As a youth minister there are various pieces of information that are critical to know – the USCCB document “Renewing the Vision,” key differences in the Gospel Passion narratives, and where the nearest roll of duct tape is located. There is, of course, one other crucial piece of knowledge that can both boost your youth outreach potential and keep you well fed – any youth minister worth his or her weight in cheese pizza must know the school lunch schedule.
We all know that outreach to teenagers and middle school students is the key to great evangelization; they aren’t going to stumble into our Life Nights randomly. If we want to spread the Gospel, we need to get out into their world, mix things up, and be bold. And, if we happen to do that on meatball sub day at the local high school – well, I call that a bonus.
There is nothing that evokes a wider ranger of emotions than walking into a high school lunchroom. You both feel simultaneously bold, apostolic, timid, and self-conscious: “Wow, I’m just like the Apostle Paul walking into the Areopagus about to preach Christ . . . wait, are those football players judging me? Oh boy, where am I supposed to sit? What if no one wants to sit with me? I gotta get out of here!”
Not only can it be nerve-racking for us, but when teens see us outside of our youth rooms it can freak them out as well: “What? I thought that he was confined by a force field to the social hall – how did he get out and into my school?! Why is he walking towards me? Can’t . . . process . . . situation . . . ”
When I told a teen I was going to visit him and his friends during lunch at the public high school he was convinced I was going to be martyred when I walked in the door. He told me (seriously), “Dude, you know it’s a public high school, right? They are going to eat you alive in there – I mean, I can’t even talk about my faith because I’ll probably get made fun of. Don’t do it man.”
I will admit I was a bit freaked out when I asked the high school administration if I could come in for lunch and was told, “yes, but no prayers, no outward religious symbols, no looking like you are going to pray, no bibles, no passing out tracts, and no other religious activities.” Wow, guess the retreat T-Shirt is staying at home
When I came for lunch, I sent the teen a text as I walked into school that day that read, “I feel like St. Paul standing on the steps of Rome . . . time to glorify the Lord.”
His response, “NOOOOOOOOOO. PLS DON’T DO IT”
That day at lunch we all learned something – I learned to start planning trips to the high school on “Nacho Day.” And when I wasn’t stoned or mocked for being a youth minister, the teen realized that he could live his faith more outwardly as well. A free lunch and a teen affirmed that he could wear Christ on his sleeve? I’ll take that combo any day (but especially Nacho Day).
So if you don’t already – call up your local high school or middle school and get a hold of that lunch schedule. Go visit some teens and freak them out. And, really do try the meatball sub – it’s delicious.
Question: What is your favorite school lunch food?