Evangelism is an important part of any ministry. Keith Harmon, Minister to Students at CrossChurch in Springdale, Arkansas, answered a few questions about how he focuses on this vital aspect of ministry.
—Ben Trueblood, Director of Student Ministry at LifeWay
Ben Trueblood: You have had a unique experience of serving in small and large churches ranging from 200 in attendance to over 10,000. How has the concept of student ministries being kingdom expanding impacted your ministry in the churches that you have served?
Keith Harmon: I have always believed in the importance of evangelism since the day I gave my life to Christ at 16 years of age. I knew it was important to share my faith regularly and personally. When God called me into student ministry at age 19, I knew that I (we) had to be about kingdom expanding.
I have tried to never make the size of my student ministry or the size of my student budget or the size of my student staff an issue when it comes to kingdom expansion because it is all about Jesus and giving people the opportunity to respond to Jesus. When we make it all about Jesus, the excuses go away. I have always tried to help my students see themselves as missionaries. I have tried to give them multiple opportunities and multiple ways to see their friends come to Christ. Equip them on how to personally share the gospel, teach them how to invite others and give them resources to do that (invite cards, hand-out, etc.), give them “events” to invite their lost friends to. Keep it about Jesus!
Ben Trueblood: For those serving in small churches, how would you encourage them to reach new students when sometimes it may seem like a daunting task?
Keith Harmon: You have to keep it all about Jesus. You must create an environment of kingdom expanding. You need to share Jesus and give people the opportunity to respond to Jesus every time you gather (every time). If there are 5 people there or if there are 5,000 people there, give them the opportunity to respond to the gospel. You must lead by example. Your students must see you sharing Jesus personally and inviting people. Your students need to see you sitting with people you have invited. Lead your students in kingdom expansion.
If you have budget dollars, put money towards kingdom expansion. Spend money on things that will give opportunity for the gospel to be shared. If you don’t have any money, be creative. But even if you are not creative you can be intentional about sharing Jesus all the time everywhere you go. The most important thing any of us can do is pray. Pray for God to send revival and spiritual awakening to your city, your church and your student ministry. Beg God to give you favor with lost students and bring lost students to your church. Pray for God to give your students a burden for the lost and see themselves as missionaries to their schools, homes, sports teams, groups etc. Always make it about Jesus!
Ben Trueblood: For those serving in large churches, what are some things that can steal attention away from a focus on kingdom expanding ministry and how do you guard against them?
Keith Harmon: So many things can steal attention away from kingdom expansion. In large churches, there is always just so much going on that it can easily just fill up your time and calendar. Large churches tend to be event driven and very good at filling calendars and keeping people busy. In large churches there also tends to be high expectation on the student pastor “do it all”. So, you get busy running from event to event and trying to share Jesus with everyone and trying to get everyone through the baptism waters and busy trying to disciple everyone and you look up and you’re “too busy” to be about the very thing Jesus told us to be about (The Great Commission).
The way I try to guard against all of this is to budget and calendar in such a way that it keeps it before me. I also try to share my faith regularly in my community and regularly invite others to join me at a church service or an event. I also hire staff and recruit volunteers that are kingdom minded and who can join me on this journey. You must be intentional about spending budget dollars on kingdom expansion and you must be intentional about calendaring/programming kingdom expanding events. Keep it all about Jesus!
Ben Trueblood: How do you instill into the culture of your staff team and volunteers the need to be a kingdom expanding ministry?
Keith Harmon: I keep it before them all the time. Every staff meeting we discuss how we are doing at reaching the lost. Every staff meeting we discuss new and creative ways to be in our community, to share Jesus in our community and how to invite others to join us at church or at an event. We hold each other accountable to being kingdom expanding. No one is allowed to have their own agenda. We are united in the vision and we know the calling. Everyone on our staff team knows the expectation and they know the vision. They are bought in.
As far as our volunteers go, we try to keep it before them all the time also. We talk about it regularly when we are with them. We cast vision for them. We ask them to buy in. Our volunteers know the vision and they know it is all about Jesus. They know we are about sharing Jesus with everyone/everywhere and they are encouraged to join us on the journey. Again, they need to see you sharing your faith in the community and inviting the lost. Our volunteers see the calendar so they see that it is a priority and they see that we put budget dollars towards reaching the lost also. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.
Ben Trueblood: How have you helped the students in your ministries engage in expanding the kingdom?
Keith Harmon: I have always tried to help my students see themselves as missionaries. I have tried to give them multiple opportunities and multiple ways to see their friends come to Christ. Equip them on how to personally share the gospel, teach them how to invite others and give them resources to do that (invite cards, hand-out, etc.), give them “events” to invite their lost friends to. Let them see me sharing and inviting. Lead by example. Give your students opportunities regularly to share their faith at church, in the community and abroad. Take them on mission trips. Keep it about Jesus!
Ben Trueblood: How do you evaluate your own ministry’s effectiveness in being kingdom expanding?
Keith Harmon: We give ourselves yearly goals in kingdom expansion. We evaluate the process. We evaluate every week in staff meeting. We evaluate every year at the end of the year. We start out weekly in staff meeting by celebrating all that God has done in the last seven days. We celebrate all those who have come to Christ and have followed through in believers baptism but we also celebrate all of the seeds that were planted. We celebrate the visitors and we celebrate those who were invited. We celebrate our students who are sharing Jesus and inviting regularly. We celebrate Jesus! We celebrate all that God is doing.
Ben Trueblood: Is there anything else that you would say on the importance of student ministries being kingdom expanding?
Keith Harmon: Make it all about Jesus! Keep it all about Jesus!