Equipping Students To Reach Their Friends For Jesus

Equipping Students To Reach Their Friends For Jesus

Written by The Feed Team

on June 21, 2024

group of people standing and smiling

By Jesse Wagner 

I’ve had the privilege of being in youth ministry at Milestone Church in Keller, TX, for 8.5 years, and I love getting to work with young people! I was called to ministry at a young age, have been married for nine years, and have three awesome little kids. When I listen to people preach, I love when they can make me laugh, and I endeavor to do the same when I speak. So, I thought I’d start this blog post with some lighthearted humor (I hope you can read the sarcasm through the text).

I grew up really saved.

When I was about seven years old, my dad asked my brothers and me if we wanted to get Slurpees at 7/11 on multiple occasions. But on our way to get a Big Gulp, he dropped us off at Walmart, saying, “Go tell five people about Jesus. I’ll pick you up in 30 minutes, and then we’ll get Slurpees.” Thanks, Dad!

After doing this a few times, we started developing some evangelism strategies. We would take these things called “tracts” (picture a fake $100 to catch the eye, but when you look closely, it tells the Gospel story) and try to give them to people. When that didn’t work well, we developed a different strategy. We thought about putting these tracts in places where we would have a captive audience. And where in a public location could you get someone’s undivided attention? The bathroom, of course. We would roll down the toilet paper in an empty stall, place the tract inside the toilet paper, and roll it back up so the next person “doing business” would be greeted by an evangelism tract when they unrolled the toilet paper. 

Heaven only knows how many lost souls will be in eternity through this brilliant and effective evangelism strategy… 

Any great youth ministry should have a strategy for effective evangelism (maybe just a bit more thought-through than tracts in toilet paper). I’ve never met a youth pastor who doesn’t want their students to be evangelistic and reach their friends for Jesus. How can we equip the students God has entrusted us to carry God’s heart for others and lead their friends to Jesus?

Earlier this year, I went to a high school basketball game with an 8th grader named Matt. Toward the end of the night, he asked me a great question: “How can I be a light in my school and reach people for Jesus?” That started an ongoing conversation for a few weeks about having a passion for the lost, gaining courage from God to share your faith, identifying friends who are far from God, and more. 

Matt identified a friend on his football team who was far from God: Kaiden. We started praying for Kaiden together. We had a prayer night with a few dozen other middle schoolers at Matt’s house as we prepared for an evangelistic Wednesday night service, and they were all praying for their lost friends to get saved. That Wednesday, Matt brought Kaiden to church for the first time, and Kaiden gave his life to Jesus! Matt texted me this at the end of that night: “I wanted to let you know that my friend Kaiden gave his life to Jesus tonight and was in tears after service. It feels very powerful to see that I led “the one” to make a decision that would affect his eternity. Praise God!” Since then, Kaiden hasn’t missed a week of church and has been growing in his faith.

Let’s Get Practical.

How can we equip students to reach their friends for Jesus?

Practical #1. Develop An Intentional Evangelism Approach

I know of many great youth ministries with a “One Night” type of strategy – one night a month where it’s a big push to invite a friend and bring in lost people. I know of others who have 3-4 big nights a year where it’s a massive evangelistic outreach to the community and a key time to bring in lost people. This is different than just a fun event that attracts people who are already saved to take a week’s break from their normal youth group to go to another youth group’s fun event. I’m talking about an approach that actually reaches lost people who don’t have any church background. There’s a difference. Whatever it looks like in your context, have an intentional evangelism approach built into the rhythm of your youth ministry.

Practical #2. Equip Students To Reach Their Friends For Jesus

A key ingredient that can’t be overlooked is getting God’s heart for people in the students you pastor. The goal is not just to “invite your friend” but to “share your faith.” Inviting a friend isn’t incorrect, but it’s incomplete. I don’t want the totality of our students’ evangelism experience to be handing out an invite card and saying, “Come get free food.”

Here are some questions to ask yourself before the big “One Night” or other outreach event:

  • Have we instilled God’s heart for people in our students?
  • Have we helped students identify lost people in their sphere of influence and given them clear steps to reach them?
  • Have we created space (in a service, through one-on-one conversations, prayer nights at someone’s house, etc) for students to pray for their lost friends?
  • Have we taught them to rely on the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to have boldness and courage to witness?

We are spiritual leaders! Yes, let’s have the strategies to get the word out and compel people to come, but the real difference maker is when students have God’s heart for their friends and reach them with God’s love. 

Practical #3. Stay Consistent With Your Evangelism Approach

Tweak, adjust, make it better, but stay consistent. Anything of value will take time to build. There is no “silver bullet” type of program to build momentum; it all takes time to build into a culture. We often don’t see the impact of an evangelism strategy because we abandon ship too quickly. I guarantee you that for every church or youth group that you look up to and see the success of a certain event or outreach, it didn’t happen overnight. 

Be faithful with little, and God will let you steward more. We can tend to think, “I want to reach more students!” Maybe a better way to think is, “Build the ones you have, and they’ll build the church.” As I’ve heard my pastor say many times, “Fast won’t last, but slow is fo sho!

We have used an evangelism strategy in our student ministry for over 15 years called “Super Series.” We have been running this play for over 15 years and continue to hone in on it to make it better. HERE is what this looks like for us, and I pray that it can inspire you to empower the students God has entrusted to you to reach their friends for Jesus.

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