Place-Sharing in Youth Ministry
So many times, in youth ministry, we try to put on a performance to attract youth. We hold fun events, play contemporary music, do extravagant set designs for the stage and youth room, and more. Now, none of these are bad. They are great tools. However, ministry is about relationships. We have to practice relational ministry. In order for a youth leader to reach an adolescent, they must build a relationship. According to Bonhoeffer, relationships are what hold the church and the world together. We have to enter deeply into each other’s lives and become place-sharers. This is a term that is not commonly used in the church, so let’s discuss it here. When we become a place-sharer, we acknowledge the humanity of the other person. This is more than just having sympathy for the adolescent. This is sharing in both their victories and their sufferings. Place-sharing demands that we stand so close to the youth that his/her reality and suffering becomes our own. It is through this type of relationship that both persons in the relationship are transformed by the presence of God in the humanity of Jesus. Christ calls Christians to a self-giving, suffering love. For the youth leader, this is specially for the youth. Youth ministry can be used to help adolescents mature in their faith, but it is about suffering with them and helping them become the human that God created them to be. Although we want to share the gospel, we have to earn that to a youth. We have to earn the right to speak into their lives. You have to build trust so that they understand that you love them and desire the best for them. That best being a relationship with Christ. Relationships are so powerful. Pete Ward says that “friendship and relationship will not only be the means of ministry, it will be the ministry itself.” In these place-sharing relationships, we are pointing them to a relationship with Christ. So go out and build relationships with youth. Get to know them intimately. Learn what they struggle with, learn about their family dynamics, learn about their insecurities, but also learn their favorite song, learn about their interests, learn what motives them. Know their humanity.
Great Books To Read on the Topic
Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root
Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by Andrew Root
God at the Mall by Pete Ward