Guest Post by Scott Huff
Let’s face it… in today’s America, students are not just walking into your church off the streets because they wake up one day and feel the need to go to church. There are a few rare instances but it is no longer the norm. Thirty years ago you would see this happening because the majority of US citizens believed it was in their best interest and their duty to go to church, even if they had no real connection or relationship with Jesus or His church. So, what can we do in 2019 to reach those teenagers who are not from a Christian upbringing or family and have no interest in showing up at a church on Wednesday night or Sundays? I believe we have to go where they already are. We are no longer just youth pastors but we are now youth missionaries. Here are a few thoughts on how to reach teenagers on their turf.
- SCHOOL LUNCHES – Showing up to the local school for lunch can seem creepy. You can do this by planning to attend lunch and meet with your student(s) then use the time to meet their lost friends who they sit near them. I attend school lunches regularly and hang out with my students but my focus while sitting there are the students I do not know who are sitting at the same table or stop by to interact with my students. Be intentional during these moments and get to know a student or two. Begin to build a relationship with them and make it easier for your student to invite them to church because now the other student knows you’re not weird!
- SCHOOL CLUBS – Use the Christian clubs at the local schools as an asset for you to gain access to a school campus and a lot of other students. Clubs like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, First Priority, Young Life, One Way, etc. can be great gateways to the campus and they are always looking for help, sponsors, and warm bodies to invest in the lives of students. You can offer to speak or do a devotional, offer to bring breakfast or snacks, or offer to be there as crowd control or run a game for the group. The key here is to be consistent with your involvement. FCA is usually the key to becoming a chaplain for a sports team. They do a lot ofthe upfront legwork in regards to finding the opportunities and you just need to be willing to volunteer to be there.
- SCHOOL SPORTS & ACTIVITIES – If you simply show up to watch your student play a game or act or sing in a play then you have already made a huge impact in that student’s life. But you can also meet their friends and their friends families which can lead to great opportunities for ministering to people who are far from God. I have met families who have ended up coming to our church where they got saved, joined, and are now heavily involved in the life of the church and are growing in their faith. I have also met families who have reached out during times of crisis because I was the only one they could think of to turn to and I was then able to lead them to Jesus and comfort during this season of their lives.
- SOCIAL MEDIA – It’s no big secret that teenagers are on social media more and more as the years roll on. This is your greatest opportunity but also your greatest concern. First, please be careful how you use social media and always have ways of protecting yourself and your integrity through accountability. Second, you should actually have a plan and strategy for interacting with teenagers through social media. Use your account to promote events and engage teenagers with questions, etc. that allow them to interact. They don’t just want to see your cool graphic; they want to see why they should be at the event or better yet, what they would miss out on by not being there. Use the opportunities for buying marketing time on Instagram, Facebook, etc. and actually budget for it each year. You can get your info in front of hundreds of teenagers in your community for only a couple of dollars. It’s worth it!
- COMMUNITY EVENTS – Find community events in your area where teenagers are likely to be in attendance. Look for opportunities to have a booth where you can pass out free swag and invite cards. Look for opportunities to sponsor an hour or two of ice skating, bowling, SkyZone, etc. that you can promote through social media and your students. These types of events give you great visibility and opportunity to meet new students, engage them in a non-threatening way, and invite them to your next event or weekly programming option with other teenagers they already know from school. You may have a large festival or city event that everyone attends so why not be there and on a mission.
You may be able to do all of these things. You may only be able to do one. But the key is to do something that allows you to be a missionary where teenagers are. Also, be consistent and be patient. Build relationships and allow your students to be involved in the process of reaching their friends. It will work better that way anyways. Get out of your office and get into the schools and into the community. You are not just a youth pastor. You are a youth missionary!
Scott Huff is the Student Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He is a graduate of Hannibal LaGrange College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former college basketball player and golfer. He has been a Student Pastor and a camp/event speaker for more than ten years. Scott and his wife, Lori, have two children and he loves the St. Louis Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats. You can connect with Scott on Twitter or Instagram: @scotthuff