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Tag Archives | evangelism

Getting Students To Share Their Faith

Picture courtesy of promises.com

Picture courtesy of promises.com

Many times I have asked students what they think about telling others about their relationship with Christ.   They of course say something along the lines of it being a “good idea.” After all if you love Jesus you should talk about Him right? However if I ask: “When is the last time you told someone about your relationship with Jesus, and inquired if they have one too?” I get a different response:

Silence.   Followed by looking everywhere but me in the eye. Followed by more silence.

Finally one day I asked” “What stops you? “ This is when they discussed three major roadblocks to students talking about their faith.

“I Forget to Tell Them.”  

This has less to do with what we would call “blatant” apathy and more to do with the life of a teen. They have told me that when we all attend an “event” where this is inspired in them, they feel conviction. Then they come home the idea might “stick” for a while. Then comfort sets in, they go about their routine, and honestly telling others leaves their mind. It isn’t at the forefront of their mind.

“What if I don’t know all the answers?” also “I’m not good enough.”

One girl told of a time she tried to tell her teacher about Christ and the debate that ensued totally intimidated her. I have also heard, “Well my friend pointed out all of the mistakes I always make and said that I shouldn’t be telling others until I get myself together.” “My friend is an atheist and I have no idea how to answer his questions.” In these “moments” students feel exposed. At an age that is about “fitting in,” they hate this.  Our job as youth pastors is to prepare them for these times and help them learn simply to tell their own story. They don’t need to know everything; just what Jesus saved them from personally, what the cross and resurrection means and why this matters.   In addition we need to be resources when someone does press to know specifics. Let students know “You can come to me and we will sit down with the person together.” (Dare2Share offers great resources in this area.)

“All my true friends are already Christians.”  

This one I have heard from my “own” children when I press them on this topic. It opened my eyes to the reality that students who have grown up in the church assume everyone around them that “matters” already “knows this stuff.”   We need to remind them again to just share their “Christ story.” They may find that everyone they thought “knew” doesn’t really know Him at all.

All we can do is to keep pressing for students to explore their own relationship with Christ, and why they would want to share that with others. However, we can’t tell others about what we don’t have. More than once I have encountered a “good youth” who doesn’t know the Lord. Once we recognize these roadblocks we can work with our students (and ourselves) to plow them down.

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What Gospel are you preaching?

We moved to the US in November of last year and we haven’t found a church home yet. Church shopping is one of those things I have mixed feelings about. On one hand you can learn a lot from visiting different kids of churches (especially on how not to do stuff, but more about that later). But on the other hand I miss being part of a church family.

For Easter we visited a church we had been to a number of times before. We already had doubts whether it was a good fit, but we didn’t want to visit yet another church for Easter. Plus they had a great kids’ program that our son really loves, which is a big priority for us. So we decided to give it another try.

The church was full, about triple the amount of people they usually have. I was a bit surprised when I saw the bulletin and the sermon topic: Follow your Dreams. Not exactly what I was expecting for an Easter Sunday service.

Well, neither was the sermon itself. This was how the Gospel was preached (amidst a pretty confusing message on how God wants us to achieve our dreams I might add): “God is love. Love came to the earth, but people rejected Love. Love was crucified. But Love rose again. Easter is proof of God’s passionate love for us.”

Now in itself, there is not a untrue statement in that message, though one can debate the wording as it’s a little vague. But what is missing in this Gospel?

It’s Jesus Christ.

cross

I love the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2 where he states that he was determined not to preach anything ‘except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’. That is the essence of the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, Jesus Christ risen on the third day.

The Gospel I heard on Easter made me sad. I understand that in a ‘seeker friendly’ service, speakers may try to use different words as to not confuse their audience. A lot of church words are incomprehensible for non church goers. I can also understand that there’s always a bit of apprehension that people will take offense to a radical Gospel. After all, the words sin and penalty of death aren’t exactly conjuring up nice associations. Sin especially is a word that seems to anger a lof of people, as they rather hear about love.

