cave, inside it was below freezing, outside it was 85 ºF (29 ºC)

Castle Crags: Near Dunsmuir, a moderate hike with amazing views and rocky crags.  Mounting points for rock climbers can be found along the way.

You can climb to those peaks in the back. I'm the guy in white!
You can climb to those peaks in the back. I’m the guy in white!

Henderson Open Space: I’ll be talking more about this place in Part 3, but for now I’ll say that it’s a beautiful example of riparian savannah, and it’s in the heart of Redding.  Great for walks and picnics.  I should point out that this place has had vagrancy issues, so don’t go alone on a prayer walk there.

All Trails.com: An amazing site for finding places to explore and hike.

Restaurants

A great way to spend time with people is eating together.  If you don’t want to do a potluck (where you all bring a dish to someone’s house to share), here are some great places.

restaurant sign

Chipotle Mexican Grill (Chipotle): This place is a delicious food maker for a good price.

In-N-Out Burger: The owners are members of Bethel Church, which gives the place a lively atmosphere.  Besides awesome food, a secret menu, and the fact that you almost always will find Bethel folk to hang with, it’s a great place to work.

Razzlicious: Another fro-yo place, there are at least three in Redding, one in the new downtown.

Spoon Me: A delicious frozen yogurt (fro-yo) place in Redding’s old downtown.

Westside Pizza: Another Bethel-member-owned establishment, this place fast became a Bethel favourite after Friday night service last year.  Why? $1 slices after 10pm on Fridays.

Yaks Cafe and Eatery (Yaks): A popular destination for small group meetings.

Tipping: For all non-Americans out there, you should know that tipping is how many servers get by financially.  Use these rules:

  • 10% – The minimum
  • 15% – Good job.
  • 18% – Great job!
  • 20% or more – Blessings upon you!

Also note that if you don’t order while in a restaurant, you are not blessing them.  You are using the restaurant’s space and atmosphere, and you should pay for it.  Freeloading in restaurants give Bethel students a bad reputation.  Consider leaving some money if you didn’t order anything.  Tip your servers!

Day Trip Destinations

Redding isn’t the end of civilization in northern California, or “Nor-Cal” as some call it.  Here are some great day trip destinations (within 2 hours drive).

Chico: It’s the nearest city, lots of stuff to check out.  The Naked Lounge is well-known for its great coffee, and not nakedness.  There’s also a Sonic Drive-In you can stop at on the way there with tasty milkshakes.

Dunsmuir: Cool little shops, train stuff, antiques, and some hiking, a great historical town for walking around.

Mt. Shasta City: Near the base of Mt. Shasta, and you can skate in January!  I had no idea how much I’d missed skating.  There’s also a ski hill.

Here’s a pretty map for you, including some of the ‘around town’ stuff.  See the bottom for instructions on making your own.

Entertainment

There  a lot to see and do, but what about besides eating and hiking?

Dollar Theatre: There’s a cheap theatre that plays movies about six weeks after they premiere at the main theatre.  The tickets are $0.75 to $2.50 depending on the time and if it’s in 3D.

Love Lounge: Monthly live music/coffeehouse all put on by BSSM students.  They have a Facebook page, which is a good place to look for the month’s “dress theme,” which of your friends will be going.  The location has moved so check the page for details.

Dancing

I’m a dancer, mostly swing, but I’ve done salsa and ballroom in the past.  One day I’ll write a post just for dance, but until then I’ll quote ‘Take The Lead’.

“You see… if she allows me to lead, she’s trusting me.  But more than that, she’s trusting herself. Now, if your 16-year-old daughter is strong and secure and trusts herself, how likely is she to let some idiot knock her up? And if your son… can learn to touch a girl with respect, how will he treat women throughout his life?”

~ Mr. Dulaine, defending his program to his student’s parents

Besides those awesome reasons, it’s fun and social.  Here are three places to get your dance on:

Let’s Dance Redding!: My personal favourite, I worked with these amazing people, you should really give it a shot, September is Salsa month, no partner needed.  Weekly lessons, and you can learn California’s state dance (West Coast Swing)!

A Step Ahead Ballroom: These guys are all about the more formal dances.  You’ll know what to do at the next wedding you go to.  Which you may find to be often.

