When Robert and Sara Joyce moved to Michigan from Texas in 2015, they knew they needed to find community. Having both grown up in churches, they immediately began to search for a faith community where they could find connection. That led them to Ward Church’s Homebuilders Sunday Morning Group, a group for adults with young families. A key component of Homebuilders was serving – the group encouraged each other to find their niche.
Sara joined Ward Staff in a part-time role with WardKids and Robert quickly joined her as a volunteer with the first-grade small group. “That was a lot of fun, playing with the kids, doing the small group and watching them grow up,” said Robert. Along the way, he and Sara started building their own family, and they now have three kids of their own, Caroline (5.5), Mark (2.5) and Michael (9 months).
Then came COVID, and everything came to a sudden halt. When church began to open back up again, Robert considered what other work God might have in store for him in this next chapter. He reached out to Kristen Shunk, the guest services admin, to see where the need might be and he was directed toward being a shuttle driver on Sunday mornings. It has opened new doors of connection.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting here early, saying hi to people, joking around with people and hearing about how people’s lives are going in the morning,” says Robert, who says serving is a “win/win” because you are able to help others, but also broaden your own church network at the same time. “Serving at Ward is also an easy way to get plugged in. Plus, you get a name tag and free coffee!”
Another “win/win” for him: he gets to serve alongside his daughter, Caroline. “She wakes up every Sunday asking if we are driving the golf carts that day,” says Robert. “Carol Jacoby sent her a name tag so she feels like she is part of the team. She helps me get the golf cart out, carries the walkie-talkie, and attends the guest services start-up meetings.”
He sees the far-reaching impact this has had, not just in his relationship with his daughter, but also in her service to God. It has instilled in her a love of serving others and finding joy in work that blesses the Lord. “It is important that we do our part as the body of Christ to serve the church and it is fun to see how eager Caroline is to be a part of that service,” says Robert. “It is a blessing to me to see her serve with a joyful heart and I am excited to see how God uses her to serve the church in the future.”
Robert and Caroline’s enthusiasm for serving has not gone unnoticed by the team and it’s been inspiring for so many others to witness every month. “Robert and his daughter, Caroline, show up enthusiastically to serve during their twice-a-month shuttle drive,” says Kristen Shunk. “They greet each person with a warm smile, good-natured laugh and a bit of a lead foot.”