But you cannot explain love without mentioning sin. Sin is the whole reason there is a Gospel, for without it we wouldn’t need a Savior. You may use whatever words you want to explain the Gospel. You may call sin ‘bad things’, ‘mistakes’, ‘wrongdoings’ or whatever. But a rose is still a rose no matter the name, and sin is still sin. 

And you cannot preach the Gospel without putting Jesus Christ front and center. Yes, He is love, but you can’t just call Him love. You need to call Him Savior, Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus Christ IS the Gospel, He is the reason we have something to celebrate on Easter Sunday, or on any other day. 

That same Paul wrote that the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18).  We may look like fools explaining the Gospel. We may even offend people, anger them. But we cannot dilute the radical message of the Gospel, not even one bit. Yes, we should always preach with love, not hit people over the head with it. But at the end of the day, we should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God that brings salvation.

What Gospel are you preaching?

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3 Learnings from You Own the Weekend

We just finished another incredible year of our weekend teaching series called You Own the Weekend. Students from various high schools planned and executed our weekend service. The heartbeat is two-fold: 1) get students involved in the weekend service and serving in a ministry, and 2) make sure an invitation of some sort hits every student from that school that week. It has been one of the highlights of our student ministry for several years running – thought I would share some takeaways coming off the series:

Students bring their friends and family to something they helped pull off. In short, there’s a direct connection between student ownership and friendship evangelism.Every wonder why your core kids aren’t bringing their friends to church? Maybe it is because they had nothing to do with the creation of the service! When students build it, they will come. So many stories in our youth ministry now start with “well, I first came to You Own the Weekend” or “I trusted in Jesus during the series.” Really incredible stuff! It has becoming commonplace to hear someone say “I was brought by…” or “I wanted to see my friend…” We always emphasize friendship evangelism to our entry-level program, and I know it does happen on a regular basis. But this blew the normal response away.

There are all sorts of gifts waiting to be discovered.
 One of the favorite moments of the series was when a student who attends every week got up and shared his testimony. There are star kids who were born and raised to take the stage and teach and I’m super proud of them as pastors. But I’m also excited about the invisible students who showed up during the series. Unexpected people pitched in, decorated or took the stage to share in the message. This series served as a great reminder that some of your best pastors are probably already sitting in youth group. So many gifts, just under the surface waiting to be revealed.

Students should own every weekend.
 Here’s an obvious ministry-changing takeaway – so … why doesn’t this happen every week? To some degree, there’s a special magic to You Own the Weekend that just can’t happen week in and week out – but I want to see this momentum spread through every series we do. I want student teachers, student editors, students pastoring, student emcees, student testimonies and more every weekend!

This is a game changer for us! Give You Own the Weekend a shot next year in your youth group, too!

JG

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First 2 Years: Christian Clubs

CO Blog

A few years ago we got frustrated with the status of some of our Christian clubs. It seems like they had just turned into a group of high school students that met on Wednesdays to eat pizza and listen to a 10-minute talk. The clubs rarely saw any growth and weren’t really known for anything but being pretty cliquey. So about a year ago, we decided to ramp up our campus outreach efforts and work more directly with the student-led clubs. What this meant was we needed to push them to fulfill more purposes of the Church on their campuses. Here are a few things that have happened:

Worship- About 3 times a semester, a few of the local clubs put together a worship lunch instead of their normal program. They get a few singers, a guitar player or two, and lead their students to encounter the Lord during their break. They do such a great job! One club even puts together a PowerPoint with all of the lyrics!

Serving- We have had clubs looking for the specific needs of their school and the unique ways that they can serve. One of our clubs (named Cookies and Christ) made the entire football team cookies and gave them out to each player in a bag with their name and jersey number on it right before a big game. We had another school serve their ASB team during the busyness of the homecoming season. We also did a sticky note project at a ton of our local schools. It has been fun to see what they come up with!

