You and your favorite youth leader have a historic epiphany around 10:30 pm while cleaning up aftergroup late one night. In the midst of the glow-in-the-dark slime, shattered glass, and confetti caked onto the wall, you both lock eyes and realize one thing: THIS WOULD BE AN AMAZING EVENT.
The next day you jump into research mode. You jot down a schedule on a Google Doc. Admittedly, you’re slightly impressed with your attention to detail. You then contact the local YMCA to see if your preferred date is available and if they’d be ok with this event – as long as you clean it up, of course. They agree! The price is reasonable! The event is set into motion!
Your logo is impeccable. Your flyers catch the eye. But then it dawns on you – there’s plenty of space for other churches to jump on too!
Inspired, you turn to the interwebs. You create a Facebook event, post it in a group, and sit back, waiting for the churches to line up. Heck, you may even max out your space and break even on an event instead of breaking your budget.
But then… nothing.
You reach out to some local youth leaders to see if their church will join in. Some say no. Some say “maybe,” but then you never hear from them again.
The event comes and goes. It was a fantastic night, BUT… it was only your church group.
Linking up with other churches in your area can be a discouraging endeavor. Your frustrations may even lead you to say phrases like “Churches are only interested in building their OWN kingdom” or “Shouldn’t we all be on the same team?”
There’s one thing you have to understand when it comes to working together with other churches: you have to give more than you take.
GIVE your friendship – no strings attached
It may sound too simplistic, but think about this: who are you more likely to work with, a stranger with a great idea or a friend with an ok idea?
It’s about the friendship. The best cooperation comes when there is trust preceding a collaborative event.
If the only time you are connecting with other youth pastors is to sell your event, you will be written off as a self-serving salesman. People typically start from a place of skepticism.
What people don’t need is another event – they need you. I’m convinced that every youth leader needs to have a friendship with three local youth leaders. Be one of those friends for another leader. When you take the initiative to connect with youth leaders in your area solely for the purpose of friendship, then collaboration will inevitably flow out of that natural friendship.
GIVE personal ownership
We are all leaders. Leaders like to lead but aren’t always the greatest at following. So use that as an opportunity to give life to a leader.
Instead of creating the whole event and inviting attendance, co-create the event with other leaders and invite them into formation. This creates ownership in ways that participation never could. Pull up a seat to the table for others to add their ideas and – well, let’s be honest – it’ll be better than if it was just your idea anyway.
GIVE your time to other people’s visions
What if you were to give your time, effort, and calendar to help someone else’s event? What if this act of cooperation opened the door for years of collaboration down the road?
Can you get excited about the success of someone else’s group as if it were your own? Could you modify your event to join up with someone else’s, even if you’re not seen as the brains of the operation?
For as much as you are asking people to participate in your plans, make sure that you are open and receptive to everyone else’s plans.
I’m convinced that now – more than ever – there is a spirit of cooperation among youth groups in America. The problem is that often we need to do some relational sowing before we can jump right into event reaping.
* NOTE: If you need help finding youth leaders around you, check out this site: https://www.youthworkers.net/network-search.htm .
Jonny Radcliff the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church, the Delaware Valley Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the three little monsters that they rear. His ten plus years of youth ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary. GO BIRDS!