Investing into the relationships that you have with your local high schools can be a total game changer for your ministry. To continue building our relationships, we are sending Christmas gifts to some of our local high schools. While we would love to give a gift to each member of the faculty, our budget only allows us to give a couple per school. This year, we decided to send gifts to the principals (because they run the school) and the ASB directors (because they put on the campus events).

To each person, we’re sending:

  • A Starbucks Card
  • Card with our Christmas service times on it
  • Handwritten note (communicating the three points listed below)
  • Contact information

Our gift isn’t extravagant, but I believe that the Lord can use it in huge ways. My prayer is that the recipient will know three things from getting our gift. I pray that they know:

We are thankful. I want them to know that our church is deeply thankful for what they do. I want to celebrate their passion for seeing students grow and develop. We know how hard it can be to work with high schoolers and how rarely words of appreciation are heard, so I want them to stay encouraged and know that we see what they do.

We are here. I want our schools to know that our church is here to serve in any way that we can. If they have a wall that needs to be painted, we want to paint it. If they are putting on a canned food drive, we want to promote it. If something happens to a student, staff member, or the school as a whole, we want to pray for them.

We care. I want them to know that we love their school and that we love them as an individual. This is huge for those that aren’t Christians. To them, our ministry isn’t representing just our church, but the Church as a whole. Every letter, phone call, service project, and cookie plate is a chance to reflect Christ’s love. Investing in these relationships can mean investing in incredible evangelism opportunities.

What is your ministry doing for your schools this Christmas?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

As some of you know, this Wednesday was the annual event, See You at the Pole. SYATP (See You at the Pole) is a national day of prayer, where students come to school early to pray and worship together at their flagpole. Our ministry made a huge push for it this year and it turned out to be a huge win! I would promote SYATP to any youth group and here are a few reasons why:

-Unification. This event is geared towards uniting the Body of Christ at a school. One of the responsibilities of the student leader in charge of SYATP is to promote this event to all of the Christian clubs and organizations at the school. I think that when there are more than one Christian club at a school, there can be a rivalry that develops, but events like these, if done right, shatters this and helps them realize that they both have the same goal, to be a light and serve at their school. It is also fun to go and meet and build relationships with students and youth pastors from the area… you can never have too many friends!

-Long Term Results. While SYATP is a totally awesome program, it is only once a year. What we wanted to see happen was a fire sparked in the campus’ heart. We wanted this to inspire the Body at their school to love and serve their school in a way that they haven’t before. What was cool was seeing students posting their ideas on how to keep things like this going. There have already been talks of a campus prayer walk at one of our schools!

-Leadership Experience. SYATP is a completely student lead activity, which I LOVE. The cool thing is that the SYATP website (syatp.com) sets students up for success. It has a checklist of all of the things you need to do/think about when you are planning the event at your school. One of the cool things about this event is that it is a success/fail opportunity. One key element of growing leaders is giving them the freedom to fail. As their pastor, we are willing to help if they ask, but we can’t waste these unique opportunities to build up leaders. Failure doesn’t always mean the event is a complete disaster; failure can look like weak programming, bad promotion, poor team communication, etc. We just need to be there to help them learn from their mistakes so that the experience wasn’t in vain.

I am a huge believer in See You at the Pole and I hope that it is something that you at least look into for the schools in your area! Do you have a story from a See You at the Pole event?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



As a youth worker, I try to spend a regular amount of time eating lunch on school campuses. Youth workers either do this, or they don’t do this, and there are a number of reasons why.

I know a few guys who won’t step foot on a school campus and they have their reasons, most of them weak, some of them forced. (For example, when I lived in St. Louis not many schools would even allow me to come).

I know other guys who will eat on campus with students, but that can look very different:

  • You might see the youth worker that brings a volunteer with him and both are dressed in the same “our youth ministry” t-shirt with a stack of invite cards to their next event
  • You might see the youth worker that sits on the stage or stands at the door and as his kids notice him they’ll move towards him and soon the gathering is very noticeable
  • You might the youth worker at one table, and then another, and then another, and then…

Campus lunch can viewed a lot of different ways, and most views are well-intentioned. For me, I go to a school each week for one reason: to communicate to my kids that I care about their world, too. If I expect them to come to the church (my world) and hear what I have to say, it makes sense that I step on campus (their world) and see what’s going on beyond our programs. I want them to know their world is important to me so they’ll understand why my world should be important to them.

Most of the campuses at which we have students are very different. One makes me fill out reams of paperwork just to get in the front office. Another gives me a visitor sticker and thanks me for coming. One campus has a fight every lunch period, every day. In another I’ll get the stare-down trying to figure out if I’m the new kid or someone’s dad.

Every campus has a different culture. And to the population at large, the youth room in a church is a different culture. So for me to be on campus, I think it helps say, “You know I don’t belong here, but I came anyway because it’s worth it.” That can translate to the faithful student, the fringe student, or the friend of a student who comes into my ministry area and feels the same way.

So what about you? What’s your take on campus lunch contact work?

Sean Kahlich is the Mid-High Youth Minister at The Kirk of the Hills – check out his youth ministry blog called Awaiting Epiteleo.

Today was a huge step in a more recent dream for our high school ministry – we are in the preparation and launch phase of a new care system. Simply put, we have some incredible volunteers that are willing to pray and be available to the students at a specific high school in the area. Like many youth ministries, we serve multiple schools – so there will be two campus pastors for each (of the phase one) local high school. There will be one guy and one girl – we figured the team approach works best and liked having both genders represented as well as those types of specific needs arise.

This is a non-program, just caring adults who want to engage with the students on campus. Here’s the thinking behind the challenge I asked them to take on this morning:

Be available for contact
We’re going to publish this list of volunteers and their contact information in a ton of places – the announcements during the countdown, at our student leader meetings, etc. We want them to get some attention! This is not a program, so it is all about students organically contacting their campus pastor when they have a need. When a new student comes to our ministry from one of these high schools, we’ll immediately get them the contact person of their campus pastor to help follow-up. A girl named Bethany visited this weekend – how awesome would it have been for me to give her the text number of a caring adult who will pray for her and grab coffee with her after her first couple of days of school?

Be ready to care/counsel
I posted a couple weeks ago about Caring for Students, and I think I’m ready to add this new layer to that drawing. These campus pastors will be available, trained and eager to jump in and listen to students needs and pastorally care for them. They aren’t meant to replace a small group leader or The Landing, but be a bridge to a next step.

Show up on campus
Be visible at sporting events and fine arts stuff. Walk the campus occasionally and pray for the students. Use your relationships with core students to meet their friends and expand the reach of care. When there is a need or crisis in their life or at the school, our prayer is that their first thought is to turn to you for help.

Speak occasionally in clubs
From time to time speak in the high school Bible club, FCA or Cookies for Christ. Identify and encourage teachers who are representing Jesus in the public schools. Take advantage of the club platform to help students grow into campus pastors themselves.

Each school will look different – none of them are programs, just opportunities for relationships with students right in the school. Excited about this idea! Just a thought that might trigger something for you – maybe pray about 3-4 volunteers to step up in your context and take on a similar role.

JG