Although fishing is not my favorite hobby, I’ve done a lot of it. My grandpa was a fisherman, and he took me often when I was young. He taught me all of the basics of fishing: what kind of bait or lures to use in certain situations, the best times of day to fish, and, of course, how to gut a fish once you catch one. But the most important lesson he taught me is that if you want to catch a fish, you have to go where they are. If there’s no fish in a pond, there will be none in your frying pan.
What’s true of fishing for fish is also true of fishing for teenagers. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And as I just heard a youth ministry leader say, “Fish travel in schools.”
If you want to “catch” teenagers for Christ, then you must go to the ponds where they are swimming 7+ hours a day: the public school campus. And the number of fish in America to catch is quite large. There are over 24,000,000 teenagers, most of whom go to one of over 69,000 high schools and middle schools.
Although these numbers are staggering and could seem overwhelming, there are 3 action steps youth leaders can take to make the dream of catching massive amounts of teenagers for Christ possible.
1. Be an asset to the school.
If you make it your goal to lead teenagers to Christ on the public school campus personally, you could get your fishing license revoked pretty quickly. Instead, try volunteering a few hours a week. Be a coach, a class assistant, or tutor. Be the youth leader that teachers can’t wait to show up in their doorway, not because you are going to evangelize their students, but because you are going to help them grade papers.
Public schools are at a massive funding deficit in many counties across America and need as much help as they can get. My wife has been a teacher at a public school for almost two decades so I know this firsthand. Volunteers build relational equity with teachers and administration and have more freedom to positively influence students.