Original photo by Kevin Dooley.
Ah, the school campus. It is the ultimate aspiration of Youth Ministry.
Funny isn’t it? We spend the whole time we are in school counting the days until we get out, and now you would do almost anything to get in.
The fact is however, there is no single greater concentration of lost students anywhere other than the campus. This only helps to magnify the importance of effective campus ministry in your community.
So, how do you really do campus ministry effectively? Where do you start? Here are five keys to effective campus ministry:
Find the gatekeeper
Every School has a gatekeeper. Generally speaking it is the first person you see when you walk into the school office. The gatekeeper controls who gets where and what goes where. You must really work to build a relationship with the gatekeeper or you will never make it past the office. Every time I go, I take something for them (Dropping of donuts, a Starbucks gift card, Pizza, etc.). It doesn’t have to be something big. Just something that says, “thank you for all you do here at this school and in this community.”
Be… dare I say professional
This should go without saying, but I see so many Youth Pastors who do not do this. Walking in arrogantly, playing the part of the “cool Youth Pastor,” in cargo shorts and a dirty t-shirt, doesn’t really say “you can trust me.”
Look like a bum, and you will be treated like a bum. I am not saying you need to go in a three piece suit either. Just brush your hair (if you have hair) and dress how you want to be treated. I also stay clear of Youth Ministry branded t-shirts, polo shirts, etc.
Be a Servant not a Salesman
Seek to serve first. And genuinely serve. Look for opportunities to serve and help. Offer to do the things no one wants to do. Do so without expectations or a sales pitch for your ministry. Every school has opportunities for you to serve. Sometimes you just have to get creative.
Many people will be somewhat skeptical and defensive toward you. Acting from a posture of humility and genuineness goes a long way in earning trust as well.
Never, ever say “no”
When the school asks for help with something, do your very best to find a way to make it happen. Those moments may be few and far between, especially in the beginning stages of your campus ministry. Allowing the school to see you meet a need, and that you are able to be trusted to actually follow through and help, goes further than you can realize.
Stay at it! Continue to look for opportunities to serve. Continue to build the relationship with the gatekeeper. When the Lord opens a door for other relationships, be aware and continue to build on those as well. Effective campus ministry takes a long time to build. Most Youth Pastors fail at it, because they give up too early.
What about you? What things are keeping you from doing campus ministry effectively? I would love to hear how you are doing it well also.
Jody Livingston is the Youth Pastor at Kennesaw First Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia where he oversees Middle School and High School ministries. He has been married to his lovely life for 14 years, has four kids and drives a pretty sweet 1972 VW Beetle. He blogs at TheLongerHaul.com and can be found on twitter @jodylivingston.