Randy and Kelly Styles began attending Bay Area in September 2016, a month before they were married in the chapel. They had been watching online for several months prior, reluctant to leave the great teaching at their former church but hungry for more opportunities to serve.
Serving was something ingrained in both of them well before they married. Randy had volunteered at races and triathlons, getting his kids involved with small tasks like handing out water. For Kelly, serving was modeled during childhood summers spent with her dad, who, with her stepmother, was heavily involved in the local church.
Despite both working full time – Randy as an IT consultant and Kelly as a budget chief – the newlyweds decided together that serving would be a high priority for their blended family, which includes four kids ages 8-12 who often serve with them. They started simple at Bay Area, responding to an ask for people to come help assemble Christmas decorations in 2016. The following spring, they helped set up for a Marriage Ministry event. Then, in summer 2017, they found their niche: serving in The Deep Blue with kids.
The Stiles have come to care for the kids in Children’s Ministry as if they’re their own. On Christmas Eve, a parade of little ones showered Kelly in hugs, prompting someone to ask if they were all her kids. “Yes! Well, no… I mean they are my Deep Blue kids,” she had to explain.
With a heart to assure parents that their kids are safe and well-taken care of, Randy will sometimes focus on one child to help them feel comfortable in their environment. He gave an example of a nonverbal child with a disability who was struggling because he wasn’t used to a new volunteer in his room. “Sometimes it’s just about connecting with him, so I built a paper airplane for him to get him to focus,” Randy shared.
Kelly told the story of a child she worked with for seven months before his family moved away. A hyper kid, he would be the one to jump on your back or easily get distracted, she explained. “He would constantly bring in toys, so we got to the point where he would walk in and I’d say, ‘All right, show me your hands and pockets.’ He would empty everything out for me to give back to his mom and dad,” she illustrated with a laugh.
“I have a picture of us together on Christmas Eve. … When he left, we were all in tears. I crochet, so I went out and made him a granny square – basically, there’s a middle and an edging – that was red in the center, white in the middle and blue on the outside. He was very anxious about leaving, so I gave it to him on Christmas Eve and I said, ‘The center is Jesus’ blood that was spilled for us, the white shows we are now sin-free because we live in Jesus’ redemption, and the blue I want you to remember The Deep Blue by.’”
In addition to serving in Children’s Ministry, Randy and Kelly have served in the Bay Café, Kelly has helped out at Kids Blitz twice, and Randy has ushered. When Christmas 2017 rolled around, they brought the whole family to church to help assemble snowflakes. An engineer by education, Randy sketched out templates for the geometric decorations.
“[Some Sundays] I just go to Dax and say, ‘Hey man, where do you need help?’” Randy said.
Quick to acknowledge that they aren’t a perfect family, Randy and Kelly explained that they love serving not only for the relationships they’ve formed, but also because of the growth they’ve experienced. They truly feel a part of Bay Area, and noted their walks with Jesus are stronger Monday through Saturday because of it.
Living the busy Annapolitan life with four kids and demanding jobs, the Stiles encouraged others at Bay Area who might be hesitant to jump in and serve with them, noting that it’s valuable to find the time and it’s easy to serve.
Randy emphasized that serving with the kids is not only a joy, but also simple because of the detailed curriculum and instruction provided. “It’s basic; it’s not like you need a theology degree,” he said.
Kelly added, “I’m very lucky that my husband has set a priority for making decisions in our family, and it’s God first, marriage second and kids third. If you can instill in your kids that being in church is more important than being on a soccer field, you’ve won.”