A few months back I wrote a post about the need for us to be in schools and the reality that we have a tonne to offer schools. With the knowledge that schools are becoming increasingly cautious and sometimes hostile towards the Church and the optics of having us visit the school, we have built a solid case for how we can benefit the life of the school while honoring and respecting their rules and apprehensions. This is a great week to send an email to the administration at your local school(s) and see if you can’t be a part of what is happening there.
This year for our ministry has had a ramped up focus on our local high schools that we feel is 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 lets face it, students are not flocking to the Church with questions and concerns anymore so its all the more important that we be where they are. The problem is that many schools are phasing out or not allowing Youth Pastors or religious groups to be present in the school anymore.
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 and 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 be bring in any fliers, candy or any other bribe into the school. This is non-negotiable for both the school and us because 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 and because of our unique relationship with students, the words we say speak volumes to students. 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.
Respect: High School principals in many cases are public enemy number one, and we all know that students love to rally around a cause and in a school that 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 that we will encourage them to submit to the authority that the school has (1 Peter:2:13-14) over them. Modeling respect for the school’s administration is important and the administration will love to know that we are not undermining anything that they are doing.
Relationship: Youth Workers have a relationship with students that the schools just cannot offer and for that reason we can be really helpful. Our voice is unique, and unlike parents or teachers, students choose to spend time with us and 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 and working 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 life 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. This is the case for getting into the schools and if you read my previous article you can read about the benefits to your ministry of being at the school. This is a huge win for both the schools and us as Youth Workers.