Evangelism- We want our Christian club leaders to teach their students how to evangelize at their school. I think too often we just say to our students, “go evangelize,” but they don’t really know what to do with that. So empowering our club leaders to empower their clubs allows for some really cool life change. They have put a focus on relational evangelism this year. The results have been huge–one our clubs has even doubled in numbers!

What are the clubs at your local school doing that are breaking the norm?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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How To Reach “That Kid” In Your Ministry

I know you know who I am talking about when I say, “That kid” in your youth ministry. Am I right? They come but you sort of don’t know why. They sit in the back, on their phone and seem to not pay attention. You are usually surrounded by the students who come all the time because they actually engage in conversation so you sped most of your time with them, not really paying attention to “That kid” who doesn’t seem to want to be there anyways. I used to (and still sometimes catch myself) do this all of the time. But I read this story about Jesus and it convicted me so I have been trying to make it a point to reach out to “that kid” because they need Jesus just as much as I do.

You know the story of Zacchaeus. The regions tax collector and was hated among the people. He was on the outside, not in the “in crowd”, not in the religious know. People knew he was there but did not engage him in conversation. Yet, he was still there and people didn’t know why. He just wanted to see Jesus. He was short so he climbed a tree to see Jesus. What Jesus did next is a lesson we all can learn in youth ministry about those kids who are “that kid” in the back and how to react to them:

Notice them.- 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. 

  • Jesus interacted with them. He was surrounded by a huge crowd yet he took the time to stop and engage in a conversation with him. He need to do the same. Trust me, I know its way easier to talk to the students you already have a relationship with. But if we are to follow Jesus and how he interacted with the fringe people, we need to be intentional with knowing them.

Get to know them. -I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

  • Maybe they are “that kid” because simply because you don’t know them. Jesus invited himself over to his house. Zacchaeus didn’t seem to mind. He seemed a little shocked and welcomed it greatly. I would imagine that every kid who just seems to come to come and not be involved wouldn’t mind being invited to Chick-fil-a or Starbucks after service if you are buying simply because you want to get to know them better.

Others have ignored them and might not get their “normal time” with you. -7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

  • The Pharisees were a little upset Jesus chose to hang out with a “sinner” rather than them. I would think some of your regulars might be mad if you have a tradition after services and you interrupted it to hang out with a new student. I would encourage them to invite “that kid” to come with. How will our students know how to reach out to new people if we as their leaders are not showing them how it’s done?

Change happens because you show them Jesus. - 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

  • We don’t know the conversation Jesus had with Zacchaeus to make him change his heart. We just know Jesus spent time with him and he was changed. I know when we reach out to students we are showing them the same love as Jesus would have shown them. I know we can’t change people, only Jesus can, but when we spend time with students like Jesus spent time with people, they see Jesus, they want to know more of Jesus and they keep wanting to come to your service to learn about Him. Life change happens this way. It’s what Jesus does. It’s what I want to be addicted too.

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Throwing Events Attached To Student Services

Diptic

One thing that was added onto my plate this year was running our weekend events. For the past two months and going into December our ministry is putting on two weekend events a month. I was a little nervous, I won’t lie to you. Now we are half way through the end of the year, half events are done and over while some are still coming up.

Why did we decide (I did not decide to do this, I was asked to do it) to throw these weekend events and what makes that so different from what we have done in the past?

In the past:

  • We have thrown 3-4 big events all year long on a Friday night and tons of kids would come. Especially first timers.
  • Tons of new students would come, but we would not really see them come back on the weekend.
  • The events would be huge and take up a ton of budget but with not the pay off that we wanted…returning new students.

What we have been trying:

  • Throwing smaller but more frequent events, twice a month.
  • We attached all of our events to after a service.
  • This gives the students an opportunity to invite their friends to church and then to the event after.
  • From what we have seen, new students are coming to church, sitting in service, going to the event after and then coming back the next week.
  • Just this week, Josh told me a story of a girl who came to our Halloween Homecoming last weekend who came to service because she was invited by a friend, stayed for the dance and had a blast and now is getting into a small group! So exciting.

