There are lots of well known and accepted reasons for school’s work, not least of which is you can kiss your youth ministry goodbye in a few years if you’re not. Here’s a few though that came to mind that are maybe sometimes overlooked:
To challenge stereotypes
Young people are several generations removed from the world of habitual church attendance and Sunday school. This leaves their systems wide open to lots of misinformation and tabloid-infused stereotypes of who Christians are and what Church looks like.
“By being present in school you can continually challenge the stereotype of what Christ-followers look like.”
Last week I asked 140 year 9 students in groups of 5 to give me a freeze frame for the word ‘church.’ The vast majority had people kneeling on the floor bowing to a vicar figure who was stood up on a chair looking posh and disinterested. A few did funerals, and one did an image of ‘togetherness.’ One in nearly 30 groups caught at least something of the heart of church.
By being present in school you can continually challenge the stereotype of what church and Christ-followers look like. Yes we look normal, we dress normal, we don’t have secret handshakes, we like good music (most of us) and some of us even have tattoos! Weird eh?
To create dynamic, tolerant conversation
Christians – being in a spiritually aware world inhabited by theologians and philosophers with a rich history – are expected to provide stimulating thoughts, deep questions and engaged conversation.
“Teaching young people how to think and how to talk cultivates the ground needed to hear the Gospel.”
Rather than coming with ‘look, here’s what I think!’ all the time, use your unique space and persona in school to develop activities and spaces that grow conversation techniques, tolerance, listening skills and opinion articulation. Teaching young people how to think and how to talk cultivates the ground needed to hear the Gospel.
We do this in North Wales by through running RE conferences that massively rely on small, dynamic conversation groups. The result is lots of young people who feel genuinely listened to, accepted and yet challenged. This means they have a memory of being respected and heard, and that memory is attached to Christian adults! Well worth it.
To constantly show that faith is not a bankrupt option
The world isn’t split into smart people and Christians. Using helpful and memorable illustrations you can allow young people the space to open their minds to possibilities beyond the mundane and quite easily back this up using classical philosophy and modern science.
You need to keep saying and demonstrating that faith is not intellectual suicide. You can do this in science classes with science teachers if you approach it properly. Develop a language in school through your involvement that allows young people – Dr. Who style – to consider more than what is simply in front of their noses.
Young people are incredibly spiritually aware so you have an opportunity to dovetail supernatural alertness into academic rigor.