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Two Things Stunting Evangelism in Your Ministry

Jonny Radcliff
July 16th, 2019

I recently led a youth pastor training that assessed the Seven Vital Signs of Discipleship in each of their ministries. The room was filled with men and women from different backgrounds and denominations. The only two things these leaders had in common were Jesus and students. Well, those two things and one glaring weakness. 

After sitting in silence to comb through a 70-question assessment, I instructed the group to total up their scores. It took about as long as you’d expect youth leaders to assemble – longer than it should. Still, after the totaling up concluded, each leader plotted their top two strengths and their top two weaknesses on the board. 

They verbally confirmed the results of the test. We dialogued about the strengths of each group, ranging from service, community, and mentorship. The good feels abounded. But then I directed their attention to the weakness column to highlight one indicting fact: Most of these groups had evangelism as one of their top two weaknesses.   

Transparency time – it’s true of my group too. 

Barna recently released thorough research on the topic of evangelism. Read these totals and let it sink in:

  • 94% of Millennials believe that the best thing that could happen to someone is to know Jesus
  • 73% of Millennials say they are gifted at sharing their faith with other people

However…

47% agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. 

This study was done on Millennials. My assumption is that those numbers are more discouraging for Gen Z. 

In fact, nearly every time (and I mean, every time) I encourage my students to share the Gospel to their classmates, I get the same retort: “But my classmates are Jewish.” I then point out that Jesus was too! It doesn’t go as far as you’d expect.

Bottom line, I fully believe that much of this hesitancy can be traced to the belief the 30 and under crowd has picked up that evangelism is a tool to better the church rather than to better the individual far from God.

To fight against this build-an-earthly-kingdom mindset, refrain from the following:

1. Equating Invitation to Evangelism

Of course you should be encouraging your students to bring their friends to youth group. And it’s true that there’s no better place for them to be than around other believers. But if the only coaching your kids are getting in sharing their faith is how to get them to your program, you are sending two detrimental messages to your students: Evangelism happens at church AND is done by professionals. 

Teens need to see that there are more ways to share their faith than recruiting for cultivating. They must be taught how to share their story, how to consistently pray for their classmates, and how to lead someone to Christ. They need to know that the power of Jesus lies within them, not just the youth leader. 

When you are rallying the troops to invite others, be sure to overtly communicate that this is not the sole form of evangelism. Create your own axioms, such as “Invitation is one aspect of sharing your faith” or “No event is greater than your personal story.” Do something to make sure your kids completely understand that plugging in people to build a program is not what Jesus intended when He unleashed His Church.

2. Devaluing Conversations and Overvaluing Conversions

That’s not as sexy as it sounds. Of course we should be celebrating when someone passes from darkness to light – heck, the angels do it, right? But by hyper-focusing on the “reaping” we may be neglecting the “planting.”

It’s been said that “What gets celebrated gets replicated.” When we constantly celebrate the output (conversion) and overlook the input (conversations of Jesus), frustration can ensue. It can be discouraging for those who are faithful to “planting” to not see the connection to the “reaping.” 

What if success stories weren’t just “Brody shared his faith and Kaleigh accepted Christ!” What if a success story worth broadcasting included “Brody shared his faith with Kaleigh and now we wait and pray!” 

1 Corinthians 3 makes it clear that the reaping is the work of Christ. Let’s celebrate that. But let’s also celebrate the planting that our students are doing, regardless of what the immediate outcome is. 

When planting gets celebrated, planting gets replicated. 

Questions to chew on:

  • Does your ministry create an urgency for students to share their faith?
  • Have you enabled your students to be missionaries in their schools/teams/clubs or are they solely recruiters?
  • Could your students share their story or lead someone to Christ without your help?
  • Do you need to enter a season of celebrating planting? 
Jonny Radcliff

Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church and the Philly Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the three little monsters that they rear together. His 10+ years of youth ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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