This weekend my congregation participated in a Confirmation Ministry retreat with two other congregations (the two other congregations are both about three miles from my congregation, and about five miles from each other – we're all very close!). Combined we had 15 children and four adults (three of whom are pastors) on the trip. Bringing three small groups together to form a larger group was a great experience – in fact, by the end of the weekend it was hard to tell which kids were from which churches, for they were mixing and mingling together so well!
The pastors wondered out loud if we should consider having a cooperative youth ministry for the next program year (ie, school year). Working independently we each have some struggles with gaining a "critical mass" of kids for events or activities … but by joining together we increase the numbers of both kids and adults, we share planning responsibilities, and gain from the insights, traditions, youth, and leaders of each congregation. It seems like a win-win-win situation.
We're taking this idea back to our congregations to gain some feedback, and we plan to meet in a few months to look a little deeper at what a three-congregation cooperative youth ministry might look like.
I'd welcome any insight from youth, youth workers, or pastors who have been or are currently part of a multi-congregation cooperative youth ministry. Surely this kind of a ministry has all kinds of potential pitfalls – how well do the leaders communicate? How compatible are the traditions, pieties, and theologies of each congregation? How do the different school schedules impact youth ministry event scheduling? How does a multi-congregation cooperative youth ministry nurture the relationship that youth have with their home congregation?
Surely many questions and challenges await us in the coming months and years … yet I feel that there are numerous opportunities and blessings just waiting to be claimed. I truly believe that this weekend was not simply a wonderful one-time event, but the beginning to a shared ministry that will nurture the faith of our young people and open our congregations to the gifts and joys of ministry with youth and families.