Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creating Space

Creating space for ministry to happen.

If a person's only fellowship takes place on a Sunday morning, then even IF that person speaks solely of what God is doing in their life, then the time limit means the conversation can only be highlights at best. When someone asks, "How are you?" the person can either say "good," or some rehearsed/rushed answer for that particular spotlighted moment. But in my experience it can take someone a while before the conversation drifts to what's really hurting them. Sometimes the deep issues don't come out until a couple cups of coffee into the meal.

Similarly, if the only time a person talks about their faith is in a weekly Bible study then there is a danger their faith will become a performance. After all, it's hard not to construct mini-thoughts to share with the group when going through that week's study. As Bible Study leaders we may unintentionally send the message that time in the Word is strictly utilitarian. "And what have you learned this week in your quiet times?" Ready... set... GO!

Instead, what if ministry happened in the spaces between and in everything else? What if faith issues moved gently in and out of all life's other conversations? What if part of our ministry to students was creating enough safe space so a person could just sit quietly in a God-centered atmosphere. No presentation... no awkward, "That's what I've learned. And you?" Just a community in which Christ-centeredness was part of its understated being.

For the student this kind of identity formation happens (most of the time) without their awareness. They'll think they're just hanging out when really a community is being formed, deep questions are being discussed, and individuals are taking big steps in their faith. The student may not realize anything special is going on, but the leader works hard to help create that type of environment --- the goal may be to make it seem effortless and natural, but "creating space" is one of the most difficult tasks of a minister. Often students take their biggest steps in the most unexpected moments, during a time the minister didn't pre-plan or pre-encourage.

Anyway, I'm probably just preaching to the choir on all this but I thought I would type it up anyways to share with y'all. :-D Ministry is such an unconventional occupation, it's interesting to start discussions about it every now and then.


  1. Thanks for this... I've always been a little frustrated when people ask me 'the questions' like "what have you learned in your quiet times this week?" It DOES always makes me feel a need to I have to have quiet times in order to give a response to the person asking rather than to meet with God. (Not that that is in any way their's my own perception of it.) But I like your ideas here! Thanks for sharing some of your youth minister thoughts!

  2. Nothing worse than a Bible study where you are asked questions and you know what the "right" answer is...but you are determined to answer "incorrectly" just to get an interesting conversation going. I don't think God means for us to come to the table (or study) having all the answers...and maybe that's why the informal settings are so much more genuine and potentially better "growing places." Thanks for sharing your thoughts.