This is something that is not ground breaking but it’s different from what we have been doing and it seems to be working. Students are are inviting their friends and their friends are coming back to hear about Jesus. I think a big part of it is because we (HSM) are giving them great opportunities to invite a friend to a place that is fun but Jesus will be taught. I have met so many new students over the past few weeks and it’s been awesome to see them connecting.

What are some of the after service events we have done so far and are planning to do?

  • Video game trucks, out door laser tag and photo booths.
  • 100 ft banana split
  • Pancake Breakfasts on Sundays. After our big homecoming weekends we promoted it as “bring your homecoming party to Sunday services and we will feed all of you.” We did this because a majority of our students come on Saturdays.
  • Halloween Homecoming Dance (See picture above). We promoted it as “Come to services and get in for free otherwise it’s $5 at the door. We had a great dance, snacks, a photo booth, pumpkin painting and had some food trucks come and serve dinner.
  • We have two movie nights coming with full on snack bar. One of the movies will be Elf and it will be food from the movie.
  • Killball, our version of dodgeball. Click here to see the rules.
  • Christmas production instead of Christmas services.

It’s been fun to see students bringing friends, seeing that has been worth it and the reason in which I feel we made this simple but effective switch.

What are some events that you throw that you feel that have gotten new students connected and to come back to check out what church is all about?

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Equipping Students To Share

What makes a good story? What makes a story worth re-telling?

Everyone has a story. Every story is different. Every story is important. We want to look at how our student’s stories fit into the bigger story of God’s ultimate story. We need to know and understand how to share how God has changed our lives before we ever go out and tell others how God can change their lives as well. It’s our goal to help students know their story and look back on how God has changed their life and for them to share their story!

The moment we meet God and He enters our life, our story becomes a miracle because God starts working in our life immediately. It is a miracle because the God of the universe chooses to interact with us and our lives. That is a miracle in itself as far as I am concerned. We need to help students understand this.

Most of the time students do not share their faith or how Jesus has changed their lives is because 1) they are either too scared or 2) they do not know how to share it in a way that makes sense. We should want to help to overcome that fear and equip students to be able to effectively share how God has done some amazing things in their life.

We need to make sure students know:

  • It’s okay if they have not yet… for now! Not everyone who is a Christian has. They need to know that we want to help them come up with a way for them to tell how God has effected their life in a way that is effective and it flows nicely so it’s more like a conversation.
  • It is our joy, our calling, our purpose to share God’s story! A Christian who does not share Christ is like a basketball player who never passes! It’s just plain wrong!
  • OUR SUCCESS IS NOT BRINGING SOMEONE TO JESUS, OUR SUCCESS IS HOW WELL WE OBEY WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT SHARING HIS STORY.

The big question we need to understand when it comes to helping students go out to tell others about Christ is: How can we tell others of how Jesus can change their life is we do not know how to explain how Jesus changed our own life?

It is part of our calling as youth pastors/directors/workers to teach our students how to effectively share their story otherwise we are sending them out into the world ill-prepared and they will be discouraged. Teaching our students how to share their faith effectively will not only help bring others to Jesus, but will help them grow in their own faith as well.

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Josh and I have a whole series and small group curriculum that deals with this specific topic. Create an environment of evangelism in your group and check out these resources.

GO (sermon series)- Click HERE

Be a Bringer (small group curriculum)- Click HERE

GO/Be a Bringer Bundle – Click HERE

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This is War

Before I got a job at a church, I worked at Starbucks for 6 years. While the life of a barista sure has its ups and downs, I really loved the job. What made Starbucks so great was the connections I got to make with my customers. Anyone that has worked at a coffee shop will tell you that there is something so special about your relationship with your “regulars” (the everyday customers). Over time, they become more than just a customer, they become a friend. One of these friends was a 25-year-old guy named Nick.