Ceilidhs (pronounced cay-lees): These are Irish/Scottish (different students argue) festivals with a dance as a centerpiece to the event.  Outside the UK, ceilidh refers to the dance.  If you’re interested in putting one of these awesome things together, leave a comment, and I’ll connect you with some people.  It’s something that can be done for all ages and physical abilities.

Keywords & Phrases

Many of the people, and the speakers, at Bethel and BSSM have a condition I call ‘Professor Syndrome’.  When I was in university, I’d run into professors who used expressions or phrases I had no context for, because they’d been teaching this material for longer than I’d been alive, and they would forget that I didn’t know it all yet.

If you’ve already read all the assigned books for the year, you’ll be fine.  Or you can read some that I came across.  In general, Google can help a lot with this.

“Five-Fold Ministry”   This phrase wasn’t explained until October but they used it like everyone knew.  It refers to the five offices of the church and their order of importance, as described in Ephesians 4:11, and detailed in Danny Silk’s book ‘Culture of Honor’.  Here’s the list with some examples.  This list is not exhaustive, and many of these people fill more than one of the categories.

  • Apostle (Bill Johnson, Heidi Baker, Randy Clarke)
  • Prophet (Kris Vallotton, Stacey Campbell)
  • Evangelist (Chris Overstreet, Kevin Dedmon)
  • Pastor (Danny Silk, Jason Vallotton)
  • Teacher (Dann Farrelly)

“That’s a good word”  Originally meant like saying ‘amen’ as a sign of affirmation over a prophetic word or declaration; it is also used in joking suggestion that the previous statement was a prophetic word, and God’s with him on it

“Pull out the gold”  A call to find the best in people and call it out through exhortation and encouragement.  Think about it, in a gold mine, which is easier, to dig up dirt or pull out gold?  Be a gold miner with people.

“I need a Sozo”  A sozo is a spirit led inner (emotional/psychological/spiritual) healing session, one which you can learn how to do while in Redding.  People will use the term to indicate they’ve been exposed to something ‘yucky’, or been ‘slimed’.

It is also used in a jocular tone to indicate a false trauma.  “I just spent four hours watching 12 preschool kids on sugar by myself; I think I need a Sozo.”

“What’s your Love Language?”  There are five principal love languages, or means by which a person communicates emotionally.  They are listed below, and you can take a quick test to see what your mix is.

  • Words of affirmation: compliments, sincere statements
  • Acts of Service: washing dishes, doing laundry.
  • Receiving gifts: a thank you card, made you cookies, “got this cause I thought of you”
  • Quality time: hanging out, going out for coffee or on a date
  • Physical touch: hugs, cuddling, pat on the back

There is a lot of hugging!  You will get used to it, and you will learn all about various types of hugs; which are deemed appropriate and which ones are not.

~ Alumni Advice

“I’m processing”  This has two important meanings.  The first you see after a meaty, deep, or densely packed talk.  It means something to the extent of, “my spirit got ahold of everything but my mind has yet to catch up.”  In other words, “processing” was getting alone, going through the day’s notes and scriptures, and letting your mind soak in more of the day’s revelation.

The other meaning is means emotional processing.  Maybe they are going through a crisis of identity, or a crisis of faith; confronting deep-rooted issues is a lot of what BSSM first year is about.  If you are close, politely ask if you can help.  If they say no, give them space until they figure it out.

“Truth in tension”  A favourite phrase of Dann Farrelly, a brilliant teacher.  We have all met people who say, “the Bible is full of contradictions.”  There is a reason for this.  To quote “Hermeneutic Guidelines” from your binder:

“The Bible never contradicts itself unless it intends to do so, as this might be the best way for the infinite mind of God to communicate truth to finite humans.  In holding to both sides of the “contradiction” we find more complex truth.  For example, we are told to honour and hate our parents.  The drive to solve or wrestle with this idea leads to understanding.”  ~ BSSM Student Guide

As a side note, you should read that entire section now, as well as “The Bible Jesus Read, Phillip Yancey”.  These are indispensable for keeping the right perspective with the Bible and God moving forward.

“RG” or “RGP”  Revival Group, or Revival Group Pastor

Making A Revival Group Map

Welcome to the bottom, where I promised to help you with making a shortlist of drivers.  Last year my brother’s RG made a map of all the people in his group and where they lived.  I thought it was cool so I did it too.

