Submitted by Colleen Kendall
I recently received an email from one of our Capernaum parents. The time stamp was 3:00am so I knew it was important and I knew the mom was stressed and upset. She wanted to let me know that her 16 year old son who has Down Syndrome was being bullied at school. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks! She ended the email with a quote from another parent that said “Social isolation is a bigger health risk than obesity.” Bam! There was that hit again. I spent several days talking to God and asking “What can I do?” CONTACT WORK!
Contact work is the most enjoyable and the most frustrating part of my job. I love going and hanging out with Capernaum friends and their families. It is so rewarding to see their excitement when I cheer for them as they make a basket, or give them a hug when they cross the finish line at their track meet. The parents as so excited to see leaders taking time to “show up.” But…….getting leaders to understand the importance and to take the time to “show up” is so frustrating. I have tried bribes, motivational talks, bringing in the area director to talk to the group and just about anything I could think of. Yet they still didn’t GO. That is until I read the parents quote and talked about how we are the key, the link to changing this isolation in our kids’ experience. Now, they GO!
So what does contact work look like for Capernaum? Let’s talk about it:
- GO to the local high school and hangout.
Pros: the kids see you, typical kid see you with our kids, the kids feel important.
Cons: the chances that new kids will attend club are slim. The kids don’t go home and tell their families that there is the Young Life thing they want to attend. For our club we have kids from 14 high schools that are spread over 30 miles. The contact work is done by our high school leaders that attend that high school.
- GO to special olympics. Most of our kids participate in some type of special olympics and they are year round. Here you not only cheer on our current kids but you have a chance to meet so many others. I usually wear a YL shirt and find a few parents I know and have them introduce me to other parents. We have made a document that we can hand out that show what clubs are coming up and how to get involved. Special olympics are great for contact work. Do you know that Bocce Ball is now one of their sports?
- GO to high school sports, drama, and choir events. Just showing up won’t get you many kids. But, having leaders take some current kids helps our group will stand out and you will see more kids gather and parents will take note.
- GO to the parents. I’ve said it before, our kids won’t go home and talk about this new thing called Young Life. You have to get to the parents and build a relationship with them. They have to trust you to let their child attend.
- GO to Capernaum friends’ birthday parties, graduations, celebrations. As other parents see you there as a friend they will soon want their son/daughter to hang out with you too.
- Go to Capernaum friends facebook, instagram, twitter account and comment. It’s amazing how many kids we have now because of a comment we have made. People ask about Capernaum. We also have our own facebook page and we post weekly pictures and tag kids. Social media can work!
“12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Perhaps you have noticed that I keep using the work GO! It is mentioned in the Bible 1544 times. Ummmm get the point. Just GO! GO to the kids and families, find them, bring them in, love them, show them the love of Jesus. What are you waiting for? GO!
Colleen Kendall is the Capernaum Rep for the Mt. Hood Region in Portland, OR. She works full-time with special needs students in the David Douglas School District and is on part-time Teacher Staff with Capernaum Young Life in Lake Oswego, OR.