Student led. Student driven.
You as facilitator.
Mission that pleases God’s heart unfolding in a public school.
These concepts are at the heart of Re:Connect, a new resource from Core Essentials Values that works as a catalyst for launching students as missionaries in the hallways, classrooms and cafeterias of their public school .
Re:Connect began as an experiment by high school youth and leaders from Richmond, IN. Inspired by their experiences with a few different XP3 series’ , they began to ask how they might intentionally and positively influence the culture of Richmond High School. How could they develop a bigger voice in a public school setting? How could they shift a culture in directions that would reflect God’s heart without crossing the boundaries that public schools must maintain?
The key was a common language of values that, when lived, could benefit everyone – teachers, students, Christians, athletes, musicians, atheists, administrators…everyone! Core Essentials had already developed a set of values and definitions for use in elementary schools – perhaps with some imagination and insight…
Where better to turn for help making this common language of values relevant for teens, than to the students themselves? So we started building a leadership team. We began with some of the students from our student ministry who had caught the spirit for being in mission at their high school, but the team became exponentially more beautiful, combustible, interesting, messy, creative, complicated and effective the more diverse we became.
We asked administrators, teachers and students to identify additional students that had influence with other students. This next step was critical…we intentionally sought out students that other students listen to, not necessarily students that adults listen to. There’s a difference, and that has made all the difference!
The leadership team that formed was made up of all kinds of different students, and “leaders” – but students with influence. Students with potential. Students with that “something” that maybe hadn’t found an outlet yet. And it worked!
That’s not to say it worked perfectly, or that the journey has always been smooth, but beginning with a diverse group of student leaders has been indispensable in ensuring that the message reaches a diverse student body.
That’s one of the beautiful truths of Re:Connect – it’s not one group of students trying to fix another group of students; it’s an invitation to the whole student body to embrace and participate in a culture shift.
How does that happen? Glad you asked…
Each month, we begin with a roomful of student leaders, a value word (like respect, honesty, gratitude…the same kind of words you might have seen lifted up in the 252 world!) and its definition. Then we ask one question:
“What would Richmond High School look like if (insert value word here) was really lived out?”
Once the student leaders articulate a vision, we generate ideas for how we might move the culture of the High School in that direction. We look for specific arenas of influence, such as:
- Physical Spaces (Cafeteria, Bulletin Boards, Hallways)
- School Wide Events (Assemblies, Games, Events)
- Social Media (Twitter & Facebook)
- School Communication (Daily Announcements, Radio & TV Program, Newsletters)
As adult leaders, we bring a few ideas to help with the brainstorming…but this is the students’ show. They always make our ideas better, while adding some that we never would have thought of – that’s what happens when the leadership team has been built with intentional diversity. Finally, we collaborate with the student leaders and others who help to bring the ideas to life over the course of each month.
Is it messy? You bet. But does it work?
According to the behavioral data, there have been significantly fewer discipline referrals, fights and other discipline problems in each of the two years that we’ve been developing Re:Connect and speaking this common language about values that are changing the culture of the High School.
More than that – the students feel differently about their school, and the influence they’re having on it. For some student leaders, this is a way to live their faith every day. For others, it’s just a good thing to do. Either way, we believe that God’s heart finds joy in what’s happening in this public school.
Want to please the heart of God and challenge your students to enter the mission field of their public High School? Re:Connect is being built to help you!
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Stop by at the Core Essentials display at Orange Conference 2013 – we’d love to chat!
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