Thoughts From the Halls

Ben —  May 9, 2011 — 33 Comments

Last week I had the privilege of walking around our oldest daughters new school. I attended a couple of meetings, got entertained by the Jazz Band, Girls Chorus, and walked out to the Orchestra. It was pretty neat, nostalgia swept in, and then I went for a walk.

As I was walking through the hall, I realized one thing.

Here I am, as a leader of a bunch of 6th grade dudes, and I have yet to visit them once at their school. I felt like a complete failure in the first year on this 3 year commitment I had made. (although really, it’s a lifetime commitment)

You see, growing up I remember always being a part of a small church. The youth group consisted of about 20 or so boys and girls, ranging from 4th to 12th grade. I was fortunate enough to see very good youth directors / pastors do their jobs well. One of the main things they did on the evangelical part is visit their kids for lunch every now and again. They could do this, because the amount of youth they had wasn’t overwhelming, and they would do this because, well it furthered their level of trust with the students and it allowed them to further gain…

wait for it…


I hadn’t even thought about entertaining this idea with my small group until I was forced into the building that our oldest daughter will be attending for the next three years. Here I am, talking about earning trust and learning how to gain access to the lives of students in student ministry, and I have yet to make a visit to any of their schools.

Sure, I’m too busy. I have a full-time job, 3 kids and a heck-of-a full schedule…but I speak of this here on Ben Sayin’ as if I’m doing all I can to gain this access to these students and their friends lives so as to break down the walls of the enemy and eventually speak truth.

Kingdom truth.

I’m a hypocrite, for now at least, and the result is that one or more students missed this because I was too busy. Not acceptable.

I think about this and I begin to mentally prepare for the future, and how this year I’ll take a Mulligan in that department. Meeting them for lunch for a chance of Kingdom Truth down the road? Though I am not now, I surely plan on it.

Pastors, Student Pastors, and Student Ministry Volunteers alike, here’s a couple of questions I have:
  • Do you think meeting them at their school is important? Why or why not?
  • Do you do the whole lunch thing with your students? Is it encouraged?
  • What kind of impact do you think this could make should you arrive at their school just to hang out?

33 responses to Thoughts From the Halls

  1. Hypocrite? Hmmm. Probably. But then again, my sir, could that label not be applied to so many of us in one area or another?

    This is a most excellent way to begin Monday, Ben. I look forward to my daughters advancing in age and putting me in the situation you are in right now.

    Strength and Power, as a son to another son, in Jesus’ Name.

  2. Ben, challenging word today. Thanks for sharing, buddy. As someone who helps out with high schoolers at church, I can relate to this a lot. I haven’t thought about meeting them for lunch at school…. don’t know how that would even work with my work schedule sometimes…. but I am all about meeting with them outside of their normal “church” schedule. That may look like lunch after church on Sunday (Chipotle FTW!) or going to their sporting events. Either way, I agree with you – it builds trust and gains access. Good things, for sure.

  3. Thanks for being so open and sharing this with us. Motivating. I am not a pastor, student pastor, or student ministry leader, but I feel like seeing them at school would be a big deal. Reason being, that is one of the largest parts of their lives, as well as, influences at that age. So many choices are made in middle school that can really change and impact lives forever. So I would say that if you have the chance take it bro!

  4. Meeting them on their ground is HUGE. I used to do this with Young Life for High Schoolers. It scared the SH%^% out of me BUT was so fruitful once I got over myself. I hung out at their practices, ran the halls with them etc.

    They are more comfortable on their own turf instead of on yours. Meet them there!

    • HA! Yeah, young life knows their stuff and I’m glad I too had a brief stint with them. Back in the day we would sometimes show up with pizzas, it was pandemonium.

  5. I have found myself in the same boat now that I have a full-time job that is not connected with the with the church. I also doesn’t help that because of the nature of my work I can rarely take an extended lunch break ( I work for a drug treatment center for young men 14-24. It requires 24-7 supervision). So I essentially have to have the day off in order to do this.
    There have been a few days off where I have gone to eat lunch with my daughter at her school and I can tell you that it makes a huge impact. Not only with her (obviously) but I also get to see most of the kids on her soccer team and it is great to have the opportunity to talk with them in this setting.
    I think its important to try to do what you can but not beat yourself up over what you can’t do. None of us can do everything.

    • Oh man the father-child lunch times are key as a father, I’m so with you there.

      I guess I do have a bit of a difficult time realizing that I really can’t do it all, but I don’t ever want to lose the desire to try.

  6. I think we can meet kids wherever they are at and if they are comfortable. I don’t know that teens or pre-teens will feel comfortable if they youth leader visits them at school. If they are, I’m all for it. But if they are not, I think there are other ways to get together with them on their “turf”.

    At the end of the day, I think it’s very clear that you are speaking into their lives and encouraging them to follow Jesus. This is evident in the way you write and I’m sure they see this. Can you do better? Can’t we all?

    • “….you are speaking into their lives…”

      Good word, Moe. This is what matters.

    • I definitely would try and get a group of people on the first few go-around so as to not make it too uncomfortable. To be honest though, I think I’m in a place with my guys where that really wouldn’t be too big a deal.

