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Evangelism Revisited: Rethinking Our Approach to Youth Ministry Outreach


Evangelism. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I have a lot to learn about evangelism. But not really. That sounds arrogant, so let me clarify.

I participated in an intriguing peer panel on that subject at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Terrace Crawford led the discussion that Greg Stier, Brent Lacy, and I helped speak into. All the attendees added observations to help recognize the way things are versus how we hope they’ll be.

Insights About Teen Evangelism

  • First, church itself isn’t full of consistent Christians. Some people who regularly attend church haven’t yet encountered Jesus.
  • Homeschooling is on the rise. This confuses the dynamics of those students reaching other students.
  • Not every church or student ministry values evangelism at a public level. It’s rare to find a weekly cadence where church leaders regularly pray for the lost and where everyday people tell their stories of reaching others.
  • Most program-level evangelism strategies turn the professionals into the quarterback. We essentially communicate, “You bring your friends, and I’ll throw the pass.”
  • Some people have created a good life for themselves without following God. When life isn’t “hellish,” it isn’t easy for them to have a fire about hell.
  • Finally, we’ve abandoned the luxury of awkwardness. Traditional approaches to evangelism require awkward conversations. But this generation has learned to avoid awkwardness with the “blocking/unfriending” concept. Parents likewise rescue kids left-and-right from tough situations. So we’re getting even further away from requiring kids to feel awkward at all.

Possible Solutions for Better Evangelism

We engaged in some what-ifs toward a solution:

  • What if even a core group of Christians was committed to something proactive. Research shows if you can get 10% truly committed to something noble, they will flip the rest. Jesus invested His time this way. It’s okay to tell others, “Yes, I play favorites with my time, and you can be one of them.”
  • What if we clarified what’s at stake in a simple statement. We could talk about eternity, like “I don’t want anyone to go to hell. I want everyone I know to go to heaven.” We might also simply explain the difference Jesus makes, like “I want everyone to have the same opportunity for a new life through Jesus. I’m going to start with the people around me, whether I know them or not.”
  • What if we modeled failure as much as success. Is it more important to have a fairy-tale ending to every story or for us to show what it means to be faithful as the means to join into what God is doing?
  • What if we took a core group into a strange place to share Jesus with strangers. This may feel safer than just telling kids to win their community for Jesus. Give them success stories to draw from and share. At the end of this experience, build a day that’s all about their community and friends.
  • What if we redeemed the concept of a formula. We’d all love to be incredibly organic and artistic in how we share our faith. But you don’t pick up a guitar to riff out a song without knowing how to play at least a few chords.

PRAISING God Through Youth Ministry Evangelism

Speaking of formulas, I developed one after noticing that Christians often complain they’re not being “fed” by their churches.