At Saddleback Church it’s not uncommon that we have students that come with their parents who drop them off at our student building while the parents go up to the main Worship Center, or what I refer to as “big church”. Because of the size of our campus those two buildings are several acres apart. It’s easy for a student who is really not committed to church to skip a service and sit someplace until service is over and meet back up with their parents. Because of the size of our student building it’s sometimes easy to just blend in and not be seen. It’s one of the downfalls to a mega church. Often times these are students who don’t live close to the church so they don’t see another student that they might know from school or their neighborhood. These are the students I try to reach out to. I look for students sitting alone in a service or students sitting someplace in the student building trying to avoid the service.
Starting a conversation with a teenager can be a chore especially when it’s a teen that has been brought to a church service by their parents and they can think of a hundred other places they would rather be. I remember when I first was starting out volunteering in student ministry I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say or I’d say the wrong thing. Now it just comes easy to me. Here’s what I do to start a conversation:
- Pray. I ask God to help me be able to see a student who is trying to blend into the woodwork and to be able to start up a conversation with them.
- Be yourself. Nothing is more creepy to a student than an adult trying to act cool…and you’re not. Just talk natural. Limit your use of these two words, “dude” and “totally”.
- Tell them your name and THEN ask theirs. If you do it the other way around you come off like a creeper.
- Keep current in stuff that teens keep current in their world. I’m not a big rap or hip hop fan but I know enough to know names, I know who the latest celebrity crushes are, what sport teams are in the lead and what the latest stupid thing that Justin Bieber has done.
- Ask the right questions. Don’t just be superficial. If you ask how a student is doing and they say “okay” but you sense something is wrong ask “No, really how are you, can I help you with anything?”
- If it’s a student new to your ministry try to hold back having them accept Jesus, get baptized and sign up for a mission trip all on their first visit to your church. Don’t rush it or you’ll scare them away.