"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Building Friendliness and Community

Community in Different Cultures

Dave Livermore

Community is the oneness Christ offers in place of the loneliness produced by sin. As we pursue time with people in their environments and make our ministries a place where love is experienced and expressed, we need to develop community as a regular component of our ministry gatherings for believers.

I recently observed a church in Singapore where the students knew Scripture remarkably well. The people who taught the youth dug deeply into the Word and even allowed for meaningful worship together with the students. In spite of this, everything still felt dead. As I sat back and observed, it became clear that the element lacking in this ministry was community. Youth didn't seem to enjoy being together. Not only did students not talk to one another; it was actually discouraged. They were told that talking with their friends was to be done outside of church. I don't think this accurately reflects what Jesus had in mind for a gathering of believers.

Community is seriously lacking in many ministries. In many churches, I turning to greet one another during a worship service is the extent to which people connect with one another. The remainder of the time is often spent passively sitting through the other growth components.

One of my previous ministries had little community when I first started there. Not unlike the church I observed in Singapore, these youth knew the Word of God and attended church regularly, but did not seem engaged. Because it was a large ministry, I was struggling to remember all the youth's names, so I privately asked some of the kids on one side of the room the names of some youth on the other side of the room. They replied, "I don't know." I asked, "Oh, are they new?" They said, "No. They've been here for years. I recognize their faces, but I don't know a thing about them." We didn't eliminate the strong Bible teaching or regular worship, but we worked hard to spend time together so that students would build community. We-went bowling together. We went to the beach together. We camped together. I looked for every excuse possible to get together. Youth who had been together for years without knowing each other discovered one another in new ways. Interestingly, the worship, study of the Word and desire to serve became much more alive as well.

Community requires breaking down barriers between people and getting them to work together. It means allowing people to have fun together! Ultimately, spiritual fellowship-deep interaction around kingdom priorities - is the objective of community.

? To what degree is community a part of your gatherings as believers?

? How are you fostering community in your ministry?

Disciplemaking Around the World

Brazil: Birthdays are festive events for Brazilians, so many of our partnering ministries there use birthdays as an excuse to gather Christians together. If you are going to one of these parties, plan on spending most of the day, or at least a full evening of fun, games and plenty of rice and beans. Since sixteenth birthdays are especially important to Brazilians, many youth ministries make them special events. Everyone is asked to bring along a few words to share with the youth having a birthday to affirm God's work in his/her life and challenge him/her to remain faithful.

Australia: St. Martin's Church illustrates a commitment to fostering community among believers. The sanctuary features two open fireplaces to suggest that the church is a "house" of God. Throughout the service, one can smell the soup cooking behind the pulpit in preparation for the communal meal that concludes the weekly gathering of believers. Church members describe their bond as stronger than any other friendships they've known.(5)

Chicago: The other night I met with the guys' cell group that I am leading at my church. To make our study of spiritual gifts more than an exercise in the Word (although a powerful one), we also made it an opportunity to build community. Based on my belief that discovering our spiritual gifts is closely related to the body of Christ affirming those gifts in us, we spent time arming the gifts that we saw in one another. It was a rich time of building community as well as hearing from God through these inspired words.

New York: Even large ministries can prioritize community at corporate gatherings of believers. Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City regularly plans time in their services to break into groups of four or five. For five to ten minutes, people exchange names, share something that is happening in their lives and pray together.

Singapore: All Saints Church in Singapore divides their ministry among cell groups. A great deal of care is given to foster community during the weekly gatherings of cells, but during the in-between times, they use email circles to keep communication flowing. Sometimes the message is just a reminder about the next meeting or a joke to pass along. Other times it's a word of encouragement, a verse or a prayer request. They have found it to further what happens when the group gathers physically.

South Africa: If you want to gather a group of South Africans, include a game of cricket (either playing or watching your favorite team) and some good food to guarantee a good turnout. Many youth ministries make "cricket parties" a regular part of their programming and look for ways to redeem this gathering. Some of the ministries rent a video to watch after the game that will foster good dialogue among the group about living like Jesus in a fallen world.

Action Plan for Building Community in Your Ministry

? What are the highs and lows of this priority in your ministry?

? What ideas do you have for strengthening this priority?

? What needs to happen first?



This article comes from pages 112-115 of Connecting Your Journey With the Story of God: Disciplemaking in Diverse Contexts, by Dave Livermore. Copyright 2001 by Sonlife Ministries, all rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dave serves as international director of Sonlife Ministries in Elburn, Illinois.

In this book he asks the question, "If Jesus were in my shoes, with my experiences, in this community, how would he make disciples?"  It helps us to think through the process of disciplemaking, based on the life of Jesus, and helps us discover how this process applies to our own unique cultural context. Order it from Sonlife Ministries at www.sonlife.com.