If you are a youth worker then you understand the weight of importance for having a relational ministry outside of the context of your program. Over the years, one of my favorite ways to do this is by visiting my students at their lunch. Recently this has become a problem with some of our local campuses. Many schools now have a “closed campus” policy that no longer allows youth workers or other guests to visit students at lunches. This is done as a measure of protection for the students, which I totally understand and respect.
I am also suspect that these measures have been happening more and more because schools don’t want youth workers preaching within campus walls. DYM even posted a blog article here documenting a story not far from where I am located. Some of these schools have opened their doors and welcomed youth workers in the past and may have been burned because rules were not followed on this issue and trust was broken.
So what about the campuses that still allow for us to volunteer or do campus lunch visits? This makes it even more important that we leave a good impression with our local schools, and in order to do so I suggest the following:
1. Always connect with the front office first. Make sure you are following the correct steps in order to be a guest on campus. This will help you have credibility and show that you respect the office staff and the rules that the school has in place for safety. (The students you are there to see are not the only ones who you are doing ministry with. It is important you leave a trail of respect for you and the church your represent.)
2. Let your students know when you plan on visiting. One of the first questions I am often asked is who am I here to visit and do they know I am showing up. When you are on campus you are on the students turf so it’s best to not always have surprises.
3. Allow the student that you are visiting to introduce you to others. At a recent campus visit my wife and I brought lunch to a student and she walked us around and introduced us to others. Eventually someone asked her, “How do you know these two?” My first response was not to blurt out everything about me being her youth pastor and how they should come to youth group, rather I looked at the student and let her answer the question however she felt comfortable. She started telling people we were friends from church but as others got more comfortable with us, she began introducing us as the “youth pastor and his wife – they’re pretty chill”, and it came from her, and that is very important. Had she said we were family friends that would have been fine too, but we left that up to her.
4. If it’s okay with the school, ALWAYS BRING FOOD! Bringing food is always a win. I love food, probably too much, but students ALWAYS love food. I brought a few pizzas to my last campus visit and we walked around offering pizza to students – a great conversation starter! The only mistake I made was not having a veggie option for the vegetarian students!
So what if you are not able to do campus visits at any of your schools?
Continue to find other ways to support your students on their turf, like after school sports, band & choir concerts, art shows, etc
What are some other ideas for campus visits that you might have? Please share your thoughts below!
Kevin Klas has been in youth ministry for 10 years. He is currently the director of student ministries at Lake City Community Church in Lakewood, WA.