Traveling across North Texas over the last three years, many times I have been asked what is the best way to reach students. Automatically, the first response is always schools. A youth pastor must recognize schools, the largest collection of student within the local community, as his highest priority for missions outreach.
The second and easiest answer to that question is going to school lunches. Visiting school lunches provides the quickest way to connect with, encourage, and speak into the lives of students. How do you get permission to visit students during lunch? The majority of schools in North Texas ask that you submit a one-time background check accompanied with a quick scan of your drivers license at each visit. Many leaders are persuaded that school lunches are a waste of time. I believe that being consistent in attendance, many doors will open up and influence will increase for you, among the staff and students of the school. Below are a few of the reasons to make visiting school lunches a priority:
1. Get out of the office. An office was made to do work. Ministry, in my opinion, is greatest outside the four-walls of the church. Your illustrations, stories, and relationships are created outside the office. So, I give you an excuse – get out of the office! You will preach better and creativity will flow.
2. See students in different environment besides church. When students attend church, they are on their best behavior. I know; it’s scary. As you venture into their environment, you understand their daily culture and get a burden for this generation of students, not just church kids. This will keep you relevant without compromising your own integrity.
3. Creates consistency in message to reach schools. If you talk about reaching the schools, but never go to the school yourself, then your vision is flawed. Leadership is more than a cute slogan or passionate message. Leadership serves people and each other so that a common goal is achieved. Want to win the school? Be at the school.
4. Builds reliable relationship with teachers and coaches. This usually does not happen automatically, these relationships are built over years of faithfully been on the campus. Once they see you and get to know you; then they will begin to trust you. A solid trust with school leaders will open doors for years of campus ministry. Trust me: schools are looking for community leaders they can trust to help influence their student body.
5. Connect with former students that may have fallen away from Christ. We have seen this one over and over. A student disconnects from the local church, then they see they youth pastor at a game or school lunch. This meeting renews all the good memories from previous times with God, flooding their heart with loving conviction to restore relationship with God. Many times, we have seen students come back to God and church, simply because the youth pastor was present.
6. Makes witnessing easier for students when Youth Pastor is present. By the youth pastor standing in the lunchroom, it gives students a reason to talk about Jesus. Whereas they may be afraid in other settings to strike up a conversation about Jesus. The presence of the “Man of God” provides them a talking piece to invite friends to church and share their testimony of faith. This also brings accountability to church kids because they are lumped into the Christian group.
7. Promotes a Kingdom mentality. As churches are divided over so many doctrines and issues, the one place we can all agree on is the public schools. Schools become a great place to connect with other community churches, then building relationships for future ministry through school outreach. The Kingdom of God is bigger than one church or denomination. What if we all AGREED to invest into the schools, America’s greatest mission field?