The "Two Words" of Community in Your Youth Ministry
This summer I have had the opportunity to have a lot of conversations with girls, moms, and leaders. I had conversations by the pool, in our bunkhouse, in different countries, and as we ministered together in the inner city of Chicago. Over and over again in those conversations, I heard two words.
These two words are not flowery. In fact, they're pretty normal. Yet, I found them to be powerful evidence of the community created when we do ministry together. The two words? "Me, too."
These two words came about because of connection, and yet, they created a connection . . . a very powerful one. The beginning of the conversation was rarely the same. But somewhere along the way, as trust and intimacy developed, the conversation always seemed to go below merely surface level discussion. Before I knew it, a teen girl would share deeply of a wound, a struggle, a dream, or a victory. Just like that, it was out, hanging in the air for all to see and feel, this deep part of her lingering before the group. Sometimes I wondered how it would be received. But then a beautiful thing would happen. Without warning a girl or two would respond:
And where a girl was isolated and vulnerable in her transparency, suddenly a companionship was formed between these girls who had shared a similar experience. We were better for being a part of it because before our very eyes we saw evidence of community. In ministry to girls there is oftentimes division or separation between different age groups. it's understandable, to some extent. But there doesn't always have to be. Ephesians 4:4-6 says this:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
It's such a blessing to me as a girls minister to know that God's design is for our relationships to be permeated with "oneness."
One of the most powerful things you can do as you minister to students (whether girls or boys) is to provide moments for students of all ages to share with one another.
It's in those times that the words, "me, too" will be spoken. And "me, too" almost always leads to brothers and sisters in Christ encouraging each other to keep going. "Me, too" let's students know they are not alone in their journey. How do we as youth workers provide these moments? Here are just a few ways I have seen "me, too" opportunities happen within our ministry:
- A Parent Life-group: While our girls are in their small groups, we invite the moms to journey together and get to know each other. Regardless if you're a girls minister or the leader of 7-12 grade mixed gender classes, making time for your parents to get to know one another does wonders to build community.
- A Girls' Retreat: We have a "girls only" discipleship retreat called Snowball that happens every winter. It's during this time that some amazing conversations happen in the margins of the weekend. Again, whether or not you can do these types of separate events or not, making time during your retreats for times of personal sharing develops strong bonds of community within your group.
- A Mission Trip for Girls: I have had the opportunity to be a part of several as a teen girl, and I have led one all girls mission experience. It was an amazing moment to spend with the girls and leaders without the distraction of boys! It was beautiful to see the girls plan and lead the entire experience.
These are just a few of the opportunities I have seen God use to create some "me, too" moments within our girls ministry. What about you? How have you seen some "me, too" moments happen in your life or among your students and parents?
- Do you have any stories where students found community in sharing their personal thoughts, fears, victories, etc.?
- How do you intentionally craft times where students can be open and transparent with one another?