Someone once said, “Maturity is coming to the place where you started and knowing that place for the first time.” That’s how I am feeling about my ministry experience at Dare 2 Share right now. When we started eighteen years ago I had one focus: to equip teenagers to share their faith. During our training events we saturated local shopping malls during the outreach time. We equipped teenagers to strike up conversations with complete strangers in the mall. I challenged them to keep on sharing their faith after the conference to friends and strangers alike. At that time we were not called “Dare 2 Share” but “Warriors for Christ.” The name was appropriate for our style of evangelism, a frontal assault on the kingdom of darkness. We didn’t knock on the door, we kicked it in.
But over the last almost two decades of ministry some things have taken place that have begun to transform our approach. Here are a few of the catalysts that have begun to change the way we do ministry:
1. My wife.
I am married to a wonderful woman who is wired in a super-relational way. She is not loud and obnoxious like you know who. She doesn’t crave to be the center of attention. Instead she loves to come alongside and listen. She likes to serve others. Does she share her faith? Yes. Does she do it like me? No. But she is very effective at sharing Jesus with those around her, both with her life and her lips. She thinks a Mall is for shopping and her relationships are for witnessing.
As a result of her influence I began to investigate the Scriptures and discovered four different styles of evangelism: Talkers, Stalkers, Buddies and Brains. Paul was a talker (creative, winsome, chatty.) Peter was a stalker (the first one to speak up and the last one to shut up.) Barnabas was a buddy (super relational.) And Luke was a brain (the Josh McDowell/Lee Strobel of his day.) I am kind of a talker/stalker mix. My wife is a buddy.
This epiphany started with my wife and has saturated the way we do evangelism training at Dare 2 Share. I want teenagers to witness, not like me, but how the Holy Spirit has wired them to witness. I thank God for using my wife to open my eyes to this.
2. Discovering the untapped power of the average youth group
About ten years ago our goal was launching campus ministries on every school. We called these campus ministries “T.A.S.K. Forces (Training, Accountability, Strategy and Kneeling in prayer). We used to break up everyone who attended our training conferences into campus groups (sorry homeschoolers) and have them pray for their campuses and adopt them for evangelism.
It was about that time I had a group of youth leaders confront me and say, “Hey, we don’t need another campus meeting to send our teenagers to. We need to know how to build our youth groups with new converts.” As a result of that intervention we developed e-teams, and the Pray-Pursue-Persuade strategy. Now we equip youth leaders to train their teenagers to pray for their friends, pursue them spiritually and persuade them to come to Christ and connect to the youth minisitry. Of course the lotus for this ministry is still primarily the campus. But the emphasis is building youth group numbers with new converts as opposed to youth group hoppers (aka “sheep swopping”.) Youth leaders have been challenged through D2S to give the gospel every week and challenge their teens to P-P-P. Thousands of youth ministries have adopted this approach. As a result many of these youth ministries are still growing with new conversion growth on a consistent basis.
3. The Deep and Wide Strategy
About five years ago or so I began to think through the youth ministry models that most American youth groups were following. They seemed to be either deep (focused on theology, God’s Word, didactic teaching, note taking), wide (evangelistic, outreach driven, attractional and “fun”) or neither deep or wide (relational, shallow devotionals and occassional outreaches). I started thinking about the Great Commission where Jesus commands us to go deep (“teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”) and wide (“Go and make disciples of all nations”) at the same time.
Since then we have been chipping away at this Deep and Wide model of youth ministry. The idea is that we have a Biblical responsibility to take our teenagers deep into the Word as we are taking them wide into the world. The way we push our teenagers out of spiritual apathy into spiritual interest, then excitement and passion is by being intentional about it. We must be intentional in our prayers (after all the Holy Spirit is the only One who can truly bring about spiritual transformation) and we must be intentional in our programs.
Think of Deep and Wide as a tree. If we want our teenagers to have wide branches full of spiritual fruit, then we must help them have deep roots. We prune and cultivate the branches (help them go wide) as we fertilize and water the roots (help them grow deep). We do this simultaneously.
As a result of the Deep and Wide idea we changed our mission statement four years ago from “energizing a generation to evangelize the world” to “energizng teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith.” In other words we were going to take the responsibility of helping youth leaders take their teenagers deep and wide at the same time and provide them with the tools, training and resources to take them deep and wide. This was a bigger undertaking than we had imagined.
4. GOSPEL Journey Maui
I have always been relentless when it came to evangelism. But filming GOSPEL Journey Maui somehow made me much more relational. Since the filming we have stayed in contact withe GJM cast members and have continued the conversation. I think this experience has changed me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still relentless. But when it comes to evangelism I am much more relational now than I was twelve months ago. I am realizing that just because someone doesn’t trust in Jesus right away that doesn’t mean that they won’t. We must stay on the GOSPEL Journey with them until they do. And, after they do, we must help them start their new journey with Jesus.
The words “relentless” and “relational” have become a kind of unofficial yin and yang of the way we equip teenagers to approach evangelism. The power between these two gravitational pulls have been, in my opinion, what has been missing, not only in my evangelism, but in most outreach approaches. Either we are so relational that we fail to bring it up or we are so relentless that we scare people away. But when these two aspects of evangelism come together there is some kind of, well, evangelism explosion. This R and R mix reminds me of how Jesus approached evangelism. He was every bit as relentless as He was relational. We need to become more like Him. I need to become more like Him.
