In junior high and high school I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the school day was lunch. Come to think of it, meal times are still a highlight for me. Maybe that’s what I love about visiting youth during the week. If I want to connect with kids on their turf it means visiting them during the school day. And, when are they available? That’s right, during lunch! I can’t imagine going back to high school for anything else (and, by the way, I have always preferred the brown bag lunch to whatever is sitting in the cafeteria warmers).
So, here’s my encouragement to you–go back to school. Find opportunities to visit with youth in their world. The easiest place to do that is going to be the school cafeteria. If you want to visit, do these things:
- Call the school and set up a meeting with the principal. Introduce yourself as the youth leader or youth pastor from such-and-such church and ask for a half hour to hear her thoughts on challenges she sees in the lives of students. Let her know you want to be a help to her in caring for students.
- Find out visitation policies. This will vary from school to school, and it’s a great topic to cover with the principal. The school will let you know if religious topics are off-limits during your visits or not. If you’re asked to avoid faith topics, when they come up from students you can just let them know you’re not allowed to address that at school but you’d love to talk about it some other time. Invite them to your next youth activity where you’ll be able to talk about those things.
- Let your students know when you’re coming. You know some kids already, so start there. If you show up and don’t know any kids you’re going to be some creepy adult (and the administration might not let you in anyway). Tell your kids when you’ll be there and let them know you want to meet their friends.
- Have something to give away. Maybe you can bring some food–desserts are always popular. I worked with a DCE who would show up on campus during a morning free period with donuts. Food is fun, but it’s not always in the budget. Whatever you bring, make sure you’ve also got some invite cards with the 411 on your youth activities. Highlight your weekly youth night, promote an upcoming event, or at least be ready to give out some business cards with your contact info.
- Make the visit and collect some names. Be excited to meet your youth and their friends. Invite! Invite! Invite! The studies and talks and activities you’re doing are worthwhile because they’re translating the gospel into a language teens can understand. You’ve got something great for these kids! (not pizza–the gospel) So, give them a flyer for your next event and tell them you want to see them there.
- Finally, make some notes. After your visit, write down the names of the kids you talked to. Keep notes on your conversations. When those kids show up a week from now or a month from now, they’ll take note when you remember something about them. And, while you’re waiting for them to show up, you can be praying over that list.
I realize most communities have multiple schools, and students in our youth groups are attending schools all over town. Don’t be intimidated. Just start with one school. Recruit other adults to help make these connections and divide the work. It’s worthwhile for deepening relationships with youth in your church, and it’s invaluable for establishing relationships with youth who have no church.
Published September 2012