Teaching: Before and After
Ministering Outside the Lesson
As leaders of youth, one of the things we work hardest at is preparing and delivering our lessons. While it’s true that the content of our teaching is pivotal in providing students with information which (hopefully) leads to transformation, there is so much more to ministering to teens than hitting a home-run during your teaching time. In fact, much more can be accomplished in the unplanned time of your gathering if you are aware of the opportunities and make the most of them.
If your meetings are like most, there is plenty of “down time” as students arrive. You’re waiting for everyone to get there, people run late, you’re eating donuts or playing a game. How can you maximize this time?
Similarly, when the lesson is over and it’s time to go, often you have kids lingering for a while. There’s always a kid or two around later than others waiting for their ride. Perhaps you are even in the habit of giving one or more kids a ride home. Are you doing ministry or babysitting during this time?
The time before and after the meeting is a great time to minister to students. Below are just a few practical ways to make the most of every opportunity to influence a student for Christ.
• Build Relationships
Instead of sitting back and letting kids talk to one another, involve yourself in the conversation. Don’t be rude, but ask questions about their week, find out more about their families, gain a deeper knowledge of who they are. Not only will this help you get to know them, but they’ll get to know you better, too. Plus, it will give you some good direction towards relevant teaching when you know what’s going on in the students' lives.
• Give Encouragement
As you involve yourself in the lives of students, there will be plenty of opportunity to build students up. Make it a goal to compliment the student who doesn’t get noticed that much. If you’ve read in the paper or heard from a parent about an accomplishment of one of your students, pass them a card or simply acknowledge their success and give them a high-five. It will show you care about them.
When you’re hanging back with a student and he or she starts asking questions, capitalize on the time and share Scriptures with the student that applies to his or her situation. Take a few moments to share about a similar time in your life. Help your students however you can—they’ll appreciate it way more than your lesson (and that’s okay!).
What if your before and after times looked more like a prayer vigil and less like a cookie eating contest? What if instead of telling a student you’re sorry about a situation in his or her life, you just took the time to pause and pray with him or her? These “random” acts of prayer will be long remembered as an act of caring by you, and it teaches your students that when they’re going through a hard time they can pray about it.
• Connect Unconnected Kids
Before a meeting is a great time to introduce new students to the regulars. Help them discover things that they have in common, and make sure the end result is a comfortable room.
• Creatively Support Your Teaching
Make before and after part of the lesson. Instead of thinking of teaching as a lesson that takes 30 minutes to cover, think of it as experiential learning that starts when students walk in the door. If you’re going to be talking about purity and guarding your heart for marriage, set up a security entrance in the doorway. We tried this once and it worked great. It made kids wonder what was coming next, and while it didn’t make sense to them when it was going on they connected it later during the teaching time (for the record, it was not my idea, so I can’t take credit for it if you like it!).
One disclaimer—never, under any circumstances, give a member of the opposite sex a ride home by yourself. If you’re forced to counsel someone of the opposite sex make sure you are within sight of other people. In today’s world, it’s important that the Church stay above reproach in these sensitive areas of ministry.
There are probably other ways to give heightened effectiveness to the moments before and after your meetings begin. Sit down and brainstorm a few ways in your context that you can stretch your ministry out from lesson time to all the time. You’ll come up with some great stuff, and the results will be amazing!