Carl W. Buechner says; “They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.”
Young people in our community are going through a wide range of issues from bullying, body image, life changes and social pressures to name a few. We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we can be present – and in a lot of cases – this is all a young person needs to find their way through such a pivotal time in their lives.
We have found that in a local community, there is a need for young people to have a positive environment to go to when schools knock off for the day. The local police have said it significantly reduces the problems of public loitering, theft and general mischief for students without supervision. Right now “after school hangouts” or engagement activities are proving to be a great way to connect with local teenagers in our community.
What this generally looks like is having a sporting activity, loud music and food – the universal languages for any young person. It is a relaxed environment where they can unwind, have fun and engage with our team. Over time, trust is built and young people inevitably start opening up and asking questions about topical issues in their world. Our teams are there to listen and be a consistent encourager in their lives and support them to make positive choices.
Practical tips to consider in running an After School Hangout
- Team – Check the availability of our volunteers and start something that they will be able to consistently go to.
- Hot spots – Take time to think about your local area and scope out the spots where young people naturally spend their time. This can be shopping centres, train stations. Make it your goal to run a hangout close to where the youth already are congregating.
- Culture – think about the demographic of the young people you are reaching, what they enjoy to do as hobbies and for fun i.e. basketball, skateboarding, food and styles of music. Make this the focus of your hangout.
- Have FUN – Be the hub of the energy and fun happening at the park. Get involved in the games you play and invite people to join. When you have fun, people want to be a part of that.
- Consistency – once you commit to something and it is off and running – be there every week. Trust is built through consistency. The young people will start expecting you.
- Flexibility – seasons change and so do young people. What works in winter, may not work in summer. Young people may want to have a change in activity, or participate in an actual competition (where the real fun begins). Be willing to tweak things so you stay relevant.