When I first entered youth ministry, my pastor wanted me to go up to the schools and visit our kids during lunch and things like that. Well going to their plays, sporting events, graduations, 4H and FFA Livestock shows, is easy enough, getting permission to go up to the school during school hours is almost impossible. Having your pastor or youth pastor come visit during lunch is a thing of the past, it ain’t gonna happen.
This is do to both political correctness (If I let you up here I’ve got to let the “church of satan” guy up here to, and the atheist mom gets really mad about a Christian coming up to the school, she’s ok with the Imam though), there’s also the issue of safety and liability. Today teachers and school personnel have to go through background check, and be put in a fingerprint database (at least in Texas). Also, with all the psychos out there, do you really want a school to just let anyone off the streets come hang out with your kids? Also, I have nightmares of being the Pastor from “That 70’s Show” I D.O. N.O.T. want to be that guy, what a loser!
How I make the school pay me to hang out with students.
So how do I engage students when they are at school? That’s super easy, in fact I devised a cleverly orchestrated scheme in which the school pays me to be with students during the school day. Here it is…I [wait for it] signed up [wait for it] to [wait for it] sub. That’s my secret. I just applied to be a substitute teacher, I even have a name badge!
My youth minister in High School subbed and it was cool having him up at the school from time to time. I was reminded about this during our spring revival when our speaker and I where talking and he said it subbed at the local schools so that he always had an idea of what was going on in students lives. LIGHT BULB! So I talked to my pastor about it and we agreed that as long as it didn’t interfere with my duties at the church I could sub once a week (I subbed 3 days in a row last week but it was a special circumstance).
I’m going to brag on my pastor for a second. Sure he’s old, sure he doesn’t get today’s youth, sure it’s just awkward and funny with he tries to talk to our youth, but he has taught me the importance of being a shepherd that’s involved in the life of your sheep. He’s said many times that you can spend all day, every everyday, in your office reading and studying theology, but that’s not nearly as important as visiting a sick church member, or getting ice cream with a student. We actually still physically visit guests and church members that have been lagging in attendance. On one occasion a church member had been in the hospital and didn’t tell anyone at the church. We had the opportunity pray and minister to a family that we’d never known about if we spent that time studying.
Back to Subbing. I have an advantage of being in a small town we have three campuses in our district, the Elementary (1-5), Jr High (6-8), and High School (9-12). There are only about 400 total high school students in the district. Every time I sub at the high school I see at least 3-4 of my youth, if I make an effort to find them I can see about 10. I now know there teachers, have an idea of their schedules, and I am much more aware of their work load. And they see me, I’m in a small enough town that most of the students are starting to recognize me as the youth minister of my Church. That’s a good thing, but it also means that I’ve got to be careful that I’m always representing myself, my church, and my faith well (shouldn’t I be doing that anyway?).
And I really enjoy it, you learn a lot about what students believe, and where they are spiritually. OK, that part’s depressing, but I really like teenagers. So here is my recommendation to my fellow youth pastors in smaller towns. APPLY TO BE A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER. Most school districts are always in need of subs, and they should be able to work with you on when you come in, I say “no” to subbing as much as I say “yes.” Do get permission from your pastor, he is your boss.
And did I mention you’ll get paid to hang out with youth, isn’t that the whole reason we entered youth ministry in the first place?
Peace be with you,