Blog

A Piece of Mail Changed My Life

I had just graduated from eighth grade, and I received an invitation in the mail to the Freshman Welcome Life Teen Luau at my church. I knew about the luau since every June an ominous looking volcano water slide, made out of what looked like discarded wood and black trash bags taped together, would appear on our church lawn. I didn’t want to go because I didn’t know if my friends would be there, but my mom made me.

While I was nervous I would spend the evening alone against a wall somewhere; my night turned out far better than I could’ve anticipated. I found my friends, made new ones (whom I am still friends with today), and went down that volcano water slide with joyful abandon to any safety concerns. I was hooked. I went back to Life Teen just about every Sunday after that until I graduated high school.

I never knew a piece of mail could change my life that much. Because of this experience, I knew I wanted to make sending mail a priority in ministry. Here’re a few ideas of what you can do in your ministry that works for me.

Birthday Cards

Buy birthday cards in bulk (or postcards to save on postage) and create a list of every teen in your parish and their birthday. At Core meetings, have the Core sign a stack of the cards. When I first started, I didn’t have the Core Team sign them, but I think it’s worth the effort because receiving a card with ten signatures is better than receiving it with one.

Event Follow-Up

After every retreat, conference, mission trip, or camp, send a thank you note to every teen and adult who attended. I try to make them as personal as possible, including inside jokes or memorable moments we shared. If there was a Scripture verse associated with the event, include it as well. You could use a photo card app, like Ink to make it even more personal with a group picture.

Invitations

For the past two years, I invite every teen who was confirmed to the Fall Retreat by sending a flyer with a typed or personal note about how I would love to see them. Each year I have been surprised by how many teens accept the invitation. At the end of the school year, I send invites to the fifth graders to come to our last Edge night of the year, so they have a taste of what is to come for next year. Cast your invitations wide for whatever you have coming up!

Thank You Notes

Before we leave for the mission trip, I have the teens sign a piece of paper. When we get back, I write a thank you letter and copy the page of signatures to the back of it. Then I send the letter and a group picture to all of our mission partners. A couple of years ago, I sent thank you notes to a few girls who helped me pick up dried black beans after a Confirmation class gone wrong. The mom of one of the girls sent me an email thanking me for showing her daughter that small acts of kindness really do mean something.

Fun Mail

A few years ago, I stumbled across a blog about sending unpackaged objects in the mail. From that blog, I got the idea to send a teen that had gone off to college a pair of flip-flops. With five stamps on the sole of each shoe, she received the flip-flops a few days later. I have sent a box of macaroni and cheese, a ball filled with candy, and a bag of jellybeans. This is something these teens have never forgotten!.

Of all of the things I do in ministry, sending mail is what I get thanked for the most. Just today, I was having lunch with a couple of teens, and one of them thanked me for sending her a thank you note after the mission trip. She didn’t thank me for any of the numerous things I had done to make sure the trip happened, but she thanked me for the mail I sent her.

Why?

It’s relational. Relational ministry is personal. This year I sent one of the middle school girls a thank you note for attending our service camp, and I put as many cat puns in there as I could fit. I only did that for her because I knew she would appreciate it. When teens have a nickname for me, or I have one for them, I make sure to include it. These personal mementos remind them of our relationship.

It’s something extraordinary. Sending and receiving mail is something of a lost art. Teens may get fifty snaps a day, but how many of them receive even one piece of mail a week? When I was in high school, I remember wanting magazine subscriptions just to look forward to receiving mail. And as we move to a more and more digital society, mail is becoming even more of a novelty.

Four years after I received that invitation to the Freshman Welcome, I received another invitation to the Life Teen Senior Send-Off. At the send-off I received the perfect attendance award, partially as a joke for receiving it for my senior year at school (I mean, who does that?), but mostly because I was a regular fixture at Life Teen. I knew then that I wanted to become a youth minister, and now that I am, I get to spend my life participating in the mission of leading teens closer to Christ.

All that because one piece of mail!

 

Image via FlickrCC 2.0 Logo added

About the Author

Bethany Fischer

Bethany lives and works in the best city in America, as ranked by herself, Winston-Salem. To some people's surprise, she isn't in middle or high school anymore, so she won't need to find her chaperone. She has been a youth minister for six years, first in Maryland and now in her beloved North Carolina, doing both Edge and Life Teen. Her favorite things include spending her whole paycheck at Hobby Lobby and local coffee houses, hanging in her hammock, pretending she knows how to play the ukulele, and explaining to teens that she doesn't live in the youth room.