On the surface, Nick came off as outspoken, stubborn, and a little rude. But once you really got to know him, he was actually an incredibly caring, passionate, and hilarious person. Unfortunately, one of the things that he was most outspoken about was the Church. Being a gay man, Nick felt that the Church hated him and he wanted nothing to do with it or God. I spent a few lunch breaks talking to Nick about the lies that he had been told about how the Lord views him, but I never felt like I made a difference. Once I got a position on the high school team at my church, I quit Starbucks. After that, I would rarely run into him and didn’t really think about him at all.

Four days ago, Nick passed away.

This has rocked me ever since I heard about it. I’m not sure if Nick ever gave his life to Christ and that kills me. The Lord presented an opportunity to me over and over to share Christ with him and I didn’t do much with it. It has radically changed how I look at evangelism and ministry.

I have begun to constantly ask myself the questions that we should all be asking ourselves: “am I taking advantage of the opportunities that the Lord is providing?” It could be that friend you know is struggling but haven’t talked to yet. It could be that student that was sitting by themselves and you walked right past. This week, make it your prayer to see what the Lord is presenting to you and trust that He will give you the courage to follow through.

You guys, there is an enemy that is out to kill. The stakes are high. This is War.

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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YS Idea Lab: Greg Stier from Dare2Share

Had a great time at the National Youth Worker’s Convention a couple weeks ago in San Diego (there’s still time to join us in Nashville, too!). I was thankful to be a part of the incredible YS Idea Lab talking with many of the leading voices in youth ministry. Here’s the first one that was just released today – an interview with Dare 2 Share’s Greg Stier!

JG

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Equipping Students To Go

I feel like one of the biggest questions everyone asks about their youth ministry is, “Why wont they go out and tell their friends?” Evangelism. It’s hard and tough stuff for high schoolers for some reason. I truly believe there is a ton that goes into why they do not go out and share: fear of disappointment, failure, looking “weird” in front of their friends, etc.

One of the biggest things we need to instill in our students is letting them know that it is not about whether or not their friend comes to Jesus (it is eventually) but it is about whether or not they are going to be obedient to what Jesus says about going out and making disciples in Matthew 28. It is about them realizing that their jobs are to have the conversations, plant the seeds so God can work in the hearts of those they share with and hopefully one day they turn to Him.

There are a few things this year we are helping our students focus on to help push and challenge them to reach out to their friends about who Jesus is and to bring them to HSM.

Equip them to share their story – I think a lot of the time they do not share because they don’t know how to do it effectively. I think for many students, they cannot fully articulate how God has changed their lives so it’s hard for them to share with others how God can change their lives. Equipping students to reflecting on how God has moved in their lives and helping them understand it will only help them better share to others.

Help them understand the importance of going out – There are countless stories in the Gospels of Jesus where Jesus meets someone, their life is changed, and they immediately go out and tell others about Him. Helping our students understand and know that there is life change that is exciting within them and how there is no reason to keep it within themselves.

Who are they reaching out to? – I think challenging them to go out and evangelize is great, but it can be overwhelming. Is it to everyone they meet? Family? All their friends? Some of their friends? Focusing on a group of smaller people might help students be focused because they are thinking, “I can’t reach my whole school, but I can reach my 3 friends because I already know them.” When we think evangelism, most students think big, but what were to happen if we let them know it can be as easy and doable as reaching out to a few friends a year?

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By the way, the series we just did on this is up on DYM. Click HERE to check it out. Also, there is a small group material that goes along with this series coming out soon to with more in detail of how we challenged students in this area.

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A New Kind of Modesty

I’ve been thinking lately about modesty.

I know: after the Miley Cyrus episode on the MTV Awards, we’ve all been thinking a little bit more about modesty lately!

But, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of modesty.

I had been scheduled to speak at a large youth event out west, and about two weeks prior to the event I received a phone call from a woman on the design team who wanted to review with me some basic details of conference schedules and travel plans. All in all, it was pretty routine.

That was when she added, without any hint of irony, this additional word of direction:

“Please, when you give your talks to the kids, we’ve decided as a design team to ask that you not mention the Name of Jesus. We don’t mind if you talk about God, in fact, we hope you will. But we hope you’ll understand that talking about Jesus will offend some of our young people, and we don’t want to do anything that will make them feel uncomfortable….”