4. The Dare 2 Share Board
About 9 months ago the board at Dare 2 Share began to challenge me to narrow the focus of our ministry to one thing. I will never forget Rick Montera looking at our mission statement (know, live, share, own) our goals 10-12 national super conferences and our strategic plan (bigger conferences, bigger staff, deep and wide curriculum, etc) and saying, “For the first time I don’t know what the heck we are doing as an organization.” I tried to explain but to no avail. Finally the board gave the executive team at Dare 2 Share one prime directive, to find our one prime directive. They explained that the whole “know, live, share and own” was like having four bull’s eyes while we have only one arrow. They basically said, “Pick which one of those you want to do. Do you want to equip teenagers to know, live, share or own their faith? Because you can’t do them all.”
For the last nine months the executive team has been pounding out proposed mission statements, strategic principles and BHAGs (Big “Holy” Audacious Goals). The board has been sending us back to the drawing board again and again. But, just weeks ago, they finally agreed that we had discovered our new plan. Rick Montera, our chairman, exclaimed, “Now this is clear, simple and a narrowed focus. This is what we should be doing.”
So here it goes…
The Mission: “Mobilizing teenagers to relentlessly and relationally reach their generation for Christ.”
The word “mobilize” means to “recruit, prepare and activate for a cause” and that’s what we want to do. We are back to equipping teenagers to share their faith but not in a headhunter way. Instead we want them to be intensely relational and relentless at the same time. We want them to make more and more friends so they can introduce them to their best friend, Jesus Christ. And we want them to keep loving them, serving them and sharing Jesus with them no matter how they respond.
1. To inspire youth leaders to own this mission with us.
We understand that the only way we are going to reach the teens of this country for Christ is if youth leaders own this mission with us. There are 350,000 Protestant Churches in America. If only 1% of them fully owned this mission with us we would see a sweeping youth movement in this country.
2. To arm them with tools and training so they can accomplish this mission with us.
We want Dare 2 Share to be the place that youth leaders go to for evangelism training and outreach resources. We want to be the place that youth leaders trust to give them tools that are culturally relevant, theologically solid and evangelistically effective. Whether it be tools like GOSPEL Journey Maui or Venti Jesus Please we want to continually arm youth leaders with tools they can use to mobilize their teenagers to relationally and relentlessly reach their generation for Christ.
3. To unleash the Deep and Wide strategy so they can sustain the mission without us.
Although we are stepping off the grow deep resources (bye bye “you’re next” kind of books) we still want to promote the Deep and Wide strategy. We will either work with other discipleship oriented organizations or recommend solid grow deep curriculum or both. But we are going to be phasing out or re-tooling all of our grow deep stuff to help teenagers go wide.
I, with the help of my buddy Tim Schmoyer and my co-worker Jane Dratz, re-wrote the Deep and Wide strategy just a few months ago. It is available free of charge on Dare 2 Share’s website. I want youth leaders to lock and load it into the context of their youth ministry.
Again, don’t miss the point of this point. Although we are not going to be producing “grow deep” resources anymore we are going to be promoting the Deep and Wide idea. Why? Think of the tree. Fruitful branches won’t be fruitful for long without deep roots. Youth leaders need to take their teenagers deep and wide. We will passionately promote the idea but we will no longer develop the deep resources. We are the go wide guys.
Our BHAG: “To mobilize teenagers on every high school and middle school campus in America to relationally and relentlessly reach as many teenagers as they can for Christ and mobilize their Christian friends to do the same.”
Our goal is not to start a campus meeting but a campus movement. The last thing teenagers need is another meeting to go to. But what they do need is to be part of a cause, an eternal cause, the ultimate cause. This cause is the salvation of every teenager in their sphere of influence and the mobilization of the ones who respond to the gospel with that same cause. According to a 2007 MTV global study the average teenager has 53 online and face to face friends. So we are not trying to get teenagers to reach their whole campus for Christ. We are trying to get them to reach their 53 (or whatever their number is) and mobilize the ones who respond to do the same. When this happens reaching the campus is a byproduct as opposed to the goal.
Our Prayer: To get one adult champion for each of these teenagers who will pray for, encourage and support these teenagers in their mission.
Our entire donor program is going to be built around arming these adults with tools to mobilize teenagers for this mission.
A metric is a measurement of effectiveness. Although these aren’t official yet here are a few of the ones we are toying with:
1. Campuses “claimed” for Christ. When a youth leader calls his/her students to do this and a group of two or more teenagers take the challenge on their campus then there is, at the very least, a measurement of activity. We will have to figure out how to measure productivity as we go along.
2. New conversion growth in the context of the youth group. For us the best measure of the effectiveness of this initiative will be a growing percentage of new converts in the average participating youth group. In other words if a youth group initially has 1% of their teenagers in attendance who came to Christ as a result of their teenagers either leading their friends to Christ or bringing them out to youth group but as a result of this initiative they move to 5% and then on to 10% or more then we will know that this initiative is being effective.
3. The number of new converts that are being mobilized to evangelize. The secret of this initiative is the exponential aspect of it. The goal is not just to “add” through evangelism but multiply through mobilization. How do we gauge this number? I have no idea…yet.
When does all of this launch? Next school year. How are we going to accomplish all of this? I have no idea. What’s the plan to accomplish all of this? You, me and the Holy Spirit…not in that order. We are going to go for it and figure out all of the strategies and tactics along the way. Pray and duct tape baby…pray and duct tape.
I just realized that this is not a blog, this is a manifesto. So that’s what I’m going to call it. But a manifesto is no good unless others sign on. We can’t accomplish this mission without you.
Now that we have come to the place where we started and know that place for the very first time, I feel re-invigorated and ready to rock. Some things may be changing at Dare 2 Share but the pulse of our heartbeat is pounding louder than ever…to mobilize teenagers to relationally and relentlessly reach their generation for Christ.
Pray for us. Join with us.