Ministry Without Walls

Yes, the title may be as cliche as all of my others, but I think it grasps the topic of today’s post:).

I’ve been thinking often about what ministry could look like if we were able to get beyond the stereotypical ‘program ministry’ that most congregations cling to. In particular, I’ve been contemplating this approach to my ministry with youth. What would it look like if we were able to get beyond youth group on Sunday nights, and instead create a living, loving, spiritual community here at church?

A year ago I started volunteering with ‘El Sol,’ a resource center that’s main priority is to safely place day laborers with those who seek day employees. I started as just another volunteer, interacting with the mostly Spanish-speaking guests, preparing meals, and learning more about the organization. What I found was a location within the cookie-cutter culture of Palm Beach County where people of all different walks of life were gathering for conversation, education, meals, and employment. And I never expected to receive so much from these guests as I was able to serve them food, and they were able to share their dramatic lives with me. El Sol became a location where ministry occurred. Sometimes my youth and families joined me. Sometimes it was us serving them. Most times it was them serving us, as we learned the value of life that Jesus taught through the daily actions of these people.

One of the greatest challenges in youth ministry is to resist the church peer pressure to do what the other guys are doing. When we spend an evening sleeping in a box city and discussing world poverty, kids want to know when we can go to Disney World. Why  go to Miami which is just down the road for a mission trip, when the church down the street is going to Honduras? I strive to find a balance between the two extremes. Yes, there can be great ministry in going to Disney World, but it must be counter-balanced with a clear message of global awareness. Ministry without walls seeks to embrace these experiences of the outside world, and to engage them through our lens of faith and discipleship. If we fail to do so, then we don’t uphold our responsibility to faithfully engage our young people.

This whole approach to ministry is nothing new. Call it ‘ministry without walls,’ call it ‘missional church,’ or ’emergent,’ it’s all about envisioning a church that seeks to be faithful to Christ’s call to engage the world, and to Share the Good News beyond the traditional ecclesial models that most mainline churches are used to.

And this doesn’t end with my youth ministry. I’m seeking this year to incorporate this into every aspect of my ministry responsibilities here at Tequesta, whether it be in children ministries, worship, preaching, mission, or even the way we engage committee activity.

I want to serve a church that understands its main purpose is to be the body of Christ to its community. I want to serve a church where worship is new, imaginative, authentic, nourishing, and trans formative. I want to serve a church where its members are excited to be there, its guests feel welcome and loved, and its strangers are inquisitive of just what, exactly, is going on with that group of people–inside its walls, outside in the parking lot, inside their homes, out in the streets, and around the world.

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