Connecting Communities With Rabbi Hayim Herring 

A few weeks ago I had a chance to interview Rabbi Hayim Herring for an episode of Crackers & Grape Juice. At a time when our communities are more connected than ever, why is it that faith communities feel disconnected from one another and their larger community? Rabbi Hayim Herring, co-author of Leading Congregations and Non-Profits in a Connected World, tells us why this is happening and offers ways faith communities can reconnect.

We talked about a wide range of topics tying back to our connected communities, or unconnected communities, both in the church and synagogue context.

Being a youth pastor, one of my chief complaints about the church is that youth groups are often a separate congregation within the church. It is not uncommon for churches to have separate worship services just for teenagers, separate from the larger congregation.

Last year, I presented a workshop on this topic at the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference.

‘Youth Ministry Beyond the Bubble’ explored how we can move beyond the traditional models of ministry and begin the practice of risk taking as a faith community. What we are presenting is the collective efforts of what we’ve learned during our time in seminary (part of my focus has been on youth ministry) and in our local ministry setting.  

It should be no surprise that youth ministry is struggling like the rest of the church and it’s been my experience that most of the struggles we have are because we are focusing on the wrong thing: numbers. Numbers of weekly participants, number of “salvations” (yes this is a real thing), number of parent volunteers, number of retreats, mission trip numbers. Number. Numbers. Numbers.
I’ve noticed lately in online youth ministry groups that people are being fired (or forced to resign) for a lack of numbers in there programs all the while the rest of the church is declining. Youth pastors more and more frequently are being asked to grow a ministry that is engaged in the church all the while being forced into a corner of the church very few people go visit – The Youth Wing.
What’s really at play here, in some way, is that while churches are struggling to grow student ministry seems like it should be growing fast, right? I mean, we just bought $5000 worth of video games and TV’s, renovated the youth area, and then hired a young(er) good looking guy to lead this band of teens. And yet, churches still are not seeing the growth they desire, or that the community needs when it comes to ministering to students. Why is this?

I think Rabbi Hayim’s book is of great value to anyone seeking to connect communities; both in the youth ministry world and beyond.