I’ve been travelling outside of Atlantic Canada this week. It has got me thinking about the joys and challenges of ministry in Atlantic Canada. We have a unique milieu for ministry here. Tell me – What do you see?
3 Joys of Ministry in Atlantic Canada:

1. Everyone knows each other – if they don’t they will find a way to make sure you’re connected somehow. I’m sure everyone in Atlantic Canada has less than six degrees of separation. Almost every ministry conversation I have had has included being asked “Do you know _______?”, “Who’s your parents?”, “Where did you go to school?” These connections can lead to lots of networking, ministry together, support and a sense of unity across the entire region. It is like you have cousins everywhere you go in Atlantic Canada. People have welcomed me into their homes, fed me meals, given me rides to airports, fed me pie for breakfast and more, all because we’re part of this Atlantic Canadian Christian family. You’ve got “cousins” everywhere! We have a rich family. Keep using these connections for greater Kingdom impact.

2. Joint events – we have amazing joint events! When we join our forces we have created amazing events that invite youth to know God and follow God’s mission in their neighbourhoods. I’ve also seen Atlantic Canadians (mostly volunteers!) create amazing events that effectively equip leaders. I know I’m bias here – but, come on, I don’t know anywhere else in the world where over 1500 youth and leaders gather annually to be challenged to take a springing leap forward in their faith (Springforth) or where over 900 students sign-up for a week of service to join God in changing lives and communities (Tidal Impact). Many leaders also join forces in local areas to create great events for challenging and equipping people in their backyard. The power of our collective, to create life changing events and opportunities, is powerful. The momentum from these gathering points is invaluable. I have seen these events be a part of many peoples’ faith journey. Keep seeking ways to join forces with others to create something together that we could not do alone. Our collective creativity creates powerful environments for life change.

3. We send out great leaders in the Kingdom – Atlantic Canada has a history of training up great leaders for ministry and mission. We have disproportionately, given our population base, sent out missionaries and raised up ministry leaders. We have many gifted young leaders. Let’s celebrate all the great leaders that have come from Atlantic Canada! Keep raising up leaders.

3 Challenges of Ministry in Atlantic Canada

1. Everyone knows each other – while this can be a blessing it can be extremely challenging to those that come from away, have changed from their past or are unknown. Atlantic Canadians can be very slow to trust someone that they can’t trace their family lineage or link to the particular Christian community/denomination. Character and competence need to be of greater value than lineage. The other challenge is while “everyone knows each other” this can be a surface knowing and in truth we may not know each other well. Are we actually taking the time to get to know someone for who they are today, seeing the whole of them and being vulnerable with one another? How can you intentionally include someone new in your ministry circles? How can you invite authentic community with ministry peers?

2. Dependence on events – before you fire me, hear me out. As I mentioned above I believe in the importance of joint events and have seen how significant these events are in my life, students’ lives, leaders’ lives… The challenge is, we can become so overly dependent on events, particularly in youth and young adult ministry, we become underdeveloped in other areas (e.g. mentoring, equipping people to share their faith, developing strategies, developing curriculum, authentic community, merging/joining events or connecting generations…). The solution is NOT always “Let’s add an event”, “Let’s add a program.” Remember events and programs are simply part of a means to an end. Often in Atlantic Canada we hold onto events long past their expiration date. The white hot why of each event/program needs to be clear. Events are to be catalysts to spur on and reinforce your vision. An event is not going to change Atlantic Canada. Each child/youth having adults journeying with them, living out their faith, will change Atlantic Canada. Events that are catalysts for leaders continuing the faith journey with students will change Atlantic Canada. Christians applying what they hear at our gathering points, Monday to Saturday, will change Atlantic Canada. How can you strategically use key events? What event do you do that needs a refresh? What is another solutions besides adding an event/program?

3. We send out great leaders in Atlantic Canada – a number of great leaders leave Atlantic Canada. I was trying to find statistics for this, but I couldn’t find anything accurate (If anyone has numbers on this, I’d like to see them.) I celebrate that we send so many leaders into Kingdom work across Canada and all around the world. This is wonderful! Let’s keep doing this. However, the question is “Why are more leaders not staying and investing in Atlantic Canada?” I believe we need to meet this challenge with two responses in Atlantic Canada (1) Get even better at raising up more and more leaders in Atlantic Canada (Let’s send out even more!) and (2) Make sure we are providing high level opportunities for leaders right here in Atlantic Canada. Let’s raise up and send out even more leaders, wherever God leads them. How can you call out, invest in and support leaders in Atlantic Canada?

I’ll keep reflecting on the unique opportunities and challenges we have for ministry in Atlantic Canada. What do you see that is unique to ministry in this region?

-Renée @r_embree #1neighbourhood