Ministry vs. Group

Last night while sitting on the porch swing watching my youngest son get his Bamm Bamm on with a plastic bat and big bouncy ball, I read a good portion of Mike King‘s Presence-centered Youth Ministry:  Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation.  I’m gearing up to facilitate a special track for the high school graduates at our regional Quaker high school camp.  The title of Mike’s book hits right where my spirit thinks we should be heading:  creating space for grads to question, reflect, explore their identity rooted in Christ, and dream of the future.  And have fun:  but I’ll let the other staff people head that part up.  🙂

Mike’s take on youth ministry (and ministry in general) has had a *significant* shift over the years.  Currently he worships at Jacob’s Well where he says they have a youth ministry, but not a youth group per se.  The youth are very much a part of the congregation, not segregated to the youth room.  Some people work more with the youth, but it sounds like the congregation is more integrated through mentoring, walking alongside a specific youth for a time.  And the youth walk alongside the adults as the gathering worships together and shares the light of Christ in their daily lives and neighborhoods.

In my history of being part of faith communities I realized that those who are “group”-oriented seem more clubish, more “come in, be one of us”, more fractured, more self-interested.  Those that were “ministry”-0riented thought of the bigger picture, had more awareness of the each other, practiced more over-arching hospitality.  And in my faith gathering we have many ministries, but not a lot of groups … but the places where there are groups, we seem to have more lack of communication and conflict with each other …

My boys are part of the childrens’ *ministry*, but once they become teens, they’ll be part of a youth *group*.  This is not to say that youth leaders are not needed, but when one is known as The Youth Pastor, one seems to shoulder all the responsibility of those in that age group.  I’m sure different pastors would say different things regarding other being involved, but my observation has been “I’ll volunteer with the kids, but once they’re teens, they’ll go off their merry way:  it’s what they want, after all, because we aren’t communicating well, and I’d love a break.”

I wonder where other “group” mentalities take place:  perhaps with seniors?  “Well, this way they can sing songs they like and talk about things important to them:  they’re happier off over there in their Group.”  Perhaps recovery programs?  “Oh, they wouldn’t want to talk to me:  I don’t understand their experience, and I’d probably say something stupid anyway.”  Ethnic groups?  Etc …

I love being part of the women’s ministry at NFC, but if I knew if was a “group”, honestly I’d pack up my knitting needles and head elsewhere:  I refuse to be segregated.  Integration would be wonderful, but methinks that requires some humbleness and vulnerability and risk of rejection and practice of hospitality:  not necessarily easily-taken postures, but oh so worth it.

3 thoughts on “Ministry vs. Group

  1. Martin Kelley

    Very interesting, I wonder if you could share more the difference between “ministry” and “groups,” as either you or Mike King understand it. I think there might be some important distinctions for us liberal Friends–how many of our activities are thought of as group events rather than shared ministries?

  2. Robin Mohr

    So do you recommend King’s book? What part of it was most interesting or helpful? My yearly meeting is rethinking its teen program, and I’m wondering if this would be good for us.

  3. Pingback: Evangelical Friend AJ Schwanz writes about a new book from Mike King called Presence-centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation: In my history of being part of faith communities I realized that those who are “group”-oriented se

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