Pacing presence : impact of relational ministry course for graduates of Kuyper College working with adolescents
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Using the Success Case Method developed by Robert Brinkerhoff, the survey and interviews revealed a direct correlation between the amount of time spent in an adolescent’s environment and the quality of the conversations and interaction between ministry students and the young person. The core of this study revolves around ministry students who took the ML336 Relational Ministry course at Kuyper College and implemented the practices taught in the course. I wanted to know what correlation exists, if any, between the amount of time spent in the adolescent world and the depth of the relationship between the adolescent and the ministry student. To do that, I looked at who had experienced success in building relationships with adolescents by implementing the practices and procedures discussed in class and the impact on their respective ministries to adolescents and their families. The outcomes will be pedagogical suggestions for the course and content revisions to improve the impact of the relational ministry course for future students, as well as suggestions for parents and the church about how adults can earn the right to be heard and develop deep and meaningful relationships.
My research consisted of inviting seventy-eight students who graduated from Kuyper College from 2008 to 2014 with a Youth Ministry degree to take a survey focusing on relational ministry. All youth ministry majors are required to take ML336 Relationship Ministry in order to graduate. Of the seventy-eight students who were invited to take the survey, thirty students completed the survey. I then chose nine graduates to interview who experienced the greatest success revealed in the survey as directed by the Success Case Method. I also interviewed three other students who struggled with devoting the time they wanted to toward building relationships with adolescents so I could learn what barriers exist for graduates who were unable to spend the time that is necessary to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the adolescents they serve.
Students identified five factors that contributed to deeper relationships with adolescents. First, those who spend a minimum of ten hours a week to as much as twenty-five hours a week had significantly deeper relationships with the students they serve. Freeing up time in the youth workers’ schedules to do the necessary work of going and building a relationship with adolescents is the single most important change that needs to take place in our churches, parachurches and mission organizations. Second, developing a commitment to place will ensure that relationships will exist for the long haul. If adolescents see ministry leaders, parents and adults around for long periods, they will be more apt to be open and trust them with issues they are facing. Third, critical to that commitment is significant support from the senior leadership. Fourth, presence in the adolescent world matters. Staff, volunteers and parents need to be deliberate about staying present in adolescents’ lives. Showing up builds credibility. Finally, developing a team of volunteers who “get” what it means to “go” is critical to reaching the vast array of adolescents.
Using the Success Case Method, I will assess my course and identify key factors that promote pacing presence that can be embraced by youth ministry leaders, volunteers, church leaders, parents and others who work with adolescents in how to build caring, loving, long-term relationships. I will also address the barriers, both structural and attitudinal, that prevent students from moving meaningfully in the lives of the adolescents they serve.