Posts Tagged ‘YoungFriends’

Several years ago, Sherrylee and I were at the Tulsa Soul-Winning Workshop and heard Harold Shank quote a statistic in his keynote address that said that the number one correlating factor with continued faith in God and a relationship to His church after high school is a summer mission experience.

Sherrylee and I turned to each other literally and said that is what Let’s Start Talking has been offering college students!  But if what he said is true, we can’t ignore high school kids any more. So we put together a mission package for high schoolers called YoungFriends that LST now offers to churches as part of our comprehensive church transformation ministry (Centurion Project).

Several challenges surfaced in presenting this opportunity to youth ministers. One of them concerns me more than the others.  Here is the general list. Can you guess which one concerns me most?

  • Youth ministers are sometimes organized and sometimes not—not any different from anyone else, except it takes a lot of organization and planning to pull off a good summer mission project.
  • Youth ministers are often trumped in money decisions by senior ministers or elders who may or may not share their vision.
  • Youth ministers are also at the mercy of parents, so only to the degree that parents trust their youth minister are they willing to let him step very far out in faith.
  • Youth ministers generally tend towards service projects over evangelistic missions.

Of course, this last point is the one that concerns me most.  In our presentation to Youth Ministers, we have tried to present an evangelistic mission option—one where kids learn to tell the story of Jesus and share their own faith in a natural and non-confrontational way– as one that makes sense in a stair step approach to mission experiences.

Young people start by learning to have a heart for people, but perhaps don’t have the social skills or cross cultural experience yet to really share their faith, but by the time they get to be juniors or seniors in high school, why isn’t it time to help them verbalize their own faith story and show them natural ways for them to share their faith in Jesus with others?

Although this idea seemed to resonant with lots of people in theory, when it got to decision time, most youth ministers opted for the service project over anything evangelistic.  I think they go this way for any or all of the following reasons:

  • Service projects are tangible. Your goal is to paint a house. You buy paint and brushes, you go to the house, you paint, you clean up, and then you go home, knowing that you have accomplished your goal. You have painted a house and done good for the sake of Christ.
  • Service projects are more predictable. Things can go wrong, of course. You can run out of paint, but then you can usually buy more pretty easily. You might not finish, but it looks better than it did. Things that do go wrong are fairly easily remedied.
  • Service projects are generally low risk.  They often can be done relatively close to home. A large group can all do the same thing in the same place for mutual protection. Not much interaction with strangers. Easily supervised.  No risk of rejection.
  • Service projects are familiar to both the youth minister and other adult sponsors, as well as parents and church leaders.

Faith-sharing mission projects are a harder sell for the following reasons:

  • Faith-sharing missions are harder to describe to parents, elders, and kids.  What “strategy” or “method” are you going to use to talk to people? How are you going to meet the people you want to talk to? What if they don’t want to talk to you?
  • Faith-sharing takes most people way out of their comfort zone, so it is a harder sell. (Of course, I’m pretty sure if we did it more, we would be a lot more comfortable doing it.)
  • Faith-sharing has greater risks. Again, what if someone rejects you? What if you mess up and don’t say the right things?  What if they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer?  Isn’t this why most adults don’t share their faith?
  • Faith-sharing mission trips are much less predictable. What if the local church doesn’t prepare well? What if no one responds to advertising? Why if local Christian teens don’t warm up to the visiting group quickly? What if it rains all week, so no visitors come? Because a faith-sharing mission is totally dependent on people, LOTS of things are unpredictable!!
  • Faith-sharing mission trips are not familiar experiences for most Christians.

And they never will be familiar unless we find a way–starting with our young people—to learn to share faith as one of the most natural activities of the Christian lifestyle.

A professor of youth ministry at one of our Christian colleges, when asked why youth ministers do not tend to choose evangelistic mission opportunities, told us that he had queried all of his youth majors about this and that NONE OF THEM had ever had a personal faith-sharing experience. They themselves had only experienced service project missions, so, of course, they tend to do with their youth what their own youth ministers had done with them.  If our ministry leaders have never shared their faith personally . . . .?

If we don’t teach our kids to tell the story of Jesus, who will do it?

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