You know exactly who I am talking about. It’s the kids that just all of the sudden starting showing up because their group of friends go to the same school, who sit in the back, who talk the entire time, and that smoke on campus. The types of kids we all think, “What are they even doing here?” Right? Truth is, they are right where they belong. These types of kids are my personal favorite and even through they can be disruptive they will listen to the message and watch how you react to them, it just sometimes takes a little longer for life change to happen because they have their walls up. Jesus’ message has the power of life change, and once grasped they are hooked. I have seen it, and it is amazing.
The “fringe” kids can be very intimidating at times, so how do you get “in” with them so they start to listen and talk to you? This might be different for other people, but hear is a list I have come up with to help minister to these types of students:
Be intentional: You have to be. For the most part from what I have seen, the typical response to them if they went to another church, sadly, was you have to leave. So they already will see any adult as a threat and just making a point to know their name at first is huge! If they think this group will be different, they will stick around. If they stick around, they will hear the message, and hopefully eventually respond.
Be relational: That’s how Jesus would be. At my last church I served at, there was this particular group, exactly matches the description I said above, and I would try and make it point to hang out with them at some point of the night and establish a relationship with them. It got to the point where I invited them to In-n-Out after service and we then would go every single week after service and our relationship grew more and more.
Be strong: Can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to punch this group. Even through you establish a relationship, they will be them during service and be disruptive at times. There are times in which you will need to remove them from service and show them they cannot distract others from hearing the message, but instead of just kicking them out, go out with them. I would go outside and just talk with them for a second 1) To show them I still want to respect them and show I care for them 2) it’s one-on-one time with them outside and a great way to break down some walls. Then we would go back in after a few minutes and they would usually be god to go for the rest of the service.
Get them involved. The moment they realize they are apart of the night there is a change. I had a group of guys who would ride their BMX bikes to service every night we met. They would always come in early to leave their bikes in the back before sitting down. One night I asked them if they were to come in early, can they stand by the door and simply high-five everyone who came in the door when we opened them, and they did it, and they loved it. They then did it every week from then on out and it became their ministry. They were involved, they owned it, this was their church.
Be patient: It may not seem like it’s making any difference, but I promise you it is. If they are coming back, even through actions don’t change immediately, they are listening. The more relationship you gain with them the more they open up and trust. We had a leader who also had a heart for these kids. He would sit with them every service, take them out every service, and started a small group with them. He even hired some of them at the pizza place he managed. It is unreal the transformation in some of them. Some now are even pursuing ministry. Jesus works in their lives even if you can’t see it.
Be loving: That’s how Jesus was to people on the fringe. That is how we need to be. High schooler are the best B.S. detectors I know. they know when you are not genuine, so be loving and they will want to be around you and want you to be around them.
I have seen it. The “fringe” kids will turn into “core” kids if you give them a chance and love on them.