By Chad Miller
So how do you reach tweens with the Gospel?
In addition to the tens of things on your to-do list, the never-ending quest for balance in your ministry/personal schedule, the mounting list of emails that have gone unanswered and voice mails that you’ve saved for the last possible time: how evangelistic is the tween ministry in your church? Is your ministry committed not only to meeting the spiritual needs of Christian tweens, but also driven by the passion to see lost middle schoolers come to know the Lord Jesus Christ?
The great commission from Matthew states what I believe to be the heavenly mandate and hovering measure of our ministry – go and make disciples. I am increasingly convinced that this is the real eternal fruit of the work of our hands as ministers.
We will not be asked about how many flat-screen TVs we installed in our youth center, nor how many books/articles we authored and published. We will not impress Heaven with nor insulate from the purifying fire of judgement our massive church babysitting children’s ministry that’s the biggest in town. Nay (KJV), we are to make disciples… teaching them to observe all things that Jesus taught.
Making disciples involves two key aspects of ministry to others: namely, evangelism and discipleship.
Romans 10:14 (NLT) “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”
2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT) “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
In my dealings with ministry staff across the country the consistent theme of evangelism still conjures up an event-driven model of outreach. What does it bring to mind when I ask the question, “How are you going to reach the non-believing tweens in your community?” These are some of the initial thoughts student ministry leaders have when thinking through that question:
–What was the best outreach event that I’ve ever attended?
–How many kids were there?
–Who were the bands?
–What was the draw?
–I wonder how much they spent on marketing… Wait, all my budget’s gone… How did I even hear about it?
–I really liked the speaker. Would my tweens like the speaker?
–How will I get my tweens there? Wait… is this for my tweens or for the ones that aren’t going to church?
–I don’t know these kids… what do they like? Whom do they listen to?
And on and on those questions can go. They’re all very valid questions that deserve serious reflection and even a focus group of unreached kids to bounce it off of. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to event evangelism. Whether it’s outreach-based or an “attraction” model, it’s still a ton to wade through as you traverse the waters of modern-day proclamation evangelism event planning.
I would love to see another thought pattern emerge in the coming months and years of student ministry. But first, let’s review a few eye-opening stats and double-click them to see what opens up to us. Forgive me for bludgeoning the dead-horse of some of these stats, but they frame the context of a premise for a new approach to engaging lost tweens/middle-schoolers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hopes of “making disciples.”
1. Our Church Kids Are In Trouble. Percentages ranging from 67 percent to 82 percent of our youth are leaving the church as soon as they get the chance. We know that there’s a chasm, generally speaking, between our young people and God.
2. Kids are still very tender for the Gospel. In fact, children between the ages of 5-13 are five times more likely to come to Christ than at any other time in their lives. Is there any doubt that reaching kids in this age is some of the most important work we can do as ministers of the Gospel?
3. Kids have tremendous influence on other kids. In fact, no one has the ear of a tween like another tween.
Take a moment and guess where I’m going.
4. A majority of our Christian students don’t know how to share the Gospel. Isn’t that staggering? These are Jesus-loving, born-again, “want-to-change-the-world” students that are faithful to our Bible classes. And they’re not equipped to share the Gospel with their friends and family! So, what exactly are we teaching them, I wonder?
If students reach students better than adults, sounds like at least one aspect of our evangelistic efforts should include equipping our Christian tweens to reach their friends with the Gospel.
At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, one of the verses we emphasize with the Dare to Be a Daniel youth evangelism project is 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV): “But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
As believers, we’re called to put Christ first. Without Him as the foundation of our ministry, no amount of entertaining kids will draw them into a loving relationship with the Father. But when we share our faith, we must do it in a way that demonstrates we value the other person and understand where they’re coming from. When it comes to reaching young people, in my experience, nobody can do it as well as another young person – if they’re given the tools to do so.
My advice: find a Christ-centered, Scripture-driven resource that can equip your youth to share their faith boldly yet with sensitivity. You can check out BillyGraham.org to find out more about how Dare to Be a Daniel may be useful to your youth group (more to come on that in Part II).
If we want to reach a generation that is increasingly uninterested in the Gospel, we need to help our young people do the work of evangelism and discipleship. Remember: we’re called to make disciples. If we really are making disciples out of our kids, they in turn will be making disciples of others.
Chad and his wife Ashlie live in Kannapolis, NC with their 2 sons. Ordained in 2000 as a non-denominational preacher, Chad is serving as Director of Dare to be a Daniel, a Youth Evangelism Training Project of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (www.billygraham.org). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2009 BGEA, used by permission