I tried to imagine a doctor who refused to tell her patient of his disease because it might upset him. Or, the spelling teacher who didn’t have the heart to tell his students that they were consistently misspelling certain words because she didn’t want to discourage them. Or, the traffic cop who couldn’t bring himself to ask the driver to please keep his truck off of the sidewalk because he didn’t want him to think policemen unfriendly. We can almost imagine the furrowed brows as this Design Team wrestled with what they must have considered “the Jesus problem”.

A New Kind of Modesty

In an age in which modesty seems as out of date as Pong and penny loafers, in an age in which no topic is taboo, no indignation un-televised, no truth held back, it is striking that we, in the church, have finally found a modesty that we can feel good about: We can be modest about Jesus.

Now, please understand, I am completely sympathetic with the motives that must have led these good folks to “design” The Designer out of their youth event. After all, they wanted to make the conference a safe place for kids to ask questions, to feel accepted, to feel comfortable. I agree with that. That’s important. But just because we want all patients – no matter how sick – to be welcomed into the hospital, that doesn’t mean that we have to be hospitable to every sickness and germ, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we have to be modest about the cure.

It was supposedly an Archbishop of Canterbury who commented several years ago that the Church of England was “dying of good taste”. I hope it isn’t in poor taste to say so – and it certainly isn’t often that youthworkers are accused of exercising too much good taste – but sometimes I feel like I see the same thing happening on the youth ministry landscape.

There’s a very important and a very fine line between being bold to speak the truth and speaking the truth in such a way that we just sound rude and cranky. I suspect that’s what Paul had in mind when he asked his friends in Colossae to pray that he would proclaim the Word with clarity, “as I should”, he wrote (Col 4:4). But, he also counseled them to “Be wise” in the way they act toward outsiders – to “make the most of every opportunity” (Col 4:5).

Paul doesn’t want to sound rude and cranky, but that doesn’t mean he wants to sound sweet. What he wants is to sound clear.

For Paul, good teaching was a combination of grace and salt (Col 4:6), and for good reason. Salt without grace has a bold taste; but it can be so strong that not many “outsiders” will come back for more. On the other hand, grace without salt is sweet and appealing – everybody loves it – but it isn’t a clear proclamation.

Lord, keep me from being “modest” when I ought to be bold. And may my “boldness” never provoke outsiders with over-exposure (Think: evangelistic twerking). I want to be gracious without being sweet, and salty without being sour.

Which tendency is greater in your own teaching?

-Duffy

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Tips For Your Students: How To Evangelize Without Being Weird (Pt.2)

The other day I wrote a post on tips we can give our students to evangelize to their friends in a way that won’t be weird for students.Talking about Jesus for some can be uncomfortable, but it seems to me that God seems to always move the most when we are uncomfortable because we have no choice but to lean on Him in those times. You can click HERE to go back and read it. Here is the second part of that post:

Be real- One of the most effective ways to minister to people around you is just to be real. One of the top reasons why people are so turned off to Christianity is because people are fake. It is really hard to fake yourself with people who see your ups and downs, successes and failures, people who hear how you talk in your best and worst times, by people you see every single day for 8 hours at school. Be authentic in the way to talk and you live, not just at church or at school. When you mess up and use bad language, call yourself out on it in front of everyone. That will do more ministering to the people around you because they will wonder why you don’t want to speak like that. Saying, “Just be like Jesus” is not realistic. Jesus was perfect. Us following Jesus are not perfect, at all. When non-believers see that you are just like them and mess up, but they see how you handle the mess up physically, verbally, and mentally. They will take note of that far more than anything else you can do.

So long as lifestyle evangelism does not replace the verbal sharing of the gospel, it is a legitimate ministry tool. Lifestyle evangelism can be a wonderful way to show faith in action in a world that needs to see what true Christianity looks like.

