Relationships: From influence to incarnation

Why do we youth ministry types do what we do?  What is it that drives us to work with young people.  Rereading Andrew Roots “Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry” at the moment (which comes highly recommended) and once again I am challenged about the way I build effective relationships with young people in my ministry.

Of course I want the relationships I build to have a lasting positive impact on the lives of young people, however how should I achieve that?  Traditionally we attempted to come alongside young people with the vision of having a positive influence on their lives through guiding/steering them in the right directions.  This however I would suggest has two main flaws as a model.  Firstly, my ministry is not geared towards making mini-Mikes.  Decisions that I would take in any given situation would not necessarily be the same as those that someone else would make maybe as a result of differing personality, value structure or scriptural bias/thinking.  I also think it oversteps the appropriate boundary between youth worker and young person.  One of the big issues I have been dealing with recently has been the break up of a couple who had been in a long term relationship.  I readily went into practical counselling mode with both parties and soon realised that I could only get involved up to a certain level, and that anything more was inappropriate.  Young people need to be enabled and empowered to make decisions for themselves.  Secondly, if young people are not allowed to make their own mistakes, then they can never learn from them.  Its a very extreme example but if I never accidentally touch something hot, I don’t know that it hurts.

However if we build incarnational relationships, we enable young people to make the Godly, informed decisions that we hope they will.  BY weaving God into everything we do, young people realise that God is therefore also present in everything that they do.

Andrew Root says “I discovered that incarnation was not a model or example, but was the very power of God present in human form among us today.  I discovered that Jesus Christ is concretely present to us in our relational lives, in our person-to-person encounters, in the I and you.  Thus there is no “third thing”, no “end”.  It is the place where Christ is present, the place where the adolescent (and I, for that matter) encounter Christ.”

Ministry is about sharing life (good and bad) and showing God within those relationships not without.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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