Written by Geoff Stewart on youthministry.com:
This year our ministry has had a ramped up focus on our local high schools we feel are the final frontier of the student mission field. We have 3 major schools on the peninsula that our church is on, encompassing 4000+ students. A very daunting figure. But what an opportunity and let’s face it, students are not flocking to the Church with questions and concerns anymore. It’s all the more important we be where they are. The problem is many schools are resistant to a pastor’s or religious group’s presence.
We recently encountered one of these schools and it took 9 months of emails, follow up calls and persistence to get a meeting with the administration. In that meeting, we presented what I felt was a well thought out case as to why the school needs us as much as we need them. Here is what we brought to the table.
PROMISE NOT TO PROMOTE
This was the disarming opening to the conversation, as we said in no uncertain terms that we would not advertise, promote or invite any students to our program, nor would we bring in any fliers, candy or any other bribe into the school. This is non-negotiable for both the school and us. We are not the missionaries doing the heavy lifting, just the supportive spotters.
COMMITMENT TO CONNECT
The transition into high school for some is easy and for others, it can be painful and lonely. For students that have trouble making meaningful connections early in their high school career, they can end up making unhealthy connections with the first people that will talk to them. We committed to being a connector of students, being present in the first weeks of the school year and throughout the year with the intention of helping students make meaningful friendships with other teens involved in the ministry. For the school, the idea of having someone partner with them in helping students make a more successful and less stressful transition into the school was a huge plus.
HEART OF ENCOURAGEMENT
There is something about affirming words from someone you respect that speaks to the heart on a different level. As youth workers we are not parents nor are we teachers. Because of our unique relationship with students the words we say speak volumes to them. The look on our students faces when they see us walking down the hall is priceless unless, of course, they are avoiding me (which happens too). A youth worker going out of their way to visit a school tells a student that they matter.
High School principals in many cases are public enemy number one, and we all know that students love to rally around a cause. In a school that cause can be despising leadership. Our role needs to be one where we come alongside the administration and our students and in the midst of frustrations that students may have and encourage them to submit to the authority of the school (1 Peter:2:13-14). Modeling respect for the school’s administration is important. The administration will love to know that we are not undermining anything that they are doing.
Youth workers have a relationship with students that the schools just cannot offer and for that reason, we can be helpful. Our voice is unique and unlike parents or teachers students choose to spend time with us. For that reason, the respect that they have for us is often earned and not expected. Our opinions, concerns, and thoughts are influential in the lives of our students and as often as parents call on us to walk beside their students in times of trial, I suggested schools could do the same. In our meeting with the school, we provided a comprehensive list of all the students who were a part of their school and active at our youth group. We proposed that we would be available if they became concerned with any of our students and we could come along side the family and school to work through whatever the issues might be. This was a big seller for the school, as it became very clear that being in the school was about mentoring and investing in our students, not recruiting and proselytizing the lost.
I am so convicted of the value that investment of just one hour per school every two weeks can have in the spiritual lives of our students, the perceptions of Christianity and pastors to their friends, and the opportunities that we will have to live out a relationship with Christ to the teachers and administration of the schools we are serving.
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