After a rigorous freshman year at CCE’s new Lutheran Academy, one might expect that students would quickly scatter to enjoy two months of summer vacation. Not so for nine high-schoolers, who signed on for a week of study in June, in a course that promises to benefit their fellow students for years to come.
Week-long training in Peer Ministry came to CCE in late June through members of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn. Led by Erin Morris, diaconal minister and program head at St. Andrew’s, the training sought to introduce Peer Ministry to Slovak teens and teach its key concepts.
Erin says with a twinkle, “We adults are cool, right? But who do young people turn to when they have a problem? They typically seek out their peers when they experience a life challenge. And when young people are trained to minister to each other, life challenges become easier to bear.”
Peer ministry, a practice in which young people provide a caring ear to each other, focuses on mastering the art of communication, compassionate listening and coaching. Grounded in Scriptural teaching, peer ministry equips teens with the skills to show Christian love to their peers, as Christ first loved us.
Helping our neighbor is a key concept of peer ministry. The week began with the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. Besides Bible study, the lessons included a wide range of activities and games that complemented the topic, adding relaxation and fun.
Participants learned how to build bridges through communication without embarrassment, how to ask questions, and how to guide their peers toward appropriate decision making. “Peer ministry teaches us that there are no bad questions,” said one Slovak participant.
Joining Erin to deliver Peer Ministry training in Slovakia were Britain Grainger and Andrew McIntyre, two teenaged members of the St. Andrew’s parish and experienced Peer Ministers. Britain and Andrew say they use Peer Ministry techniques with their friends at home. The trio spent the week in Martin getting to know the Slovak teens, teaching and demonstrating Peer Ministry techniques, and coaching others as they practiced them.
The group also included the Lutheran Academy’s pastor Janka Bosakova and school psychologist Denisa Potančoková.
Peer ministry offers practical training that is useful for everyone, says Britain. “We’re taught to really observe people around us and learn important information as a result. At the same time, peer ministry training helps us discover things about ourselves: what keeps us from communicating with others? How can we break through those barriers?”
After the week ended, Andrew remarked, “I’m looking forward to seeing the peer ministry program grow and influence many lives.”
The course offers great potential for Academy students, said Denisa. “Using the foundation created that week in Martin, we hope to build further and continue to learn new things. We hope to help each other, and help in the most useful ways.”