One of the parts of any youth minister’s job is attending games, concerts and other events that your students are participating in. There have been times in my ministry when I’ve been better about doing this than others. It’s taken me awhile to get into a routine of doing these things since starting up my position here in Ashland and having a kid, but today is going to be Caleb’s introduction to middle school sports: I’m taking him to a middle school boy’s basketball game.
I love doing this stuff. Well, I should say I generally do. When I worked in Idaho, I met students in the cafeteria for lunch once a week, and to be honest, I dreaded opening the door of the cafeteria until I saw a kid that I knew. I would stand there and be transported back to an awkward middle schooler looking around for a friend…any friend…an acquaintance even…anyone to sit next to.
But I do really enjoy getting out there, attending concerts, going to games and putting in the time for that type of contact work. As I’m getting ready to head to a game today, I thought I’d just share a few things that you can do when you attend these types of events.
Support your Students
Going to games and concerts and plays is a great way to show your support for students. Even better if you can get a few other youth together to go, or find another of your volunteers or adults in your congregation to go as well. This shows them that there are other youth and other adults in their lives who care about them and want to support them and see them succeed.
Connect with Other Students and Their Friends
Depending on what event it is, you may run into our students in your program, and some of their friends. I always enjoyed seeing them and getting to know their friends as well, but just be prepared that it’s quite possible, depending on your relationship and comfort-level with that student, they just might pretend not to see you. It happens.
Have Awkward Conversations
This was one of my favorite parts of going to events – well, if I’m honest, my favorite part of youth ministry. Awkward conversations with students. I remember going to a football game in Livermore and one of my students who was a freshman saw me coming as I was coming up to say hi, and she said, “What are YOU doing here? This is weird.” She and her friends eventually got over it (or at least I thought) and we hung out a bit, but it’s always a good thing to embrace the awkwardness of our calling.
Connect with Parents
While supporting your students and connecting with other students is one of the great benefits to this type of contact work, I’ve often found that what I enjoy the most is finding their parents, sitting with them, and having conversations. This can be a great time to hear how things are going in their lives, with their families, with their jobs…just a chance to get to know the parents more, which can only buy you more support and trust for your ministry. I’ve had some great conversations with parents at games, and always look forward to that aspect of it.
Observe Sports-crazed Parents (and Youth Pastors!)
Okay – this isn’t really a benefit, but it’s something to be aware of. You are going to see crazy parents (and who knows – they might even be parents of your students). Whether these parents are just way overly-competitive, or perhaps they’re trying to live out their high school sports glory days through their children, parent can get crazy at games. But unfortunately, it’s not just parents. I’ll never forget going to a high school girls lacrosse match in Livermore. There was a guy in the stands who was yelling, going crazy, cussing at the referee…just being an all-around jerk. I asked someone whose parent that was…and you know what their reply was? “Oh, he’s not a parent…he’s her youth pastor.”
Can we all just try and not be that youth pastor? I think that’d be a good thing.
What is your favorite part about this type of contact work? What parts do you find difficult?