Why I’ve abandoned outreach events

Abandoning outreach eventsFor many churches and youth groups, the typical approach to evangelism is to host a big event that will be attractive to unbelievers who are invited by their Christian friends. A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post about my problem with outreach events like this. Back then I didn’t really have any answers for my frustrations, but now I do. I’ve officially decided to ditch outreach events altogether for a couple of reasons.

1. They end up being “Christian entertainment.”

Regardless of how much I push an outreach lock-in, publicize it, and encourage kids to bring their unsaved friends, it’s rare that students actually do so. Out of 20 kids, maybe 1 or 2 of them are unchurched. The rest are all youth group kids or Christian kids from other youth groups.

2. Low conversion rate.

If there actually are any pre-saved teens there, the percentage of those who give their lives to Christ seems to be pretty low. Maybe because it feels intimidating, maybe because there’s no interaction or avenue for asking questions, or maybe because they have no relationship with the person who is presenting the gospel.

3. Teens’ evangelism becomes dependent on an adult leader.

Most importantly, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to my teens by unintentionally teaching them to outsource their evangelism efforts to someone on a stage. What happens when they grow into adults and still feel that evangelism is the church’s job?

A better approach

Instead, I’m forming what I call “outreach campaigns.” An outreach campaign is when teens are trained and held accountable to share their faith with their friends on an on-going basis. If teens start doing this at a young age, they’ll have the confidence to continue it for the rest of their lives. Otherwise, they might always rely on the church to get their unbelieving friends onto Christian turf where someone else will talk to them about Christ instead.

If teens develop the confidence and experience of sharing Christ with their friends outside the church, the conversion rate will be much higher than events. For the unbeliever, the feeling of being outnumbered and intimidated by a Christian group disappears, ongoing interaction and questions is natural, and a relationship with the trusted friend is obviously already established.

For several months now I’ve been working hard to put together such an outreach campaign, not only for my own group, but for anyone else who wants to participate in it with us. Stay tuned tomorrow for how you can join my youth group on a FREE missions trip!

(A couple weeks ago in our LIVE YM Talk we discussed the question, “Are youth events still working?” Some of what I mentioned here I talked about in more depth during that conversation. Listen to it here.)

Posted on December 8, 2008

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