Canon Barlowe called area ministry an exercise in re-imagining church. I love that idea. This is an exercise in re-imagining an MMB strategy for youth ministry that could spring up from the collaborative work of the congregations using the strawman concept of stepping up to mission and ministry.
My Strawman for Mission and Ministry argues for a bottom-up strategy of parish collaboration to improve the mission and ministry work of the Diocese. The strawman argues that the parishes are in the better position than the Diocese to know and define their ministry needs and allocate their resources to develop and deliver programs to meet those needs. It urges parishes to work together collaboratively to develop shared programs to improve the quality and reach of ministry and leverage their resources to support the mission of the church.
The alternative to the strawman is the Department of Finance Working Group proposal under which a portion of the Diocesan Assessment would be made voluntary for the mission and ministry budget. The Diocese still proposes that congregations pay into the MMB assessment up to 8% over time as it scales up. The diocese would then allocate the MMB in consultation with the parishes to mission and ministry programs.
The question before the congregations is which approach better serves the needs of the church.
This is a case study example of a real mission and ministry problem we currently face at St. Timothy’s and how the strawman might be used to solve this problem.
St. Timothy’s, as is true of many parishes, has long had a strong commitment to youth ministry. The problem we face is we only have enough resources for one staff position to support that youth ministry need. We have, over the years, experimented with both ordained and lay staff in our efforts to fill that need. But one person is not sufficient to do a good job of developing and delivering youth ministry across all the age groups we need to serve:
- Young Adults
The result is we end up making a choice of which age group to serve and the other age groups are underserved or must depend upon volunteer resources. This is a Hobson ’s choice.
Does this sound like your parish congregation’s dilemma too?
IMAGINE A NEW WAY TO DO YOUTH MINISTRY
What if a group of congregations agreed to work together to develop a shared youth ministry program? This might logically be done on a Deanery level to facilitate interaction, but once the programs were developed they could be used across the Diocese if other congregations want to participate in supporting them over time.
How could this work?
Imagine a youth ministry curriculum that is modular where the basic program structure is developed to make it easy for congregations to use. Programs could be developed for each age cohort designed to invest our kids in our faith values and offer faith lessons.
- Kid’s Core: life lessons for preschool through elementary that include school year programs including modules for art, music, structured play, Bible study for kids, crafts and projects.
- Tweens: growing with peers in structured programs with adult supervision, social programs as well as confirmation journey, service projects and life lessons in serving others.
- Young Adults: Teens with adult and college age mentors focused on reinforcing faith values, maturing into adult choices, music and performing groups, service projects, internships and missionary work and the witness experience of telling those stories upon return.
- Celebrating Our Diversity. With our richly textured pallet of cultures, languages, ethnicity and experience we celebrate the diversity in our lives through programs that encourage learning about our differences so we see that we are one body of Christ through music, language, play, service and prayer.
- DioCal Music Network. A network of music fans and groups from across the parishes working together to create a network of music ministry opportunities to write, perform and record new music; produce music and other performing events and travel from congregation to congregation to share the Good News through music.
- Help Now! A directory of crisis resources available across the congregations to connect kids in need with the help they need now to face pressing needs. Linked to social service and other agencies this resources network could be available online 24/7 for clergy and lay leaders across the Diocese
- Step-Up. A community service program for young adults designed to provide structured, mentored, service projects across the Diocese, Step up enables other ministry programs to call on the youth of the Diocese to step up to meet the needs of the aged, sick, homeless, hungry and others in need. Step-up is a calling tree network of contacts across parishes who mobilize hands when they are needed and allow ministry programs to get critical mass support for service projects.
These structured modules and probably more I have not imagined here can supplement basic program at each parish enriching the youth ministry with fresh ideas, plenty of opportunity for involvement, fun, learning and becoming invested in their own unbroken chain of faith. No single parish could produce such a comprehensive program but several parishes working together with DioCal support can scale the quality of program and the level of participation on a shared cost basis.
Such a re-imagined collaborative youth ministry program also opens the door for parents, young adults, and people with special talents in music, arts, education, social services and other needs to identify themselves and become part of a program wide resource base available across participating parishes.
By sharing ideas, staff, development and program costs, sharing facilities and giving kids and parents opportunities to participate in a wide range of programs, events, celebrations and life lessons the work of the church is made full of new energy, the parishes are practicing collaboration in its fullest area ministry intent, and we are shaping and defining the beloved community in the lives of every kid.
And the best part of this example—the congregations and their members are doing it themselves— involved, committed and supporting mission and ministry program up to their eyeballs to make it work because they feel ownership of the program, a commitment to their kids, and they see the face of Christ on every child they serve.
A successful youth ministry network would not be an ‘assessment’ it would be a labor of love—and where their hearts are so will be their treasure.