Relational Youth Ministry

In my last post I looked at a missional model of youth ministry that is counter to todays “fast” culture.  A model that does away with the large event and mission by flyer, ushering in a relational model that brings an incarnation of God through relationship between Christian and nonChristian.

I want to go further in this post to look at that relational model, and look at what a realtional youth ministry is like.

Richard Passmore who blogs over at SundayPapers wrote a book the title of which neatly describes the model of relational ministry I’d like to suggest; it’s called “Meet them where they’re at“.

The method requires some bravery but the key theology here is that we want to create church in the context of the culture/community where young people are.  As Mark Rodel (Portsmouth Pioneer Minister) preached last Sunday, “going into challenging territory requires us to be well prepared and well equipped”.

During my time as a CYM student, we were blessed to have Jonny Baker teach us for a term on and I remember writing a piece for that course on a ficticious group of young people in the park playing football.  In that piece I suggested a three point model as a strategy to engaging with young people outside the context of church.  The three points are:

1. Be prepared to step out of your world into theirs – I love Vincent Donovans’s book about his time with the Massai and how historically this country has sent out missionarys to Africa with robes, hymn books and organs with the idea of leading the tribes to faith.  Taking what we see as church and imposing it on a culture that is alien to it will never work because in order to get to know Jesus, first they have to fathom the culture that is being presented alongside Him.  However there are elements of that missionary work we need to follow and the key one is to move out of the comfort of what we see as church, into the world to engage with the world.  Scripture says that we need to be in the world, not of it, but doing so requires us to be willing to put aside who we are and the world we live in, and engage with those of other cultures.

2. Ask the young people for permission to engage – Young people spend their lives asking permission, and after all I am suggesting that we go out into the world of young people, it therefore stands to reason that we should as their permission to be there.  Clearly it is important that this sort of work is done in the context of both a good safeguarding policy and a good accountability relationship, but by no means are only professional youth workers equipped to engage in this kind of work.  Asking permission engages relationship and builds a culture of mutual respect.

3. Look for the fingerprints of God in their reality and help them make the links – The key to the relational approach is that in sharing life with young people, we can begin to see the fingerprints of God in their lives help to signpost them to Him.  God is at work in the life of every human, but if someone doesn’t know what His fingerprints look like, how can they recognise Him?  Because Christians are in relationship with God, we are equipped to know how God can work in and around us.

Relational youth ministry requires time, boldness, an ability to see God at work and the vision to see God in relationship with young people.  Pioneer Ministers are an encouragement to all of us to follow them out of our church buildings to engage with people out in the world.


One response to “Relational Youth Ministry

  1. I couldn’t agree more. We should “go out” and be with people. I am not a fan of the “come to us|” way of thinking at all – in fact IT SUCKS. It isn’t rocket science but relationships are where its at. I listen to those I know and respect, why do we expect anything else from others. Going to be with people, making an effort shows straight away they are worth our time, energy effort and worth stepping out of our comfort zones. We should want to bother with those we want to serve and those we love, otherwise we’re not really loving them are we? if we can show that we’ll bother with those we want to bless, we will by default show them something of God’s heart for them.

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