Understand Your Context



By Matt Wilks

I remember talking to parents as a youth pastor and many of them would describe their child as unique, which usually meant that they were odd and miracously I would need to figure out how to include them in our minstry plans.

Of course, you also have a few unique students in your group. But did you know that your ministry is unique?

One area I believe student ministries (and the church) need to do a better job is understanding their context. When a ministry can understand the complexities of their own unique context and serve out of that understanding, I believe that they find the spiritual and sustainable success they are looking for.

The dictionary defines context as the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation. This definition is mostly accurate except that when you add the spiritual component to it, it can supernaturally affect the circumstances. God places us in a context and gives us the tools to understand and affect the circumstances in that context.

The church I ministered at struggled with understanding their ministry, which is directly attached to an understanding of a ministry unique context. Now, don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t that we wanted to be something that we weren’t; but we weren’t as intentional as we could have been with the resources that God had given us. God had placed us in a community that needed us, and instead of looking at the whole city as our mission field, we needed to look right outside of our windows at the community that needed us.

God was calling us to understand the people who made up our community. What were their needs? How did they understand “community”? What was their view of the church? How did they communicate to each other in this community?

Jesus was masterful at understanding his context. Whether it was sitting with the Samartian woman and discussing water or using a farming illustration as he talked with farmers on the side of the road.

How are you becoming an expert in the context around your church? What ministry could God be calling you that is right outside the front door of your church? What people need you to be Jesus to them? How can you communicate the truth of who Jesus is in a way that the people who you have the privilege of ministering to can understand?  How are people in your community learning? What are they learning? There are thousands of questions that you can ask to become an expert in the community that you are a part of. What are the questions that you are asking currently?

I would challenge you to become an expert in understanding the context of where God has entrusted you to work for Him. As a church, when we finally understood what the context was around our church and asked God to open our eyes to see the needs that our community had, God gave us the ability to intelligently and effectively minister to a group of people in the area around our church who needed us to be agents of restoration for them.