Not Letting Anyone On Campus Today
“Better turn around, they’re not letting anyone on campus today.” That was the text message I got from a fellow youth pastor as I was pulling up to the high school. I went ahead and parked. As I was walking up, the youth pastor said, “The lady in the office is a sub and she said that if she didn’t know us then we weren’t getting on.”
While the information was disturbing and the thought of being rejected from going on campus seemed a little embarrassing, I went ahead into the front office. No sooner was I through the door than was my “Visitor’s Badge” ready for me. I tried to talk to the sub in the office and kindly vouch for my buddy but it was to no avail. After that, I was off to connect with students during their lunch time.
I believe in on campus ministry – yep, one of those people. I believe in it so much, that I may go as far as to say that it is one of the most important, core practices that youth ministry can do. Sure church’s can invite kids to fun events, of course summer camp can be a life changing experience, and certainly youth group is a great place to get connected in Christ-centered community, but what about the idea of “going”? (Enter cheesy Matthew 28:20 statements here)
When I started at my current church over three years ago, the first thing I found out was the schools that the students attended. I was brand new to the church and the students weren’t sure if they liked me yet, but I was on campus. I remember the awkward conversation with the office people asking, “What are you doing here? Why?” I explained I was a youth pastor and wanted to visit the students in my group. Well that only lead to things being worse, walking around campus with teen eyes wondering who I was and why I was there (Chap Clark made it seem more fun in his book). This experience continued for at least 8 more grueling months.
Then the successes came. First, just hanging out with on campus clubs, caring about the things that the students cared about. Soon, students not even in my ministry knew my name, and I there’s. Two years later, the vice principle was welcoming me on campus by name and thanking me for being there. What changed? What happened? Nothing, just presence. I transformed on two separate campuses from the weird guy who comes on campus to visit students, into the guy that’s “always there.”
While my friend couldn’t get on campus, I was “always there.” Given access to go to where students are hanging out with their friends, being real in their weekly environments, and I get to show interest in them more than just “being their pastor at church.” Often youth ministry can get so obsessed with inviting students to the “next cool event,” but when are we going to them?
Here are my simple but challenging suggestions for getting on campus:
- Go. Literally, get out of your office and actually try. You would be surprised what a smile, kindness, and honesty can get you.
- Get involved in things at the school. Students in my youth group were in a Christian club, so I was a guest. Not just a speaker, but a participant every week just sitting with the students.
- Serve the school. Your local schools are taking on tasks and challenges that can be impossible without volunteers from the community – that could be you!
- Endure. If it doesn’t seem productive at first, then you are doing it right. But stay with it and you’ll be surprised what God can do through you.
is the Area Campus Director with Youth for Christ/Campus Life in the Sacramento area. In Paul's years working with both church and parachurch, he always has made visiting the local campus a priority. Paul is on campus weekly, and he thinks you should be too! Feel free to use the comment feature in these articles to dialogue with Paul, or use our CONTACT US page to contact him with a specific question.