Hey guys! Pastor Marcos here. Just wanted to drop a quick thought on creating a culture of belonging in our homes, church, and social spaces. This blog is one of many I'll be writing this year to help encourage and inspire you guys to reflect the love of God in your youth ministry. So here's to number one:

A few weeks ago I ran into an article that blew my mind. The article was on the difference between fitting in and belonging. I realized at that moment, that if we want to have an effective youth ministry we have to get out of the mindset of "fitting in" or helping others to "fit in". Instead, we need to start thinking about "belonging" and "helping others belong." Whats the difference? Check out the quote below:

Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.[1]

The difference between belonging and fitting in is pretty clear. Fitting in happens when we force ourselves into a mold in order to be accepted. We "fit in" to what a group considers cool. Belonging on the other hand happens when we are ourselves and find acceptance and community despite not being like everyone else. I don't know about you guys, but I think creating a culture of belonging is way more valuable than a "fitting in" culture. So here are some quick points to help each of us begin making the personal changes in order to become that kind of youth ministry.

1. Stop seeing the youth ministry as a group of friends hanging out. Instead, see it as a group of Jesus-followers called to minister to the needs of others. When we see ourselves as a group of friends hanging out we naturally want to keep it that way. The results can be as mild as forming inclusive cliques or as intense as openly rejecting people who don't gel with our vibe. When we see ourselves as Jesus-followers called to minister we no longer enter the church-space for ourselves but for others. The result is we no longer worry about people being awkward or different because we begin to see everyone as a person whose spiritual development has been entrusted to us.

2. Think of ways in which you may personally contribute to a "fitting in culture". Do you expect others to be like you? Do you avoid those who are different to you? Do you unintentionally create a box for people to "fit into" or else they wont be accepted? How would you feel if the tables were turned?

3. Choose to delete the box. Instead, ask God to use you in the creation of a belonging culture. Be the kind of person others can be themselves around and accept them despite their diversities, imperfections, or differences. See them, not as weirdos but as souls purchased by Jesus blood and seek to serve them as best as possible. Does this mean you will be best friends with everyone and anyone? Of course not. It just means you will help create the kind of environment in which all of our masks can come off.

For good.


[1] Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Life-Lessons-We-All-Need-to-Learn-Brene-Brown#ixzz40yAIq3bm