Effective Youth and Family Ministry is: Partnership

Statement: Effective youth and family ministry recognizes, lifts up, and utilizes the gifts of the whole church.

Biblical Basis: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” - Ephesians 4:16

Rationale: Let’s face it. It’s just easier to do things by ourselves. In our own contexts, we know that developing leaders and building leadership teams take time and effort, especially when they have views and opinions that don’t agree with our own.

However, we understand that God has not called us to be in isolation but in relationship with others. As we work in partnership with others, we grow as children of God. God has gifted each of us with different gifts and callings. We are called into partnership with others so that we may be blessed by the gifts of our neighbor and we may, in turn, be a blessing to them. If we work in isolation or exclude some from the opportunity to utilize their gifts, we limit what God has intended for our lives.

There are powerful places that partnerships can be manifest throughout the body of Christ: Congregations and parents partner together to fulfill the baptismal promises. The churchwide organization partners with synods and congregations to fulfill the youth gathering. Congregations partner together to share resources, support and common ministries. Ecumenical partners come together to strengthen relationships and to find common ground on which to serve. Congregations, schools, community organizations and businesses partner together to create a community that values young people. Health care organizations partner with churches to create wellness programs that look at the whole person. Congregations and outdoor ministries partner to create significant and dynamic formation events. Colleges and campus ministries partner with congregations in linking young people to a ministry after they graduate. The list goes on and on...

As often as not, it is the congregation, looking through a lens of mission, that can and should initiate these relationships. The congregation can be the neutral turf and central gathering places where all of these other entities can draw together. We are not so myopic as to assume that God only works through the congregation. We know that God works in many and various ways, and it is the task of the people of God to name that for themselves and the world, and then to nurture these connections and relationships. Frankly, it is not enough to merely participate in these conversations. The church can and should be at the forefront of these partnerships, calling together community partners for the sake of young people.

Partnership is nurturing and building up positive relationships as people think and cooperate together for a common purpose. It requires mutual understanding, sharing of challenges, and being in agreement, including agreeing to disagree. It requires openness to one another's weaknesses and strengths. It makes us reach beyond ourselves to new possibilities, ideas, and ways of doing things.

Partnership moves us into a collaborative understanding of what youth ministry is in its continual evolution in our changing world. Partnership exponentially raises the level of possibility for how ministry can happen, and how effective it can be.

* We are grateful to the ELCA Youth Ministry Network for sharing these insights for effective youth and family ministry.

Faith Lutheran Church - 155 Boyson Road, Marion, IA 52302 - 319.377.9700