By Jonathan Hobbs
I wrote an article for Youth Specialties called “Go to Them” which was really just a friendly reminder that we cannot just sit in our offices and expect people to come to us. We need to go to them. In this post, I’d like to present some ways of “going to them” that may not have occurred to you. I’ve noticed a few things in my life recently that are opportunities for powerful ministry that we may be overlooking. They are a little random. I don’t have studies to prove that they are accurate, but trust me – these are legit.
So without further ado…here are some things you’re probably not doing but I think you SHOULD be doing.
-1- GO TO FUNERALS
In almost 20 years of youth ministry I’ve been to funerals for students’ parents and even a few for teenagers who were taken from us far too soon. It was obvious to me that I should have attended these, I knew students would be there and I was going to be there for them. However, I would like to challenge you to go to more funerals.
Lately I’m remembering more and more that funerals are for the living, not the deceased. Funerals are a time when people are hurting and trying to heal. They are a time when the family is working their way through a forest of grief. And you know what really sticks out to them? Who came.
My father passed away a few months ago. He hadn’t been healthy for years, but it was still a bit unexpected. Multiple people from my church came to the memorial service. Some couldn’t stay for the service but came through the receiving line. Some couldn’t stay for the luncheon, but that was fine…they were there. My wife and I were overwhelmed with just how many people came who had never met my father. They were there for me. Our church had a brand new associate pastor who had started a couple weeks before the service. He was there.
I’ll never forget that.
When your student’s grandparents pass away, go to the funeral. When a co-worker’s family member dies, go to the funeral. When a member of your church passes away, you should try to AT LEAST make the receiving line at the beginning.
And please understand this isn’t simply to “be seen,” that’s borderline manipulative. This is to make sure the grieving know you are there for them. To make sure you are known as someone who cares. This is so when they remember the darker times of their lives, they can see the Light of Christ shining through your presence and compassion.
It’s a powerful way to minister to people. I know it ministered to me.
-2- HELP PEOPLE MOVE
The 2nd and 3rd suggestions on this list are related. My wife and I moved this summer. I’ve been in my current job so long that I’ve moved three times during my tenure! And guess what? Moving SUCKS. Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it, you don’t get “better” at it. It doesn’t get easier. It’s awful. It’s annoying. It sucks. A lot.
There are a million details to coordinate; you always end up having way more stuff than you thought you did, you underestimate how many boxes it takes to pack all your stuff, you overestimate your ability to pack quickly. And when that part is all done, you look around and your house no longer feels like home. It’s unsettling. You, in turn, become unsettled. Your kids start to act a little “off.” Your diet becomes takeout and pizza and fast food.
You get all boxes to the new house and then you do the whole thing in reverse!! Boxes are everywhere. It doesn’t feel like home. You have to reassemble your furniture and where you packed your toothbrush. And where is the toilet paper?! Cooking is sometimes barely possible. You try to hang pictures and arrange the furniture in the new space. It’s all very unfamiliar.
And to emphasize, this is all during a GOOD move.
There are tons of things that can go wrong. You might learn that a few of the former owner’s “fixes” weren’t exactly professional grade: electrical disasters, plumbing surprises…the possibilities are endless. One of the few guarantees is that you’ll spend more money than you thought you would.
Did I mention moving is terrible?
So here’s where you come in as a youth pastor… HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE MOVING.
The beautiful thing is there are so many ways to be helpful here. Go and help pack. Show up with some boxes or bubble wrap. Help label boxes. Maybe you have a truck? Great! Or maybe you can help hang the pictures. Or bring food! It’s all a win. More importantly, it’s all a massive weight off of the shoulders of the people you’re trying to help. It’s a way to show that you care. It’s ministry.
And by the way, this can be something you do WITH youth group members… not just FOR youth group members. Take a few students to help move boxes and reassemble furniture. Or make some meals together and deliver them to the family who is moving! Or just come over and watch the kids while the parents organize things!! Unexpected acts of kindness have impacted my life more times than I can count.
Moving is awful at its best. At its worst, it can be a complete nightmare. Let’s go and be with people who are going through this. Let’s walk along side them.
-3- GRAB A PAINTBRUSH
As I said, #2 and #3 are related, but not the same. Almost every time we’ve moved, there was a good amount of painting to do. This last time, we spent days spackling and sanding the ceilings. It’s a terrible job but it needed to be done. I was inhaling dust for three straight days. My wife and I were starting to worry we wouldn’t have the new house ready in time for the furniture to arrive.
Three people from our church—two high school students and a youth leader—responded to my Facebook post asking if people could help paint. It wasn’t an overwhelming response, but it was something. I realized very quickly how much I underestimated the effect of just having SOMEONE ELSE there with us. It was wonderful! Yes, of course, they helped paint, but it was so much more than that.
I didn’t realize how alone and exhausted I felt until someone came in and relieved the burden a little. My wife and I almost cried because it felt so good to have help. The volunteer leader had never even held a paintbrush before but I loved having him there with me. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but it gave us hope. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. It reminded me that I was part of a church community.
Painting is a job few enjoy and so we don’t tend to want to ask people to join us. It feels like whining. But if you hear someone is painting their home, whether they are moving or just because the house needed a new coat, see if you can join them. It won’t be a favor quickly forgotten.
These all might seem a little random, but these are “hard times” for people that we may not have thought about entering into. There is massive ministry potential here. I know this first hand, because I have been ministered to in these ways over the last few months, and I think we all need to do more of this.
It means a lot to people.
It meant a lot to me.
JONATHAN HOBBS is the Director of Youth Ministries at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He has worked in youth ministry for almost 20 years, has spoken and/or led worship for multiple camps, retreats, and events and has written multiple articles for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. He also co-wrote/edited a book called “Don’t Do This” which is full of stories about failures in youth ministry. (Something he knows a lot about). He is the founder of J3 Youth Ministry (WWW.J3YOUTHMINISTRY.COM) and is one of the hosts of the J3 Youth Ministry Podcast. Jonathan and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful daughters, Kaylin and Julia. Follow him on Twitter @JONHOBBSTWEETS.