I asked a group of youth. “How are you being leaders with your friends?”
Silence. I kept pushing the question. Finally, one girl said, “I don’t think this counts, but I went out with a friend last Friday night. I had not seen her for a while. Her parents are getting a divorce. I thought it would be good to just hang out with her.”
“It counts!” I was thrilled. “It counts!” One by one, all the others in the group shared acts of kindness, the welcoming of someone, conversation with friends struggling with various life challenges.
“It counts!” My own ah-ha moment from that conversation is that youth are already doing ministry every day! We just forgot to tell them that what they are doing counts. We forgot to tell them their every day relationship are about God.
YOUTH DO MORE YOUTH MINISTRY THAN ME
A single youth knows far more youth and what is going on in their lives than any of us on church staffs. My job is not to do everything for every youth, my job is to help my youth be a constant caring presence for their friends. My job is to help youth love, as Christ first loved us!
Here is a challenge, ask your students the following. Ask them to think about all the people they know (School, neighborhoods, work, family, teams, choirs, bands, church, etc.) and then ask them how many of them know someone:
- whose family is going through changes because of divorce or separation?
- who struggles because of overuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs, either their own or a family member’s?
- who is grieving recently because of the death of someone who has died too young?
- who is homeless or living in poverty?
- who lives with depression?
- with whom you have had a conversation, who has considered suicide?
- who struggles with conflict in a relationship?
- who is treated poorly by others? Bullied?
- who is made fun of because of their sexuality?
- who is self-harming, cutting?
- who has an eating disorder?
Now ask: “How many of you wish you knew how to help?”
The value in this exercise is not meant to be dramatic, as these issues are a part of normal life. The exercise quickly illustrates a need for youth to know how to be effective in caring.
Our job is to equip, empower and then allow youth to be our partners in every day ministry.
WHAT IS PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP?
It is the equipping and facilitating of caring, welcoming and affirming skills. It begins with training youth in people skills. Skills like:
- guiding decisions
- dealing with conflicts
- asking questions that allow deeper sharing
- knowing when and who the adults are that can be referred to for further help
It continues with facilitated experiences in using the skills, meeting new people, having one-on-one conversations with older adults and younger youth, leading peers in faith and life discussions, being asked to sit and listen with a youth who had a bad day, and other in-house church ministries.
If there are in-house ministries it only follows that there is also out-house ministries! Adults check-in and talk with youth about how they are using their skills at school, in their sports teams, music groups, work, neighborhoods and family! These are the everyday real life ministries.
HOW TO START PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP
PML is not something you can just make up! It is not the quick and easy youth ministry approach. It takes some extra training and a belief that youth ministry must be leadership producing ministry.
- Explore PML HERE
- Gather a cluster of parishes and schedule a start-up PML training for adults and youth. Peer Ministry Leadership will send an expert trainer to work with you.
- Continue with guided Skype or phone one-on-one coaching conversations with PML staff
- Facilitate youth in experiences using their relational ministry skills.
- Encourage, check-in, and mentor the everyday use of skills, those out-house ministry uses!
- Plan your next training, led by you and some of your first trained participants.
- Grow a youth ministry culture of caring, welcoming and affirming youth.
As an organization we work to train adults and youth side-by-side, with the purpose of beginning a sustainable program. We serve multiple denominations, and have multiple trainers, Matt Meyers being our Catholic youth ministry expert.
Question: How are you investing in peer ministry leadership at your church? You can leave a comment by clicking here.