On the Front Lines With Teenagers

Posted on: 08/26/10 9:11 AM | by Jonathan McKee

In my CONNECT workshop, I always teach a section called “Connecting on the Front Lines.” This is where the rubber meets the road– when we step out of our comfort zone to try to meet some kids on their turf… and we have NO IDEA what to say!

Have you ever been there? I have. It’s terrifying!

Michelle has too. She just emailed me this idea she uses when she’s on campus trying to connect with kids.

Hey Jonathan!

I just wanted to share an idea with you. I have been visiting our local middle school every week for the past three years. Something that works really well for me to meet students is to bring snack-size candy bars. I put a few on the table where I sit, and it doesn’t take long for kids to ask, “Hey, can I have a candy bar?” My response is always the same. “Yes, but there’s a catch. You have to tell me your name.” They do, and then I tell them my mine. Okay, so now I’m learning some names (and I do write them down and try to learn them!).

The next week, some of the same kids will approach (plus a few of their friends), and hopefully I remember their names (or at least a few names). So I tell them, “If I remember your name, you have to answer a question for me. If I don’t know your name, the candy is yours.” I bring a “Would You Rather?” book or another discussion starter book along with me. The kids love this! They run up every week yelling, “What’s my name? Ask me a question!”

Eventually, I had a small group of them that just wanted to answer questions, and the principal allowed them to skip the “free rec” time outside to sit with me in the cafeteria and talk.

I thought this might help some of those out there with a fear of going on campus to meet kids. This way is pain-free!

Thanks for a great site!

Michelle, Michigan

I love Michelle’s idea.

It’s tough out there on the front lines. That’s why I wrote CONNECT. Chapters 5 thru 8 talk specifically about going to the front lines to reach the three types of outreach kids on “their turf,” laying out the process step by step. Youth workers- Now is a great time to get this into the hands of your volunteers! (We have this book on sale right now on our site– lowest price on the web. We even have bulk package deals with a greater discount if you want to buy it for your whole team.)