Cultivating students with a missional mindset for their neighbourhood

Our biggest job in ministry is to cultivate environments that are favourable for people to engage in transformation with God. We can never force transformation or force growth. We cannot make something or someone grow. However there are sure a tonne of things we can do to cultivate the environment! As Paul says “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) You can’t make or will your plants to grow in your garden, but you can spend a lot of time, energy and even money to make sure those plants have everything they need to be able to grow.

How do we create an environment that cultivates students with a heart for their neighbourhood?
How do we cultivate students that want to see and join God’s work around them?

Here are 6 thoughts on cultivating students with a missional mindset for their neighbourhood…

1. Model it
a. In what you do together as a youth group/church – show what you mean by being God’s blessing to your neighbourhood. Model what it looks like to be God’s good news to others. Find opportunities for your youth group, and church or family to serve the neighbourhood around you – invite the neighbourhood to a party, offer to help the church neighbours with their yard work, fix up a local park, do a garbage clean-up in the area, thank the neighbours for putting up with your parking on the street on Sundays, serve the neighbours a meal with the intention of sitting down and getting to know them or find other ways your youth group could serve the unique neighbourhood where God has placed you.

b. In your own life as a leader – make it normal to share how you are getting to know and seeking to be a blessing to the neighbours around your home or apartment.

2. Share stories and celebrate it – what we celebrate determines where we spend most of our energy. What gets celebrated in your youth group or church? Do you celebrate when groups or individuals have been God’s good news to others? Do you tell the stories of how youth and children are blessing their neighbourhood? Give opportunities for stories to be shared of how people are being the mouth, hands and feet of Jesus. Do you ask regularly – where do you see God’s goodness around you? Where do you see God at work around you? It might seem odd when you first start asking these questions every week, but soon youth catch on. As we share more stories it helps each of us keep our eyes open to God’s activity during the week.

3. Practice – we all need practice when we are trying something new to us. During youth group do role plays and have conversation about how to talk about what God is doing in your life in natural ways. Youth, just like so many of us, have learned to be quiet about our faith. We need to help each other recapture how to talk about our faith, not in a shoving it down others throat kind-of-way, but in a way that is authentic to who we are and authentic to what God is doing in our lives. Give youth opportunities to practice talking about the journey they are on with Christ, how they came to trust Christ, what God is teaching them today, and their questions about faith.

4. Pray regularly – let others hear you pray regularly for God to give each person opportunities to be His blessing to others this week. Invite people to keep their eyes open to what God is doing around them and how they can join in.

5. Talk about fear and courage – talk about the fears we face when we see an opportunity to be a blessing, see an opportunity to talk about faith or see an opportunity to invite someone to a youth group event. Talk about the courage it takes to push through, and God’s Holy Spirit presence with us as we take opportunities to follow Him in the world.

6. Ask great questions (and teach students to ask great questions):
a. Who do you hang-out with in your neighbourhood?
b. What is life like for you and your neighbours?
c. Can you see God working in that persons’ life – how?
d. Anything crappy going on in their life – how can you show God’s kindness?
e. Anything good going on in their life – how can you celebrate with them?
f. Anything good going on in your neighbourhood where you could join in?
g. Anything bad going on in your neighbourhood (e.g. school closing, graffiti at the park…) where you could join in to make a difference?
h. If you are looking for conversation starting questions to help get into deeper discussions check out last weeks blog: 30 Great Conversation Starters

These are just 6 quick ideas on how we can cultivate students with a missional mindset for their neighbourhood. This is definitely an area where I’m trying to learn more! Please comment below and share your thoughts…

-Renée @r_embree  



  1. Mary Grace · May 14, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this list of ideas about inspiring students to living missionally in their own neighbourhoods and communities. I think an overarching connecting point to these ideas is that a missional mindset is not a special project, but a way of life. Any opportunity we have to invite students into our own lives, where we model missional living in our own day-to-day, is great. This also often provide opportunities for us to share our own vulnerabilities, which can be so powerful too (#5). I often remind my students that God is not only found in the “big moments” of our lives but also the small details. For example, I can worship God while doing the dishes at home just as I can worship Him in church on Sundays (not that one is meant to replace the other!). I can share His love with others in many ways – big and small – and sometimes it’s as simple as being polite and using my manners. Jon Dixon has a great example from this past Springforth weekend when staff at the fast food restaurant made a point to comment on how polite all his students were when ordering. It is sometimes these everyday grace-filled moments of life that have the most impact on others.


    • Renée Embree · May 17, 2015

      Beautiful reminder Mary Grace. Thank you! Yes, it’s mission in the everyday, mission in the mundane. God is always at work around us – so thankful you are helping students & others see it.


  2. Deborah · May 14, 2015

    I love this article. The kids you are working with will know God in a very intimate way as they live out their faith. I especially loved the questions in #2 “Where do you see God’s goodness and where is He at work around you?” A vital faith that is based on a living
    relationship is (I believe) more effective in terms of serving and attracting others and is also a faith that will weather the inevitable storms and challenges that will come.
    #5 is also a way to be real. We have fears but we have a God who at every turn says “Fear not!” Learning that there are no superheroes in the faith except those who acknowledge fully their weakness and then trust in God’s strength is a (good) set-up for raising young “ministers” of the Gospel. Exciting!


    • Renée Embree · May 14, 2015

      Thank you for sharing in our excitement! Yes, following God is an adventure for all of us, it’s exciting to see what happens when we invite students into that adventure of following God each day.


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