School Lunch Strategies? by Gresham Hill
School Lunch Strategies (SLS) is a term we’ve coined to describe a very focused but effective method of building student and administrative relationships, growing your student ministry, and reaching more people for Christ.
The strategy is simple – require your student leaders to go to a different school at least once a week within a certain radius of your church and eat lunch with the students (20-minutes is a good rule of thumb for most churches). I know … this is hardly a complicated strategy, right? But it’s the results that prove its value. By showing up and eating with students and their friends, not only will your relationships with your own students improve, but your relationships with their friends and the school administration will improve. Sometimes, the results are hidden for months, but over time, you’ll see real growth as these students start to show up at church, Bible studies, events, and more.
The key is “connection.” Your students do not need to go to the church with the best video game console, the biggest sound system, or the best looking youth leaders. Those entertainment driven student ministries produce short-term successes that some of you may envy (you might want to repent of that) but for the most part, do not create lasting impact. But in today’s social media-driven world, what students want most is connection. If they know you and trust you, they will be curious about what you do, what you believe, and yes, what’s happening at this student ministry they keep hearing about. You’re earning their trust.
We implement this strategy with events. Instead of asking a school to let us put on a public school assembly with an artist or speaker we’re bringing in (something that is increasingly difficult to do due to testing and other academic pressures), simply ask if you can bring this speaker / artist with you to lunch.
This SLS produces the greatest benefit with illusionists who can walk from table to table and perform a mind bending magic trick. This strategy is hugely effective on college campuses and also effective in public schools in terms of drawing students out to an evening event. One of my favorite examples of this was a video Zak Mirzadeh posted of students watching a simple close up trick around the ping pong table. This was not a pre-event trick but it’s the same thing that Zak would do during lunch time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxk-51Eb8LA
First Priority, Cru High School, Youth For Christ, FCA, Young Life, and many more already understand the value of SLS, but churches often fail to make this a REQUIREMENT for their student leaders. It needs to be a major part of your weekly meetings at your church. Who did you see at your school lunch? What are their names? How can we pray for them? Where are you going to go this week?
Now, some churches have 20+ schools they need to target while smaller towns may just have a handful. If you can get the same student leader to the same school every week, that’s a huge bonus but it may not be realistic. Find a realistic goal and hit it. The ultimate result will be more students, coming into an eternal relationship with Jesus and that’s motivation enough, right?