Huge thanks for the inspiring atmosphere at Youth Work the Conference back in November 2014 –  and, in particular to Gemma Dunning, for this post about three ways of doing ministry.  There should really only be one way, but if that was our common practice I wouldn’t need to write a blog about it 🙂

At Youth Work the Conference we had a great session with a bunch of different youth workers talking about their practice, the way they are approaching ministry or something in particular they find is working . . . it might have been a group they were trying to reach, a tool they have found helpful or – simply a way of being, a way of ministering that was a feature of most of what they did . . . For Gemma in Bournemouth this was and is . . .

A ministry of CAKE!

But, this got me thinking (and rhyming) is that what we most often do . . . minister to others with a give away? A blessing? A “have this, we baked it this morning we think you are great.”?  The ministry of CAKE is a great way to express what is at the heart of that word “ministry” – serving others. Generosity, food, hospitality, giving, love, “put your back in to it pull out all the stops when nothing else works . . . bake” kind of love.

Unfortunately, whether we are talking about youth ministry or ministry in general . . . we can all sometimes find ourselves cooking up something else and calling it ministry ::

The ministry of TAKE.

This sometimes isn’t deliberate, it can be subtle . . . but, essentially, it isn’t about how you can be equipped or served or find your purpose . . . but – how you can give your money, how what you have to offer actually isn’t as important as you maybe being the right age, or fit, or personality, or gender, or whatever . . . and obviously, your money (did I mention money?)  This kind of “take” environment can lead to burn out, stress, emotional blackmail, feeling guilty that you are not doing enough . . . and that is just those on the receiving end!  I have to confess to my shame that I have sometimes got carried away with what others can offer MY programme or MY team or the things I am doing . . . rather than seeking to serve others, I can think – how can they serve me?  Like I say, it’s sometimes subtle and we would be horrified if we could see things as clearly as the Lord does and if we could always see our hearts intention – and other times it is pretty blatant, (you still might see a huge thermometer outside a church building, declaring to all that THEIR church needs saving . . . rather than looking outwards to a community with the lost and broken – desperate for love and friendship).

We can all slip in to this – so, if you lead a team in a ministry context – how are they?  How are you team doing?  Not, what are they doing?  When did you last treat them, thank them, appreciate their sacrifice, life, time, friendship and partnership in ministry?

The ministry of FAKE.

Oh, this is a hard one to nail!  It happens, but it is harder to spot than “take”.  Is what is happening here actually REAL?  What does authentic ministry look like?  Are we pretending?  Does what we say we believe match with the practice?  A great, great book about what authentic following of Jesus could / should maybe look like is “Disciple” by Juan Carlos Ortiz, in the book he tells a story about preaching on love in his church.  He decides to preach on love . . . until his congregation become more loving, but – not just preach on it from different perspectives – he decides to preach the same sermon, every week, until he sees a difference.  The same sermon.  Every. Week.  It took THREE weeks before anyone noticed!  The usual platitudes at the end of the service “nice sermon vicar” . . . eventually, people asked – “er, didn’t you preach on this last week?”  He said, “yes, and I am going to keep preaching on love until we become more loving – until we do it”

Are there areas of what we do, our practice that are fake?  It isn’t deliberate – but, you know – it isn’t what we do (but we kind of say that we do!) . . . apparently, Ghandi encountered this – not when he read about Jesus – he was blown away by Jesus!  He couldn’t though see how what Jesus preached and who Jesus was could be real . . . because he went and looked at . . . the Church.  Shame on us!

Being fake can be big – we just don’t mean what we say, we don’t practice what we preach, it isn’t real TO US – no chance that others are going to be convinced by a Gospel we can’t live out, daren’t live out, are too scared to live out, not bothered enough to live out . . . but being fake can also be small – we invite young people along to things, we tell them how important to the church they are, that we will make them a priority . . . and we genuinely mean it – but then what we do does not back it up.  We want you to shape the church for the future we say to them . . . and then they try and we say things like, yes please shape the future of the church . . . just not like that.

So, which is it?  Ministry of Cake, Fake or Take?

Philippians 2 points to there being only one way of doing it.