Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is Having Things in Common with Your Students a Pre-requisite for Ministry?

It seems I spend a lot of my time in ministry behind a desk learning how to make the most of the time I have with our kids and working on other projects I take care of here at our church. Also, our church has a pretty rigid policy which speaks against a lot of one-on-one ministry time that I've had with students in other churches where I've worked. So most ministry has to be done in a fairly formal setting. Well, this week, a couple of my students came up to help us pass out door-hangers in the neighborhood to advertise for our Christmas Eve Service. I got a chance to just hang out with a couple of my guys for a little while and I learned something in that time.

I've always been aware that I don't have many of the same intrests as the kids in my youth group. And the older I get, this issue doesn't get any better. While we all like music, we like completely different kinds. I love to follow sports and watch them on TV. I like the outdoors and enjoy hunting and fishing in my spare time. I also work with my dad doing ranch work, building fence, vaccinating cows, putting out feed. While these are the things I spend most of my leisure time doing, my students are not into any of these things really. In our group of nearly 20 kids who come on a regular basis, I have two who play basketball in a very small school district that really has few other offerings in terms of extra-curricular activities. My kids don't enjoy hunting or fishing and certainly wouldn't be found sticking a vaccinating needle in calf. While these are the things that I do and enjoy, most of them really enjoy video games, modern music, and the latest tech gadgets available. As I attempted to visit with these two guys in my group yesterday, I realized I had nothing to contribute to their discussion of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare", or "Split Second", the soon-to-be-released action racing game. I didn't know anything about how the controls worked, or what special weapons you could get. Aside from reading part of GameInformer magazine last month (a feeble attempt at exploring their world), I had almost nothing to say. This got me thinking.

How critical is it that I share the same interests with the students I'm called to reach? Obviously being a guy I will have less in common with the girls in my group, but really, how much of a factor is it that I don't know how to get the super photon blaster on level 5, or I don't listen to Paramore or All-American Rejects? As I think about this, I look back at the ministry of Jesus. He was a carpenter, but many of his disciples came from other vocations (fisherman, tax collectors, etc.). So what was the common bond they talked about? Logically, I think it was the things of God. But we know that Jesus used his knowledge of their interests to help them understand certain things (i.e. become a fisher of men). So I'm asking you. How critical is it for someone to have the same interests as someone in order to build a deeper relationship with them? You can also respond to this question at MinistryQuestions.com.


Benjer said...

First, I can never tell current and potential volunteers enough, "You don't need to have everything in common with students to minister to them!" How many of us have been impacted by people with whom we may not have had a lot in common?

Second, I'm glad you brought up Jesus and his relationships. We need to answer this question theologically. To avoid taking over your blog and writing too long of a response, let me suggest that looking at the lives of leaders in Scripture--Moses, Gideon, Jesus, and Paul, to name a few--will give us our best answers.

Last, there is something to be said for common ground. However, common ground isn't always found on the surface (such as liking the same music or pastimes). Sometimes, it's found at a deeper level, such as a leader connecting with a student because they were both adopted. They may have nothing else in common, but that can be enough to start that bond.

Jason Huffman said...

Good stuff Benjer. Thanks for your comments. I think many leaders aside from Jesus do give us insight to the necessity (or lack thereof) for common interests in ministry. As many cities and churches as Paul started and visited, there's a slim chance that he had things in common with everyone at every church!