By Justin Bundschuh | Kauai Christian Fellowship | Koloa, Hawaii
KCF’s middle school ministry is well known on the island of Kauai for providing unique outreach events for young people in the area. Justin became known for pulling off events that might get you fired at YOUR church. Toilet Night. Sticky Night. Pig Night. Glow-In-The-Dark Night. You get the idea. (Good thing his dad is a seasoned and respected youth minister as well as the Pastor there.) So, we asked Justin for his thoughts on evangelism. Read on!
You have your evangelistic event all figured out. You know the youth in your town will have their lives changed. You gave it a cool name; something like “2016 Jammin’ For Jesus.” You have a slogan that you feel will build interest such as, “2,016 kids! 2,016 hotdogs! 2,016 ways to have fun!” You’ve transformed your church building into a “youth zone” with decorations that can be pulled down before the grayhairs see them on Sunday morning. You have thought of every little detail—the hip Christian band, the crazy activities, the ex-almost-pro sports figure willing to give his testimony, and the altar call.
It is the night of the event. The flood of kids you had imagined is more like a trickle. One of your helpful volunteers makes the famed comment, “Even if just one kid meets Jesus, it will all be worth it.” You hold on to that thought as the speaker goes into the altar call. You watch as a handful of kids stand. What you know, and the speaker does not, is that those kids stand for every altar call at every event. To make matters worse, you have 1,986 hot dogs going bad.
What went wrong?
Let’s start with what went RIGHT: your desire to share with kids the saving message of Jesus. After that – well, it pretty much went wrong. Youth ministry is full of well-meaning people who get the whole concept of an evangelistic event the wrong way ’round. Their thinking goes something like this: “If I can just get the lost kids here, I can get to know them and tell them about Christ.” Let me help flip you over and put you on your feet. If you get to know the lost kids, they will come. Your life will tell them more about Christ while you walk beside them. When you do have an event, all the youth you have invested in will follow you to that event.
The ability you have to speak into the life of a young person is directly related to the investment you have in that kid’s life. You earn the right to be heard.
Long before you even consider an event, plan on doing the tough time outside the church to BE with kids. Be where they are, not invite them to be where you are. Where are wild kids? Here in Hawaii most of them are at the beach. For you it may be football games, soccer games, or hoops down the road. It might be at a skatepark or popular diner. If you can be on school campus as a volunteer coach, water boy, or whatever, GO to where the kids are. Then remember not to teach, but play. Play with them, be consistent, and earn the right to be heard. By your very honest presence you will teach them about Christ long before you even mention His name.
After you have spent months doing the relational groundwork, let’s talk event strategy. A simple way to look at an evangelistic event is to view everything as a tool. The music, location, speaker, food, games, message, and even the event itself are all just tools to be used. Used for what? The Christian auto-answer is to get kids saved. The strategic youth-workers answer is to continue sharing Jesus with kids and hoping that they will love Him as they see you loving Him.
I am in the never-ending process of remodeling my house. I have learned two things in the process. My house is a sucking money pit, and I need to have the right tools for the job. What is true for home repair is true for your event. You NEED the right tools for the job, and they may cost you. Be forewarned that if you have your sights set on reaching wild kids for Christ and use your tools carefully you might just fill your church with wild kids. If you can’t convince the powers that be at your church that cigarettes in planters and Sharpies™ on the bathroom walls are your idea of good problems to have, you may lose your job.
Know whom you are aiming for and set your pace accordingly. I suggest that your primary targets should be the Alpha Males – invent ways to attract and keep macho boys. When you reach the macho boys, you also get the girls who think the boys are cute – and the not-so-macho boys who wish they were. If you go at it the other way around, you may find you have a room full of kids who stare at their bellybuttons and collect stamps. Although Christian music moves Christians, wild kids are not there yet, don’t torture them. Because their attention spans are short, speakers should be kept short. More ministry happens in the relationship you have with the kid than can ever be thrown at a kid by some speaker.
Learn to patch holes and ask for forgiveness. If you are doing it right, things will get broken. (We had to put ¾ inch plywood over the drywall in our youth room because wild kids go wild.) Create an army of volunteers who share the vision to reach macho alpha males. Instruct them to have your back. They will be able to combat the inevitable flaming arrows that will be shot at you by people who don’t share that vision.
Remember that your most effective tool is Jesus. He is irresistible. Everything you do to love kids will help them to eventually understand the scope of His love. The invitation is to believe in that love.
Do the time; it’s a long haul. You will see lights go on in a kid’s head when that Love becomes real. The response to His Love is love. That’s what changes lives.