This is the 3d post by Chris Folmsbee, a leader in youth ministry theology.
It wasn’t until I was nearly half a dozen years into vocational youth
ministry that I began to discover that I couldn’t will a sense of
community. As hard as I worked to create an environment of invitation,
generosity, hope, love, hospitality, honesty, shared learning, etc., I
discovered that community isn’t developed out of a specific strategy or
a series of methods regardless of how diligent I was in trying. I grew to learn that authentic community was born out of a collective
spirit of unity that is largely born out of sensitivity to and a
commitment toward a spirituality driven by numerous virtues, none more
important than simplicity and purity. Obviously there are many more
virtues that help our students experience what it means to be a true
Has anyone else ever tried to just will community? What
other virtues might lead to a sense of community? What do our students
need from us as their examples and guides to bring about a sense of
genuine community? And by genuine community I don’t merely mean
fellowship, I mean a community of people who, together (inclusive of
fellowship), act as the body of Christ, the physical presence of Jesus
living out the mission of God.
It might be said that a collective spirit of unity can be created when a community of students and adults, seeking to live by virtues such as simplicity and purity, find an interior peace with God, self, others and the world. This interior peace works to prohibit partiality from raising its ugly head thus keeping favoritism, prejudices, selfishness, etc. from eroding a sense of wholeness within our youth ministries. I contend that true interior peace can only come through a student’s trusting relationship with Jesus. It is through this relationship with Jesus that students in our ministries learn to live and love in the way of Jesus; extending an exterior peace meant to be shared with the others and in doing so participate in God’s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness. [Note: All the more important to give our attention to the evangelism of emerging generations. See last weeks post on Youth Ministry and Evangelism HERE].
In what ways does being a healthy community help our evangelism efforts to students? Is my contention correct? Does true peace only come from the freedom found in a relationship with Jesus?
Living the virtue of simplicity regulates the intentions of the soul. Living the virtue of purity regulates the intentions of the heart. Thomas A’ Kempis tell us in his enduring work, The Imitation of Christ that. “Simplicity looks to find God and purity finds God and savors Him.” In other words, the beauty of simplicity keeps us grounded; it provides the means for us to evaluate our purpose and goals in life helping us to keep our focus and priorities on the mission of God. At the same time, the virtue of purity allows us to draw increasingly closer to God as we live in the interior peace we have found with God through Jesus. As we allow simplicity and purity to regulate our lives, we can’t help but think of others.
Helping our students develop practices such as doing the will of another rather than our own, sharing all of our material goods with others, seeking the lowliest places in the community as opposed to the most recognized places and the constant praying of God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven all help to move our communities toward the good and pleasant whiff of unity (think: Psalm 133) that ultimately shapes a community.
Personally, I have found that when my interior life is peace-filled, my exterior life is filled with experiences of extending the invitation of a life with Jesus to all those I come into contact with – stranger, family, friend and so on. I’d love to figure out the best ways in which to help our students find ways to belong to a genuine community and work to extend that sense of community to all that they come into contact with. So what kinds of practical things are you doing to help your student’s understand and experience community? In what ways can we better help our students experience community now and into the future? In what ways do our churches play a part in the development of healthy community within our youth ministries?