Into Their World

Wednesday, 13 April 2016
Writer Jodie Christinat

During my time as a youth pastor I constantly battled with the question of ‘schools ministry’. I found that everyone had an opinion; some said that the only way to grow your youth group was to be in the schools, and others said that you shouldn’t spend your time in the schools but instead focus on growing your leaders. As someone who has worked in a school as a Student Mentor and now goes into schools to present seminars to students, I’ve decided that if the Church isn’t in the school community, then we are missing the point. Yes, another opinion, and you have to decide what works for you, but let’s look at why I think this and just what ‘being in a school’ means.

Schools are really the bustling hub of your community. Schools are where young people are. Schools are often a meeting point or a place where parents seek help. Schools are a place where teachers are trying to educate and grow precious minds. School takes up the majority of a young person’s day. And so I would challenge you, as a person who works with teenagers, that to get into their world you need to be in their school!

Most of us realise that building relationship is key; within relationship there is trust, vulnerability, often the invitation to bring encouragement, and sometimes the opportunity to bring correction and empowerment. Schools are a place where you can build incredible relationship and rapport with teachers, parents, community organisations, and the students themselves.

Before you head into the school ready to ‘save the day’, have a think about what you can realistically do and when you go in, ask how you can help. Don’t just come telling them what you’re there to do. So often we go in and try to bring our own agenda, our own programs, promoting our own ministry; let’s become more like Jesus and go in to serve. Staff, parents, and students will see Jesus in you as you serve them. I would encourage you to make a time with the Principal or someone in leadership and ask them what their biggest issues are, ask them where the gap is, ask them how you can help them. Be open with them from the start, don’t try and be a hero and say you will run a free pancake breakfast every week when you already know that you have no budget or people to help make that happen. It is always best to under-promise and over-deliver!

Think about what you, your youth ministry, your leaders, and your team can offer to help meet the need. Ask God to give you a vision and a plan to bless your local school. It could be as simple as attending a prayer meeting once a week that the Chaplain runs, or starting one up. It could be going in and listening to kids read or helping them with their schoolwork, doing some tutoring and just building relationship. It could be running a breakfast program even just once a term. Perhaps there’s some training you can do in chaplaincy or pastoral care so that you can go in and teach scripture or religious education classes, if your local school has those. For those schools where you are unable to talk about Jesus, just go in and BE Jesus! Maybe the school needs some of your team to just hang out with problem students during lunch times to keep them engaged. Maybe they will allow you to just be a presence in the school and you can wander around and chat to the lonely kids, or look out for bullying situations, etc. You just never know what doors might open as you are a presence within that school community; you might be the answer to the Principal’s prayer that they didn’t even know they were praying!

I highly encourage you to step out and go the bold. Go to your local council and let them know what you are planning to do, as they might have a grant available or be able to help in some other way. Meet with local businesses and see if there is opportunity for sponsorship. Meet with the Parents and Friends Committee of the school and see whether they can help you. Chat with your Pastor and see what you as a church can do to reach this hive of activity in your neighbourhood.

I would encourage you and your team of leaders to be regularly praying for the local schools in your area. Pray for the leadership and teachers in those schools; for wisdom, that they would make Godly decisions even if they don’t know God, and that they would train their students well. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be ever-present in that school, and that he would use you and your church to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Your prayers are powerful and can change atmospheres around schools, your neighbourhood, and around your city!

There are always opportunities for you to get into your neighbourhood and even to bring the neighbourhood to you as a church. There are so many great organisations and causes that can give you access to your local school without being an ‘imposing Christian force’. Have a look around and see what’s out there.

I encourage you to get out into your local schools, to book that meeting, and see how you can help. Then, whenever you go into those school, do not let intimidation stare you in the face but instead walk in boldly and bravely believing that God has given you that ground, but also with a humility and quiet confidence ready to serve wherever you are needed. Imagine the impact you could have! Go for it! 

Originally published in YVQ11: OUR PLACE.

Written by Jodie Christinat. Jodie Christinat is a passionate and energetic communicator who spends her days speaking to young people all over Australia, training youth leaders in practical skills, and helping to run the four businesses that she and her husband oversee. Originally from Adelaide, Jodie has spent 15 years in youth leadership including 3 years youth pastoring in Brisbane. Now based in Sydney, she is more dedicated than ever to see the next generation of leaders and young people rise.

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