Like so many things in WyldLife, contact work is full of practices and theories that exist on a spectrum. A good strategy (i.e. remembering what it was like to be in middle school), if taken too far, can lead to dangerous trends (acting like a middle schooler).
Laying out these scenarios as “Do… but don’t…” statements can help leaders gain a sense of confidence and clarity about their ministry responsibilities. Here’s a list of contact work “Dos-but-Don’ts” that you can use in your own ministry and leader training. A downloadable PDF file is included below.
Do’s, but Don’ts for WyldLife Contact Work
DO remember what it was like to be in middle school; but DON’T act like a middle schooler.
DO push yourself to reach the unreachable furthest-out kid; but DON’T force or push yourself into groups or situations.
DO be kind, engaging, welcoming, & fun; but DON’T make fun of or joke at a kid’s expense.
DO be neat, polite, thoughtful; but DON’T try to impress.
DO find shared interests and connecting points; but DON’T talk primarily about yourself.
DO find kids who share interests / hobbies / background / etc.; but DON’T stick with the ‘easy’ kids.
DO seek to deepen and grow relationship with kids; but DON’T rush relationships or cross boundaries of privacy.
DO be an active conversationalist; but DON’T monopolize the conversation.
DO respect middle schoolers’ desire to be independent; but DON’T bypass building strong parent relationships.
DO be aware of and familiar with adolescent culture, trends, etc.; but DON’T try to be cool, hipster, or anything else stupid.
DO try to meet new kids on a regular basis; but DON’T have a ‘recruiting’ mentality.
DO be consistent and reliable; but DON’T be limited by a rigid schedule.
DO ask safe, easy, open-ended questions; but DON’T be afraid to ask harder and deeper questions.
DO contact work in pairs; but DON’T rely on another leader to do your ministry.
DO watch and learn from experienced leaders; but DON’T compare yourself to another leader.
DO set the tone and culture of your contact work; but DON’T force kids to adapt to you.
DO pay attention to your appearance and attitude; but DON’T be anything other than your true self.
DO build on your previous connections with kids; but DON’T keep a tally of kids.
DO build personal relationships with specific kids; but DON’T have a sense of ownership about particular kids.
DO have a consistent opener / schtick / question / etc.; but DON’T reduce contact work to a formula.
DO remember this is all about JESUS; but DON’T minimize or overlook the importance of your role.
DO be flexible and adaptable; but DON’T be non-committal and unpredictable.
DO take contact work seriously; but DON’T be ruled by fear.
DO trust in God’s power to guide you; but DON’T expect God to do the leg-work for you.
DO be willing to grow, learn, try new things; but DON’T bounce from one strategy to another.
DO remember that middle schoolers are yearning for adults to take an interest in them, but DON’T expect middle schoolers to take the lead in contact work.
Get a PDF of this resource here.