Most Youth Pastors I know work hard at their ministry and have a desire to see their particular student ministry grow. Hours are poured into programs and events designed for our "church kids" to bring their "un-churched friends." But, when these events are over, it's common for leadership to walk away scratching their heads wondering why they didn't attract more un-churched students. Many of these events are purposefully built for those who don't attend church. So, why don't more students show up? What if we stopped relying on un-churched students to show up in our churches, and instead went to where they are?
We are enthralled at the ability and intention of Jesus to meet people where they were. What if we could be more adept at adapting that philosophy? If we are going to meet teens "where they are," then we have to be on the public school campus. Period. But doing so can often be challenging. How do you go about becoming a presence in your local high school? Over the last few years, we've been successful in building relationships with the high schools in our community. Here are 10 ways I've found that help you get plugged in at your local public school.
- Feed the Multitudes--Set up a meeting with the Principal, and possibly the Assistant Principal, and let them know your church values them and would like to show appreciation by serving them a meal. No strings attached! Cater a local reputable restaurant. (See number 4.) This is a great way to simply serve the faculty, and lend some credibility to your ministry.
- Know The Leaders--Spend your time networking with the key people such as Principal, Asst. Principal, and, maybe more importantly, the Student/Youth Services Coordinator (because he or she deals with the needs of students). Cast your vision of support to these people. Communicate your interest in serving them and being a resource for them.
- Know Your Role--Your job is not to be the self-appointed Campus Pastor. View your role as that of a servant. When you consistently find ways to serve the school, you might just become someone a student or teacher may reach out to.
- Get Dirty--We are presently working with a local teacher by starting a Pride Club. We are tilling up some dirt, and planting shrubs and flowers. This is the first of several beautification projects.
- Spend Money--Your opportunities to serve often will come with an expensive price tag. If possible, move some budget money around to dedicate to serving your schools(s). Bite the bullet. It will be worth it.
- Support Athletics--Network with the Coach ahead of time and arrange to take cold Gatorade and fruit to teams after practices.
- Get in the Loop--When you are at the school, ask the Secretary, "How are things going around the school today?" You might be surprised at how quickly you learn of the ups and downs of the school. Just being in the front office can give you clues. This can help you identify areas to specifically pray for, and get a sense for how things get accomplished.
- Presence = Preaching--You can't barge in with the Bible in one hand and bullhorn in the other expecting to get everyone saved. (Actually, if you barge in with a Bible, they'll probably call the police.) It's not going to happen. Your task is to become a trusted adult in the lives of the teenagers there, and a trusted resource in the eyes of the faculty. Your walk is an example of Christ. Most of your involvement is going to be serving others.
- Pace Yourself--Be patient. Don't knock down a door, wait for God to open it for you!
- Be Consistent--Be in this work for the long haul. You may not see any fruit from this labor for some time. Just keep pressing on!
By following these 10 suggestions, you just might find yourself reaching un-churched students (and maybe even some adults), and in the process becoming a valuable resource for your community.
- How have you been able to make yourself a resource to your local schools?
- What is the attitude of your local school administration toward your presence in the school?