The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry
Healthy student ministries are evangelistic. I know, using that word can be dangerous. There are probably some who began to cringe at the very mention of the word. In today’s church culture there are some who have become afraid of the word “evangelistic.” For some, this word brings to mind a manipulative approach to the gospel. Maybe you have been in a situation where you thought the goal of the moment was to get students to “walk an aisle” instead of helping them to truly understand the gospel. If you hold this view, I can understand where you’re coming from. What I can’t understand is the common overreaction to this view that has caused some student pastors to avoid direct evangelism or a public invitation of any kind.
It’s difficult to “make disciples” of students if they never see their leaders involved in direct evangelism or inviting people to place their faith in Jesus. For students to really embrace the idea of being a reproducing disciple, for them to truly embrace a life of evangelism, they need to see it modeled both on and off the stage. My fear with the current state of evangelism in student ministry is that student pastors aren’t negatively reacting to a manipulative approach of the past, but are using it as an excuse to avoid something that they aren’t personally passionate about. Some have appropriately asked, “are we really making disciples if the disciples aren’t making disciples as well?” It’s a good question, and a right hook to the face.
Healthy student ministries are evangelistic. Knowing that the majority of people who place their faith in Jesus do so before they graduate high school means that we serve in a field that is ripe for a harvest. Here are three ways that you can help the students in your ministry connect with evangelism:
- Preach the gospel – Make it the focus of everything that you do. This should go without saying, but so many times in events and sermon planning it feels like it is added onto the end like an awkward bumper sticker rather than planned from the beginning. Be clear in your gospel presentation. Healthy student ministry isn’t about getting a bunch of students to “walk an aisle”; rather it is about giving students a clear and accurate view of the gospel. This clear and accurate view should include what the gospel means for the lost as well as how the gospel impacts the life of a believer each day. The gospel doesn’t stop impacting a person’s life at the moment of their salvation. In reality, it is just the beginning.
- Give students an opportunity to respond to the gospel – When students see their friends respond to the gospel they begin to connect with the wonder of evangelism. Often times they remember their own moment of salvation, and they get to celebrate this life changing moment with a friend. Both of these feelings begin to develop within students a passion for evangelism. When students get a taste of God working, when they see first hand God drawing someone to Himself, it does more than a million of your words of encouragement could ever do.
- Equip students to share the gospel – As a student pastor I loved when a student would introduce me to a lost friend before a Wednesday night service that I know they had been inviting and praying for. In the times when that friend would place their faith in Jesus it was amazing to see the joy on the faces of both students. These are moments that we long for as student pastors, but there is another moment that we long for. It is the moment where one of your students shows up at church with a friend that they have been praying for, and they introduce them to you this way – “today at school Tom placed his faith in Jesus and I wanted to bring him to church tonight to help him get connected and learn where to go from here.” It is one thing when a student embraces the vision of inviting and bringing lost friends to church, it is a whole other thing when students personally embrace the wonder of evangelism for themselves and begin to live lives of evangelism.
Healthy student ministries not only preach the gospel and give students an opportunity to respond, they also equip their students to do the same. Healthy student ministries are training an army of students who embrace evangelism and head out into the world ready to change their culture for God’s glory.
If you are looking for a resource that will help you equip your students to embrace and engage the wonder of evangelism, I would encourage you to check out this new study by Ed Newton: https://www.lifeway.com/n/Product-Family/My-8