Street Youth Ministry (www.StreetYouthMinistry.org) has several missional communities within the UT student body. Missional communities is a very wide topic, and I frankly don’t know everything about it… perhaps even very little.
I just want to present the case that it matters. Our MC is not bible study; it’s not preaching; and it’s not worship. It’s not even always churchy or obviously religious in nature.
Simple Communities Loosely Bound
Our MC is composed of students who have seen the homelessness around the UT campus and who want to respond compassionately. One MC gathers at the CHOP at 11am every Monday to share a breakfast with hungry young homeless people and to help them express some attitudes about prayer, God, and faith in a safe place.
We don’t preach; we don’t admonish or warn. MC members–student from UT usually, simply sit with homeless young people and share answer to simple questions like “I’m thankful for what?” “What’s going on in my life is ____.” and “What do I want God to do in my life?” We don’t require everyone to agree or even have the same ideas about God. We just hang out and share these simple things from our heart.
Another MC meets every Fridays at 4pm to simply go out on the street and meet homeless people in the campus neighborhood. We take simple sandwiches, snacks, socks, and toiletries to give away if it would help. But the main purpose is to simply check-in with people and find out how they are doing.
The MC meets about 25 people each week, with about 5 new people each week. Our time spent together isn’t about giving stuff away. It’s about sharing a little of yourself. Stopping to talk and listen to a homeless person who lives in the UT neighborhood. Finding out how they day has been. Finding out where they have been and where they are going.
We always ask “How can we be praying with you? What would you like God to be doing in your life?” They usually have answers and we share those answers with prayer warriors who pray during the week.
Seeds of Change Planted in Community
So how is this missional? We see change start to occur all the time. Homeless people served are impressed that people take the time to be with them. And when they find out it’s a Christian group, they are usually even more surprised. Often they share their experiences with “church” from the past, usually negative.
MC members listen and don’t argue. They try to understand. We often apologize for how it’s been for them. We tell them that has little to do with Jesus. We even sometimes get to recommend churches that we believe will be welcoming to our homeless friends on Sunday.
Frequently they go. Sometimes they find a new church home. Many times a semester, they reconnect with God in a significant way. And a couple times a semester they connect with Jesus for the first time and the church gets the privilege of baptizing them. And a newly baptized homeless person can be an amazing evangelist!
But that’s not all that happens in our MC. The MC members are transformed. We have no criteria for joining our group except a willingness to serve and to try to develop compassion. MC members sometimes have an inactive prayer time or inactive worship life when they come. But as they learn and develop compassion, they often find their Christian life invigorated!
Not all MC members are Christian. Some are from other faiths or of no faith. As the MC experiences God’s provision for homeless people right in our midst, it is often difficult to have no faith. Something begins to grow. MC members frequently find themselves moving toward stronger faith, sometimes even joining churches for the first time.
Missional Communities Matter
We know that our missional communities make a difference. They make a difference to the homeless people served. These people are loved well by our community. It impacts their lives in a very positive way.
We also know that our MC members grow closer to one another and to God by their activities. They find themselves more aware of God’s presence in their live daily and of their need for Jesus every step of the way. And it’s in community that any of this is possible. Simple, non-churchy, accepting community.
Terry Cole graduated with his MSEE from UT in 1987. He worked in high tech for 25 year, mostly at AMD. in 2008, Terry founded Street Youth Ministry to know, love and serve street-dependent young people. The ministry under Terry’s leadership serves 80 to 100 individuals every week in the UT Austin neighborhood and needs about 100 volunteers monthly. Terry has two daughters, ages 17 and 20, and is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church.