What If I’m Not Welcomed…?

Last week I published a post called Back to School Opportunities which stemmed from an earlier post that John did called 3 Ways to Impact Your Local School.  Even though we have been blessed that our local school has provided many avenues for us to have a presence in and around the school, we realize that this is not always the case.  The reality is that many schools do not want any partnerships with local churches.  If this is the situation that you find yourself in, what do you do?  How do you have a presence in the school if you are not welcomed?

There are a few things that you can still do to make an impact:

  1. Pray – You can always pray.  You may not be able to pray AT the school or WITH the staff, but that you shouldn’t stop you from praying for them on a daily basis.  Pray for the students (not the just ones connected with your ministry), pray for the staff (principals, teachers, counselors, administration, athletic directors, etc.), and pray diligently for avenues to open up in your relationship with the school (see our friend Alex Absalom’s post on Person of Peace).  Pray with expectation that walls WILL break down and opportunities WILL present themselves.
  2. Events – Be at events – football games, basketball games, plays, concerts, and the list goes on.  They can’t kick you out of these (at least I don’t think they can).  Therefore, show up to the events, find a location near where students hang, and make your only agenda to interact with students, meet new students, and develop your ministry of presence.  You don’t even need to mention your ministry.  We have been granted access to these events, in fact the school wants us there, and we still don’t talk about our ministry with students.  We just want to be at the game and be ‘one of’.  The only exception would be if a student were to ask about the ministry.  But I would say that we have almost never brought up our ministry in one of these contexts.
  3. Equip Students – You may not be able to be at the school, but guess what…your students are there!  You can equip and empower your students to live out their lives as their mission.  You can send them to be intentional with those at the school – whether it’s other students, teachers, principals, etc.  The Apostle Paul wasn’t always welcomed in cities, but he had people within that were his hands and feet, building relationships and living out their faith in those very contexts.  Why can’t that happen with your students?  They all find themselves in the school context and you can even break that down to multiple sub contexts: band, sports, clubs, classes, etc.  How can they serve, build relationships, and be intentional in those sub contexts?

Just some thoughts I had. Any other suggestions or things you have done that have been effective?

Back to School Opportunities

Several months ago John Moores wrote a post called 3 Ways to Impact Your Local School.  With school starting up very soon I wanted to write a post that expounds on John’s first point of serving.  Here they are:

  1. Write Letters.  One of the things that I do for the principals, office staff, and guidance counselors at our local high school is to simply write them a letter of encouragement before the school year.  In the letter I try to not only encourage but   thank them for all they do for the students.  If you can, it doesn’t hurt to throw a Starbucks gift card in those letters.
  2. Meet with Staff.  I may be repeating John’s first point a little but it’s an important step.  It’s one thing to send a letter.  It’s another thing if they have a face to go with that letter.  I set up meetings with the principals and the guidance staff.  And in those meetings my only agenda is to ask, “How can I help this year?”.  I don’t try to force anything and I’m looking to start any clubs, groups, bible studies, etc.  I just want to serve them.  Meeting with the staff opens up avenues for conversation and brings in a great relational aspect to your partnership with them.  Also, bringing Starbucks coffee for everyone at the meeting is a plus! (notice a pattern here).
  3. Follow Through.  You HAVE to follow through with the things you talk with the staff about during the meetings.  If they open up doors for you to enter then you better walk through.  One of the things last year that the counselors and I talked about was for me to give them a roster of our students so they could look it over and contact me if something ever came up with one of those students.  The very next day they had the roster.  And when one of the principals asked me if I could help them do some cleaning, you better believe I was there the very next week with a group of students ready to serve.  (“When you tell God you’ll do something, do it – now.  God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble.  Vow it, then do it.  Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.” Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 MSG).

I realize that not all schools are as open as our local school has been.  We are definitely blessed.  However, keep going for it.  Keep trying to build trust.  Most importantly, ask for God’s timing and ask God to continue to open doors and break down walls.

The Interning Experience

I asked one of our summer interns, Collin Bailis, to share a little bit about his experience with John and I this summer.  Collin is going to be (already is!) a Kingdom impacter.  He understands fully what it means to live your life as your mission.  Collin isn’t even looking to go into full time ministry.  He is entering his sophomore year of college as a Pharmacy major and wants to be not only a disciple of Jesus, but a disciple-maker wherever God takes him! He has a heart for God, for students, and to see people in general grow in their relationship with God. 

My name is Collin Bailis and I have been interning this summer under John and Mike. Mike asked me the other day to write a blog post about what It’s like to be an intern in student ministries so that the blog’s readers could get an idea of how to disciple an intern of their own. The more I thought about how I’ve grown this summer or how I came into the spot I’m in, the further back I had to remember.

I grew up in our church (RiverTree), so for me it’s like I’ve always been an intern, or at least that’s how I feel. It was fairly seamless for me. I was John’s student, then I was Mike’s student, and now all of the sudden I’m an intern.  At Rivertree, we teach our leaders a method we call 5-3-1. It basically means you get to know 5 students, spend time with 3, and invest in 1. Now as I look back on my friends I can see the 5, then the 3, and I was the 1 they invested in.

When it comes to discipling your intern, treat them the same you would treat one of your students that you are investing in. Spend time with them! Even when you think you’ve poured all you can into a student there is always something else they can learn or hear from you that will change their life drastically. Find time to meet with just your intern and challenge them in their thinking. Even after Jesus spent so long with the disciples, he still made sure to take the time to challenge Peter before he left. (John 21:15-19)

Mike does this thing with me, when he sees something on Facebook or on Twitter that relates to ministry he asks me, “What do you think about this…?” As I process and wrestle through communicating what I think, he tries to not give any response to what I’m saying and then when I’m done, he tells me what he thought when he first saw it and how it plays out in our role as leaders. This has been awesome for me because as Jesus followers, it’s important that we stick together, but that doesn’t always mean we think alike. It also gives me insight into how I could help other ministries that are growing and need direction.

There are plenty of logistics that come with having an intern too, and I’ve learned a lot about planning events and organizing groups. But the best thing for me so far has been the times when John or Mike and I have been alone and they challenge me. That’s what helps me grow. That’s what makes being an intern worth it for me. I’m a Pharmacy Student so I don’t intend on going into Student Ministries, but I do intend on being a missionary in my workplace. What I’ve learned this summer and how I’ve grown with John and Mike will stick with me through the rest of my life.

A word of advice I can give is don’t be discouraged. Sometimes it may seem like you work endless hours for a fun event and then you feel like no one is further in their walk. Let me assure you, every event that allows you to connect with students matters and all of your work is worth it. I know this first hand. So don’t be discouraged and keep challenging your students. God works in crazy ways, one of them could even be your intern someday.

Collin