The average Youth Minister will most likely encounter a teen an hour or two a week during programming. So, where are they during the remaining 166 hours during the week? They are on the field, at home, on the computer, in the books, in the gym, on the stage, and in countless other places. So how do you reach them outside of the physical walls of the church? First, you meet them where they are at. So, here are five places where you will find teenagers and strategies to reach them.
1. Social Media
Many adults shiver in fear when social media is mentioned, but I suggest running towards it. No, it does not mean you have to learn every Tik Tok dance or create your own bitmoji. It does mean that your program needs to have a presence on social media. Instagram is a great place to start. It’s not just about posting but also about interacting. Don’t just scroll, like, and comment on posts. YouTube is another excellent platform to reach teens. Offering reflections, day-in-the-life videos, event recap videos are all ways to reach teenagers. Remember that “It is your responsibility as a youth minister or leader to walk alongside your students and to model behaviors that demonstrate how to use social – while not letting social be the one that uses you.” (https://www.nucleus.church/blog/social-media-youth-ministry/) Below are some youth ministry Instagram accounts, including my parish, for you to view and get some ideas!
- St. Ann Youth: @stannyouth
- St. Therese of Carmel Youth: @stocym
- St. Mary Hudson Life Teen: @lifeteenhudson
Whether they like it or not, most teens are in school. So reach out to the local schools, public and private, and ask about their visitors policy. Bring a Chick-fil-a platter to their lunch, speak at their Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) events, go to pep rallies, or attend school Masses at the Catholic schools. These are easy ways to encounter teens in their daily environment. Plus, you get to meet their friends who maybe do not go to church, and it opens a conversation for invitation.
3.Local Sporting Events
If you’re not at the local Friday night football games, you need to be. No, you probably won’t be watching the game, but instead, you will be able to encounter teens, middle schoolers, and parents. Football games and other sporting events are a great way to not only support those playing on the field but also the entire community. Try bringing gift cards or prizes to the games and use social media to encourage teens to find you at the game to win a prize.
Coffee shops are great places to hold informal bible studies, events, or just catch up. Teens are already there with their friends anyway. Coffee shops provide a casual environment, typically laid back and non-intimidating. This environment can lead to great conversations. However, be aware that this environment can also lead to a caffeine addiction. I speak from experience.
5.Performing Art Events
Like sporting events, performing art events are another great way to encounter and reach teens outside of the physical church walls. Plays, art shows, dance performances, band, and concerts are all great ways to support teens. Not only are you supporting the teens onstage, but also the ones attending the performance.
Your ability to reach students is not dependent on their ability to show up to programming. We need to think outside the box and think beyond the physical walls of the church. Often meeting them outside of the church can have equal and sometimes more impact than the programs our ministry offers.