Generally, when I think of moving outside the church walls, I think of evangelism and getting church members active in the community. That is certainly a crucial aspect of ministry, but it’s easy for us as church workers to lose sight of our opportunities to take our own experience, talents and expertise outside of our own congregation. I’m not talking solely about evangelizing, but also in looking at how we can use our gifts to impact others in the body of believers outside of our congregation. If we are not involved in anything outside of our congregation, I think we’re missing out on a great opportunity.
Serving outside of your congregation in a behind-the-scenes capacity is one option for moving outside the church walls. You can put in volunteer hours at a local food pantry, serve on a local committee or board or any number of other opportunities to impact your community. By serving in a role that is not up-front, leadership-based you are given a chance to develop your character as a servant, which in turn will impact how you serve in your leadership role in your congregation. Serving others in the name of Jesus can be a very invigorating experience and can reenergize you for service in the parish. It’s essentially taking the idea behind a sabbatical (taking time away from the congregation to do something that will help reenergize and refocus you to return and positively impact others in that role) and living it out in a regular way throughout your time in the ministry. This is a very healthy and beneficial practice for all in church work.
Not only are behind-the-scenes opportunities ways that you can move outside the church walls, but also leading in other areas is just as beneficial. Sharing your expertise with others is a benefit not only to you, but also to those whom you are sharing with. I recently had the chance to partner with an area Lutheran high school to help plan their annual Witness Workshop, which is basically a simulation station for evangelism. As part of that role, I taught religion for two days in the school and then led chapel on the day of the workshop. I loved being able to teach and share God’s Word with these students, and the school really appreciated having an outside person come in and talk about the subject. For whatever reason, as humans we have a tendency to give greater credibility to guest speakers than we do to those we hear from
all the time. Even if you said the exact same thing as one of the local people, chances are that those listening will give it more weight due to the fact that it was presented by an expert or guest speaker. That’s one of the reasons why the National Youth Gathering has such an impact on youth. Sometimes it takes an outside person to reinforce the message that you’ve been sharing all along in order for it to sink in. As a youth worker, you can be that outside person for others around you not in your congregation, so share that blessing with others.
As youth workers, one of the best things we can do to prepare for our service in the parish is to go out and serve others outside of our congregation. Not only is this a benefit to us and our ministries, but more importantly, it is a way that we can impact a different group of people with the message of the Gospel. That’s a calling not just for youth workers, but for all followers of Christ.