by Lyle Griner © 2012
What if… your campus, or your youth ministry had a reliable group who could meet face to face with people, similar to their age, who needed to talk through various changes, choices and challenges? These would be young adults and youth who love to listen and affirm others in their journeys. These are the Peer Ministry Leaders who can be asked to meet someone who is new to your community, who is going through a challenging time, needs some extra encouragement, needs that extra support, or needs to know that grace filled acceptance does exist. What if your ministry had a whole group of grace friends with whom your pastor and leaders could make caring connections.
Grace Friends, Peer Ministry Leaders, Campus Care Team, First Church’s Youth Team, Face to Face Team, or as one group named them Care Pairs! You get to call them whatever fits your ministry.
Who are Grace Friends?
ONE: Pairing. Pastors and leaders see the need for care, welcome and affirmation for a particular person, so they, set up face to face conversations with a Peer Ministry Leader, a grace friend. This need may be observed by the pastor or leader, or it may come from a parent, or the individual.
TWO: Let people know. “Sometimes you need to talk to someone your own. Peer Ministry Leaders, or grace friends, are not counselors or authoritarians. They will not SHOULD-on-you with all kinds of things you should do or should believe. They are simply people who love to listen. They are people who can be a sounding board to think through all kinds of choices, changes, and challenges that life brings. They can guide you to other helpers if you decide you need more. They keep everything confidential, but will find you help when someone is harming you, when you have thoughts of harming yourself or harming another. Mostly, they are people with a caring, welcoming and affirming heart, trained in relational caring leadership.”
THREE: PML Training. The foundations for grace friends are the relational ministry skills offered in Peer Ministry Leadership. These relational qualities, needed for grace friends come from face to face interactions with adults who can mentor a group, through experiences, through support and ongoing guidance.
FIVE: Choices, Changes, Challenges. We all have them. Future hopes, plans, or dreams; changing a health habit; family concerns; troubled relationships; overcoming a weakness; quitting an addictive behavior; spiritual growth; adapting to a new school; change of profession; financial worries; and… and… and… It is wonderful to have people to lean on, as others need to lean on us. We are grace friends for each other.
SIX: Confidential. Grace friends keep all conversations confidential, unless there is need for an innkeeper, a professional caregiver. When the topic of being hurt, planning to hurt another, or hurting oneself comes up, PML’s work through their adult mentors so that the person can be guided to helpful professionals. This is part of the upfront verbal agreement, especially when a PML’s is intentionally paired up with someone.
SEVEN: Permission. When two people are paired up by the arrangements of a pastor or leader, permission is needed. When a participant is underage, parents need to know and approve. When a young adult is over 18 that person can make his or her own choice to meet.
EIGHT: Setting. Meet privately while in public. No meetings behind closed doors or out of public view. Coffee shops, school cafeterias, park benches, campus commons, walking on sidewalks are examples of okay places to talk privately, but be in public view at all times. PML’s suggest where to meet, since they are the ones that know the rules.
NINE: Boundaries. Guys with guys and girls with girls. Emotions, motives and methods are kept in check with set of helpful guidelines and caring polices.
TEN: Prayer Time. The mentoring grace friend shares the source of love and grace. Grace is not owned by an individual. Grace friendship describes a God who is present and who also hears and cares. Including God via a prayer is an honest way of naming the source. We love because Christ first loved us. (I Jn 4:19)
ELEVEN: Affirmation and Support. That is the job: not to change someone, but to empower the person to move ahead, owning his or her own changes. “I know this is hard, but you have the intelligence, the ability, and inward drive to get through this!” These are words of affirmation and support.