Last weekend at my CONNECT workshop in Amarillo, TX, a youth pastor named Chris asked me a great question: What do you do when your Christian kids don’t want to reach out to their friends? (At the end of this blog I ask for your response to this question- I encourage you to comment)
This question was rather timely and almost pinched a nerve with me, because the week prior I had just talked with one of my publishers about the possibilities of me writing a book to students about reaching out to their friends (basically, a student version of my Do They Run… book). The publisher literally said, “Sorry, I just don’t see today’s kids buying a book about how to reach their friends.” (Wow. True or not… what a stigma!)
I didn’t attempt to give Chris a quick & simple answer. I really don’t see one “cookie cutter” approach that kids can try on (“Reach your friends in these 3 simple steps!”) But I was able to offer him some ideas that might help him “light the fire” under the butts of students and get them thinking about ministry.
First, I told him that he should take the spiritual pulse of his students and particularly identify his “Stagnant” and “Growing” kids. (For those who haven’t read my book CONNECT where I lay out how to do this spiritual inventory, I provide a quick free video of the “Six Types of Kids” on our web site. Anyone can do this inventory as described in my book, or as demonstrated in this free video of “The Stickynotes Exercise”.) Unlike the “Looking for Ministry” kids, these other two kids aren’t excited about reaching out to their friends. Once you identify your Stagnant and Growing kids, you begin investing in them, helping them grow spiritually and discover their giftedness.
We talked about this concept much of the weekend at the training workshop: when our “right column” kids take an interest in reaching our “left column” kids.
Here’s just a few of the ideas I went on to share with Chris about how to help these kids not only grow spiritually, but also to challenge them to reach out to others:
– Teach about reaching out. This may sound oversimplified, but sometimes we tend to ignore passages about evangelism. Why not teach about passages like Matthew 9 when Jesus declares that he came to reach sinners, not those who think they’re already good enough. How about passages like I Peter 3:15-18 where we see a balance of “words” and “action.” Or how about teaching Galatians 3 to share how God intended to reach “all nations” from the beginning. (You can hear my sermon about this in Episode #5 of our free podcast here)
– Take our students to conferences where they will be encouraged and equipped to reach out. The best of these conferences are those that Dare 2 Share does across the county. These conferences are amazing, as is their speaker, Greg Stier. If you want to hear a taste of Greg, take a listen to him and I discussing the Great Commission in our last podcast together.
– Give our students opportunities to serve. Take them to a convalescent home or a homeless shelter to help someone face to face. Encourage them to not only get their hands dirty, but engage in conversations. (I speak to this balance of words and actions my CONNECT book in chapter 3, titled, The One-on-one Intentions Debate: All About Love or All About Evangelism.)
– Begin a student leadership team. Equip kids to serve and reach out. Teach them to discover and use their spiritual gifts. David and I just finished our book on this subject, a book titled, Ministry BY Students. It comes out from YS/Zondervan in a couple of months (and will be available on our site).
Many of us probably identify with Chris’ question. I definitely don’t have all the answers. Feel free to use the comment feature below to share some of your own ideas on the subject.