Tim Schmoyer hosted a chat/conversation/podcast a couple weeks ago ASKING IF YOUTH EVENTS WERE STILL WORKING in youth ministry. I must admit I was pulled in because that is a conversation I have had with myself many times over the last years.
Don’t believe me? Here are some of the questions our Middle School guy Dustin and I have talked from one side to the other…multiple times! Will anyone come? Do today’s students see through large events? Even if I get people to show up, will they assimilate in our ministry? Should we present the gospel or just let them get to know us? If we present the gospel, should we give an alter call? If we present the gospel are we just teaching our people that pastors share the gospel and taking ministry out of their hands?
One of the best things we do is our dodgeball tournament and coincidentally one of my biggest posts of all time was the one detailing how we do it. I thought I would just answer my own questions so you can see for yourself how the conversation played out. This is my personal experience in my context, but hopefully it will help someone out.
Will anyone come? We have seen time and time again that when an event is built into your ministry DNA and has a grassroots push backed by excellent marketing and execution it will succeed.
Do today’s students see through large events? They may not come to a gospel sing and sign up to win a DeGarmo and Key CD as a door prize but if you find an event that peaks their interest they will respond.
Even if I get people to show up, will they assimilate in our ministry? This is one of the “failures” that keeps me evaluating. I am not convinced that we see someone accept Christ at this event and than be a student leader 1 year later, but without a doubt it is a huge first touch event for us and most new students will say that their first exposure to us was a dodgeball tournament a couple years ago. As I have gotten smarter our follow up has gotten better and last year we saw a new believer Bible study come out of this event.
Should we present the gospel or just let them get to know us?
We purposed the event as outreach and we define that by sharing the gospel through words, so it was a no-brainer for us.
If we present the gospel, should we give an alter call?
We don’t do an alter call with an organ and crying but check out the next question and it will make sense.
If we present the gospel are we just teaching our people that pastors share the gospel and taking ministry out of their hands?
We decided that we didn’t want to just share the gospel with our students’ friends. We decided that another victory is that we can help the students share it with their own friends that they brought. We do an intro and set up the gospel and than because the event is set up that a team of 5 has 1-2 of our students and 3-4 visitors we know that students are sitting as a team with their unchurched friends. We prepare, train, and pray for our students ahead of time and let them take the handoff and share the gospel with their friends and collect commitments.
We have an event that works where we gather people, but still see our students share their faith. This is a once a year thing that has tradition and momentum but doesn’t create dependence for evangelism. It has worked for us and as long as it continues to I will do it. I will always make sure I am evaluating it and I hope it helps the questions others are asking themselves.