Speak it- Now, like I said in the beginning, the end all in evangelizing to the people around you is eventually speaking to them about the Good News of Jesus. You have prayed for them, you live out what you learn from reading the Bible, and are being real, there will be opportunities which come up to speak to them about Jesus, it is just up to you to take them. If you ask God to make you bolder, does He automatically make you bold? Or does He give you opportunities to be bolder? When you ask God to give you more patience, doe He automatically give you patience? Or does He give you opportunities to be more patient. You have to pray for the opportunities which come up while living your life in a real and authentic way, God will arise opportunities for you to speak to those around you to share your faith in a real, authentic, natural way.

I can tell you many stories of me actually taking these steps to explain the Gospel to my friends and family around me, and I would be happy to tell them and help you walk through what this looks like in your life. Let me know your stories!

What other tips would you give to your students to help them with evangelism with friends they are around everyday? What would you add?

**This article was originally written for our HSM magazine we give out to students and parents. If you want a copy leave a comment below and your email and I’ll see what I can do to send you one!

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Tips For Your Students: How To Evangelize Without Being Weird (Pt.1)

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “evangelism” I think about the people who stand out on the street corner on a box yelling at people about Jesus and hell as they walk by. Thank you but no thank you. That’s not my style, and probably not yours either. When we think of us going to evangelize to our friends, people at our school, or even our families in some cases, we automatically get sweaty palms just thinking about it. Why? Lets just be honest, we feel weird talking to them about our faith. Why? Because talking about our faith is deemed as “weird” to people who do not know about Christianity. So how do we evangelize to our friends without being “that weird kid”? Hopefully we can help unpack how to do this and you can share the Gospel with the people you are around on a daily basis.

First off, as followers of Christ, we are expected to share the news about Jesus life and resurrection. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Now, this doesn’t mean as soon as you meet someone new you start to just blurt out facts about Jesus and ask if they were ready to be Christian now, unless you love the sight of people running away from you, I wouldn’t do that. As Christians, we are responsible to share with others about Jesus, eventually, in our relationship with them. There are some great ways in which we can “explain Jesus” to others without just blurting it out like a freshmen asking a girl to a dance. but rather living in a way that will eventually end up with you explaining who Jesus is and the good news that He brings.

Pray for them- The most important thing we can do is pray for them. Pray that God would change their hearts and open their eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4) to the truth of the gospel. Pray that God would convince them of His love for them and their need for salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Pray for wisdom as to how you can minister to them (James 1:5). In addition to praying, we must also live godly Christian lives in front of them, so they can see the change God has made in our own lives (1 Peter 3:1-2). As Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

Live it first- If we are studying the Bible, we know that living a Christ-like life looks different compared to how the rest of the world lives. The next time you study the Bible, try to see how you can apply what you are reading to your life first. Not only will your own life be changed as a result of studying scripture, when it comes time to share what you have learned to others, it will mean way more to you and how it applies to your life and people will see your passion. When your friends see how the Bible has changed your life they will be more inclined to change their life based on the life style you live.

You basically share Jesus through your lifestyle. This form of evangelism focuses on building relationships with one person at a time. Through friendship, opportunities arise to share the gospel.

I will bring you the other two on Friday!

**This article was originally written for our HSM magazine we give out to students and parents. If you want a copy leave a comment below and your email and I’ll see what I can do to send you one!

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Creating a Youth Group for All Kinds of Students

A fellow youth worker told me a story about how he was volunteering in a high school ministry several years ago, when a student sat down near him wearing a t-shirt that read: “LEAVE ME ALONE.” When I think back, I’ve seen this same t-shirt on several different students throughout the years, even though the words weren’t written in large block letters. In fact, I believe every student who wanders into any youth group wears his or her own t-shirt. One shirt might say, “GIVE ME ATTENTION.” Another one might say, “I’M POPULAR.” Still, another one might read: “I HATE MYSELF.”

