In prior weeks we have focused on the first five principles: Youthwork is- Family Based, Congregational, Relational, Discipling and Missional. This week we move onto:
Principle # 6 – Youthwork is Evangelistic!
Many people find the idea of practicing Evangelism troubling. Images of big hair, crying, desperate pleas, Bible-thumping, confrontation, money, hell fire and damnation, or thousands of people in a football stadium walking forward during an alter call dominate many people’s ideas of Evangelism. So, restricted to those images, it is reasonable that some would not want a key principle of Youthwork to be Evangelism.
But, what if Evangelism is more relational than confrontational, more communal than solitary, and more of a beginning point than an ending point? My understanding of Evangelism, from a Wesleyan theological perspective, is that I am not just sharing my faith with Youth, but I am also welcoming them into community and enabling them to grow in their own faith journey. Evangelism is about Love. God’s Love incarnated in Jesus, our Love for neighbors, the chance to grow a life characterized by this Love that comes from God.
A Sustainable Youth Ministry models a Wesleyan Evangelism that reaches out and welcomes, invites and nurtures, and speak always to BOTH head and to heart. It does this in ALL that is done. All things are done in the name of Jesus. This means even the “fun stuff” has an evangelistic component, yet the goal and practice is never manipulation. We love Youth because God loves Youth. God does the work through the Holy Spirit freeing us to be both fun when we need to be and serious when we need to be.
When we Evangelize in Youthwork we share with Youth and invite them to experience the good news that God Loves them (and us) and that same God empowers each person into a transforming relationship through which Youth learn forgiveness, receive new life, and are restored to the Image of God they were created in, an Image, which is Love.
Statistics show us that 60-80% of the people who have a Christian Conversion experience have it during Adolescence. This raises a troubling question for me: what are the rest of the Adolescents being Converted to? Money? Fame? Popularity? Consumerism? Some religious system not based on God’s Love? Apathy? Success?
Are our Church systems aligned for this idea that most people who respond to God’s love do it during Adolescence? If they are then we place a priority on Children’s Ministry: nurture for a readiness to enter into a transformative relationship with God. A priority of Youthwork: building the places of community and allowing for Youth to experience God working in the world through mission and discipleship, helping Youth to claim their Identity as an Image of God. A priority to Adult Discipleship: classes, service, leadership, mentoring, all with the goal of growing I the Sanctifying Grace of God as we move on to Perfection in Love.
We all have a role to play. God is calling. Ready to be an Evangelist?
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison