As we are all getting back into the swing of the new year I wanted to take some time to talk about Campus Ministry, or specifically things you can do to minister to your local schools. I know that not everyone who reads this is going to have the same relationships with their local schools as we do in my area but some of the ideas apply no matter how open your school is.
A little background on my setting. I am at a rural church that sits VERY close to the border of 2 counties in Kentucky. I have 8 schools represented in our student ministry. The bulk of the students come from 4 schools though, the one county high school and middle, and the other county high and middle. We have one at a private school, one at the city high school, one at the city middle school, and a good amount of home school students. I divide up my time between three for lunches, one county high, the same counties middle school, and the other county I get to in one day as the middle and high are in the same building so I get to sit through all the lunches.
1: Eat Lunch:
Easy enough right? If your campus is an open campus and allows youth ministers to visit, eating lunch with the students is a great way to help foster relationships with them outside of the four walls of the church building. It is also a great witness to students who don't go to your church, they see you there and know you're active in your students lives. TIP: Go eat lunch on Wednesday's when possible, that way you can remind students about youth group that night. And always eat the school food, no matter how gross it is. I think that has to do with suffering for Christ!
2: Sports Events:
No matter how open your school is, you can always go catch a game. Even if you do not have a student that is a player, I'm willing to be at least one or two of your students will be there as spectators. Sit by them, talk, buy them a Coke, and cheer on their local team! TIP: Buy a t-shirt from every school you have represented and wear it to the game. Students like seeing that you're cheering for the same team they are. I have a closet full of our school's t-shirts.
One great way to outreach onto campus is, feed a sports team before a game! This year we have fed both of our county high schools football teams. It was a tremendous time to connect with students who do not know me, and more importantly their coaches. Do not make this into a fishing expedition! You're not there to win people to your church, you there to win souls for Christ. TIP: Ask the coaches and staff how you can pray for them. When they know that there is a person out there that cares as much for them as the students, you'll make a life long ally at that school.
4: Principals matter:
Get to know the principals! A lot of school principles are Christian, it would actually surprise you. They might not be able to show their faith a lot at their schools due to the law, but that does not mean they are not as passionate about caring for students as you are. I am lucky that one county principle attends my church and has daughters in my student ministry, so we have a natural connection. The other principal I need to get to know. I know he is a Christian, he spoke at the back to school bash hosted by a local church about his faith. We are planning an idea for next year, where each of the local high schools get a spirit night, they decorate the youth room how they want it (we are encouraging school colors and decorations), we are encouraging them to go all out. Students from that school will share their testimonies etc. We are also going to try to get their principals to come and share their faith with them. TIP: Share a Coke. Find out if the principal is a diet or regular person, and find a Coke with their name on it. Keep it cold and when you drop by the school, drop off a Coke.
At my last church one of the best outreaches I had? Being ball boy for the soccer team. I went to a game and they did not have a ball boy for one side of the field. I volunteered to help out and it was a tremendous outreach. The parents saw me going up and down the sidelines wearing our youth group t-shirt with our church name on it. I heard a few parents ask around as to who I was, then our students parents proudly said, "That's our youth pastor!" I had parents talk to me after the game, I even made an awesome connection with a student who did not go to church, the students parents asked me to talk to him. Volunteer, even if your not in good enough shape to run down soccer balls. Ask a coach if you can help them by getting their water and handing out drinks to the players. Ask to help keep stats. If you are EMT certified ask to help the trainer. Volunteer to work the concession stand. TIP: There is no wrong way to do this! Just put yourself out there!
Until next time! Just keep swimming!