Rugby Church 1: Relationships

Gloucester Rugby

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I don’t get to go very often but one of the things I love to do most is go and support my beloved Gloucester Rugby at a home game at Kingsholm. I love watching the match from “The Shed”, a traditional terrace stand not just because it is the best place in the country in my view to watch Premiership Rugby, but also because the last time I went, the experience helped me to reflect on what it means to be “church”. I thought that the there were a significant number of similarities between being a church member and going to support my rugby team. However, the next few posts over the next few days will reflect on those experiences and how they helped to start internal conversations about a number of different youth and ministry areas.

I went last time for the first time in years, and I was struck by the appearance of ongoing relationships between the supporters, hearing things like “How was your week?” and chats between folk who had come together that Saturday afternoon to watch the rugby, but were talking with each other about life’s ongoing issues.

Ministry’s stock in trade is relationship, but what is the difference between these “terrace relationships” and those we hold with young people in youth ministries? I believe that the answer has three prongs.

1. The relationships we hold with young people are intentional. Terrace relationships are almost accidental in that is no planning, the conversations I witnessed were reactionary in that they dealt with the “here and now” rather than having an overall strategic plan. When we build relationships with young people it is not the same as building a working or friendship relationship.  A working relationship has very clear boundaries and structure (or should do), a friendship relationship (or a terrace relationship) develops quite by chance when two people start talking to one another and find that they have things in common.  Relationships between youth worker and young person are simply there for the benefit of the young person.

2. Intentional relationships lead to positive intervention.  When the youth worker intentionally engages in positive relationship with the young person, some sort of plan is required, but that plan fore-mostly must conclude in a positive response/outcome for the young person.  I have learnt many times in my career (particularly recently) that we are trying to give young people the tools to make positive decisions for themselves rather than making decisions for them.  (For more on this see my recent post on Incarnational youth ministry here ).  A few years ago a charity had a series of adverts based on the model that “giving someone a fish will feed them for a day, but giving them the means to catch their own will feed them for a lifetime).  Positive intervention is preparational for a time when the young person has to make decisions for themselves.

3. The tools for making positive  life decisions are ultimately God breathed.  We believe that in being called to involvement in youth ministry, we are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all young people in our care.  One of the main tasks of the youth minister is to help young people engage with God in order that they can begin to understand the calling that God has placed on their lives and therefore the decisions they need to take in order to follow that God breathed path.

My next post in this series will be looking at worship and how we engage young people in the creating of worship rather than having them spectate from the sidelines.  As always, your comments are welcomed.


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