Like so many things in WyldLife, contact work is full of practices and theories that exist on a spectrum. A good strategy (i.e. remembering what it was like to be in middle school), if taken too far, can lead to dangerous trends (acting like a middle schooler).
Laying out these scenarios as “Do… but don’t…” statements can help leaders gain a sense of confidence and clarity about their ministry responsibilities. Here’s a list of contact work Dos-but-Don’ts that you can use in your own ministry and leader training. A downloadable PDF file is included below.
DO remember what it was like to be in MS; but DON’T act like a middle schooler.
DO push yourself to reach the unreachable furthest-out kid; but DON’T force or push yourself into groups or situations.
DO be kind, engaging, welcoming, & fun; but DON’T make fun of or joke at a kid’s expense.
DO be neat, polite, thoughtful; but DON’T try to impress.
DO find shared interests and connecting points; but DON’T talk primarily about yourself.
DO find kids who share interests / hobbies / background / etc.; but DON’T stick with the ‘easy’ kids.
DO seek to deepen and grow relationship with kids; but DON’T rush relationships or cross boundaries of privacy.
DO be an active conversationalist; but DON’T monopolize the conversation.
DO respect middle schoolers’ desire to be independent; but DON’T bypass building strong parent relationships.
DO be aware of and familiar with adolescent culture, trends, etc.; but DON’T try to be cool, hipster, or anything else stupid.
DO try to meet new kids on a regular basis; but DON’T have a ‘recruiting’ mentality.
DO be consistent and reliable; but DON’T be limited by a rigid schedule.
DO ask safe, easy, open-ended questions; but DON’T be afraid to ask harder and deeper questions.
DO contact work in pairs; but DON’T rely on another leader to do your ministry.
DO watch and learn from experienced leaders; but DON’T compare yourself to another leader.
DO set the tone and culture of your contact work; but DON’T force kids to adapt to you.
DO pay attention to your appearance and attitude; but DON’T be anything other than your true self.
DO build on your previous connections with kids; but DON’T keep a tally of kids.
DO build personal relationships with specific kids; but DON’T have a sense of ownership about particular kids.
DO have a consistent opener / schtick / question / etc.; but DON’T reduce contact work to a formula.
DO remember this is all about JESUS; but DON’T minimize or overlook the importance of your role.
DO be flexible and adaptable; but DON’T be non-committal and unpredictable.
DO take contact work seriously; but DON’T be ruled by fear.
DO trust in God’s power to guide you; but DON’T expect God to do the leg-work for you.
DO be willing to grow, learn, try new things; but DON’T bounce from one strategy to another.
DO remember that middle schoolers are yearning for adults to take an interest in them; but DON’T expect middle schoolers to take the lead in contact work.
Downloadable PDF: contact-work-do-but-dont
Posted by Crystal Kirgiss (WyldLife Leader, Raceway Regional Trainer)
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