As a youth worker, nothing was more exciting to me than getting out of the church, out of my office, and reaching students in public schools. I never found much success doing that behind my desk, with the expectation that they would come to me, participate in my youth program, on my turf. Meeting students in their everyday environment, during their everyday life, is important. It also gives you more time to build relationships.
I wanted to hear from other youth workers how they reach teens in public schools. So, I texted some of my all time favorite, rock star youth workers. I learned a lot. Just understanding their approach gave me new ideas. I was also encouraged to know that out of all the youth pastors I texted, 100% of them are going beyond the walls of the church.
Here’s the question I texted: How do you reach teens in public school?
Wes: Very carefully. No, I go on campus as a school volunteer, not wearing my pastor hat. I’ve been a hall monitor, assembly counselor, stuff like that.
Michelle: Be normal! We offer to help/volunteer at the school. We also reach teens by collaborating with FCA and Young Life. Find out who is already on campus and collaborate.
Carrie: Well, I tried reaching students by bringing a big bag of fries onto campus. I got to know a few kids that way, and one came to youth group, but overall it wasn’t very “successful”. We’re working with a student and teacher sponsor to create a discussion group after school and during lunch. We’ll use a video series that will spark discussion. We will let them talk, and we will listen.
Mike: Youth workers share similar goals with schools. A good administrator wants the maximum number of caring and safe adults involved with their kids. I introduce myself to the school administrator. This allows me to collaborate with the school where they need me.
Gabe: By spending lunch on campus with middle school students or going to lunch with high school students, I can build relationships. From there, I start attending their sporting events and performances to support them. I use the “belong before believe” method. Often, teens will start sharing questions they have about God. This is when I have the opportunity to share my faith.
Here’s what I love about all of these texts. It is clear that none of these youth workers are looking to just check the “saved” box. They don’t walk onto a school campus thinking about their own agenda. These youth workers are successfully reaching kids in public school by aligning themselves with the school, and collaborating with already existing clubs. They aren’t in a hurry to fast track teens to Jesus. They are mindful, building relationships, and introducing Jesus in positive ways.
Join the conversation. How are you reaching teens in public schools?
Did the above texts make you excited to reach beyond the walls of the church? You’re ready to read the Skinny on Outreach.
Praying for you today as you reach out to teens!
7 thoughts on “Reaching Students in Public Schools”
Me and our middle school pastor visit 2 schools a week, each at lunch. The schools have been very accepting of us coming on campus. One thing we do is to provide breakfast for the staff of a school every other couple of weeks. We will take biscuits from McDonalds, bagels from Panera and cut up some fruit along with coffee and drinks. We serve the teachers and the admin. It does wonders with building relationships with our church and school. And it’s not that expensive. Teachers love free food!
Way to plug in Jonathan, that’s awesome! What do youth pastors and teachers have in common? They both love free food!!!!
Sorry about that! Way to plug in, Adam! Love it!!!
I am a second year youth minister in Ruston, LA. I have a very small youth group and decided the best way to change that was through school outreach. I majored in music, so I help by being a percussion instructor to the high school and jr. High. I call to lunches, practices, and games. I also joined FCA with the intent of being a basketball chaplin. It has been an uncomfortable but very rewarding process.
I love that you admit it’s uncomfortable. Basketball Chaplin! Great idea. I’ve witnessed some of the chapel services with the NBA and WNBA and think it’s awesome!
I was asked by a parent to come and speak at the local public school’s Christian club six years ago. That opened the door to build relationship with kids as well as some teachers. Another parent heard me talking about this last year and approached her son’s school about starting up a club. With prayer and a teacher opening up his room, the club was started. It has been great to walk their halls, see there challenges, and see God work on these campuses.
Some other facts you need to know about Youth For Christ.
As a non-Christian, raised in public schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I can tell you about the actual impact of Y.F.C. in our schools.
As a non-Christian, you are the target of both students, faculty and teachers, because they collude to put pressure on you to “get saved.” They do NOT respect the boundaries of church, state and public schools. Year after year, they openly target, discuss, shame and pontificate about their “ministry to the unsaved…..ESPECIALLY the Jews “who rejected Jesus, the Savior.” You hear it in cafeterias, study hall, even in school assemblies, and often spoken by teachers and school administrators. There was no boundary to their shaming and proselytizing. They tell you to your face that you are in
a “Christian community.” That is nothing less than religious persecution.
Imagine, you as a Fundamentalist Christian, attending a public school, being reminded almost daily by fellow students, teachers and administrators,that you are inferior because you are not a Jew. Imagine being shunned, overlooked and tacitly discriminated against in athletics, academics and social life “because you are not of the Chosen People”
Walk in the shoes of those you have marginalized. The bottom line?
Youth For Christ in public schools may have advanced the goals of Fundamentalist Christians, but it was done by abusing students. If your goal was to “influence teens for Christ,” you failed. More students, whether Christian or not, resented the religious pressure and bigotries, than were drawn to it.
Perhaps that’s why the vast majority of Americans are now Nones, who have made the intellectual and spiritual decision to avoid religions altogether, NOT because they have “lost their faith” or even “chose to be hostile to Christ’s message.” (Youth For Christ words, verbatum) but because of the abuses, shaming and bullying by religions, particularly Fundamentalist Christians, in ALL our public venues: schools, city council meetings, county administration meetings, public venues of every kind. Imagine Muslims or Jews or Hindus dominating EVERYTHING in your city, state and government.
Put yourself in the shoes, eyes and ears of others.