.:Dirt Community

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

Confession time: I have far too often in my ministry leant too far on the side of truth. What I mean is that I have really wanted to get to the depth of ministry, faith, study and worship and felt little inclination to focus too much on the community side. I have a fear that I have far too little time with students that I want to cram all the important things in in the few hours I get with them a week. I think that if we spent 15 minutes just, “hanging out” that we are wasting time. But that isn’t true.

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

If there is no community, then our students don’t feel that safe haven. . . That refuge. . .That sanctuary. . . Where they can be themselves. A place where they feel like they don’t have to put on a façade to impress or fit in with others. Without this culture of community and safety, then the message of the gospel falls on deaf ears. Belonging precedes grace.

Look at Jesus. Jesus offered belonging far before he expected them to behave in certain ways. I believe this is to fertilize the soil of community and belonging so that those He encounters can truly experience the grace and love and mercy He offers.

We have to remember that one of the main tasks of adolescence is to find a place of belonging. To know where they fit in. This is one of the markers of adulthood. In other words, as an adult I know I don’t have to act a certain way in order for people to get to like me.

So I look to the ten to fifteen minutes we spend before youth group “hanging out” and “wasting time” as an integral part of our programming.

But there is a warning we have to heed, for the opposite is also true. Bad community is toxic soil that that can kill a student’s opportunity to experience grace.

I imagine a junior high girl trying to find a peer to just give her the time of day before a youth group class. Ten minutes of getting ignored feels like an hour to her. By the time her class starts, she will spend the remainder of class doubting herself, wondering what is wrong with her, questioning her worth instead of experiencing God’s grace that is being proclaimed. Furthermore, she may also actually DOUBT that God’s grace with worth ANYTHING if she hasn’t experienced community in those ten minutes before class.  Therefore, we must have a corps of volunteers who are vigilant to look out and make sure EVERY student is being draw into community.  If we simply rely on her peers, chance are, they will fail her.  Therefore we MUST have an army of other adults who have the sensitivity to reach out as well as be available to students.  These adults must be drawn from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, genders, socio-economic demographics, skin colors, etc. in order for every student to have a few options to go to.  In other words, lets not just draw from the twenty something hipsters in our churches.  We need spiritual moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents as well as big brothers and big sisters who will till the soil of community and create a fertile garden for grace to grow.

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