This is probably the fastest way to figure out who has a car and lives close to you, especially because all the road names aren’t clear yet.  Once I’d done this, it was also way easier to find people to hang with or ask for a ride.

I used Google Maps to do this, here are the steps:

  1. Get this info for each person: address, name, phone number, and if they have a car.  I used a spreadsheet, but whatever works for you.
  2. Open Google Maps and make sure you’re signed into Google (note: you will need a Google Account to do this).
  3. Read this and watch the video.
  4. Use the address to pinpoint the spot to add, use the name for the name, put the number in the description, and change the icon of the point to a car if they can drive.
  5. Ok, now if you are clever with technology, you should have a map.
  6. The last step is sharing it.  In all likelihood, your RG has a Facebook group, which you are a part of.  Read this and watch the video.
  7. I recommend selecting ‘Get short link’ and posting that URL to the Facebook group.

A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition – Part 1

Hey there! You’re reading this because, well, ok to be honest I don’t know why; but I’m going to guess.  It’s because you are, or were, a student at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), and you’re looking for advice, or to laugh at some of the things you wished you had known.

I am writing this guide because I think there are many things students would have benefited from knowing when I was at BSSM.  I’m an engineer with a knack for teaching, so seeing how things work and educating are parts of my ‘gift mix’.  I hope this guide, part 1 so far, helps you have a smoother time in Redding.

Housing

Finding A House

Finding a house is, hopefully, something you’ve already done.  But you may find that the accommodations you have now aren’t a good fit.  Here are some tips and info you will want to know.

Questions To Ask:

  • Are utilities, internet, laundry included? If not, who provides them and what did it cost the last tenant(s)?
  • Ask for photos if you are unable to physically visit, make sure they are recent.

According to FindTheData.org, the cost of renting in the 96001, 96002, and 96003 zip codes (a.k.a. Redding area) are in the table below.  Note that this is the base cost, no utilities included.  If you find places to live at in these price ranges, you are likely getting a fair offer.

Rental Type Price Range
Studio Apartment $670-740
1 Bedroom Apartment $680-760
2 Bedroom Apartment $860-960
3 Bedroom Apartment $1,270-1,410
4 Bedroom Apartment $1,410-1,580

Now, you’ve found a place you can afford, but is the location right?  Look at a map of Redding, how close are you to ‘it all’?  Consider the primary locations:

  • Bethel campuses (College View or Main, and Twin View)
  • Commercial Downtown (Hilltop, Churn Creek, Dana, Browning area)
  • Old Downtown (Market and Placer area)
  • The Civic (school for 1st years)

The further you get from these places, the more fuel you, or your chauffeur, will burn.  You will be less likely to go hang out on a whim, or be spontaneous.  Perhaps this isn’t a goal for you, but at the very least make sure you have a plan for getting to the locations above from where you will be staying.

Running A House

This is advice on how to run a household, or the operations of a home.

Pick An Executor

Executor is a fancy dancy legal term for ‘the person who makes sure it gets done.’  Essentially, the executor is the financial face of your household.  They pay the bills, deliver the rent, and collect money from the rest of the house.  This is a lot of responsibility, but picking someone to handle it means that you have someone to thank when everything’s fine, and someone to confront when it isn’t.

The executor should have a small reserve fund to cover emergency expenses; such as rent.  As a Bethel household you already have a reputation for paying your rent, on time and in full.  Beyond that, it is the honourable thing to do.  If you have a roommate unable to make rent then you deal with that internally (i.e. do not involve the landlord/landlady).  Confronting a broke roommate is never fun, so I recommend you meet as a household to discuss what to do (see Have House Meetings below).

Finally, consider that being executor is a burden.  Think about giving the poor soul a break on their rent, or free internet, or pancakes on Sunday?  It’s hard work and can be stressful.  Remember, somebody’s managing a part of your responsibility so the household can run more smoothly, how can you help them out?

Have House Meetings

As a passive aggressive person, I still struggle with communicating my needs clearly.  But if you give me a lay-it-all-on-the-table situation, I’ll do just that; because that’s when I feel safe.

Having semi-regular house meetings is an amazing way to clear the air, to get people talking about what’s on their mind, what their struggling with, what they need, what they can offer, and so on.

