God personally ordained peer ministry when he decided to become one of us, his created, in the person of Jesus. He experienced all of the trials, pain, sorrows and joys of our human condition, and showed us how to understand and live our lives. He set both the precedent and the model for us to follow.
St. Paul affirms this model when he says, “Praise be to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” (2 Co. 1”3-4) Paul is suggesting that whatever comfort we have received from God relative to troubles we have experienced, we should offer that same comfort to others who are experiencing similar troubles.
This is what peer ministry is all about. We all have the opportunity to be peer ministers.
There are of course many examples of peer ministries. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably one of the most recognizable – recovering alcoholics helping those struggling with alcohol and other addictions. There are numerous Christian peer ministries to high school and college students such as Teen Encounter, Young Life, Campus Crusade, and Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
For many years, I have been involved with Christians in Commerce, a ministry to encourage and equip Christians to meet the challenges of living out their faith in the workplace. We share both our failures and successes in order to impact our work environments for good.
Then there is personal peer ministry arising out of the personal challenges we have experienced that we can share with others who are experiencing the same kind of challenge. For example, our fifth child, Emily, was born with Down syndrome and serious heart complications. The first few years were very challenging, but we also began to experience the blessings of Emily’s big beautiful smile, her unconditional love, and purity of heart. It has been 30 years since Emily’s birth and we have been able to offer our experience dealing with both the challenges and the blessings to numerous couples who have given birth to children with Down syndrome.
Someone who is struggling with a particular problem doesn’t want to hear from another who does not understand what they are going through. If we have experienced the same problem, then we have credibility. We have walked in their shoes. We can speak from our own experience with authority. We can be real.
Add God’s love to that experience and you have a peer ministry, which offers comfort to another with the comfort we have received from God for the same kind of problem.
What kind of trial in your life have you experienced that enables you now to support a friend or acquaintance going through a similar trial?