The Barbershop – An Unexpected Place of Ministry | UMC YoungPeople
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May 2016

The Barbershop – An Unexpected Place of Ministry

By Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

The Barbershop – An Unexpected Place of Ministry

With the recent release of Barbershop: The Next Cut, (2016, PG-13 rating) I got to thinking about the barbershop and the role it plays in the faith formation of men and by extension, women.

I don’t remember the first time I got a haircut; perhaps, my mother took shears to my curly locks. Or, it could have been a Saturday outing with my parents. But, I do remember somewhere around age 8, my dad and I would have bi-weekly trips to the barbershop. It became quite an experience. For my dad and I, it was this sacred bonding time only a son and a father could appreciate.

As time progressed, I discovered that the barbershop was the original "man cave" (a sort-of designed and designated space for men). In many ways, it was my first introduction to a men’s small group. It was intergenerational. There was robust discussion about important issues (and some unimportant ones too!) Men would lay out their positions, and a debate ensued. There were a cast of characters present in the barbershop. There was ritual, signs offered by one man to another, and, even a sermon or two.

The barbershop is a sacred place!

It all collided at the barbershop – faith, politics, family values. Men disagreed, but always found a way to show one another love at the end of the conversation. The elders modeled healthy disagreements, and demonstrated a respect I could see and feel. At appropriate times, the young guys could enter the fray because the elders knew one day they would move on to the next life. Kinda’ like Elijiah and Elisha.

In surprising ways, the barbershop instilled an appreciation for what the church would call Christian conferencing, and what it meant to be in community. At my barbershop, Mr. Fuller and his younger brother would greet each of us by name as we entered. When sickness or death visited one of the regular customers, we would rally like the church in times of crisis. Charity was practiced at the barbershop whether it was a wino or a teenager making a little cash by sweeping the floors. Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7 remind us that God knows us deeply, down to the hairs on our head. The Fuller brothers knew us regulars well, and came to know the needs of the community because of who entered the barber shop.

The sign of a great barbershop is its disciples and their commitment to telling the story. Each new customer found the barbershop because someone recommended it or they moved into the neighborhood. Isn’t this what happens in the church?

Yes, the barbershop is an unexpected place where ministry happens. The movement of the Holy Spirit is not confined to a Sanctuary or church building. The movement breathes where the community gathers. The community breeds relationships, connection, and thoughtfulness. The barber knows us down to the numbered hairs on our heads.

Additional Resource:
TED Talk- Joseph Ravenell: "How barbershops can keep men healthy"