Schools: One of Your Key Partners In Ministry
I have been blessed to serve in youth ministry now for more than a decade. One of the keys I have learned to be important to effective youth ministry is building great partnerships. Often times in youth ministry the only partnerships I thought about pursuing were other ministries within my Church or even other youth ministries in my communities. Now, these are two important partnerships that all youth ministries should make, however, there is another important one as well.
Where else do students spend most of their time each week? That is correct school, I know what some of you are thinking, but what about the separation between Church and State? We are to be separate but there are ways to work with the law and not against it. The actual law states that a student can be part of any group or create any group on school grounds as long as a few things are true. First, it must be student-led, the student(s) must be the ones leading the group, not an adult but the student themselves. Second, it must be teacher sponsored, this means there must be a teacher from the school who is willing to sponsor/support the group. Often times this means the teacher attends meetings and allows the meetings to happen in their classroom. Lastly, it must be on non-credit hours, this means the group must happen before school, after school or during lunchtime.
I have been blessed to serve with students from my youth ministry to lead these groups in Florida and now in Maryland. I normally set up a meeting with the school administration, principal or another administrator after the student and I have discussed the group and their leadership. Sometimes the teacher who is the sponsor attends our Church and other times they don’t but they are a Christian and want to see Christ represented on their campus. Once you have the student and the teacher then it’s just about getting the approval from the administration and deciding on what time the group will meet.
Often times before school or after school will be easier times to get approved by the administration. These times are good but the best time would be during lunch. Before school or after school you are competing with students trying to get to class and trying to leave the school. However, during lunchtime, you are only dealing with students who want to eat lunch in their normal places or coming to the group.
Now again it has to be student led and teacher sponsored so you are only the coach. You can give guidance and coaching but you cannot run the group. This works because any meaningful ministry should happen outside of you having to do it anyway. Your role is to go over the group format and the desired outcome with the student and teacher, then just be there as a support. If you work during the day this makes it even better as you will have to trust and train the student plus teacher on what to do.
Each group I have been blessed to help within a school has benefited the school as well as our youth ministry. It allows our ministry the opportunity to be where the students are during the day and encourage them in Christ. It is also a great alternative for the students who have the opportunities to be part of some many other groups during the school day. As you serve on the school campus don’t forget about serving the teachers and administrators there as well. We often look to engage the students and not to engage the adults in the school, many of whom are Christians or seekers.
Can you start a school group today? Do you know what schools the students in your youth ministry attend? Do you have teachers or school administrators who work in these schools?
Russell St. Bernard has served in youth ministry for over a decade, he is the founder of After The Music Stops, a youth ministry resource company. He is currently the director of ministry operations and outreach at Reid Temple AME Church. Connect with him online @RevRuss or @PastorRuss09 and visit his resources at store.afterthemusicstops.org.
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.