When I think of the “where” of the formation that has taken place in my life, there are certainly some places and spaces where I can “drop a pin” and say, I was changed here.
In reality, I was not changed in that place. The formation happened over time. What did happen at that place was a subtle shift. An opportunity to change my trajectory. As I walked that new trajectory, I was being formed each day I found the strength to continue down the path.
I recently returned from a week long intensive counseling experience. After the prolonged uncertainty and chaos of the last few years, it seemed as good a time as any to do something like this. We covered big topics of trauma, shame, broken relationships and how these experiences have knocked us off course and wounded us. These were big issues that are not easily resolved and you would imagine the remedy demands a big change.
However, the recommendation of the clinical team was not to do something grand to try to reverse course, but to simply pursue a 2 degree change. To begin walking a 2 degree shift. Over time, a 2 degree shift in the direction you are going produces significant results.
I know for many who are involved in children and youth ministry, the task in front of you can feel pretty disheartening. The grounds of youth ministry were shaking well before the pandemic. Additionally, many changes to the “where” (not to mention the whys, how, whos and when) of children and youth ministry were well past due for overhaul longer than we’d care to admit. When looking at this challenge, it can feel like the remedy demands a big change.
I do think big changes are necessary, but I wonder in this season of shifting ministry, we lay down our desire to figure out a grand new way forward and just pursue a 2 degree shift. You may experience resistance in pursuing a big change, but a 2 degree shift can happen in any model of ministry.
Many times in ministry to the next generation, the phrase “if this impacts just one person, then it’s worth doing” is played like a trump card to justify doing things the way we’ve always done them. I know I’ve carried on expired programs, due to the gravity of those words from many well meaning people.
Just for today though, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re right after all. They just misapplied the “where.” What if instead of using this phrase to justify the task of putting on programs, we instead applied it to “where” of impact they described – one person.
There is something you can do today for one person that you can’t do for the whole group. There is one student you can invite into leadership. There is one child you can simply be present with for a moment longer than you’re comfortable. There is a student who needs to be connected to the right person in your congregation to help them make a 2 degree shift. There is one student who has a passion to make a difference in the community you can empower.
After all, if it impacts one person, it’s worth doing.
Kyle Bender, Marriage and Family Therapist: Kyle has served on church staff in roles of children and student ministry over the last 20 years. Most recently, he served as Director of Family Ministry at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX. In the last year, he has transitioned to a new career as a marriage and family therapist. Kyle and his wife spend most of their time as a taxi cab service for their 3 daughters. In his free time, he will watch any sport that is in the playoffs and enjoys music, good food, and getting out of town and outside.