Phone calls are an essential part of following up young people in our Youth Ministry every week. Love them or hate them, or find them just plain awkward, phone calls are so important in discipling our teenagers and building great connection with them.
These are some phone call basics.
Talking to parents is sometimes something we want to avoid but we shouldn’t, as establishing rapport with a teenagers parents is really valuable. Sometimes we don’t have a young person’s number but we have their parent’s mobile number, don’t let this stop you calling but rather use it as an opportunity to get the parents on your side.
When talking to parents ask them how their week was, show them that you care just like you care for their child. You will be surprised at how parents will open up to you by asking something so simple. Let them know what the plan for this week of Youth is, keep them in the loop, lay out the details. Parents want to know where their child is, what they are doing and most importantly that they are safe.
If you have a teenagers direct number still be intentional about talking to their parents. At the end of your conversation ask to talk to their mum or dad but just asking if you can talk to them to give them the details of youth for the week or inform them about a big event coming up. When the parents are on your side it is a huge win!
Not all youth have Christian parents and so sometimes this leads to interesting conversations and we need to approach them differently to Christian parents. You need to assume that they don’t know anything about Youth and what it is and that also they will possibly have a perception of Youth and church that is shaped by a stereotypical world view.
The first thing to go over them with is the fact that Youth is a place where their child will be safe. Mention that your church has a Child Protection Policy, that every volunteer has a Working With Children’s Check and that they have all been thoroughly vetted before being allowed to lead at Youth.
Go over the details of your program, tell them where it is being held, what day and time it is on. Don’t hide the Christian aspect of Youth group but rather be open about it and assure them that their child is accepted as they are and they will never been forced to believe what we do.
Phone call basics/structure
To clear it up from the start if you find phone calls awkward you aren’t the only one. The majority of young people don’t receive calls or call anyone, but this doesn’t decrease the value of a call in fact it increases it. By us being the ones who call our young people we stand out, they don’t expect a phone and by calling, our communication with them sticks in their memory.
These three stages of a phone call will really help you achieve some meaningful contact with that teenager and also if it is an awkward conversation it will help you get through it and help create some flow.
Three stages of a phone call
1. Ask how they are and have a general conversation – Do not start with are you coming to Youth on Friday?! Ask them how they are doing and be genuine in asking. Talk about what is going on in their lives; school, family, job, tv show, latest movie, sport, gaming, etc. Get on their level, show interest in what they enjoy, do a bit of research into what the like talking about if you need to, make your young person feel like they can really connect with you and talk freely.
When they tell you something that is going on in their lives; a sports comp on the weekend, an exam coming up, a sick family member, whatever it is, write it down and make a note of it. The value in this is that next week when you call them back you can follow up on this, you can show them you were listening and you can display how you are genuinely invested in their lives.
2. Talk about their relationship with God – This is the most important part of the conversation, we are not making the phone calls to just befriend them but also to input into their lives, disciple them and keep them growing on their journey with God. You need to ask them questions like, how’s that bible reading going? What’s God been speaking to you about? What have you been thinking and praying about?
Share something good God has been doing or saying to you lately to encourage them and help them open up to you about their relationship with God. The idea is not to expect a perfect response but to encourage and challenge them to pursue their relationship with God daily. If they say they haven’t prayed or read their bible and haven’t been listening to God, encourage them to do so, point them in the direction of a great book of the bible to read. When you persist with asking these questions eventually they will realise you are going to ask them again and will want to make sure they have something to respond with, and so may start out reading their bible just so they can tell you what they have been reading.
Finally ask them if there is anything you can pray about for them? Faith needs to be real and active everyday and by praying for them this displays that to them. Asking this question may lead to you praying for them over the phone or praying for them in your own time throughout the week. Praying for our young people is so important and this question can really give more focus to our prayers.
3. Remind them/invite them to Youth – This should be last not first. Invest in them before you ask of them. Don’t make this a throw away question at the end but rather be tactful in how you phrase the question. Don’t always phrase it, “so are you coming to youth?”, rather use things like, “I am so pumped for Youth this week, what about you? Or “this week of youth we are giving away an iPhone, I’ll see you there yeah? Or even start a conversation like “how good was youth last week?” point out highlights from the week before and just end it with the simple, “I’ll see you at Youth on Friday.”
Phone calls aren’t always smooth but if you have these 3 stages you can work through them and when you know what is going on in your young people’s lives because of previous conversations and the notes you have, it is way easier to bring an awkward conversation to life and really build relationship and disciple your young people through a phone call.