Last spring, I was on Twitter perusing though the many people I follow, when I came across one of my fellow youth director's tweets; it was about an event his church was having. This event was an outreach for new students. You see those students who already frequented the youth program were to choose a friend to spend the night, compete in some challenges, and then bring them to church the next morning.
Brilliant! I thought. In fact, I was like, "shoot Sara, how come you didn't think of this??!" So I immediately decided that we would do this same sort of event, first thing in the fall. And... that is exactly what we did!
I prayed about it, thought at length about it, talked it up, shouted it out, emailed it, tweeted it, and had it grace my Facebook only 100 or so times. (Ok maybe not quite that many) And last Saturday and Sunday, Grace Middle School Ministries had its very first Two for Two event! That is, Two friends, for Two days, trying to sweep a (the) competition! It was incredible...let me tell you why.
It was not only a huge amount of fun for our students and their friends, getting to do some crazy and awesome challenges, but for their parents as well - as they took photographs and got to watch it all take place. And even though the fun almost trumped and took the 'win', what our students did, as a part of the bigger picture, was the real win.
One mom told me that her daughter, as she was trying to decide which friend to she would participate with, really thought through the decision. You see, the rules were that you needed to compete with someone who did not regularly attend our Sunday morning program, SYNC. Well, this 8th grader choose a friend, who not only did not attend our church, but didn't have a church of her own, to call home. She could have easily picked her best friend, or someone she was a little closer with, who already, and regularly attended another church.
Another mom told me that her son had chosen a friend that also did not have a church to call home - not only that, but he hadn't ever really been to church. This young man came, and not only had a great time, but is interested in getting to know what church is all about. And what cannot go without mentioning is, that this mom, has agreed to pick him up ANYTIME he wants to come to church, in the future.
Here is the thing my friends. We talk all the time about evangelism, "Hey kids, parents, people... go tell others about Jesus," "share the scriptures," "tell them about the Gospel," and while this is hugely important, it can be really intimidating. I in fact, even as a youth director, find it really hard to "evangelize" outside of my normal christian bubble (which then might not even be considered as evangelism). But what our students did, how they shared their faith, was so simple... AND incredible.
Our students invited their peers to enter into their life, to come and walk alongside them. And even if it was just for an 18 hour time period, they planted a seed in the life of a friend, that could one day grow into to something amazing. I think a lot of students (and older folks too), hear the word evangelism and either have no clue what it means, or they think of that crazy street preacher hitting people on the head with a Bible. Or perhaps, it is this thing that Christians are supposed to do, but it is too scary, intimidating, or abstract of an idea.
But working in a church, and hearing the passion that our Outreach Pastor has when he talks about this very thing, I think our students hit it right on the head (and not with their Bibles). They extended an invitation (with intention) to someone in their circle of influence, to come inside their life, and see what it's about and with no pressure or expectation.
What an example they have made, and how high a bar they have set. I think if we could just see past that guy preaching on the corner, and those vague ideas about sharing the Gospel, we might actually have the courage to do exactly what our students did last weekend. And that is, in the most simple of forms, just inviting someone you know, that needs our incredible Jesus, to enter your world. Letting them see how you live, how you love, what you value, and how you treat others. This too is evangelism, and perhaps, in my opinion, one of the very best ways to go about it.
Ahhhhhhh. I love learning things from my students. Go middle schoolers - you rock my socks off!