7 Field-Tested Hacks For Reaching Your High School Campus
“The best way to find a good idea is to gather a lot of ideas.” – Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize Winning Chemist
Over the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing our students reach hundreds of their friends for Jesus by establishing an influence on their high school campus.
Here are the seven best and field-tested things we’ve discovered along the way:
1. FREE FOOD IS SEVERELY UNDERAPPRECIATED
I know what you’re thinking…seriously? But this is a no-brainer, easy-win on ANY campus. And it’s often overlooked for its true worth.
Everyone eats. Everyone enjoys it. You automatically relate to everyone at the school – students, teachers, admins, janitors and administrators.
Give out sodas with invite cards under the tab. Set up tables with baked goods that have custom-printed napkins. Hand out candy wrapped with your logo. Bring teachers a platter to accompany their lunch with a note thanking them for their influence. Bring admins their favorite lattes. Everyone will know what you’re doing and no one will care. Everyone likes food.
We’ve done all of the above, and you may be thinking, but food is expensive! Ask your congregation to donate a case of soda, baked goods, candy bars or gift cards. We’ve seen our church get really excited about a chance to impact the local school.
2. CROSS- POLLINATE INFLUENTIAL STUDENTS IN YOUR GROUP
You probably have at least one influential student representing each school in your ministry. There’s something special that happens when you get them all together in the same room. Cast a vision for your schools and share with these students that you believe that they are on their campus “for such a time as this.”
We’ve seen ideas that work on one campus start working on many campuses. The first step is the hardest. Once one student takes a “first step,” capture the moment and share it with others so that they can see that it can be done! Whether it’s an outreach idea, kneeling at lockers to pray or starting a bible club, when a student sees their peer making it happen on another campus, they will gain the confidence to do it themselves. There’s power behind cross-pollination!
3. REWARD, RECOGNIZE, AND RESOURCE
Rewards shape morale. Recognition shapes culture. Resources shape results.
Our students have a desire to be a part of something significant and to make a difference. It’s one of the trademarks of this generation. Our leadership is best spent helping them to focus their efforts and then fanning the flames.
You can celebrate your students’ wins by making them stories in your sermons and by placing campus influencers in prominent places in your ministry. We also make the campus a line item in our budget. When we put our money where our mouth is, our students take notice.
4. OFFER TO SERVE AT YOUR SCHOOL
Have students approach administrators and request to serve a current need. The key is to ask weekly and accept the first offer no matter what it is.
Administrators are very busy. Have your students kindly remind them weekly that you are available for ANY need. Eventually, you’ll catch them at the right moment and when they ask, make it your number one priority to over-deliver. Our students have done everything from scraping gum off the bottom of cafeteria tables to leading the entire orientation for the incoming freshmen class. Our students now have the privilege of giving every freshman a tour of the school. They made it a point to talk about the bible club and the amazing outreaches happening that fall.
5. PAY ATTENTION TO CURRENT EVENTS
If something important is happening at the school (good or bad) call and offer to help (individually, as a group, or with resources). Train your students to do this on a personal level. They’ll spot needs way before you ever hear about them. Some opportunities will be on the calendar, and others will be circumstantial.
If tragedy strikes the school, call and offer assistance with ANYTHING.
6. LAUNCH CAMPUS MINISTRIES THAT WORK
Bible clubs have gained an indifferent reputation over the years, but a good campus ministry is salt and light to the school. It’s a hub for Christian students to be inspired and mobilized to bless their school and share the hope-giving news of Jesus.
If your school has a thriving bible club, encourage your students to join it and to start making a difference. If they have one that isn’t working or isn’t outreach-oriented, ask the principal if you may launch a second one that has a different vision. Does this sound crazy? It shouldn’t. Schools have multiple sports teams and communities have multiple churches. Having multiple Christian clubs can be very normal in your school.
At one school, our students approached the leaders of the first club to let them know that they had a different vision for their club (more outreach-oriented and less bible study). The first club agreed that they were very different and instead of “competing” or debating over how to lead a club, they launched a second one and did multiple events together throughout the year. The school was blessed and later that year a third club for Christian athletes was launched, all for Jesus!
7. ASK ADULTS IN YOUR CONGREGATION TO PRAY FOR YOUR SCHOOLS
“If something happens when we pray, something doesn’t when we don’t.” – Mark Batterson
Ask students, parents, youth leaders, and church members to pray for your schools. It works. A side effect of everyone praying for your schools is that everyone is focusing on your schools. When you need a resource such as baked goods, an offering, a venue, or volunteers, it will be invaluable to have everyone already focused on the campus, anticipating God to do something significant.
When Jesus told the story of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine to find the one lost sheep, I can’t help but envision our high school campuses. I pray that he inspires you with ideas that no one has ever tried to reach those no one has ever reached.
Until then, these ideas have worked for us, and I believe they’ll work for you.
Rob Gillen is the High School Pastor at Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill, PA and has served in student ministries for 10 years. He has his Bachelors in pastoral ministry and his Masters in theological studies from the University of Valley Forge. Rob and his wife Kara parent a son and two beautiful daughters.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.