The Importance of Face-to-Face Ministry
A New Way for an Anxious and Lonely Generation
By Cameron Pedicord
In my last article, I probably convinced at least one person that I thought we should get rid of in-person gatherings and just migrate to the new digital age and meet through screens.
I don’t believe that.
In fact, one of the most important parts of my ministry has been face-to-face hospitality. When my wife and I moved into our first house, we began hosting different student ministry events on a regular basis. This included things like movie nights, Super Bowl parties, and monthly BBQ lunch and hangouts after church on Sunday. What we found is that this facilitated some of the most meaningful interaction we had with students. All we did was eat, play games, talk and spend time together. We had little groupings of people all over our backyard, dining room table, and family room.
I believe the reason this was such a meaningful time with students is that there wasn’t an agenda. They could just ‘be’.
We weren’t trying to force anyone to play awkward games, breaking them up by gender or grade to answer questions in small groups; I didn’t preach, give a message or open the Bible. But in the midst of it, meaningful conversations happened all the time.
Now some of you may be wondering what the point is, and that is a fair question. For those who are bi-vocational youth workers, you have very limited time to spend with students. For others, it is hard enough to convince people just to show up to youth group more than once a month.
Part of the hope with my last article is that it would expand your imagination for how to deliver content that draws students to Jesus and shapes the way they live. One of the freedoms of not always needing our larger group meeting time to teach or preach is that it opens up more freedom to move towards a hospitality-based philosophy of gathering. I believe this could go a long way in helping alleviate the epidemic level of loneliness, isolation, and depression our youth face.
I would define this type of hospitality as opening a more unstructured space in our homes, churches and third places for friendship, conversation and belonging.
Often, when we host events other than youth group, they are focused on blow-out fun activities that get as many people in the room as possible. They are usually high energy and action packed with little downtime. But hospitality is much different than entertaining. When you entertain, you are trying to put on the best face possible to impress and allow others to have a good time. If our purpose is to really build the kind of interaction that leads to life changing connection and trust, then we have to let our guard down and open space that is a real reflection of life.
Now this isn’t an all or nothing proposition. I believe there is room for all kinds of events, gatherings and activities in student ministry.
And it probably should look different for middle school students over high school students.
But as we continue to see the effects of over-programmed, highly manufactured environments for young people, I think a return to something simpler could be good news to the anxious young souls we work with.
Cameron Pedicord is an experienced youth worker and avid lover of all things food and cooking. He is a leadership coach and consultant to church and nonprofit leaders and regularly blogs at VMI Leadership Solutions. He works to help churches and nonprofits clarify vision and generate momentum to multiply impact. Cameron, his wife Corrina, and soon to be two children live in Northern California.