I firmly believe that one of our best ministry tools costs $5 at Walmart.
You gotta build your program first. You can’t sit around and expect everyone to just show up. They need a reason to show up and a motivation and a mentor who they trust, or at least someone they wouldn’t mind giving a chance to build trust.
Find what they love
… and immerse yourself in it. Maybe it’s a sport – basketball, football, soccer – maybe it’s swimming in the summer or playing video games or board games or hanging out by the park or barbecue—even if you aren’t good at it, try it. You’ll get laughed at, but soon they start to trust you, because it is the consistent, side-by-side, commitment that builds trust over time. Walk around your neighborhood and find out what people are involved in and get involved.
… because showing up one time isn’t enough. Whatever it is you are doing, come, every week, maybe multiple times a week, at the same time in the same place with the same people and become a part of what they are. Show them that you are here to stay and you aren’t leaving like many other people may have left them before. Being consistent is the key to trust.
Get to know them
… and don’t stop.Start with their name and remember it.Ask about their family and school and significant others and everything else, favorite movies, music, ask why they like the music and listen to it as well. You’ll soon go from being a stranger to someone who they share everything with.
Tell them why
… you care because they’ll wonder why and probably ask. Maybe it’s that spirit living inside of you, and what a great chance to share Jesus and to share about who you are and your life and struggles and everything in between.
… use what they know, build on what they have, learn about their gifts and dreams, and point them in a healthy direction. Question them, keep them honest when they mess up, forgive and forgive, hold them to a higher standard and show them how to get there. Believe in them and show them how to believe in themselves. You can change a life just by being who you are and by being present and showing care.
For us in my old neighborhood, it was basketball. We had over a hundred students come through our teen program in one semester. They came to learn about God and play games and connect with mentors and find a place where they feel like they belong. And you bet, we played a lot of basketball.
The leaders of tomorrow could be just kids messing around shooting hoops today. You’ll never know until you step out.
And it may only cost you $5.