Learning to Follow Your Guidefor: Youth Leaders

Why you should let students lead you onto their campus

Have you ever watched the discovery channel when an explorer is visiting a far-off land? Perhaps they were delving into the ominous covering of the Amazon jungle, or maybe they were spelunking an intricate cave system. Every time you watch these thrill-seekers take the plunge into an unknown world, they’re never alone. There’s always a guide showing them the way, usually somewhere off camera.

These guides aren’t really experts on travel or exploration. They simply live in the area. They know the shortcuts, the native inhabitants, and they know how to survive in this foreign land that they call home.

The local high school is far from being the Amazon jungle, but every school is different. I’ve coached over two hundred students on six campuses, and every time I step into a new school, I instinctively know that this school is special. It may have similarities to other schools, but it’s a unique melting pot of its community.

When we decide to establish a presence at one of our local high schools, the first thing I do is choose a guide. I choose a student who knows God and who knows the school, the rest of the journey we can figure out as we go, it’s honestly a lot of fun “figuring it out.” I’ve met so many youth leaders, who are paralyzed in ministry trying to figure out every single detail of the process before they take the first step. I’ve learned to enjoy the journey and to trust my guide. It’s an adventure!

When we launch a campus ministry, I sponsor the club as a coach, but my students lead the way. They find a teacher who will host the club. They meet with the principal to get the green light. They rally their peers. And THEN, they invite me to join them as a coach to them and their leadership team. I attend the club and then coach them outside of school on how they can be more effective in ministry.

There’s an interesting dynamic that develops between you and your students when you decide to follow them onto their campus. You trust them, and they’re partnering with you. You’re in a foreign land, and they’re the only one that knows the way. They need your coaching, and you need their connections. Together, God will use you both to do some amazing things. The mentoring relationships that I have with my “guides” runs deep. They’ve proven themselves as difference-makers.

I sometimes wonder, does the greatest impact takes place in their school or in their heart? All of my former guides are now doing amazing things for Christ! Why not? The greatest challenge at their age is to evangelize their school. They’ve done their part. If they can live out their faith there, they can live it out anywhere.

For more information about following your students onto their campus, read another article on ReachTheSchool.com titled, Why I Go With Them.

Why you should let students lead you onto their campus Have you ever watched the discovery channel when an explorer is visiting a far-off land? Perhaps they were delving into the ominous covering of the Amazon jungle, or maybe they were spelunking an intricate cave system. Every time you watch these thrill-seekers take the plunge into an...

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Breaking the Threshold: 3 Simple Ways to be Present on Campusfor: Youth Leaders

My wife and I were watching a TV series on near-death experiences one night, and we heard the story of a hiker who got lost in the woods. He wasn’t that deep in the wilderness, he was only about three miles from the nearest road. The problem? He was hiking in circles. Unwilling to break away from his current track, he hiked the same circle over and over again. Soon, the sun began to set, and with no phone, no shelter, and no survival training, this young man died of hypothermia. He was alone in the woods, just a short distance from civilization.

In youth ministry today, this same story is being lived out in the lives of youth pastors and their students. We believe that if we just keep pressing forward, we’re going to eventually get the results that we’re looking for, but that’s not promised to us if we’re not being intentional about the direction in which we take our ministries.

One crucial way of being intentional is being present on the high school campus. I once heard Preston Centuolo say, “Students are in two places; their schools and social media. If we’re avoiding those venues – we’re not doing youth ministry.”

Ryan Sharp from www.everyschool.com writes “Don’t retreat back to the safety of the church and convince yourself that campus ministry isn’t for every youth pastor. It simply isn’t true.” I would echo his words with the call for youth pastors to make themselves personally present! Youth pastors belong on the high school campus.

Schools are communities within themselves. Once you’re in – you’re golden. But as an outsider, it can be uncomfortable at first. Here are 3 simple ways to be present on your campus:

1) Sponsor a Campus Ministry – Some schools already have strong clubs going. If that’s the case, see if your students are part of the club and have them invite you out to be a sponsor. If your students aren’t present, connect with the club and ask if you can be of assistance. Find out who’s currently sponsoring the club and invite them out for coffee (even if it’s a teacher – teacher’s like coffee too!)

One of the biggest excuses I hear from leaders is that their students aren’t interested in doing campus ministry so they can’t get on the campus. This just isn’t true. A friend of mine in ministry just ran into similar circumstances. His students weren’t attending the club because it wasn’t “hip”. So he took the initiative himself and started serving in the club without his students. Within a few weeks, his students started attending the club as well (this is called leadership). By the way, you’re “hipper” than you think!

