Today I will conclude this four-part series essentially answering the question as to what the relationship between the church and parachurch could be. This series is specifically dealing with how the two deal with “youth ministry” related crossover. The first post (here) introduced the subject; the second post (here) dealt with how the parachurch may defend their ministry; the third post (here) handled the Youth Pastor (church) point of view and with this entry I will give some suggestions as to how I believe the two may better understand one another and work together well.
Network: I believe that the parachurch and Youth Pastors need to be in relationship with one another. It sounds very elementary, but when you know the heart, passions and even the families of one another the support for one another becomes very tangible and evident. If the relationship doesn’t exist yet, take the lead and initiate. A one-on-one coffee, lunch or “office drop by” could do a world-of-good for beginning that relationship. If an existing network gathering exists, make sure all churches and parachurches are consistently invited; have your network coordinator divvy out follow-up responsibilities so that the invite is given by various leaders.
Guest Speak: For the most part I believe the church should take the lead on this level. Inviting the Parachurch leader into your setting to guest speak will give Parachurch leader the opportunity to speak to a different crowd (one that his probably predominantly “churched” and stretch his/her speaking skills). I know that Rob, our local YL Director is an excellent communicator and can speak very well to “saved” folk just as well as he can speak to the unchruched (outreach crowd), I would guess the same is true in your area! The Parachurch leader can/should use this opportunity to help the churched understand his/her role at the parachurch. One very big misperception most Christian/Churched kids have is that ministries like Young Life are “Christian Clubs.” Though they are lead by solid Christians, most club-based parachurch ministries exist to reach the lost, therefore club is not the place that challenging Bible lessons are given or Hillsong United songs are sung. But because it is “Christian” the churched kids come to these settings and are sometimes surprised by the “party kid” they see, the lack of praise songs sung or the absence of a deep theological exhortation given and walk away saying “this wasn’t ‘Christian’ at all.”
Contact Work-Together: For the most part I believe the parachurch should take the lead on this level. A Young Life, or YFC (etc) leader typically have a great reputation on the middle school and high school campus. They, for the most part, are better at contact work because they are usually focussed on one campus, whereas most Youth Pastors I know have many schools represented at their church. I would challenge the Parachurch leader to give the YP a call and invite them to go with them on a campus visit, be it a lunchtime, a ball game or a time to be “hall monitor.” One MAJOR benefit will be for the churched and unchurched students to see the unity between the ministries/clubs as well. In these settings look to cross-pollinate–Church leader introduce your students to the vibrant parachurch leader and parachurch leader introduce your students to the “my good friend who is a great Youth Pastor from _______ church.”
Liaison Leadership: I think it would be fantastic for churches to have a “liaison leader” who concentrates his/her leadership with the parachurch club. Perhaps this leader is committed to one aspect of the church youth group (regular weekly meeting, Sunday School or small group) but then is committed to the Club as his/her other ministry. Rather than being a Church leader who both goes to Youth Group and leads a small group, be a church leader who attends Youth Group and the parachurch club. The opposite can be true as well. Perhaps as a Parachurch leader you can recruit a leader who is predominantly “outreach” driven, maybe this leader can commit to club, but also be committed to Sunday School at his/her local church. The key to this one is that both ministries NEED to understand this liaison leader is specifically NOT going to be a full-time volunteer with either; don’t place the expectation on that leader to be at everything; allow them to be a great bridge!
Prayer Partners: Above any programmatic partnership that could exist, I believe that the church and parachurch need to be prayer partners in a much greater way. This goes back to the first area of “networking” and relationship, but I believe that the church (especially) needs to partner with the local parachurch in a similar way we would partner with a foreign missionary. We support them in prayer and finances, I believe the church can/should do the same for our “Jerusalem Missionaries.” As the church we have a great opportunity to support (in prayer, deed and financially) the missionaries who are called specifically to lost teens in our community. I know that through this support and relationship that when souls are saved through the work of the Spirit at these campus based clubs that the most natural place the Parachurch leader will want the students to go is to a place that can properly nurture the young believer; where better than a place that has already prayed this teen to the point of salvation? When was the last time your church (or even your youth group) invited your local “Jerusalem” missionary to share a quick testimony upfront?
For His glory I believe that God will continue to build His house on the rock–The Church; but a natural arm (extension) of that body is the parachurch. I long for better relationship, one built on prayer, collaboration, partnership and sharing of ministry! I believe this can/should/will happen! For His glory! Amen?
Now that this series is complete, I solicit your thoughts, suggestions, feedback and additions! Let’s keep the discussion going!