Outreach is in my blood. I have been evangelistic, from a youth ministry point of view, my whole career. Before I was a full time youth pastor I had done my fait share of street evangelism. I have shared Christ during Mardi Gra., on the Orlando OBT strip, and on the streets of Phoenix when I was in Masters Commission. I don’t look for confrontation but I don’t mind it either if it results in clearing up misunderstandings about Jesus or His church.
Because I had done a fair amount of faith sharing, I assumed whatever church I worked at would welcome those who did not know Christ. Boy was I wrong. I believed churches were hospitals for the sick and discovered some of them were fortresses where parents protected their kids from those “other kids”. Most of my struggles in youth ministry came about with Pastors, parents, and students because of my love of the lost and my desire for us to BE the church (can I get an Amen!). It was those struggles that forced me to consider creating an outreach strategy.
Secret # 3 Develop An Outreach Strategy
1. Don’t Assume Your Strategy Is Wanted
My greatest and worst assumption I’ve made in youth ministry is that a group WANTS to grow. More than once I have imposed my will upon a group assuming it was “our “collective will to reach the lost. In one youth group I served, when the attendance at an event faltered or when I could not get parents or church on board, the lights came on, over half the kids I had in my group were home schooled. It’s not that they did not want to reach out, they couldn’t. I was blaming them for something that was not their fault. Lay aside your assumptions and listen to the rhythms of your group and plan your outreaches accordingly.
2. Have a Seasonal Strategy
Outreach, as a program model, is very tiring. I did not know about having seasons of minisrty, I just went wide open all the time. The build up for to every week was exhausting and the expectations for every week were draining. I had to realize, as Ecclesiastes says, there is a season for everything under heaven. My outreach driven mindset was killing my kids and my volunteers. My group needed rest, recharging, and a time to reflect. If we did add kids they just got folded in with the outreach blob that just kept rolling without a slow-down time to learn why were doing outreach in the first place.
3. Integration Strategy
There was much fuss in the New Testament among Jews and converted Gentiles. Peter, the Lord’s own disciple, did not want to even be seen eating with them. This struggle goes back to assuming. I assumed kids in our group wanted to reach out, build relationships,and make disciples but it became clear that I had crossed some lines by bringing in these “interlopers”, these “people” messing up our group.
Although the mindset and attitude of some of my previous students were wrong (I am pretty sure they inherited it from their parents), I was wrong for trying to force something on the them that they were not prepared in advance to do or be.
Consider these questions as you formulate an outreach strategy.
What assumptions are you making about your groups attitude towards outreach?
How will new kids or new converts fit with your group?
Do you have an outreach season and a discipleship season?
Have you taught your students how to welcome in new kids? New converts?
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