2) Seek Opportunities to Serve – The needs on a high school campus are innumerable! Use your imagination. Young Life, a parachurch ministry,  compiled a list of 33 different ways their leaders are serving their schools in Indiana. Some may not apply to your context, but I bet at least five of them do.

3) Attend School Events– There is no substitute for longevity and relationship, but you can accelerate the process of earning trust with your school by being present on a consistent basis at events open to the community (sporting events, art shows, musicals and concerts, etc.). I try to find events where I can support multiple students.

If you see them, be sure to say hello to the principal, the assistant principal, or anyone in leadership. Politely and appropriately make your presence known. They’re probably not going to remember you at first because they meet thousands of people. That’s okay.  Once you approach them several times, they’ll put two and two together, that you’re someone important from the community and that you care.

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Being intentional takes time and effort, but honestly, is there any other path to take except the path that leads us to our destination, and to results?

The story of that hiker still grips my heart. It’s doubly important that we take the right path, because you’re not the only hiker on this trail. You’re students are following you. Lead the way, leader!

My wife and I were watching a TV series on near-death experiences one night, and we heard the story of a hiker who got lost in the woods. He wasn’t that deep in the wilderness, he was only about three miles from the nearest road. The problem? He was hiking in circles. Unwilling to break away from...

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Raising Up Students Who Want To Do Campus Ministryfor: Youth Leaders

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do campus ministry:

(1)   Campus Missions Curriculum – The campus is a big deal to us and our students know it! We take on ten different message series’ every year. The most important series we do will run through August and September.  We prepare students for the upcoming school year by doing two things: (1) We empower them to join/launch a campus ministry, and (2) we equip them with resources and training to impact their peers.  By the time school starts our students are chomping at the bit!

Big Idea: We challenge students to have a “five-friend focus” (www.yausa.com). A Five Friend Focus is a list of five friends they know who demonstrate a need for Christ.

(2)   Campus Missions Core – Like most youth ministries, we have several teams our students can join. Those who join our student leadership team share opportunities and responsibilities that other students do not have access to. There is a base requirement though – you must be actively involved in campus ministry. We believe that worship and fellowship take place in our youth facility, but leadership takes place on the campus.

Big Idea: Around the start of the school year our student leaders are challenged to invite at least two of their peers to their school’s campus club. These challenges are a requirement and our student leaders support each other and hold each other accountable to fulfill their goals.

(3)   Campus Missions Crew Chances are a student visiting our youth ministry has already attended one of our Campus Clubs. So when a student like James surrenders his life to Christ in our youth service, he already knows exactly where to go to start making an impact on his campus. Because their salvation journey started with a connection to a Campus Club, it’s natural that they want to do Campus Ministry and see the importance of it.

Big Idea: We purchase two six foot banners for each club and we post matching graphics on framed posters in our youth room.  We strategically do this to “sync” our youth ministry with our clubs.

Campus Ministry is part of our DNA now. But if the high school hasn’t been a strategic mission field for your youth ministry, do not be discouraged. Every great journey starts with a single step.  You’ll never regret making the campus a priority in your ministry.

Getting students excited about doing ministry on their campus can be tough. But once it becomes the “new normal” in your youth ministry, there’s nothing your students won’t be able to accomplish. We’ve been serving on the campus now for nearly five years and we’ve discovered three big ways to raise up students who want to do...

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Making Your Campus Club a Place Students Want to Be (Advance 2012)for: Podcast

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5 Things That Will Help You Start a Campus Club in Your School (Advance 2012)for: Podcast

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The Problem:for: Youth Leaders

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry

Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry:

(1) Campus Ministry is intimidating. Within a church, a youth pastor naturally belongs. They have a title and they have a purpose that’s understood by most. In a high school however, there isn’t the natural acceptance of a youth pastor joining the campus community. You’re not a teacher or a student and you’re entering a brand new culture. It can be very uncomfortable at first.

(2) Campus Ministry requires time, effort & commitment. As Mark Batterson once put it, “In ministry today, we do not lack creativity. Let’s call it what it is. We’re lazy.” This may sound harsh at first, but if we’re honest with ourselves – we tend to choose the path of least resistance, even when it’s sometimes not the most effective choice. Just like any ministry, campus ministry takes work and investment.

(3) Campus Ministry requires growth on the part of the leader. Communicating with teachers and administrators, ministering to students with no religious background, and coaching students in a radically different environment may require significant personal growth from the youth pastor.

