Ministry is networking:
interfacing with existing networks of people who care deeply about something (food justice, youth, elder care), to add value to the network;
caring deeply enough about something (children in worship, adult education, homelessness) to build a network for working on it.
Think of the networks in youth ministry. There’s a network of adults in the congregation who care enough about teenagers in the church to volunteer for youth group and to go on mission trips. There’s work to do with that network. Its connections need strengthened, its skills need building, its reach needs expanding. The people in the network want to do that work.
Of course, the church’s youth are a network. And, as with the adults, the church is but one of the networks that make up their lives and determine what they spend their time on. Teenagers are connected to multiple networks of shared interests and goals, like the soccer team, the paintball-playing friends, their extended family, the science fair, and the peers they play video games with online.
I’m at a point of transition into a new congregation where I get to be curious about the networks that make up the youth and the adult volunteers. I love this. Hearing an 8th grader lyricize about paintball; discovering that there’s a PhD in poetry among the Sr. High volunteers and a freelance video producer teaching confirmation; being schooled in the rules of squash; strolling through the city science fair. I feel like an investigative journalist. It’s fun.
The church should be the network in our peoples’ lives that is most curious about all the other networks.