I recently was asked to come speak to a college class (in the Youth Ministry department) about being involved on the school campuses near our church. In other words, they wanted to know how did I and how do I approach getting into and being at the middle schools and high schools in our area.
Let me first say that I really enjoy this topic. Some of the biggest and best ministry opportunities of our day are the public schools. However, I do not claim to be an expert. Not at all. I just enjoy it. And in my 10+ years of doing student ministry among the same schools in the same area, here is what I have learned. These 4 points are what I taught the class:
-Are you visible to the students? Do the students at the school know who you are? Do they know you? Do they see you? Is your face or voice familiar to them? Are you on campus long enough to be seen? Do they ever see you at outside extracurricular activities and connect you with your involvement at their school? Would they recognize you if they ran into you at Wal-Mart?
-Knowing who you are is the first step to the student being able to connect with you.
-If you are just dropping by and not staying long, then chances are, most of the students do not even see you. Your campus involvement is accomplishing nothing in the area of outreach.
-Are you vibrant to the students? Once the students know who you are, do they like who you are? Do they like you? Do you go to school to try and meet students and notice that kids do not want you around? Lets be honest, someone doing student ministry that does not connect with students is going to struggle.
-Let me clarify, by VIBRANT I do not mean you need to be big, or cool, or young, or good-looking, or Mr. personality. Not at all. Vibrant with students is not that difficult. Students like adults sometimes. Are you helpful to them? Are you understanding to them? Are you interested in their world? I have found that buying some students some Polar Pops (32 oz fountain drinks at the Circle K) or attending their soccer game some evening is more than enough to make yourself vibrant to them. What student doesn’t like a free drink? Or what student doesn’t like fans at his or her varsity games?
-If you want to make an impact in some students lives, especially lost, lonely and looking students lives, then start helping their lives.
-Along those lines, Jesus’ very ministry teaches that being “able” to get into people’s lives is not at all about possessing the “cool” factor. (Although many student ministries these days place so much emphasis on coolness) Student ministry on campuses will thrive if it is like Jesus’s ministry = being humble servants. There is not a public middle school or high school that I have ever seen that is not in need of some volunteers. Most schools are desperate, even dependent for community involvement. They would gladly welcome you being there. Just a few weeks ago, I dropped by to see a coach. Within minutes, I was painting lines on the football field and then moving the soccer goals too. Jesus’ willingness to wash people’s feet is also what enabled him to speak to their hearts.
-Being vibrant is not so much about being cool to students. It is more about being helpful to students.
- ‘VAILABLE (as in “Available”)
-Are you available to the students? Can they find you if they need to? Have you been Visible enough and Vibrant enough that they can find you? Do they know where your church is? Do they know when your services are? Do they know when and where you will be on their campus next? Do they have your contact info? Your cell #? Your e-mail? Can they find you on social media? Are you Available to them?
-There are so many students out there who are suffering. When they decide to turn to someone for help or guidance, will it be you?
-In the last month, we have had 7 kids contact us through twitter asking what time our worship service began. We answered them. They were there in worship.
-How busy are you? Are you so busy that you do not have time to be available? How about leaving open some free time for students? Most students do not plan. So if you want to be available to them, you have to be available to them on their timing.
-One day I was walking out of the school after a meeting inside the school when I ran into 5 African players on the soccer team. I began talking to them and found out that they had 3 hours to burn before their game that night. I asked them if they wanted some food. All 5 loaded up in my car, and I took them to Wendys for a burger, fries and a drink. We talked about Jesus and Islam on the drive. They loved it. I loved it. It would not have happened were I not available.
-Being available to students is not something that just happens. Availability must be a priority.
-Do the students hear you? What do they hear from you? Do they know what you are about? Are they confused about it? Do they question your motives? Do they wonder why you are around? Are there any integrity issues? Do they see you as an Adult? A pastor? Do they know that you are not just their friend?
-Trying to be their friend will not accomplish your purpose. It will not help them. They need your mentorship and leadership way, way, way more than they need your friendship. The students know that and feel that, please make sure that you know that too.
-There are too many bad stories out there of adults messing up with students. Don’t let that happen. Be Vocal. Communicate up front who you are; what you stand for, and why you are there. It will not ruin things!
These 4 points (Visible, Vibrant, ‘Vailable, & Vocal) should be helpful to you as you attempt to make a difference on the middle & high school campuses around you! May God give us grace and favor to get into people’s lives and make a difference the way we see Jesus doing this in his earthly ministry. “For the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Mark 10:45