How often should you meet?  As often as is necessary.  Schedule time now while you still have it and make it a priority, Tuesday night lets say.  Plan to have Tuesday night free, it is time you spend catching up with your family, or at least time time to air out concerns before they fester into resentment.  It is a sacred time that takes precedence over the coffee date with that cute guy/girl, to talk and share with your mates on what’s up with you.

If the meetings are less than ten minutes, have them less often.  Don’t let them get longer than a half hour though; after that people start to get impatient and the effectiveness will break down.

Final thought: Talk to each other about what’s an issue for you.  In this time of rapid growth and change expect that ‘issue-list’ to change with you, and with your mates.

Build relationship

When you think of the place where you live (in Redding), are you in a house or a home?  Are you 3-12 people who happen to live in the same house?  Or are you a household, a family?  The benefits of having roommates be like family are many, I hope that, at the very least, your Revival Group, and later your Small Group, show you what I mean.

Until then, I recommend you do things together!  Spending time together is a prime ingredient in bonding; sharing experience is another.  “But author,” you ask,  “however will I/we do this?”

  • Game night: Board games, card games, poker, D&D

  • Movie night: Seems everybody watches Father of Lights, but any movie y’all can agree on will do.

  • Drunk Holy Spirit party: If it’s going to be loud make a plan on how to handle it, because your roomies may be tuckered before its over.

  • Worship session: Soak, sing, play, listen

  • Friday morning pancakes: Any morning really, but make it a tradition.  Krusteaz pancake mix can be found at Winco, $8 for a 10lb (4.5kg) bag.  Our house used three in the year.  Invite neighbours to mix it up!

  • Friday night pizza: Westside Pizza has $1 slices after 10pm on Fridays.  Most of the students from the Friday night service go there.
  • Frisbee or some sport at the local park/field

Jobs

This next sentence could be misconstrued so stay with me.  Unemployment is not ‘living by faith.’  Every Christian lives by faith in God every day.  We rely on God for everything, and that includes our ability to work.  You have a responsibility to do all you can use what God gave you to take care of yourself.  I’m an engineer by trade, but right now I’m working landscaping and construction while I go after the job I really want.

International Students

The official law is that it is illegal to work under a student visa; notice how there’s nothing in the Bethel info package.  However, a charitable donation to your missions account, or a gift, is not income.  That’s all I’ll say.

Americans

If you have been looking for work in Redding, you may have already noticed that it isn’t a walk in the park.  There isn’t a lot of industry or manufacturing, the city’s biggest source for work is the medical field.

However!  That’s no reason to give up.  Look for work with the big retail chains, see if you can get a reference from another student.  Working for Walmart or Starbucks isn’t glamorous, but you can transfer to your home one, and back again, consistent work through the year and the next summer is huge.

A popular source for work is sitting.  Babysitting, house sitting, pet sitting/walking.  It’s most effective if you build relationship with the people you are looking to sit for.  In general it’s an organic business.  I babysit for the Parkers, they are friends with the Marleys, who mention that they need to find a sitter, the Parkers recommend you, and so on.

I’ve found that if you visit with someone and ask them about what they need done, you open a door for some labour.  Forty dollars for a morning of work is better than nothing right?

This guide is a little late for this piece of advice.  In general, moving here earlier means less students looking for jobs at the same time.  The early bird gets the worm.

Job Sources

Ask around, always

“Seek and you shall find….”  If you don’t look, you will never find anything.  As Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky said,

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

iBSSM Bulletin Board

This place is a gold mine for all kinds of things.  Make it a part of your daily internet check-in.  Link Here (you’ll have to login to iBSSM.)

Craigslist

http://redding.craigslist.org/jjj/  This is the jobs section, read and apply.

General

A lot people seem to find jobs at restaurants and cafes; especially ones owned by Bethel associates, so they are a good place to start the job hunt.

Finances

Let’s talk a little bit about money management.  In Redding, not spending a dollar is easier than making a dollar (see Jobs).  The general pay rate is lower than you may be used to, but everything important is cheaper (except dry cleaning, don’t get things dry cleaned in Redding).  Because everything is cheaper, saving money will be more effective than working more hours.

There are two amazing tools I use to help me with my, and my household’s, finances.

