My first youth ministry experience with Youth for Christ was to serve two very small communities with a Campus Life club for high school and middle school students. I was building from the ground up, no one in the community knew was Campus Life was, and there was no team put together. As a new staff person, I was full of ideas, expectations, hopes, and dreams. My desire was to surround myself with great volunteers, parents, student leaders, and other ministry pastors, but after two years when I passed the ministry on to the next director, I was still doing ministry by myself.
In this situation and so many like it, to do ministry well, you need to bring in other experts and people to surround these teenagers with people. Instead of giving up, I began to see how I could work with other organizations that these teens work with to bring a better quality ministry for them. One school system allowed me to join the football coaching team to impact students, the other school allowed me to be an assistant teacher in a classroom for a few periods every day, a local restaurant allowed me to have a breakfast club before school, and a local church combined several events to provide effective ministry to these teens.
The idea that we can work with other ministries means that we do not hold tightly to ministry that is “ours” and allows God to work through the whole community, instead of just one ministry. Collaboration means that we bring specific experts, different perspectives, and creative investments to a once one-way, narrow, and ultimately stagnant approach. At the same time, this concept fosters unity with area ministries and benefits their ministries as much as your own.
Youth for Christ defines Collaborative Community Strategy as “We intentionally work together with local churches, agencies and other partners to provide sustainable youth and family ministry in the community.”
Paul’s description of the body of Christ is the ultimate understanding of collaboration in Scripture:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
1 Corinthians 12
Here are three ideas to initiate collaboration in your community:
- Constantly support other organizations with words. Even if their may not be any “direct or immediate benefit”, support them. That means principals, teachers, coaches, other Christian organizations, youth pastors, and parents.
- Support other organizations with presence. Words are good, actions are better. Showing up to PTA meetings, being present at community events, and going to youth worker networks can speak volumes about your character and openness.
- Be prepared. Collaboration does not work best on a whim. You need to know your own schedule several months in advance and be able to work with other peoples schedules. This means that events are scheduled and thought out.
What have you done to collaborate with other businesses and organizations? What potential is there for you to do more?