Just this week I finished an 8-week curriculum with a small group at a local public middle school through a program called TEEN LIFE (formerly Teen Lifeline). I’ll talk more about their curriculum and my experience, but I first want to address the student ministers who happen to come across this blog post. Finding ways to do student ministry well in a public school setting can be difficult. Depending on the policies of your state and the practices of a specific school, it seems student ministers receive a red carpet welcome on certain campuses and jump through flaming hoops just to visit for lunch at another. This aspect of student ministry is one I consider a weakness in my ministry. As such, as I share my experiences of things I’ve tried, please please please comment or reach out to share ways you’ve experienced success in practicing student ministry in a public school setting.
Whether you are just popping in to visit with your students for lunch, showing up for a pep rally, or slipping notes of encouragement in lockers, it’s good to have a presence at the schools of your students. This not only allows you to meet your students’ friends but it also gives you familiarity with some the staff and the halls your students traverse every day. When you do go to visit for lunch, I always like taking some other youth ministers from other local churches with me or at least have a game or two handy in case conversations get stale. Make sure you bring a photo ID anytime you go for a visit and be aware of the school’s policies that protect their students.
Visiting your students’ games, recitals, performances, and shows is a great way to show your students interest in their extracurricular talents. However, depending on the size of your youth group and the number of schools they attend it can become very time-consuming and expensive. In some districts, they distribute special cards for youth ministers that allow the bearer to get into sports events for free. Always worth asking! Having a calendar in your youth room specifically for your students to share the dates of their events can also encourage your students to attend each others’ events.
These schools are always looking for volunteers for special events. Getting in contact with your students’ school’s PTA will keep your options open as to where you can help out. Supervising school dances/banquets, helping serve food for the teachers, and helping out at fundraisers are just a few of the ways you can likely volunteer with the PTA.
Do you know your students’ school’s counselors? Expanding your network with the school’s counselor can also open up opportunities to mentor students or even be a standby grief counselor in the event of the death of a student. Networking with teachers, coaches, or any school staff is always a great way to stay informed on opportunities to get plugged in with your students’ schools.
Teen Life is a program that trains student advocates (such as youth ministers) in an 8-week curriculum that focuses on equipping a small group of students. The curriculum illustrates several tools that help students deal with their problems that they encounter on a daily basis. In my case, the counselor at one of our local middle schools reached out to me and other youth ministers who had taken the training and she personally selected the students that made up each small group. The curriculum was very practical and contained several points I plan to use in my student ministry. Of course, the curriculum itself contained no faith-based elements outside the allowance of a belief in a higher power. Even so, the experience of helping at-risk students that largely had no youth group or church family to turn to was very rewarding.
If you are interested in learning more about the TEEN LIFE program, visit their site at https://www.lifelivedbetter.org/.
That’s all I have to say about that. Please do take some time to comment and let me know what your youth minister did to minister at your school. What are some more ways a youth minister can get involved at public schools?