There is always going to be a tension in life and ministry in which we balance the growing of deep roots in discipleship and extending our reach further out into the community with a missional way of life. I do not believe that these things are mutually exclusive, but I do believe that there are a ton of factors that pull us constantly toward one or the other. One of the best ways to keep youth ministry fresh and meet students who haven’t ever been to your church is to involve yourself in the school that’s closest to where you live and/or do ministry. I have been hit or miss when it comes to having a presence in schools, but I have picked up a couple of key components that make it much easier to get in the door and be welcomed.
1. Student Initiative>Pastor Initiative
Most of us became leaders because we have a drive to make things happen and a conviction for things that are worth doing. Over the years, I’ve found that schools are much more excited and open to let new activities for students get started if one or more students are fired up to help get them going. If a Senior who has shown some responsibility and respect during their high school career wants a lunchtime bible study or an after-school faith-based club to get off the ground, then it is much more likely to happen as opposed to a youth pastor with no real presence in the school cold calling and trying to set something up. It’s a win-win situation because anytime we can empower students to own their faith and be on mission, we are doing good Gospel work.
2. Earn the Right to be Heard
This term has defined so much of my ministry approach because it keeps ministry happening from a relational foundation rather than a positional foundation. When working with schools, we will all find much greater success and acceptance when what we do at the school costs us something. Sacrificing some time to support a school fundraiser or attend a basketball game can go a long way. Providing lunch for the students in an on-campus meeting shows a school staff that we care. This week, my community has experienced its third teen suicide of the semester from the same high school. Our team has connected with school district staff and administrators to organize a community time of prayer at the front steps of each high school.
That doesn’t result in a bigger youth ministry for us, and that’s exactly why it speaks volumes to the school. Serving without expecting anything in return is how you earn the right to be a voice in a place where, typically, a Christian voice isn’t welcome.
3. Be Consistent
This might be a no-brainer, but when it comes to anything student related, consistency wins the day. There is something that makes students and faculty alike feel more secure with an outside entity when they show up week after week and keep their commitments. The slow work of the Kingdom of God takes time, and if we want to have any hope of seeing long-lasting fruit, we must be in for the long haul. We haven’t even seen this quite yet in our own context, but it is something that we are striving toward. We can envision a day when we are a part of the culture of a local school, not just an outside voice that has its own agenda in mind.
Be encouraged today wherever you are, and may the slow work of the Kingdom bring much fruit to you.