“We need some volunteers to help run the youth group”
“Can someone help out with the toddlers this week?”
“The food bank needs a coordinator – can anyone help out?”
The language of all these, and other activities is Ministry, Mission and Management. Projects to be managed, ministries to be maintained, Missions to be fulfilled. Its in all the Job Adverts for clergy, youthworkers and others. The Church is looking for coordinators, mission enablers, pioneers, leaders, growth experts, visionaries.
In the business of the activities, and they are valid activities in the main, the key task is not the maintenance of the activity.
It is discipleship.
Can the language be changed, so that its not people to run things that are needed, but its people to disciple people in the activities that’s required. People may be needed to do some of the leg work, planning and organising, but people are needed within them to interact with people, to develop the start of discipleship.
If discipleship is the aim, then the work in the activity is not to run it, but to interact in conversation within it. If the activity is too complicated to run without being run with a high degree of responsibility, then maybe its too complicated to run at all?
In a church where discipleship is the focus, then small, intimate, exploring will be valued. In the activity of ‘mission’ in food banks, poverty and youth work is about discipleship then every conversation with every person is a moment to begin listening and seeing God at work in them using gifts, and starting this.
Discipleship may start in unexpected places with unexpected people – they are not just a project to receive a service from us, but might also be disciples waiting to be invested in a co learner on the discipleship journey……. it may also start in places where for too long we may have been running around running things.
Can we re-frame mission & ministry as the ongoing path of discipleship? – the leaders of churches, are the lead disciples and everyone else has the same responsibility to disciple others, whether young people, families or each other – this may have always been the case – but its rarely in the discourse or narrative of church, of mission or ministry.
The language, expectations and success of all the ministry and mission of the church could be reframed around collaborative discipleship. Activities are merely the space to create places of learning, guidance and encouragement with people at whatever place they are, or whether they realise it yet or not.
In my previous blog I describe my own experiences of being discipled as a young person and the impact it had on me at the time, and in the long term involved in the christian community, and no-one then was thinking youth ministry, or mentoring, or discipleship. People just gave time to interject into my story, offering time, guidance and support. Young people, all people are in need of people to offer the same today.
Good activities are not about who attends on the day, instead it is the fruit of the disciples and how long their tree produces it for.