(4) Campus Ministry yields very few accolades. Ministry is typically an affirming atmosphere for pastors at least in some shape or form -ever heard of “Pastor’s Appreciation Day?” You will receive very little affirmation for committing yourself to the high school. Some leadership contexts may not view the campus as the strategic mission field that it is.

(5) Campus Ministry beckons a youth leader to acknowledge the real “war” taking place. Ignorance is bliss. The youth room is a safe place for a youth pastor. The school is a lot more dangerous. Whether in class or participating in sports and extracurricular clubs, our students spend the great majority of their time on the campus.

Five Reasons Youth Pastors Don’t Do Campus Ministry Most youth pastors do not engage in campus ministry of any kind. This is a mistake. Although a spiritual battle takes place in our youth services once a week, the war is taking place on the campus. There are five simple reasons why youth pastors don’t do campus ministry: (1) Campus...

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Enters the Missionaryfor: Students

It was an incredible weekend, one that our group would never forget. The students were saying their goodbyes and the leaders were shaking hands and swapping stories.  ADVANCE was over. But before we left the conference center, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I feel like God wants me to start a Campus Club at my high school” Kristen said, “How do I do it?”

Kristen was going into 8th grade and was a fairly new Christian. This was her first year at Youth Advance.

We began to pray and strategize how she could reach her campus. One step at a time Kristen began the process of launching a brand new Campus Ministry at her middle school.

She met with her principal. She found a teacher who would be willing to sponsor the club, and then she gathered together a few of her Christian friends who wanted to make a difference on their campus.

Within a month, twenty-five students were gathering in the cafeteria to worship, share their testimonies and pray together after school. A movement had begun in her middle school and students were coming to Christ. Kristen made a decision, and in that moment she became a missionary. She still is one today.

Kristen is now a junior, and leads a campus ministry at our local high school. Last year, more than sixty students gathered to pray around her flag at See-You-At-The-Pole. This year, she’s already met with a team of students over the summer and they’re fired up to re-launch their club and share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ on their Campus.

What is God asking you to do on your campus? Connect with your youth leader and start planning today.

It was an incredible weekend, one that our group would never forget. The students were saying their goodbyes and the leaders were shaking hands and swapping stories.  ADVANCE was over. But before we left the conference center, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I feel like God wants me to start a Campus Club at my...

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Why I Go With Themfor: Youth Leaders

“Why do you go to the campus ministry meetings?” This is what a youth pastor friend of mine asked me recently. Our youth ministry has led several campus bible clubs for the last few years – all of which I’ve had the privilege to sponsor as a Campus Coach. My friend asked me a great question, one that has several answers:

(1) Ministry Coaching – Many of our students are actively involved in campus ministries all across Harrisburg. They’re taking what they’ve learned in our youth ministry and they’re applying it in real-life scenarios on their campus. My role on the campus is hands-off. I do not lead our campus ministries, our students do. As a matter of fact, during the actual meetings I do nothing but attend and build relationships with students. But before and after our meetings I have the unique opportunity of speaking into the lives of our students and coaching them in ministry.

(2) Validating their Cause – There are a lot of items on a youth pastor’s calendar. But if I had to prioritize something, it would have to be investing in students who are doing campus ministry. There’s something pretty amazing that happens in the heart of a teenager when they see their youth pastor sitting at a desk, watching them preach, lead worship, or share their testimony in their geometry classroom.

(3) Instilling Confidence – I’ve challenged my students to take their school for Christ. I want them to know something very important. I’m not afraid of their school. Every week I’m in their hallways, I’m in their classrooms, and I’m in their cafeteria. I know their principals, their teachers and their classmates. When I stand at the pulpit and I ask our students to share the gospel at their schools, they know that I’m not referencing a far-off place that I know nothing about, or the high school that I once attended “back in the day” when I was teenager. They know that I’m talking about the school that we’ve gone to together. In every form possible on my end of the spectrum, I’m in the trenches with my students, and they know it.

There are many ways to do campus ministry. This is just one of them. But I can personally attest, as a youth pastor who is currently serving in several of our local high schools, I’ve found no more effective way of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” than by following them into their high schools.

“Why do you go to the campus ministry meetings?” This is what a youth pastor friend of mine asked me recently. Our youth ministry has led several campus bible clubs for the last few years – all of which I’ve had the privilege to sponsor as a Campus Coach. My friend asked me a great question, one...

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