What Kind? And Why?
Face-to-face, heart-to-heart, person-to-person, practicing real life people skills is the most effective way we know to move a living, caring faith from theory to reality.
“Skills result in change.” I remember Dr. Varenhorst, the pioneer of peer programs in schools and then churches, also one of my mentors, driving that statement into my DNA. Speeches, youth group lessons, even sermons, seldom result in faith and life changes. Most people respond to such methods as if they were clicking the “Like” button on a Facebook post, and quickly move on, forgetting or doing nothing to personally respond. If you want change, teach practical, repeatable skills.
What kind of skills? People skills! Relational skills understand ministry as caring for your neighbor, with the advantage of knowing how to do that. These skills go directly to very core of life! Youth’s number one concern is their relationships. Youth are hungry to figure out relational connections. Framing relational skills in the context of faith just makes sense. We love because Christ first loved us. (I Jn: 4:19) We share others burdens because it is part of God’s law. (Gal 6:2). Suddenly, relational faith skills are a real and relevant part of everyday life for youth.
I was originally drawn to Peer Ministry Leadership because I could see the results. PML gives specific skills for real life and faith that youth use daily. Not only were youth caring more for other youth and leading in our ministries, but I also started hearing parents ask, “What are you doing to my kid? We are having different kinds of conversations at home.”
In PML, we creatively learn a skill, practice a skill, but then say, “Go, use this skill.” The line between practice and real-life is very thin. Practice during the training uses participants’ real stories, nothing artificial or pretend, just honest real life experiences. After using the skills with one another, we come back together and name what we are learning. Biblical story and candle time prayer experiences help us realize how vital these skills are to living out a Christian calling.
After the training, we encourage every Peer Ministry Leadership youth to continue to learn the skills by using them every day, everywhere, and in every relationship! Adult mentors help by checking in, talking with youth about their ministry at church and in everyday life.
Here is an outline from the PML manual. It will give you an idea of the type of skills we get to work on!
1. Leadership: Good Samaritan Style
2. Ask: Questions That Care
3. The Well: Learning to Listen
4. Spirit Nudges: Nonverbal Understanding
1. Decisions: Thou Shall Not Should
2. Journey: Choices, Changes, and Challenges
3. Well Aware: Community Aware
4. Plan: Mission & Purpose
1. Inviting: I Have To Tell You
2. Welcome: Surprising Hospitality
3. Hurt?: Welcoming when Un-Welcomed
4. Open: Big Doors
(If PML is something you want to see within the next couple of years, we should start the conversation now! Send a note, ask questions, let’s put a plan together!” <EMAIL>)