      We’ll see I guess 🙂

  7. I was a youth minister for over 10 years. And going to high school and junior high lunches were always an adventure. And I’ll admit the VERY AWKWARD moment of walking down the hallway towards the cafeteria and standing at the door. To open the door was a feeling of “what am I going to experience here?”

    There were times that I entered the cafeteria and was almost instantly greeted with friendly faces and conversation. I could talk to this table and that table and it seemed like this was the best place in the world for lunch. But some days I’d get some blank stares and “oh, what are you doing at my school” looks. It was usually a positive time. But there were times that I left thinking, “man, that was weird.”

    But go. Go as often as you can. And the more you go, the more relationships you build with your guys, but also, the more you get to know their friends, teachers, etc. Build on those. Pray for favor. And be a light in a sometimes dark place.

    • Blake,

      “And be a light in a sometimes dark place.”

      Ever notice that a lit match is never overtaken by the dark, but the dark must flee before a lit match? Oh yeah.

      Your quote above was spot-on, Blake.

    • Good points there Blake, and I can understand how sometimes it may seem awkward at first, but with time it gets better and the more relationships are formed.

      Thanks for the input Blake.

  8. It really makes a difference in their lives just to know you care and are willing to listen. Location, not so much. When you hear kids talk about the ones who have impacted their lives the most, it is always the person that took the time to listen – and made them feel like they were important.

    I remember the youth leaders in your youth and you have to remember they were all single. They had time to focus on the youth in their groups. You and Kim are modeling “family” to your young people. That is so important today with many coming from homes where they may not have the stability of two parents in a church relationship.
    Keep doing what your are doing – faithfully. God honors that.

    • So, so true, being single does have its advantages when it comes to the ministry, but as you said, above all Kim and I want to be able to model the “Family” aspect to the young people.

      This is why many times we all go to events as a family, it’s a ton of fun and usually free too 🙂

  9. One of the key things I’ve learned from working with college and high school students the past 9 years is that the best ministry happens when build relationship with them outside of official “ministry” time. Lunches, dinners, get-to-gethers on the weekends. Unplanned events that show them that we aren’t just their leaders or pastors or spiritual mentors…but that we truly care.

    The more you can invest in them outside of the youth or children’s ministry group, the more impact you have in their lives.

  10. Quality. I remember my youth pastor showing up at our school once a week or so for lunch. We had a large youth group so he didn’t always eat with me and my group of friends, but he always made it around to every table that had at least one kid from our youth group. I always noticed the Young Life leaders doing the same – it was known that they would show up every Thursday. It’s a time sacrifice, but definitely yields a worthy return.

    • Right with you, I remember our Young Life and Wyld Life folks doing the same thing and as a matter of fact that’s what got me involved with them in the first place.

  11. I think that meeting people on their “turf” is important. If this is a middle school lunch room-so be it. If it is at a nudist colony–well, I would probably find somewhere else to meet them.

  12. Great post Ben. I think you you hit the nail on the head when you talked about “access.” I think this can be gained in a variety of different ways, but it is essential for helping disciple kids, youth and adults.

    This doesn’t happen over night, but the investment is priceless.

    • Priceless indeed, it also sort of “humanizes” the leader, from what I found. This makes it easier for the students to approach you.

  13. First off, good to see you on the blog my friend.

    Second, thank you for ministering to our youth.

    Third, way to keep your heart open to where you need to grow. Will be praying for you on this adventure.

    • Thanks KC, but the Thank You’s definitely need to be directed towards the parents who allow “truth” to be spoken into their lives from different adults. The trust factor here is huge.

  14. Wow, I’ve never actually heard of a parent coming by at lunch to see their Kid. As a parent, I would love that! That might be kind of embarrassing for a kid in high school, but could be neat if the kid is younger.

    I work 2 minutes from the house, and walk hope for lunch every day to see the wife and #babychild. It’s my favorite part of the day! I definitely want to be around him as much as I can. I’ll be thinking about this one for awhile 🙂 great post!

    • Thanks Mo, and by the way (not knowing how old your child(ren) are, parents visit their kids all the time for lunch.

      High Schoolers (from what I remember) appreciate people visiting them for lunch, as long as it’s a group setting. This may be the same for middle-schoolers too, I guess I’ll find out soon!

  15. Ben –
    I volunteered in Christian after-school programs for several years and witnessed one of the most influential things. An older couple, in their mid-eighties, led the elementary after-school program. They often got strange looks from fellow church members when the couple spent their afternoons at the local elementary school. However, I was able to see the faces of the students that they impacted. That couple became like grandparents to those students, most of which had broken homes. The couple were able to challenge them on a deeper level. The students asked their advise about bullies, fights at home and struggles with homework. They were so proud to be the only ones with visitors during lunch – and eventually the other students stopped teasing, and began to try get the couple’s attention as well. Talk about a mission field. This is where the students have their community – and when they see that you’re willing to step into it and meet them there, it speaks respect.


  16. Wow that’s awesome, must have been an amazing thing to witness.

    Thanks for this neat story Rachel, I hope my wife and I can have that same impact as we grow old together.

  17. Just got back from the local university having lunch with a few students there. Same principle, but totally different dynamic going to the food court in the student union.

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