Last April, we invited several youth pastors to a summit to learn from one another and to provide us with feedback about our ministry direction. Part of our day included discussing a series of best practices in six different areas (evangelism, biblical understanding, mentoring/small groups, community impact, leadership development and intergenerational interactions).
Over the next few weeks, we’ll release some of the best practice suggestions from the group (with further commentary by Alvin). We hope they will catalyze further ideas and creative initiatives as you seek to raise the bar in striving to excel in these different areas.
The core of the Christian faith is not just to become more like Christ personally, but to share the person and message of Jesus. Evangelism is an integral part of the Christian life. Our youth pastors summit compiled the following 7 ways to advance evangelism.
- Camps and retreats
Hemorrhaging Faith demonstrated the profound influence of settings like camps and retreats. One of their strengths is the extended opportunities to really reflect and wrestle with faith in a setting away from one’s normal routine. While CBOQ offers venues like Kwasind, Avalanche and Blizzard, a youth ministry can construct its own experiences or utilize shared opportunities with other church and parachurch organizations. The key is to have these (annual) spaces for extended time with God and other Christians.
- Social non-threatening experiences
For many unchurched friends, the church can be an intimidating place. The Christian culture can also feel very foreign to them. Providing events for them to connect with a Christian community gives a “foot in the door”. Using a neutral site removes some of the anxieties of a church building. Some youth groups use events like Centre Court with the Raptors to introduce their friends to the Christian community and to Jesus. (One youth pastor shared how one of his student’s invited friends commented afterwards, “You Christians can actually have fun.”) Others use movie nights, bowling, laser tag, etc. as that bridge.
Events can also be hosted in the church, whether through a board games night, a gym night, an ice cream sundae buffet night, etc. These are experiences to help invited friends to feel welcomed as part of that faith community.
- One-on-one private conversations
Everyone, at some level, wants to be known. Not necessarily famous, but at least recognized by someone. Those personal conversations help establish friendships that are supported by faith. In this sermon, Ken Davis shares a story of a teenager who wanted to “witness” and ended up doing so through a one-on-one conversation versus the “evangelism method”. These conversations are vital to inviting a person into a deeper journey with Jesus.
- Students being mission-minded
Part of our humanity is wanting to leave a legacy. For many, that legacy involves making a positive difference in the world. For students who are already Christians, being mission-minded is one way to demonstrate and live out their faith. However, many unchurched students are interested in some kind of humanitarian effort (aka short-term missions or compassion experiences). For them, participating in those efforts while also understanding the root reason why Christians do so (i.e., sharing the love and grace of Jesus) becomes an evangelistic opportunity.
For many churches, VBS is a key way a neighbourhood child is introduced to the Christian faith. (That was part of my initial church encounter as a 5 year old.) For the campers, this becomes a catalyst for faith understanding. However, for many youth (similar to the section above on being mission-minded), this becomes both an outreach opportunity for Christian students and opportunities to have their own faith conversations with unchurched students.
- Partnering with other church and parachurch ministries
No single church can effectively reach out to an entire neighbourhood, much less the world. Partnering together for the cause of Christ allows us to share that work together, and demonstrates the broader body of Christ to a neighbourhood.
We know, for many teens, time commitments aren’t always reliable. Having spaces for those sporadic drop-ins gives youth a space to be and to gradually become part of a community. It’s similar to the social non-threatening experiences discussed above, but in a more frequent, unstructured setting.
These are a few ideas to help a youth ministry move towards evangelism. The goal is to create that space, to build those relationships and to allow Jesus to be shown by in life, action and words.
What else would you add to this list? Share your insights in the comments section.