I had a conversation with a buddy who works in the junior high ministry. He just got the job over there and was telling me how much he loved it so far. He has been in youth ministry before but not in an all junior high setting. We were talking and her said he loved junior high because they almost accept you immediately. If you like to have fun and you tell them to go wave at that random person, they will and think you are the funniest person ever. I told him I wish it was like that in high school. You almost have to prove yourself to high schoolers before you can have any sort of relationship with them. They are more on the defensive about you until you can get a good rapport with them. Junior highers are like dogs who love you immediately and want to be your best friend and high schoolers are like cats who you need to prove your loyalty to them first before they love you. So how do you do that?
Here are some ways I have found it easy to win over a high schoolers heart for them to start a relationship with you:
Food. It truly is the way to a high schoolers heart. If you look at Jesus and how he got to break down the walls between Him and sinners, he was always around a table eating a meal with them. There is something about free food that screams, “Hey, I like you” and will break down the guard. My small group has food before every group. The moms take turns cooking full-blown meals. It’s awesome. I really do think our group has grown so much closer this year because we spend an hour at the table eating and talking life.
Invade their space a little. Get on their campus. Who cares that when you are on their every student knows you don’t fit in there and they know you are an outsider so they stare at you. Get past that. Because when your students see you at their school 1) they are so surprised 2) they ask, “What are you doing here?” and when you say, “Just wanted to come hang out with you all a bit” they are so stoked 3) you get a chance to meet their friends and 4) it shows you think about them and care for them outside your group on whatever day you meet. That means a ton to them. When you leave, you are bombarded by students coming to you and saying they will see you at services. It’s awesome. Of course, don’t sneak on, always follow the rules on getting on campus. Oh, and if you can bring food to them while invading their space a little, double points.
Invite them places. Every Sunday we have an hour break between the two services. usually the students who are involved in the services are just hanging out. So I started to invite students (mostly difference ones every time) to do an AMPM run with me while we are just hanging out. We get slurpees. It is such an easy way for me to get to know these students a little better and they feel like I actually want to be with them and know them. I do the same when I need to run errands the ministry and always invite students to come and hang out. Again, time with them means a ton.
Time and intentionality. It takes both putting time in and being intentional about it. Both of these things are big when it comes to getting in high schoolers good rapport. They can smell a fake from far away. They know when you are genuine. The more and more you spent time with them and intentionally want to hang out, trust is built. And when the time does come where they come to you for help in any matter, it means a ton. They also vouch for you to their friends about how you were there for them and it can open up the doors to more students to gain a rapport with.
Just some tips on my end that has helped me with students. What would you add?