Youth Ministry & Outreach
Evangelism has become a dirty word for many Christians. It could be that the term has been hijacked by some within the Christian tribe. The word has been transformed from being one of invitation or of reaching out, to judgement and condemnation. To be an evangelist does not mean that you need to be on a soap boat with a bullhorn yelling at people walking down the street. It also means that you do not have to stand in front of store doors handing out tracts, and asking if people are saved.
To be an evangelist is to reach out into the community and share the love of Christ. It's pretty simple really.
The average member of a United Methodist Church, depending on which statistics you read, invite someone to church or share their faith with another person every 33 years. That's it. So, if I'm lucky, I will share my faith or invite someone to church 3 times in my life. That's it.
Is it any shock then that teenagers are afraid to invite someone to youth group (which is the really fun part of church) if the rest of the church isn't willing to invite someone? Is it any surprise that teenagers don't think they are able to invite "outsiders" to youth group when the only people inviting others to the church are the pastors?
We are in the midst of a monthly long drive to invite friends to youth group. It began with some gripes:
"Why do we need 'new people'?"
"What about us?"
I think the sentiments shared by my youth group are the same sentiments shared by the average person in the pew when the terms outreach and evangelism are lifted up.
"What about us?"
We are afraid that new people will redirect the pastor's attention away from us to them (is that really a bad thing)?
What if those people want to change something?
What if the new people have a differently theological view or God-forbid political view?
Why does asking a friend, neighbor, or even stranger to come to church feel so awkward or difficult? We don't hesitate to invite friends to meet us at a brewery, the beach, or the latest restaurant in town. Teens will invite their friends over to all-nighters and to go play paintball. So why is it then, that inviting someone to experience the Good News of Jesus Christ so hard?
Talk about the dying church is very popular right now. We hear often that the church has lost it's relevancy and that we live in a post-Christendom world. While there might be some truth some of that here are some stats from Thom Rainer's book The Unchurched Next Door that might make encourage you to think otherwise, and to invite someone to church (or youth group):
- "Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year."
- "Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited."
- 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.
- Most people come to church because of a personal invitation.