It could be the regular emails sent by various para-church organisations. It could be actual snail mail arriving through the church office. It could be the phone calls from representatives seeking your ear.
In church ministry there is the constant demand from people in Christian organisations around the country who would love to ‘partner’ with you. They email, post, call or seek coffee with you regularly enough that a whole day of your week could be filled with meeting people para-church organisations.
So, what do you do?
On one hand, it seems rude to palm people off and not hear what they have to say about their organisation and what they’re doing. On the other, there is only a certain amount of time, money, and space you can give to various organisations.
How do you prioritise which organisations you will closely ‘partner’ with?
I’ve come to see the answer to this question as para-church triage.
If there is some form of health crisis and you need to go to hospital for help you usually head straight to the emergency department. If you’ve ever been to the emergency department you’ll know that the first person you see is the ‘triage nurse’. The triage nurse is someone who takes your details, assesses your condition, and then places you in the appropriate spot in the queue to see the doctor. This assessment and placement is known as triage. The nurse is evaluating where you should be placed on the priority list, whether you’ll be seen quickly or whether you’ll need to sit a while. If the triage nurse is making the right assessments someone with a drug overdose should be seen quickly while you wait with your basketball-induced sprained ankle.
It’s the same with para-church triage.
As a youth pastor, or any type of pastor I suspect, you need to do a little triage. That is, you need to decide where in the priority queue the various para-church organisations are placed. Some organisations might be at the front of that metaphorical queue and have a strong relationship with you, others might find themselves having to wait a while or work on the relationship, and then there are others who probably need to move queues.
What kind of system is useful in order to perform this triage?
I’ve come up with a framework that helps me think through what to prioritise. I understand that it will have flaws, but it might be helpful for some.
Para-Church Triage Framework
Priority 1: A relationship of openness, trust, and engagement
- The organisation already has an ongoing relationship with the church.
- The organisation is given financial support through the annual church budget.
- The organisation employs members of the church.
- The organisation is aligned theologically with the church.
- The organisation can helpfully contribute to the vision and mission of the church.
Priority 2: A relationship that is cautiously open
- The organisation is known to you and you affirm their work.
- The organisation has connection with people who attend the church.
- The organisation has been recommended to you by people you respect.
- The organisation helps train and develop disciples through people, events, and resources.
- The organisation reaches out, wanting to improve its partnership with the church.
Priority 3: A relationship of little or no connection
- The organisation is not known to you and there is no relationship with them.
- The organisation doesn’t fit with the vision and mission of the church.
- The organisation doesn’t align theologically or philosophically.
- The organisation pushes for financial support over relationship.
That’s the framework, and one that I hope helps you think through this issue. It’s not an issue that’s overly appealing so I’ve created a graphic to go with this to make it that little bit more sexy.
3 thoughts on “Para-Church Triage In Youth Ministry”
Good thoughts. Its always great to say ‘no’ and having an understanding of a framework makes it easy to communicate that back, even if the rep/organisation is pushing. Would love to know your insight on what to do when an organisation ticks boxes on multiple levels I.e. organisation employs members/doesn’t align with vision&mission.
Hey, good question. And here’s where my framework is not fully thought out. My preference is to go with theological alignment first and then vision and mission. However, I’d want to investigate and see what does connect and align with those in the congregation working for organisations that aren’t in line with the church. The other idea is simply to say ‘no’ to certain ministries and ‘yes’ to others.
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