What is community ministry?

Written byJordan Penner and Andrew Reimer, Community Ministers, previously published inThe Messenger

Inner-City Youth Alive has three staff in community ministry: Harvey Rempel, Andrew Reimer and Jordan Penner. We devote ourselves to a ministry of presence and intentional friendship, providing relationship-based support and spiritual care to youth, adults and families in the neighbourhood.

Much of our work happens outside the walls of ICYA: in people’s homes, on the street, in coffee shops, at the hospital and in jail. Because our ministry is shaped around relationships with individual youth and adults, our involvement takes many different forms.

Sometimes it means connecting over a hamburger or hanging out at the park. At other times it means providing moral support, help with resumes and a ride for a young adult who is trying to find a job.

It may mean sitting with someone and listening to them while they are in crisis. It also means networking with other ministries or helping someone access resources in the community.

Our connection with people can be as light-hearted as laughing about a funny story while sipping coffee or it can be as intense as responding to a call when someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide or has had a drug overdose.

In many ways it is hope that defines our role as community ministers. It motivates us, gives purpose to what we do and, when our faith is strong, shapes our perspective.

For Jordan and his wife Allison, hope is the one word that best describes the relationship they have with a teen whom they’ve known for the past three years. Very little has been consistent in her life as she has moved from foster placements to group homes, to shelters and to more foster placements.

But hope has remained constant amid the inconsistency. They’ve seen her grow and learn to trust them.

During the good times when she’s at school, in a safe place or simply making better choices in the way she spends her free time, they see hope being realized and bringing about change.

During the hard times when foster placements break down or when she is overwhelmed by the challenges of her life, we find hope in a Creator who still cares for her and gives the three of us little moments of joy and laughter in the dark places.

While poverty, violence, addiction and abuse may be the voices that yell the loudest and are heard most often, hope is the quiet whisper that is most persistent.

For us, community ministry is about first learning to hear that whisper myself and then teaching others to hear it through long-term relationships that withstand crises, failure and tragedy.

Jordan Penner and Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) both serve with Inner City Youth Alive (www.icya.ca) in Winnipeg’s North End. The story is reprinted with permission from ICYA’s newsletter.