Mint.com

This site connects to your online banking and reads and categorizes your spending.  I have found nothing that was as easy when I wanted to see how much I was spending, and where I was spending it.  You can set limits on spending, and alerts if you’re spending too much in a particular month.

We Split It

Track any shared expenses between your roommates.  I was an executor for my house (see Elect An Executor) and put all the house bills here.  

WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.
WeSplit.It Summary of my apartment.

Ways To Save

Go easy on the climate control:  Pay attention to the thermostat, windows, AC/Heat, and temperatures during the night and day.  We were diligent in opening the windows and blinds at night and closing them during the day, and we allowed the temp to go from 68-80 °F (19-26 °C) on our thermostat.  Because of those two things, our power bill was half that of comparable houses.

Our utility bill was so much lower we thought our friend’s houses had insulation problems.

North Valley Bank: They don’t charge huge transaction fees for withdrawing cash from international accounts.  They also have drive-through ATMs, and that’s pretty cool.

Thrifting: Technically this is also a fun way to hang out.  There are five or so thrift stores in the area (it fluctuates).  Salvation Army, Goodwill, and A Second Time Around were my favourites, but there are many more to check out.  Get clothed for a pittance, arrange it correctly and you can be a hipster.

Just don't be uppity about your new found coolness.
Just don’t be uppity about your new found coolness.

Food

Originally this was under finances, since food is such a big part of where and how we spend our money; but then it almost became bigger than the finance section itself, so here we are.

There are five main places to get food:

Walmart: cheap, and you can one-stop-shop.  Quality varies with product, great tea though.

Winco: cheap-er, but avoid the meat (I never had a problem, but friends with more refined tastes told me it was questionable).  I found the quality fine for most things, great bulk section, and organic greens.

Trader Joe’s: It’s where the cool people shop for their ovo-lacto-organic probiotic yogurts and such.  It’s expensive compared to pretty much everywhere else but you can’t deny the quality of their products.

Costco: You’ll have to be sharing food to really take advantage of this (see Sharing Food below), but Costco carries very good food at excellent prices.  I recommend the meat and pretty much everything else.

Roadside fruit guy: Ok, so there are two fruit stands you’ll see often.  They sell whatever is in season, it’s super fresh and tastes amazing.  Support local economy!

  • One is at the end of Hilltop Drive, across the road.
  • The other is at the corner of Browning and Churn Creek

Share Food

Unless you have crazy allergies, or are really picky, or hate each other, as a household you will mostly definitely save money, time, and heartache by sharing food.

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You cook less:  Agree to cook once or twice a week, pick a day.  Now you are cooking less, and still enjoying the benefit of hot or prepared meals most nights.  Also, when you do cook it isn’t for just one person, which makes following a recipe easier.

You eat better:  In general, if you cook less often, you can take time to make better food when you do, and you don’t have to do dishes; which brings me to my next point.

When you cook, you don’t do dishes:  That’s the deal, every time.  The cook always works more than the dishwashers anyway.  Now your kitchen is being cleaned completely several times a week, how awesome is that?

You are bonding and sitting as a family several times a week:  Eating together helps build intentional community; and you are happier when eating with friends, so you’ll like your roommates more just by eating with them.

You save money:  I spend about $160-240/mo on food when I don’t share.  When I do share it can be as cheap as $80-120/mo.  That’s over 50% in savings, and over the course of the year, you’ll be able to eat out more, or grab that coffee, or take a weekend trip out of town.  The low end of the budget is a leaner lifestyle, less beef more chicken; less juice, more water, choices like that.  How is this possible?  Three things:

  1. Costco: You can buy lots of really good, quality food here.  The problem is that you have to buy them in quantity.  Milk? At Winco the cheap brand is about $3.50 for a gallon; Costco is $3.25 for better milk, but you have to buy two gallons at a time.  Sharing food with other people allows you to take advantage of the savings.
  2. Big meals:  Pasta and soups are cheap and nourishing.  Learn how to make them.
  3. Avoid meat: If possible, try other foods to get your protein, have a meatless Monday.  I’ve made a spaghetti that was half chick peas half ground beef, delicious and affordable!

I hope you’ve found this informative, I’ll be releasing more sections, be sure to comment on what you think I should be covering!