When I first came to Henderson, KY as the brand new youth director of Presbyterian Church, I was invited to go to lunch with the local youth minister’s group by the wife of the Young Life leader at the time. I was anxious to figure out what this youth ministry was really about, because it certainly wasn’t shaping up to be like they said in the books I read, so I agreed to go.
At that lunch, I met a couple of guys who became long term ministry friends.The group was loud and friendly and it was a fun way to spend lunch. I went the next month and the next month.
I’ve been part of this group for 11 years. Of all of the people who were at that lunch today, only one other guy (Cliff, who has served as a volunteer youth minister at Spottsville Baptist Church for more than 20 years) and I are still serving in Henderson.
Youth ministers/directors/leaders/volunteers have come and gone. Some stuck around for several years. Some I only met once or twice. Sometimes we had a core group of 4-5. Right now we have a core group of 10-12. Currently we represent six Southern Baptist churches, a Catholic church, a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, an Assembly of God church, an Episcopal church and Young Life.
Usually if someone comes alongside our group, it’s because he or she shares a vision for unity across denominational lines and a desire to share Jesus’ love with students and the community rather than just grow individual churches (or he or she is trying to sell us something–that happens from time to time). We have shared all kinds of ideas. We have collaborated on all kinds of rallies, assemblies, service projects, appreciation dinners, campus ministries, events and studies.
There have been ups and downs with this group. We have fun, great stories–the time we lined a high school girl up to give her FIVE MINUTE testimony at a school night rally at one of the middle schools…and she talked for an hour and ten minutes. The time we hosted an event called Dream Escape and hooked a kid named Squishy up to a heart monitor as part of the skit and every time a pretty girl got close to him, the monitor started beeping really fast. The current ongoing putt-putt competition between our youth groups to win the Silver Driver (an old golf club spray painted silver). A couple of weeks ago when we decided to walk to lunch together and on the way back were inspired to play the Lying Down Game (pictured).
We also have stories of hurt or stories when one of the group has left–willingly or unwillingly or on bad terms. We have had rocky moments when we just couldn’t figure out how to work with each other. We have had touchy moments when doctrines didn’t agree and we forgot that we’re more than our church doctrines.
A few years ago, we started to do something rather unique. We started meeting each week to pray. I think we started thinking we would pray for our churches and our ministries…and we do. Sort of. Mostly, we share our lives with each other and we pray for each other. We ask about each other’s families and we support each other through loss or illness. We stand by each other when one of us is struggling in life or ministry. We pray for each other in any and every way needed.
Everything this group has done in the past eleven years? Praying is the best thing. These lunch buddies and ministry colleagues became my friends. They became my support system. They became people I could turn to when things went wrong and people I could speak honestly to when I was scared to be honest. The beautiful thing about this is that we all are serving different churches in different denominations.
I’m so grateful that I’m part of this group that has chosen to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and work with a common purpose and goal. Not only has this created wonderful relationships and co-ministries, but it sets a great example for our students and our community. They are friends and brothers and sisters and I pray regularly for their ministries, their students, their families–and I believe that we’re honoring Jesus and the prayer he prayed in John 17 for his followers and for those who would believe because of the ministry and work of his followers:
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
Do you have relationships like these? Where is unity happening in your community?
Do you like clean water? Give to Charity:Water and participate in the Rally For Unity!