Pastor Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) says, “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time.”
In Young Life, one of the ways we let kids know we love them is through the time a leader gives in contact work. Job descriptions for a Young Life leader often list that contact work commitment as 8-10 hours a week.
What that 8-10 hours a week looks like can look vastly different in various parts of the world.
In Munich, Germany, a week of contact work looks like the following for Nicki Walter. Nicki leads in a community of Munich public schools where he does not have access to campus.
Monday: Grab coffee in the afternoon with one of our students who I’m mentoring.
Tuesday: Spend the afternoon playing soccer with some boys in a neighborhood park. At some point we might work on some graffiti together (in a legal spot!).
Wednesday: Grab some food or ride the subway with some guys after Campaigners.
Thursday: Hang out at the skatepark or the basketball court at a nearby park.
Friday: On the weeks when we don’t have club, I’ll plan some sort of organized event that our leaders can also bring friends to.
Saturday: Go to a soccer game for some of my kids, or we might have a breakfast in the park.
Sunday: Often I have students interested in trying out a church, so I’ll take them to church with me, or we might go try out a new church as a group.
As you can see, lack of campus access in no way hinders Nicki from going where kids are, earning the right to be heard. For every day of the week, he’s got a plan to be with kids.
In Hertfordshire, just north of London, the story is different for Beth Ann Hunter. She has access to the campus through volunteering at the school.
To get the broadest access to all kinds of kids, we’ve worked hard to volunteer at the schools. Usually just popping into the cafeteria to speak to kids is looked at as just plain weird, so we have to be a lot more creative. We have done all sorts of things — helped with school plays, gone to plays, musicals, concerts and talent shows. We’ve helped with accelerated reading challenges, and volunteered to run games at lunch times or in the library after school. Several of our schools have the library open where kids can hang before being picked up or taking their bus. The librarians have allowed us to interact and run games with kids there. In the U.K., many times the school will give access to someone who is willing to run an assembly on any topic, but especially on the Christian religious holidays as the teachers don’t always feel passionate about these assemblies.
For those of us in the states who might be reading this, I hope you are encouraged by the fact that contact work can happen without campus access, stopping by the cafeteria, or Friday night football games.
The common denominators between Nicki and Beth Ann seem to be time, a plan, and a willingness to show up. Notice, also, that none of these plans included texting, Snapchat, or online games. There is no substitute for physically showing up in a kid’s world.
After all, that’s what Jesus did for us.
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).
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Written by Brian Summerall (firstname.lastname@example.org)