What adults influenced your life when you were a middle schooler? We have an incredible opportunity to share Jesus with kids as they navigate life as an adolescent. Below are five tips to help you pursue relationships with them.
1. Go in pairs.
“After this, the Lord appointed seventy others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go.” (Read Luke 10:1-12)
As a WyldLife leader, you are appointed by the Lord Himself and called to the mission field, aka contact work. The Lord is already planning on going to Southern Middle, West Pine Middle, Sandhills Classical Christian School…He just wants us to prepare the way and trust that He is right behind us. However, He knows how terrifying, awkward, and counter-cultural contact work is, so He says don’t do it alone. Bring a fellow leader to dive into the chaos with you. You are so much more likely to walk up to THAT kid, talk to THAT administrator, or introduce yourself to THAT parent if you have a buddy beside you in the trenches. You are not alone!
2. Be seen.
“Around three in the morning He came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them.” (Read Mark 6:47-51)
Just like Jesus, we see and know that our middle school friends are being beaten and battered as they row against life. Jesus didn’t just sit on the sidelines, or the beach in this case, but saw a creative opportunity to meet His friends where they were at (I mean, who else does contact work by walking on the water?) Catch this though – Jesus wasn’t going straight for them. He intended to pass them by. He was simply positioning himself in their sightline. He showed up and allowed THEM to cry out to HIM.
We get the chance to do the same. Show up at the school, tennis practice, dance recital, etc., and just be seen. A lot of the time it will feel like we are walking on water, not nearly as gracefully as Jesus, and their “cries” out to us will be just like the disciples: ugly and non-religious. You’ll be thought of as weird, out-of-place, or as someone’s brother or parent, just like Jesus was mistaken for a ghost. What would it look like for you to spend office hours in the afternoon at the park or local coffee shops kids hang out around after school? What would it look like for you to stop by the local Boys and Girls Club and shoot hoops or eat a meal with the kiddos there? What would it look like for you to be seen?
3. Consistency is key.
“Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 13:1
If I have learned anything from all of my years as a WyldLIfe leader, it is that kids crave consistency. They won’t remember that Campaigners lesson that took you weeks to plan, the hilarious skit character you created, or all the meals you’ve bought them…but they will remember YOU. It takes a lot of hours to feel known and loved. Jesus’ disciples knew that “He loved them to the end,” not because of His wise teachings, but His consistency in their life. It also takes a lot of hours to “earn the right to be heard.” Our goal for contact work isn’t to meet a kid and get them to come to our thing, it is to meet them where they are and love them right where they are at. We get to know them on their turf, after countless hours of bumping into them at games, lunches, or other places they hang out. You probably already have a list of kids you know from club attendance, but focus on having a far bigger list of kids you know only from contact work.
4. Keep a journal and plan/pray on seeing those kids again.
When you meet a kid, journal their names and some things about them. Here are some real notes from my own journal:
- Brandon: small white kid, bowl cut, met at West basketball game taking yearbook pics
- Fernando: Loud mouth short Hispanic kid at West
- Curtis: fade haircut, on the SMS basketball team, Cam’s cousin
- Jamal- Tall kid on the team I helped coach; eating Tostitos chips and a busted finger on ice
“The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before Him, and gave Him the whole story. Jesus said to her, ‘Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.’” (Mark 5:32-34)
Jesus listened to her whole story and called her daughter. You may laugh reading those little snippets from my journal, but if you could have seen the look on those kids’ faces when I dapped them up, called them by name, and brought up something about the last time we bumped into each other. So much joy. Now, don’t walk up to a kid you have never met and call them by name and that you know they love eating pizza Lunchables just because you heard that through another kid. That is weird. Don’t do that. However, once you start building relationships with kids on their turf, jot down things that you can refer to and will jog your memory for the next time you do contact work – and pray for that kid! Pray for divine appointments to bump into them again soon. I do this on the Notes App on my phone because I can see a kid from across the bleachers and pull up my list sneakily and jog my memory right then and there.
5. Parents and faculty are as important as kids.
Jesus wasn’t shy around any person. He would sit and talk with little kids, enter the house of a twelve-year-old, and dine with tax collectors, soldiers, and teachers. We can take a page out of Jesus’ book and have divine confidence when stepping on the contact work field. Parents are the gatekeepers to their middle school kiddos, while administration/teachers/coaches are the gatekeepers to the school. If you want to earn trust with kids, first earn trust with their parents, grandparents, or guardians.
Be intentional every time you do contact work to look out for parents and school faculty. If I go to a sporting event at the middle school, I deliberately seek out the principals and vice-principals to say “hey” or have a quick conversation with them. I want them to know that WyldLife leaders are there consistently and be a good presence at the school. If I drop off kids after club, I don’t just kick them out of the car and drive off. I walk them to the door so that I can have another touchpoint with their parent. The name of the game is intentionality and showing through your actions why you are a good thing in the life of middle schoolers to these older individuals.
Now…..go out there and BE WITH KIDS!!!