The Four Biggest Obstacles to Contact Work: #4 Accountability
A fantastic YL team leader recently told me, “I stopped asking my YL team about contact work because they are sick about me asking them about it… mostly since they don’t do it.” If you’ve been following along my series on contact work, you may have navigated the obstacles of 1) spiritual challenges, 2) timing challenges, 3) fear challenges… hopefully contact work is improving, but how do we keep it going? Here are a couple ideas regarding accountability and contact work:
1. Define Contact Work
Unfortunately, contact work can be vague, or “gray”, not black or white. If I text a kid is that contact work? If I give a kid a ride to club and we chat for a little while is that contact work? If I see them at their work, but I was already going there anyway, is that contact work? In my opinion, yes to all. But, I think each team needs to define contact work. In general, I think it is interacting with students outside of a planned meeting (and always working to meet new people).
2. Make a Commitment to Contact Work
In our area we have a leader covenant that includes a weekly commitment to contact work. We ask people to pray about their commitment before they make it. We believe contact work is one of the ways we fulfill our calling to be ambassadors of Christ and of the great commission, so contact work is not a commitment to “Young Life”, but to our calling from God’s word. (PS Please keep doing “contact work” when the Lord calls you into different ministries after your season in Young Life. It is not a just a YL thing, it is a Bible thing.)
3. Understand the Time-Delayed Consequences When Contact Work is Missing
One of the challenges of contact work is that it is an “important but not urgent” issue. Chances are that if you do or don’t do contact work in any given week, you won’t notice it at club or campaigners that week, though sometimes you do. In fact, your club may be thriving without any contact work. Similarly, your club may suck even if you are doing contact work regularly. But, contact work is best seen as a long term investment. Here are some time-delayed consequences when contact work is not happening:
-Your club is dying.
-Your club is mostly made up of Christian kids, youth group kids, and those who already love YL.
-Your club regularly has to compete with other “events”, rather than being a weekly celebration of existing relationships.
It is also helpful to dwell on the time-delayed benefits of contact work too! Galatians 6:9 is a great verse for this.
4. Initiate Wise Accountability (or Advocacy) for Contact Work
People usually like to say they want accountability… until they are then held accountable, then they usually don’t like it. After a few discouraging setbacks most, like my friend above in my opening quote, just give up on it. Here are a couple things that I think can help:
-Define specific goals together
-Use a consistent time (for us our weekly team meeting) to ask about it every time.
-Focus on the “wins”, the highlights, the success stories of contact work.
-Don’t shy away from asking every single person about contact work each week.
-Focus on grace, enabling grace to help others who are discouraged from setbacks.
-Advocate for the aims and dreams we all have through contact work (i.e. “Imagine this summer praying with a student to receive Christ that you met during contact work this week!”
-Don’t be afraid to stop and pray for God’s help, for forgiveness if we’ve been disobedient, for His enabling by the Spirit to live out our calling.
-Have fun with it, mix up ways to talk about it each week.
-Lead by example.
Contact Work is one of two main focuses our YL area is working on this year. To help that we’ve been using something we call “Contact Work Encouragement” which is a system to check-in on your cell phone and then the other leaders on your team get an update through a text message. It is all tracked via an online system and then at our all area monthly meeting we have highlights, tips and silly awards for some of the most active leaders and clubs in the previous month. I’m hoping to post about that soon.
One last story… This week I asked our team about contact work. One of our all-star leaders said he didn’t make it on campus as he had hoped. When I asked more he said he didn’t meet any kids because of his work schedule, but did go on campus at night and prayed over it four different times in the past week. He then went on to talk about two other instances in the week when literally new kids from the school came to him unexpectedly. I love this… he is a busy adult professional who couldn’t make it to lunch, after school, any games, etc. But he did prayer walks late at night after work… and the kids (in unexpected ways) actually came to him. Don’t give up! Keep "going to them”… they might even “come to you”!