As Core Teams and youth ministers we know that going to our teens’ events can make a big impact. After a number of years in youth ministry, I think I have now been to nearly every sporting event the public school system has to offer. I have also seen some amazing plays, moving orchestra concerts and “interesting” talent shows. I keep going because I know the impact that showing up can have in relational ministry. Nevertheless, it’s taken me a lot of trial and error to get the hang of how to best use my time at these. Here are just a few hints to maximize your “relational ministry impact” at outreach events:
- Plan Ahead—Find out from your teens what events or teams they are a part of for that season. I like to have a calendar to for the teens to actually fill in their information. That way I can get it on my own calendar (and share the dates with the Core Team). Also, be sure to double-check what they have told you with an official calendar somewhere. More than once I have shown up at the wrong school or at the wrong time because of a mix up.
- Arrival Time—As busy as I am (and you are) it is often hard to attend then entire event (unless it’s a play), and so it often works for me to just attend part of the game or match. If I can get to the whole thing, that’s great, but it isn’t always practical. Sometimes I can figure out from conversations with my teens if they tend to start or finish, which can be helpful. Generally, though, one can talk with the teens after the event, so if you can only go to half, hit the second half.
- During the Event—Again, this will depend on what type of event it is—for things like chorus concerts and theater, your job is to just enjoy. If you are at an event (most sporting events), there is a lot to do.
- Watch the event.
- Talk with other teens who are watching the event.
- Talk with parents.
- Post Event—After the event is over is a great time to briefly connect with the teens. Depending on my relationship with the teen, I may get a few minute chat; often they need to head home, connect with their friends or touch base with their parents. So, don’t set your expectations too high. If I am unable to chat with them then, I send them an affirming message, call them, or be sure to let them know that they (and their team) did a great job the next time I see them.
Depending on how many schools your youth attend, getting to an event for each teen in your group can be difficult. To increase the odds, I see when those schools are playing each other, so that I can see teens from multiple schools at the same outing. Admittedly, it has made it more difficult to cheer at times, but it’s definitely worth it.
Talk to your Core team about what events they can also attend so you can go in groups or pairs. As well, if the Core Team can go to events, you can cover more ground.
I have found that some of my strongest connections with parents have been at their child’s event. They see that I care for their teen, and it helps develop those solid relationships with the parents. This is such an important part youth ministry. As a youth minister or Core Member, we need to be able to dialogue with both teens and parents. So, go prepared with conversation topics and questions to get the dialogue started.
Although the total face time with the teens may be short at these outreach events, over time it does make a difference to go where they are and to support them in their interests. Teens need to see us as real people, not just the youth minister, Core Member, or church person they encounter on Sundays. Getting to their events gives us chance to step into their world– in a small way, like Christ stepped into ours.