In one of my classes this week the professor asked if we (the church) were ministering well to singles. Everyone agreed that we were not and offered ideas on how we could better minister this particular group of people. I am all for whiteboard sessions where a group of people sit together and throw out ideas on how to do things better and more effectively, but there was a little movement in my heart while the students gave their input. Let me start off by saying that none of the ideas were bad ideas, and the fact that people were willing to step out on a limb and fearlessly give input was something to be respected. I know that for it is difficult for me to do such a thing, especially when I feel that I might be criticized for my answers. Since that day I have been thinking about that questions in regards to my life and ministry. Am I ministering well to the people that God has given me to serve? Am I serving at all? How can I better minister to those people? Here are a few things that I have come up with.
I am guilty of looking at a group of people that I am about to minister to and put them in to a “category” so that I can think about what “those people” are like in order minister better to them. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that I stereotype them and design my ministry based on that stereotype. Granted, there is some truth to stereotypes, after all, they didn’t become stereotypes without some supporting evidence. These however are not always true, and anymore seldom are. Therefore, placing all “singles” into an age group, or changing the content of what is being taught based on the age of those “singles” is a bit presumptuous, and we run the risk of insulting people and turning them off instead of helping them. Since when do we know better about what someone needs than they do? Yes, there are a special set of needs that people in certain situations share, but some of peoples biggest needs are overlooked because we are too busy “meeting” the needs that we have determined they have.
If there is one thing that I have learned so far from being in the ministry position that I am in, it is that people want to be loved and encouraged. They want someone to listen, truly consider what they are saying, and answer their questions with honest answers. People just want us to keep it real! I can remember living in Arizona, and every time I went to visit my friend there was this overwhelming smell of manure. This smell went on for miles, and just as manure stinks from far away, so does the crap that we feed people. People can smell it coming, especially when we fit the stereotype that is given to Christians. Even though our intentions are good, sometimes we get so caught up in figuring out their needs, that we forget to listen to them asking us for what they really need.
Try not to assume that you know what people need just because they are in some category that the world have put them in. Give them a place where they are truly welcome, a place where they can seek out what they have come to seek. Then follow them into their lives and look around a little. That is where you will really see their needs, and at that point just the fact that you are there, you may be fulfilling their biggest one.