You may be thinking, “Ok, I want to start a campus outreach to teens, but going up to the school is a bit intimidating. What can I legally do or not do when I am at the school?” Actually, there is a lot you can do. There are many creative and legal ways to relate to students at the place they hang out most of the time: The local school. Here are some things to keep in mind:
During the school day, you will not have access to students unless:
You have permission from the principal to visit students during lunch.After meeting supportive teachers, you could ask them if you could give a “classroom talk” on a topic that is relevant to what they are currently teaching. A teacher friend of mine teaches every year on the Reformation in his history class. He uses this as an avenue for teaching about grace and the gospel. You could ask to be a guest speaker to talk on a similar subject in this type of class covering spiritual history in our country. It would not be appropriate to ask the class if they wanted to respond to the gospel in this environment, but as you saw students at other extra-curricular events, you could get to know them and pray for opportunities to invite them to hear more about the Lord.
An English or History class can be a great avenue for teaching about our faith. For example, one Cru High School staff has given a talk in a history class for several years in a row on Robert E. Lee and his Christian character.
Usually, your content for a classroom message will be secular including topics like “Why Wait” for a health class, or “Your Temperament” for a psychology class.
After school there are many opportunities to relate to students:
As a community member, you can attend any extra-curricular event at the school that is open to the public and you can use this opportunity to meet and relate to students. It is fine, once you get to know a student, to invite them to learn more about Cru High School and about God. Most of the time, it is better to invite the student to meet you off campus to talk further about the Lord.
A student will always feel more comfortable if you invite their friends to join you. It is always a good idea to have a Christian student with you, as well, so they can learn more about sharing Jesus with their friends. Be sure that the students ask their parents for permission to meet with you and that they let their parents know where you are meeting. This could also lead to future opportunities to share the gospel with the student’s parents or siblings as you get to know the family.
As you disciple students you will meet their friends. This is the easiest way to meet new students on and off the high school campus
Some principles to remember-
- Pray for people at the school and in the community to know Christ and to be supportive of your ministry.
- Have a student, parent, or teacher introduce you to others who will join with you to minister to students. The more partners you have, the more influence you can have on students’ lives.
- When you go to the school, have a reason to be on campus during the day. Follow the guidelines of the school. For example, sign in at the front desk.
- Ask a parent or teacher, who is supportive of your ministry, to help you set up a meeting at the beginning of the school year with the principal. Share with the principal how Cru High School can be a great resource to the students, teachers and coaches at the school.
You could even take the guidelines put out by the U.S. Secretary of Education to give to the principal so he or she knows the legal rights the faculty and students have available to them. This can help the principal feel more at ease with the ways you’d like to serve the school through Cru High School. Speaking to the principal may seem like a big step. It does not have to be something you do right away and your coach can help you prepare for this. (Call 1-877-Go-Campus for a ministry coach). (See Religious Expression in Public Schools: A Statement of Principles by U.S. Department of Education).
- Pray for students. Disciple Christian students, helping them grow in their desire to reach out to their friends.
- Remember that students have a lot of rights at the school (see Equal Access and Me) so the more you equip them the more influence for Jesus you will all have together.
- Encourage and give leadership to students who are growing in Christ. They can talk to their friends about Christ all day, as long as they are respectful of class time. Students can introduce you to teachers, students, parents, and coaches. As these students grow in spiritual maturity and confidence they will be doing ministry with you.
Here are some ways the students can help connect you to other students and adults at their school:
Although their Christian club must be student run, they can bring in an outside speaker to share (that could be you). You could ask a student to work with you to reach his team. Ask the student to introduce you to their coach so you can ask to speak to students on the team. As you disciple a student, encourage them to be the one to invite their team to the team follow up party. It would be great to have the party at the student’s house.
As students grow in their love for Christ and as you teach them to minister to their friends, you will discover that working with them is the best way to minister at a school.
- As you relate to students remember to invite them to events and activities that are seen as voluntary. Any event or activity sponsored by the school would be considered by most as a mandatory event. When you invite a student or group of students to learn more about Cru High School or a relationship with God, it should always be voluntary. In other words, the students know they can choose whether or not they want to come to the event or meeting. They know it is not sponsored by the school so it won’t affect their life at school: It won’t affect their grade for a class or their opportunity to participate in a sport if they don’t come to something you offer.
For example, inviting teens to a follow-up party after you speak to an athletic team would be something they could voluntarily go to or choose not to go to. Another example: inviting students to meet off campus for a coke to hear more about S.V. is something they can choose to do or not to do.
- Under the Equal Access Act, if any non-curricular student club is allowed to use the school facilities for events, then a Christian club should have all the same access rights. In addition, as a member of the community you can often rent a school facility if there is no student run Christian club to work through. Ask the local school what their policy is for outside group use. If they allow other outside groups to use the facilities, they may not exclude you just because you are religious in nature.
- For more information on your legal rights and for wisdom on navigating the high school campus, contact a ministry coach by calling 1-877-gocampus. On the Cru staff web there is material that your coach can go over with you. You can also read a few more articles that cover the Equal Access Act, as well as, student and teacher rights. These will help you to both inform teachers and students of their rights and, therefore, provide more opportunities for you to meet and minister to students, faculty and even families.
As you consider these principles, remember that God is the One who is leading you, working in the community, at the school and in students’ lives. Ask Him to show you what to do and when to do it, giving you wisdom as you follow the guidelines set by our government and the local school. He is with you. Even if you do everything right, there may be some negative response as you share the gospel with students and disciple them. Remember, our Lord Jesus unjustly suffered and we may, therefore, suffer as we walk with Him by faith. (I Peter1-2) Walk closely with Him and He will take care of you. (Philippians 4:6-7).