There are all kinds of students who attend youth groups around the world. It’s been said that a church tends to reflect the personality of its senior pastor, so it’s safe to say a youth group tends to reflect the personality of its youth leader. A youth leader who is loud, zany, and competitive will naturally design a youth ministry that largely appeals to students who are loud, zany, and competitive. A youth leader who is passionate about evangelism will instinctively create an environment that appeals to unchurched students. Youth workers wear a t-shirt, too, and if they aren’t careful, their ministry will eventually be full of students wearing that same t-shirt.

So how does a youth minister design a youth ministry that appeals to the needs of all kinds of students? How do you create an environment that points students to Jesus but also takes into account their diverse personalities, experiences, motivations, and interests?

I still have a long way to go in this area, but here are a few strategies I’ve considered and implemented as an answer to these questions.

1. Surround yourself with support staff or volunteers who are different than you. Ask yourself, “How can I diversify my leadership team?” I am an introvert. I am also a male. In addition, my youth ministry experience has been predominantly in a large church setting. Thankfully, earlier this year I was able to add second person to my team— an extroverted female who had been serving for several years at a smaller church. Suddenly, there were two very different perspectives speaking in to the ministry, and two very different t-shirts greeting the students on Sunday morning. And the impact of this has been incredible. If you surround yourself with leaders who think and act differently than you, you will collectively foster an environment that engages multiple kinds of students.

2. Address the different students in the crowd. If you want your youth group to be welcoming to non-believers, for example, when you are addressing the crowd say things like, “I know that not all of you are Christians. Some of you are just checking things out, and others were forced to be here by your parents. And I’m so glad you’re here.” You can also use specific illustrations for specific groups of students. For example, one time when explaining how the Holy Spirit places the power of Christ in us, I compared it to being a football player and having the skills of Peyton Manning in you, or being a computer programmer and having the expertise of Bill Gates in you, or being a singer and having the singing voice of Justin Bieber in you (that last one was for laughs… I think I got one or two). My purpose was to address athletes, techies, and musicians in one illustration. When students believe they are known and acknowledged for who they are, they are more inclined to feel at home in your ministry.

3. Raise up student leaders from all personality types, social circles, and interest groups. If every student who serves or goes on stage in your youth group is popular and good-looking, how do you think the less popular students are going to feel? Similarly, if your student leadership team consists solely of good, well-polished, churched kids, what message does that send to the newer, less-polished Christians in your ministry? Facilitate an environment that tells students they can make an impact on their peers no matter who they are. Raise up student leaders who speak in to the ministry from different backgrounds and social circles.

Taylor Bird is the Director of Middle School Ministry at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for just over four years.

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Success Is Obeying

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The picture on the left here is a message I got from a friend of the church I used to work at (sorry it’s so small. If you click on it it will blow it up for you). I went to Kenya and met this woman named Carmilla on the flight there. She was wondering why we were going to Kenya and we just started talking about Jesus. She said she was not into church, never really went to church and never really thought about going. I gave her my card and said if she were ever in LA she should come check it out. That was 3 summers ago and then I get this message. I just planted a seed. I didn’t know what was going to happen, let alone 3 summers later. How cool is that?! It got me thinking about how we teach evangelism to our students and it’s a great reminder to us as ministers.

We have to let our students, and if we are honest, us sometimes, understand this:

Planting a seed is a win. Success is not bringing someone to Christ, success is how well we go and obey His command to go out and share His story.

A lot of the time both students and pastors will go out, be the hands and feet of Jesus to people. Serve them. Love them. Share about Him. Then what happens? Most of the time nothing. There is no immaculate turn around where the person says right then and there they are dropping everything and turning to Jesus. It can be really discouraging if we are not seeing what we would call “results”.

That can be very discouraging because we tend to not be focused on the right goal.

It is not up to us if a person is ready to accept Jesus. God has to be working on that person’s heart already. God is the only one who can soften someone’s heart. We cannot. We can only obey and share about who Jesus is and pray that their heart is ready to receive Him. We need to tell others about Him, plant that seed, and then wait and let God make it grow so we can see the harvest.

We just need to obey. Success is obeying.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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