Tuesday, February 09, 2010

No Free Lunch Campus Visits.



Earlier in my ministries - I use to love visiting students on their turf - during their lunch time, except it caused some issues.

What issues?

Well some students thought I might embarrass them. Principals and educators were leary of a "Minister" being on their campus etc.

And then there were those "Super Mage Youth Pastor Ego types" who thought it was their right to be on campus and tell everyone about How great of a church they had compared to all the "little people." (Seriously - I ran into one of these guys who yelled at a Middle School principal and then the Principal closed their campus due to this one jerk.)

So what is the solution?

Here is my suggestion. Don't do lunch visits. Don't do it. Why? You ask. There is plenty of other time to build relationships on the school campus ... Let me suggest some:

1. Coach. Volunteer to coach or help with extra curricular activities.

2. Substitute teach. Sure the pay might not be great, but gives you an opportunity to meet the students.

3. Meet with the Principal. Have a lunch meeting with the teachers etc. Pray for them.

4. Go to the School Board meetings - know what is going on in your area and how you can help.

5. Go and offer help - especially when tragedy happens. I know I've visited some schools when a fellow classmate passes or a teacher etc. And offer to stay and listen. Usually the staff have the resources in place - but always a good thing to build relationships and offer help.

6. Go to the EXTRA Curricular activities. My last ministry - several of us spent most of the Fall on Fridays and Saturdays going to different games and Marching Band competitions. Why? Because we wanted to show the students we loved and valued them. That said so much more than me spending lunch with them.

7. Have lunch with their parents. There is nothing like having lunch with a parent and hearing their dreams for their children. I still remember some of the lunches and meals I've shared with parents from the last ministry I had. They all had given me some wise advice.

8. Offer some after school activities. We have currently one of our volunteers for our teen ministry that gets together a few guys (Even goes and picks them up) and opens up our multi-purpose room and they play street hockey. Think Game, movie nites - be creative to building that relationships.

9. Be praying. Pray specifically for the schools that those students go to. With so many different schools and activities ... I know I can't make ever campus anyways ...

10. Balance your time wisely. Time management. You could be focusing on so much on campus visits that you forget all the other stuff. Don't forget the goal isn't for you to be a buddy to your teens, but to be their mentor, friend, leader ... in doing that have some time management. I've know some youthworkers who spend alot of time on campus of schools but forget to prepare for their lessons, forget to feed their own souls. So ask yourself - is this effective use of my time? In some cases it is, in other times it is just a waste of time.

1 comment:

Bill Nance said...

I'm going to have to agree with you and disagree with you all in one comment.
First of all, those are all great ways to relate to students and/or teachers/administrators. Also, I agree that its not good to be the super ego guy nor should you think the school "owes you" the ability to just waltz on and off campus.
But, I think that lunch time visits are an invaluable tool to reaching the students in your community. First of all, they all eat lunch, so you can see them all. At lunch time, they are more relaxed and have time to talk. Also, you get to interact with their friends. Does it embarrass them? Maybe, but for a long time I only visited the Middle School and not the high school. After a while, my High Schoolers were asking, "Why dont you ever come to visit us?" It might embarrass them, but they realized that I did it because I cared and they wanted me to care.
Not every school allows lunch visits, nor will every principal or administrator be comfortable with you coming. Thats why its key to get to know those people beforehand, and if they do have a problem offer to find other ways to help. Don't do it to just get to have free range of the school, but because you care and you're there to serve.
Lunch time visits should be a part of your ministry (if possible) but not dominate your ministry. I only spent two lunches a week (one MS and one HS) which worked out to about 4 hours a week. But in those 4 hours I saw every student of mine, saw all their friends, connected with hundreds of kids over the year to the point that they missed me when I wasn't there on "chicken nugget day". So, I agree do all those other things, but don't just dismiss lunch visits because some youth ministers are dumb.