Navigating Each Level of Contact Work

Regular and consistent contact work with teenagers (or any of the people within your sphere of influence for that matter) is the most effective way to disciple, lead, and influence others. I believe in the 'program' and what it means for the community, but nothing replaces church - that face-to-face time in the name of Jesus - outside the walls.

Regular and consistent contact work with teenagers is the most effective way to disciple, lead, and influence others.

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I stated my reason for the question of "Why" for Contact Work in my previous post titled, "Doing Healthy, Faithful Contact Work." I want to encourage you to read that post before continuing with this one, especially if you wonder why contact work is necessary. In that post, I share my own story of how one event at a high school football game forever changed how I lead in student ministry. 

Within the two types of contact work - direct and indirect - that I introduced in my previous post, contact work can be done on three different levels: Present, Engaged, Invested. Whether you work full time with students at a school, church, or organization or simply love teenagers, understanding the basis for how each of these levels function will allow you to develop a better and more effective strategy to make contacts with students.

PRESENT - Simply being where kids are. This is the most introductory and basic form of contact work. It only requires you to show up! Being present does not even mean meeting kids. Simply put, it is being in the same place with kids at the same time. It is being seen. This could mean going to a sporting event, theater play, or hanging out a popular venue for your students. 

ENGAGED - Meetings kids and building friendships. This is Contact Work 202. To engage means to see kids, enter into a conversation, and begin the process of building a friendship. But here's the caveat: to truly engage in contact work means beginning this process in their world outside of the program, which means dealing with whatever a teenager brings your way... without setting an expectation that they should be any different from how they would typically act. Moving from PRESENT to ENGAGED is a tough transition, but the more you gain experience in doing this, the better prepared you will become for meeting new students.

INVESTED - Intentional and dedicated time with a student for a specified purpose. After some time of being present and engaging with students on their turf, at some point, the initial process building friendships will transition into a growing, vibrant relational investment from both you and the student. To invest means to truly dig into the substance of formation, influence, and discipleship.

Your long-term relational investment into a student over time could not be accomplished without your intentional and consistent presence and engagement with all levels of contact work. Each level is necessary and vital for relational development. To forsake one or not give adequate time or energy to one dilutes the entire process, especially for students not already rooted in your program. 

As you think about the next semester ahead, ask yourself the following questions:

- How you can make contacts with students on each one of these levels? 

- What kid would benefit from you simply being present? Engaged? Invested?

- How much time should you allot to each level?

- What kind of content can you expect to discuss within each level?

- How can you assist a kid to transition from one level to the next?

- Are there other adults or even students who could assist you in each level - either as a partner or potential leader?

- What specific training do you need in order to better navigate contact work in general or, specifically, a level?

QUESTION: What is your contact work strategy?