In my early years of ministry, one of the most effective ways to connect with students was through the schools. Schools were typically very open, allowing local youth ministers such as myself to work with the local Christian club and to talk with students during lunch hours. I had amazing access to students and teachers, and it was extremely valuable.
How times have changed.
Schools are, understandably, more security conscious. They don’t want random people wandering the halls. Most schools are locked down and visitors rigorously scrutinized. The likelihood that you could simply wander the halls as freely as I did just a decade ago is slim to none.
That doesn’t mean you have no access to schools. You just need to be more creative in how you work with schools. Instead of using schools for our own aims, we should minister to schools holistically—administrators, teachers and students—to be able to maximize our influence in the school community. Service will go a lot farther than taking advantage.
So here are seven ways you can serve schools and grow your influence with them…
1. Substitute teach
Most schools are desperate for quality substitute teachers. This is the best way to get into schools to meet students and connect with your own students. The plus side is that you get paid to do it! This can cause additional strain on your life because it is in essence a second job, but it is the easiest way to connect with schools.
2. Coach a sports team
If you have a unique set of athletic skills, why not use them to help the school and interact with students? Or, maybe you’re not athletic, but are great musically and can help with the marching band. I know some of the most influential adults in my life in high school were coaches and band instructors because I spent so much time with them. You can speak into their lives and communicate a lot of Christian principles without ever even preaching at them.
3. Sponsor a class
Your church can sponsor a class or a grade and provide them with school supplies, throw parties for them, provide gifts to them or whatever you can think of. It helps to create a special bond with a smaller group of students and teachers. The sky is the limit with this idea.
4. Reward teachers
Teachers work hard and often feel unappreciated. We should spend time to minister to the teachers as well as the students. Provide special meals to them. Bring donuts a couple times a year. Give them gift cards at Christmas. When you have teachers on your side, you’ll find that you have a lot of influence in the schools.
5. Volunteer for events
Schools are increasingly relying on volunteers to make their events run. Join the PTA and offer to help out with school dances or special activities. Offer to chaperone field trips. Work concession stands at sports. Look for ways to get involved.
6. Do office work
Just like events, lots of the office work in schools is handled by volunteers. If you can give a couple hours a week, the schools will appreciate the help and you’ll have another connection to the schools.
7. Be a classroom helper
Teachers need classroom aides, tutors and a wide variety of other helpers. Typically you don’t need a teaching degree for these options, and as class sizes grow and funding decreases these options will be that much more important.
Remember, this is about serving the schools. This isn’t about finding loopholes to get into schools to get them involved in your church. When we go to serve, we will create opportunities to minister, but we shouldn’t abuse the access we are given nor should we break rules just because we’re doing “God stuff.” Be salt and light to the schools, not spit and vinegar.
What ways have you found to serve schools?