What is “Project 1-2-1?”
It is a simple program that allows our youth ministry to relationally connect with each student each month. Students don’t normally receive personal mail, so we decided to reach out to our students relationally each month through postcards. We choose postcards for two reasons: 1.) it’s simple and cost effective, 2.) parents can read what’s written on each postcard. Each month, youth workers at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor receive an up-to-date listing of assigned students, mailing labels and stamped postcards. These postcards increase our relational contact with each of our students.
How do you get started?
Organize your students by gender and grade and assign a group of students to each of your volunteers. Each month prepare mailing labels and stamped postcards for your youth workers and distribute the postcards and labels. Give your workers seven days to write and send their postcards and follow-up with your workers to insure the postcards were mailed. Collect any unsent postcards and re-distribute or send them yourself.
Does it work?
Maria W., a relational youth worker at Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor gives her impression.
“Last summer, Donnell wanted us to write postcards to our youth (project 1-2-1) just to touch their lives in some small way. So, a student named Lasandra was on my list, and I hadn’t had any contact with her in years. I remember thinking, “Oh great! What am I going to write?” So I just asked her a few cursory questions re: her life in general, and probably shared what I was doing/where I was going on vacation. Something like that–and I sent it. Well, I bumped into her at church some weeks later and she came up and initiated a conversation with me! She thanked me for the postcard and suggested that we get together sometime. I said sure…and followed up with her as often as I was able as she went through her pregnancy. Our friendship blossomed and grew. I think God used that little postcard at a critical juncture in her life to open up a relationship between us. We now talk on the phone once or twice a week and get together once a month or so. Lasandra and I have transitioned into what I think is a meaningful discipleship relationship. I often have opportunity to offer to pray for her on the phone for whatever is going on. So, that’s my story of how God can use seemingly small and insignificant things to build relationships and to spread his love.”
Tips for writing to students
The most cherished gifts are the ones you make yourself, and the same is true for postcards/greeting cards. Writing your own sentiments turns a simple postcard/greeting card into a treasured keepsake, and you don’t have to be a professional to do it. Before you begin writing, think about who you’re writing to, and the reason for your postcard/greeting card. Then, try some of these tips for inspiration:
- Always, always write their name out in full
- Include some fact about your relationship that is distinct. Example: I remember when you/we…
- Get nostalgic by thinking of things that only you and the student share—inside jokes or stories of past adventures. Include a funny photo from the past (put postcard and photo in an envelope).
- Pray/Look for a verse that might be just what the student needs to hear. Tell the student how highly you think of them. We don’t say these positive words often enough. Encourage a kid in what they hope do to with their life, or to discover what God has in store.
- Tell the student that this postcard is good for one free trip to the movies or one trip to the DQ or to Starbucks. Initiate free opportunities for you to spend time with your student in a safe public atmosphere. Always get parental permission though when scheduling such an event.
- No matter what kind of card you’re writing, remember that sincerity counts. You don’t have to be a wonderful wordsmith or a poetic prodigy to write a greeting card that someone will cherish. Take the time to think carefully about exactly how you feel, and the right words will come to you.
I know that writing postcards seems like a trivial thing. But often in the life of a teen, it is the small gestures that show you really care that make a profound difference.