What’s in a Name?

name-tagSo what’s in a name?  Turns out…a whole lot.  Especially at church.

I don’t know about most – but I am AWFUL at remembering names.  Meredith, a girl in my last student ministry, was actually Kelsey.   Oops.  I think I called her Meredith for eight months….WITH HER CORRECTING ME EVERY SINGLE TIME!  Names matter – and so we MUST know them.  (I have a LOT more capital letters in this post than usual!)

Recently, I’ve been working with some students in a ministry who don’t know one another very well.  So each week, we spend about 20 minutes or so just ‘meeting’ each other.  For some students, it’s the very first time they have even spoken to one another.  Last night, it occurred to me – we’re spending a lot of moments hearing about family, school, even favorite foods – but do they even know one another’s names?

Turns out some leaders assumed all the students knew the names of their ‘friends’ because the leaders all knew everyone.  Most of the students knew the adult leader and the person sitting next to them – and no one else.

We tell students that Jesus loves them and knows them and wants a relationship with them.  How does that translate when no one even knows their name??  Make space for students to TRULY meet one another.  And make an effort to know their names….

REAL Youth Ministry Community

giftsYouth workers.  Answer this.  Do you live in TRUE community with people?  I don’t mean church members.  I’m not considering students.  I’m talking about folks you can be totally authentic around…and who get it.  Do you live in true community with other youth workers?

Let me tell you something….I do.  For the first time in  over 20 years, I know TRUE community with my youth ministry colleagues.  The letters in this photo show it.

We’ve had some ‘hard knocks’ in ministry – some people would call them sucker punches to the throat – these past few years.  You know what I mean if you been in church work longer than four days.  People you served and loved and walked alongside who just ripped the rug out from under you….by cutting your legs off.

A few years prior to this series of unfortunate events, we were introduced to a group of youth workers across the country.  We were blessed to begin developing relationship with them.  Little did we know why God had brought them into our lives.  For such a time as this.

Evaluate your youth ministry cadre of companions!

1.  Do you know anything personal about them?  If you don’t know about their kids – their spouse’s name – or some of their insecurities….you aren’t in true community.

2.  Have you spent time together working?  If you haven’t spent some time dreaming and doing youth ministry together…even if it’s just the sharing of ideas….you aren’t in true community.  We live and breathe that stuff — it can’t be extricated from the friendship!

3.  Have you ONLY spent time working together?  Then you aren’t in true community.  If all your network of ministry buddies does is plan community events, you aren’t in community – you’re in a co-op.

4.  Have you ever prayed aloud with one another?  Really?  You should.  Nothing builds community like gathering two or three together and calling on the One who shows up when we do that.

5.  Have your spouses ever met?  Listen – they need community more than we ever did!  Get those girls (or guys) together!!!

Last week, Katie and I were talking about our friends.  We were wondering how much longer it was going to take for outside observers to start acting like Job’s ‘friends’…wondering what we were doing (or did) wrong to have to endure this season…

My community had no idea we were in that dark, dysfunctional place.  And they showed up by the prompting of the Holy Spirit – laid out before the beginning of time – for such a time as this.  Not one condemnation.  Not one accusation.  Not one doubt about our faithfulness or fortitude to follow Christ EXACTLY how He’s asked us to…into the hard place this time.

THAT’S community – and if you’re a youth pastor – you need to get some.  The letters are still coming.

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