by Lyle Griner
I asked, “How have you been using the skills we are working on?” I had been working with this group of high school youth for several weeks. Silence. I pushed the question further and waited.
Finally, one girl said, “I don’t think this really counts, but Friday night I went out with a friend. I haven’t seen her for awhile. Her parents are split up, probably getting a divorce, I just thought it would be good to spend some time with her.”
“It counts!” I declared. “That is it!” One by one, each of the youth had illustrations of listening, caring and welcoming.
The real Aha moment hit while driving home that night, “We have all kinds of people doing ministry every day. We just forgot to tell them it counts.” Taking notice of her friend’s situation, her compassion, her taking action… is not that the real front line of ministry. That is leadership!
Recently Peer Ministry became Peer Ministry Leadership.
Adding Leadership is intentional. It is a way of expanding Christian leadership beyond microphones and committees. We assume that Christian leaders are those who speak or sing into microphones, or those elected or appointed to committees and boards. These are roles we see and hear. I am not suggesting they go away; they are important roles and callings. However, the roles of microphone and committee people exist to organize, edify, inspire, and gather all of us so that we may daily live a Good Samaritan style of leadership, those whose acts of kindness really count.
Peer Ministry Leadership, this Good Samaritan kind of leadership, is a lifestyle of caring, welcoming and affirming every neighbor. We believe that all are called to a vocation of loving others, as a response to a loving God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Following is a list of outcomes that we wish for every Christian. Don’t read too fast. Digest them slowly.
DESIRED OUTCOMES for Peer Ministry Leaders:
OBSERVANT: Alert to the needs of others
PML is about being able to see the needs of others, whether that is in one’s family, school, community, nation, or globally. Often we become aware when our observation triggers an inner tug, possibly the Holy Spirit prompting us to say a welcoming “Hello.”
TAKES ACTION: Uses skills and confidence, led by a compassionate heart
As needs are recognized, the Peer Minister does not pretend to not see or cross to the other side of the road. Instead the PML follows his or her heart to take action. Action becomes easier as skills for caring and welcoming are practiced. PMLs learn it is better to do something, rather than nothing.
UNLIKELY: Welcomes and cares, while feeling inadequate and unlikely
No excuses are made for being too young, too inexperienced, too busy, unqualified, or even too hurt or wounded from our own life situations. There is no one who has all the confidence, training or qualifications. Where there is a need, it is the person present who gets to be the first to offer welcome or help.
COMES CLOSE: Listens patiently and explores what is the real need
PML is not about fixing someone; it is about coming close, caring enough to hear and letting a person make choices that best fit him or her.
SACRIFICE: Willing to risk group security to give help
Caring and welcoming is not always the popular thing to do… even in the church! Caring and welcoming means accepting and including. This sometimes threatens a group’s norms. Insecure people might make fun of caregivers. Even friends may ask, “Why are you talking to him (or her?)” Be assured, caring is always noted, often admired and always the right thing to do.
CROSSES BARRIERS: Gives help to others, no matter their clique, culture, color or creed
Jesus knew that using a Samaritan in his story would raise eyebrows and even make some listeners angry. Many believed there are no good Samaritans. Caring and welcoming has no barriers, including cliques, race, age, sex, religion or other differences.
SEEKS HELP: Guides others to “innkeepers,” people who can help
Even the Good Samaritan takes the victim to someone who can help. The Good Samaritan is just the bridge to the longterm caregiver, the Innkeeper. We do not have to be everything for a hurting person. We are often the short term connection, needed to get the person to another who can help. Ministry is not meant to be a solo experience. We need the support of others including clergy, counselors, doctors, and trusted, capable adults.
How do we pass these outcomes on to others? They do not come just through reading them, or just from a sermon, or even from a PML training session. They are relational faith skills learned with face to face practice, mentored and modeled, lived in an intentional culture of people caring, welcoming and affirming every day, everywhere and in every relationship.