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GUEST POST: High Schools Need Youth Pastors – They Just Don’t Know It

 —  October 22, 2011 — 6 Comments

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.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Josh Griffin

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6 responses to GUEST POST: High Schools Need Youth Pastors – They Just Don’t Know It

  1. I received a tweet this morning asking how did we start the conversation with the school? This is the email that I sent to them, this was 2 months after being told we were no longer welcome in the school.

    Good Morning Ms ________

    I was wondering if you would have some time in the next few weeks to meet up. I was hoping discuss the possibility of having myself and a core youth leader from our Youth Group make regular visits to your school on a bi-weekly basis during lunch time. We are so passionate about connecting with our students and would love the opportunity to come and visit them on their turft. I know it means a lot to them when we do.

    I feel that we can bring a lot to the table as far as value to your school and would like to discuss this with you.

    Looking forward to connecting

    Geoff Stewart
    Youth Pastor……

  2. Thanks Geoff!

  3. Great stuff! Thank you Geoff!

  4. As a Youth Pastor I was in a school for a meeting with the Principal. We were having a good chat about the program I was volunteering with (Duke of Edinburgh). In conversation he mentioned how he was thankful for volunteers coming into the school and helping invest in his students. He mentioned “I have this one Youth Worker (Name removed) who is doing a great job.” I responded “I love that guy, he’s runs a stellar Youth Group at (Church name removed).” The Principal responded: “What? He’s a Youth Pastor? He told me he was a Community Youth Worker.” He quickly took a note in his book with a scowl. “I hate being lied to.”

    Similarly, I had a conversation with a different Principal a year later talking about Youth Workers volunteering in his school. He mentioned he had a Youth Worker from (Para-Church group name removed) who came with the intention to help out and volunteer. The Principal was impressed with their work. So impressed he made a donation to their organization. A month later he started getting their newsletters. He was shocked. The message and communication in the newsletter was very different than what he was told was the Youth Workers intentions. He felt deceived. He felt it was a little humorous that they wouldn’t have thought he would ever see a copy of their newsletter.

    Something to keep in mind: You can lie or use trickery to get into a school. OR you can be up front from the beginning that you are a Youth Pastor, that you do have a spiritual agenda and that you will do your best to invest in his or her students.

  5. Great word Darian – this frame work is about protecting the principal that if a student in the school is invited to a youth group that they would knot that its not me doing it. That they are not allowing a religious group to recruit in the school. The students are having the conversations, and doing the inviting which is allowed, and permissible. Our school has a Christian Club that is led by students from our ministry and the principal is aware of that as well.

    Here is the link to what is in it for us as youth pastors but the heavy lifting is done by the students who can choose to or not to invited their friends to youth group.

    http://www.morethandodgeball.com/youth-ministry/guest-post-3-reasons-you-should-visit-your-local-high-schools.html

  6. I was reminded again today when I was on campus of two things that might be helpful …

    1) Remember that the principal you are talking to is the one able to give you the ‘key to the school’ in terms of permission for being on campus, but the office staff (i.e.. secretaries, admin) are the gate keepers. It is imperative that we check in with them in the office when we arrive on campus, as they will be the ones that receive the call from a teacher that a stranger/adult is on campus and will clear you, not the principal. A good reputation with them is priceless, as principals will come and go, but generally office staff outlast them.

    2) When you see a student you know at the school and they are with friends, respect their comfort level in disclosing who you are. I will say hello to them and then to their friends and if a friend asks who I am I will quickly read the face of the student I know before saying “their youth pastor”, or just “a friend”. If the student wants to give their friends more details, that is up to them. It just about respect I guess.

    Thoughts?

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