Contact work is, as you likely have heard many times, the very core of Young Life. Without contact work, one could argue if it is even Young Life that you are doing. Now certainly one can do contact work and not Young Life, but I dare say one cannot do Young Life without contact work.
In Young Life, contact work was the means in which our mission finds its origins. Jim Rayburn, our founder, via trial and error, with a love for teenagers, was compelled to introduce them to Jesus Christ and to help them follow him. He accomplished this by going into their world and earning the right to be heard. The beauty of Jim’s approach was how closely his methods paralleled our Lord’s.
The apostle John in the first chapter of his gospel account writes that “The true light (Jesus) that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” I love that – Jesus was coming! He was coming with light to a dark and fallen world and he was coming to all mankind. At Christmas we celebrate his coming – the incarnation. We rejoice at his coming because without Jesus becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us (John 1:14) we would still be helpless sheep trying to fix an unfixable sin problem. In Jesus coming to earth for us, we see God ‘s with the master plan for reconciling us to Him. This flawless work was rooted in contact – Creator tangibly contacting His created!
Yet there is more. Jesus not only entered our world in his birth but his public ministry starts with him doing what we in Young a Life now call contact work. Jesus was never idle and although the crowds flocked to him, he is found often going to them. He was constantly found walking and encountering people – divine appointment after divine appointment. He found Peter and Andrew, James and John, Levi (Matthew), Nathanael (Bartholomew), and from all indication every other apostle he chose. Bartimaeus, Zachaeus, and people who the Scripture give no name like the man born blind, and the man who was demon possessed were all participants and recipients of Jesus coming to them!
That is a lot of biblical background but far from exhaustive when making an argument that Young Life and contact work is simply just us trying to do what Jesus did. And that my friends is one reason why I believe the Lord has blessed the mission of Young Life for 75 years! So what are the practicals, the hints, the things that work when it comes to doing contact work?
That is a great question. There are other great questions regarding this subject. What do I do when I go into a school? How do I start a conversation? What if they ignore me? What if the kid asks me what I am doing there or what is Young Life? How do I ask a kid to hang out with me? Where do I stand at a football game? You get the idea and likely asked one if not all of those questions. I know I did! Although those are great questions, I don’t think those are the right questions to ask when preparing to do contact work. And although this is intended to be a practical blog on contact work, I believe effective contact work starts way before you ever step foot into the world of adolescents.
I believe the most effective leaders at contact work are not those who spend the most time with kids, but those who spend the most time with the Lord. It’s those who are working out their salvation daily in their quiet times. It’s those who are being still before God in order to hear from Him. It’s those who are trying to love the One who loves them the most. It’s those who read Scripture, pray, meditate, and silent in order to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. So as the school year starts and football games are right around the corner, a better question than How do I talk to kids? would be this: Are you spending intimate time with Jesus? Not just a quick devotional here and a quick prayer there, but really pursuing the One who pursues you!
When this is done then contact work, although still scary, becomes divine appointments. When you are walking faithfully with God you are Spirit-led. When you are Spirit-led you will know what hallway or lunch table to go, which kid to talk to, what you are to say, and so on. The complexity and fear of contact work becomes simple when first let Jesus do contact work with you!
When are living full-out for Jesus, His love will compel us to go to kids because it is His very nature, as mentioned earlier, to go. He will give us compassion for kids. Our hearts will hurt for them and we will want to make a difference in their lives. We will pursue hard after them. Not because Club and Camp are super fun. Not because our Area Director tells us we have to go to the school twice a week. Not because kids love us (even though they do and will). We pursue hard after kids because we spend time with Jesus; when we spend time with Jesus we look more like Jesus; when we look more like Jesus we act more like Jesus; when we act more like Jesus we become incarnational and we go like Jesus did; and when we go like Jesus did we are not only being obedient and like Him, but we live out the great commission and experience life to the full as He said we will.
Contact work – Let’s go!