As American youth pastors, we all want to see God change lives of students in our local schools, but the hassle and pushback from many school administrations can seem daunting. It’s easy to just throw your hands up in despair and say it’s too hard.
Recently, the following verse in Jeremiah spoke to me: “… seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Too many youth pastors today want to use local schools to make a great youth group when they should want their youth group to make great schools. I wonder what our schools would look like if we turned our far-too-often internally focused youth groups into externally focused youth ministries? What if we weren’t just seeking to grow our gatherings, but desired to make our schools flourish through an influx of Gospel-driven students?
Let me give you some practical ways to get into your local school.
Find your passion
Are you an out-of-shape joke? Maybe a band nerd? Or perhaps a washed-up thespian? Use the gifts and passions God has given you to engage the schools in the neighborhood God has entrusted to you. Just because someone else has an incredible ministry working with a football team doesn’t mean you should try to imitate that person’s calling and passion. Find your own passion. Find that thing that makes you tick. If you want to be effective for God’s kingdom, you have to know who God made you to be. The brutal truth is God won’t bless your avatar!
Leverage your passion
Once you’ve found your passion, leverage it. There are teachers and coaches begging for help from parents and citizens within the community. Call up a teacher or administrator and let them know you are willing and available to help. Nothing is above you when it comes to getting your foot in the door. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven kids home after practice so the coach could get home to his family. Or how many times I’ve been drenched in sweat after picking up equipment from a football field on a hot summer day.
Buy teachers or coaches lunch. Drop off Starbucks! Your willingness to make an intentional relationship and showing the faculty you are not here to take, but to give, will go a long way in allowing you access to the students you are called to reach.
Invest through your passion
Use the opportunities God has entrusted to you to bring the Gospel to bear on students’ hearts. Once trust has been built with the faculty, your opportunity to share the Gospel with students will be limited only by your imagination. Start a Bible study before practice, purchase food and have devotions for anyone interested, go to team workouts and practices, drop off Gatorade for the team. Show the students you are there for them. The bottom line is, our Gospel opportunities will be in direct proportion to the consistency of our service. If we are a regular and stable influence in students’ lives, we will have an opportunity to speak into their lives.
I love how Jeremiah says, “through its welfare you will find your welfare.” When we utilize the passion God has placed in us to see those far from God experience the life-changing presence of God, we find our purpose, our joy, and our fulfillment.