Over the last two-plus decades, I’ve had the privilege of engaging thousands of youth leaders in conversations about the subject of outreach and evangelism. During that time, I’ve gathered a ton of great thoughts and ideas from youth leaders in the trenches when it comes to reaching out to the next generation with the good news. Some youth leaders are killing it when it comes to advancing the good news among teenagers in their communities.
Sadly, I’ve also witnessed a pattern of mistakes and missteps in the youth ministry world when it comes to outreach. I’ve boiled them down to five …
1. Forgetting to saturate their outreach efforts in prayer
Jesus set the pattern for saturating outreaches in prayer. Mark 1:35-39 reminds us of this, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
If Jesus, the Son of God, saturated his outreach efforts in prayer, then we should too! Actually, Jesus almost missed the outreach event because he was so involved in his prayer to God! And it was during this time of prayer that God redirected him to hit the road and saturate the villages with the gospel. In the same way, the power we get from on high through prayer will super-charge our outreach efforts and redirect us to adjust our strategies when the Father so chooses.
Effective outreach is saturated in prayer from start to finish. And it is ongoing prayer that is key to the spiritual growth of those who come to Jesus as a result of our outreach efforts!
How are you prioritizing prayer in your outreach efforts?
2. Viewing outreach as just a meeting or program
When I talk to many youth leaders about their outreach efforts, they immediately start sharing with me about their latest monthly or quarterly outreach meeting. And therein lies the problem. Our outreach efforts should not just center around meetings where unreached teenagers are invited to attend. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in attractional evangelism. But our biggest outreach meeting is not a pizza night, lock-in or Dodgeball tournament. Our biggest outreach meeting is the teenagers themselves!
Could you imagine 400 teenagers attending your outreach meetings? Well, guess what? That’s about how many online and face-to-face friends the average teenagers has according to the latest research! If your teenagers reach out to their own circles of influence (school, work, sports, social media, etc.), they can make an exponential evangelistic difference far bigger than the number of teenagers currently attending your youth group!
Yes, have the Dodgeball tournament, but make sure you put an even bigger, ongoing emphasis on mobilizing your teenagers for the spread of the good news of Jesus in their own social circles.
3. Refusing to train teenagers to engage gospel conversations
Do your teenagers know how to bring Jesus up, articulate the good news and navigate a gospel conversation with their peers? If not, train them and equip them to do just that!
Far too many youth leaders are sloppy and spotty when it comes to this. At best, they give their teenagers the latest, greatest technique of evangelism. At worst, they do nothing at all to equip their teenagers to engage in gospel conversations.
This, by the way, is where Dare 2 Share can really serve you as a youth leader. We have conferences, curriculum and even an app to help you and your teenagers start and navigate natural gospel conversations with their peers.
Get your teenagers engaged in gospel conversations (not merely evangelistic presentations), and you will see both your students and youth group grow in all the right ways. To help kick-start your efforts, get 100 free Life in 6 Words gospel-conversation starting outreach books on Share6Campaign.com. These highly designed little books carry a big punch and will help your teenagers bring Jesus up in a natural way.