By Lisa Schnyders (re-posted from Family Ministries blog)
Several years ago, I heard a presentation based on Mark DeVries’ description of what youth ministry should be: a web of relationships that each child can depend on. In this web of relationships, teens are mentored not only by their own nuclear family, but by the whole church. He suggests thinking about it as a web like the picture below illustrates:
I immediately loved the idea, and it has been one that has stuck with me and helped shape my vision of Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry and Family Ministry. Immediately I pictured my daughter, a 3rd grader at the time I first heard of this, caught in this trap of people. And I kind of liked that — steel lines holding my daughter firmly in place, safe. That girl wasn’t going anywhere. But as she got older, I realized, as tempting as it was, I didn’t want her caught or contained; I wanted her held, supported. I didn’t want her controlled (ok, maybe sometimes I want her controlled), but really, I want her to have those strands or connections be strong, but flexible enough for her to figure out who she is while being safely held by people who encourage her to become who God wants her to be. I love the image not only for my kids, but for your kids as well.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to serve beside some really spectacular web slingers. They are a special kind of super hero and the extent of their power is often underestimated. Our kids and teens need people in their lives to listen, encourage, and challenge. I am stunned at times by the challenges our kids face. It can be tough to be a kid or a teen today, and our kids need people in their lives to whom they matter. People who take the time to listen. People who encourage. People who serve as role models for how to handle both success and failure. As I write this, I’m coming out of back to back nights of getting to see those webs being spun in both Fuel and Journey. It happens there in small group discussions and between the tap backs of a volleyball or the laughter of games. It happens in Kingdom Kids classrooms, and in the basements of small group meetings, and in the halls of the church, and in the texts and letters that go between mission kids and their sponsors. It’s handed over through lifesavers and smiles, prayers, and saved paper towel rolls for kids to make VBS crafts. It’s spun by GEMS leaders, Cadet leaders, coaches, and cookie putter outers. These webs that our kids need are being formed, but is not something done by a handful of select superheroes. It is something that needs to be done by all of us coming together as everyday ordinary web spinners intent on connecting with each other and being a part of each other’s lives.
You are a part of this New Life family. You matter here. Whether you’ve been around a long time or you’ve just walked through the doors, this is the place where your story can be told. This is a place where you can be a web slinger for others, old or young. Maybe you’ll be the next youth leader. Maybe you’ll be the next mentor. Maybe you’ll be the cool lady (or guy) at the end of the pew. Whatever you’ll be, we need you to be a part of the web that we are creating together. It is our prayer that God will show us all where to start spinning.