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How to “Gospelize” Your Youth Group

7 key principles for building a Gospel Advancing culture in your youth ministry
Greg Stier
Greg Stier

Gospelize is the old English word for evangelize. It just sounds cooler.

Years ago, Dare 2 Share funded a research project that revealed 7 key principles that were an essential part of the most successful Gospel Advancing youth ministries. For the purposes of the survey, we defined “success” as having at least 25% new-conversion growth, meaning that a quarter of the group’s annual growth was from new believers coming to faith.

We cross-checked these 7 Values with a thousand pastors and youth leaders from 10 regions across the United States and were given a resounding thumbs-up. I then cross-checked these values with the New Testament and was shocked at how prevalent each of them was in the early Church. Eight years ago, I wrote a book called Gospelize Your Youth Ministry, based on these 7 Values. Just a few months ago, I updated it with more insights and global stories of implementation. You can download the book for free here.

But even before you read the book, let me give you a brief glimpse into these 7 key principles. None of them is earth-shaking. All of them are biblically obvious. But sadly, most of them are not being relentlessly implemented by the typical youth ministry.

Here are the 7 Values of a Gospel Advancing (“Gospelized”) youth group:

1. Intercessory prayer fuels it.

In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul told his young protégé Timothy:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf…

In doing so, Paul was giving Timothy the most important key to building a Gospel Advancing culture in the church of Ephesus, where Timothy was leading at the time. In essence, he’s telling Timothy that “before we talk to others about God, we must talk to God about others.”

If we want our teenagers to reach their friends for God, we must train them to talk to God about it. Our research project demonstrated clearly that the teens who reached their peers for Christ prayed for their salvation.

I urge you, therefore, to first of all make intercessory prayer a top priority for your youth ministry. Why? Because God desires everyone, including teenagers, to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

2. Relational evangelism drives it.

From our research, it was clear that teenagers who were equipped to reach their friends were far more likely to actually reach them. This seems obvious, but it’s surprising to me how few Christian adults, let alone teenagers, know how to effectively share the Gospel.

To start, teenagers need the answers to three questions:

  • Why should I share the Gospel? (Gospel urgency)
  • What is the Gospel? (Gospel fluency)
  • How do I share the Gospel? (Gospel strategy)

At Dare 2 Share, we provide youth leaders with free tools, curriculum, and an app to answer these questions for their students.

3. Leaders fully embrace and model it.

‘The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.’

Luke 6:40

If youth leaders aren’t sharing their faith, then the adult volunteers aren’t likely to either. If the adult volunteers aren’t sharing their faith, then the student leaders aren’t likely to. If the student leaders aren’t sharing their faith, then the other students likely won’t either.

As I’ve often said: If your teenagers aren’t sharing the Gospel, then you need a mirror, not a bullhorn. It starts with you.

4. A disciple multiplication strategy guides it.

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:2

Paul discipled Timothy. Timothy discipled reliable people. Reliable people discipled others. This is what discipleship was like in the early Church. It’s what discipleship should be like today.

Multiplication is the name of the game.

Every youth ministry that was thriving in our research project had some sort of disciple-multiplication strategy in place. For them, it wasn’t just about making converts but multiplying disciples.

At Dare 2 Share, we recommend 4 Chair Discipling by Sonlife as a great place to get started. But whatever strategy you use, make sure it’s practical, teen-friendly, and most importantly, rooted in Scripture.

5. A bold vision focuses it.

Jesus gave His disciples a bold vision in Acts 1:8. He told them to start where they were at (Jerusalem), spread the Gospel to the places they were comfortable (Judea) and uncomfortable (Samaria), and then take it to the uttermost parts of the world.

Our job is to help our teenagers do the same, equipping them to start with their circle of friends, then take the Gospel to their classmates and to teenagers they wouldn’t normally hang out with, and then to the world.

Do you have a bold vision for reaching your community with the Gospel? Do your teenagers have a bold vision for their schools? God told Habakkuk to “write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it” (Habakkuk 2:2). Have you written down your bold vision? Have you made it clear to everyone? Are your teenagers running with it? I encourage you to get started today.

6. Biblical outcomes measure it.

Are you measuring the right things? In ministry, we often measure our success by attendance instead of by impact. But getting a big crowd of teens to watch you juggle flaming poodles doesn’t mean you’ve been successful.

Instead, make it your goal to measure spiritual impact, with gauges like new-conversion growth, baptisms, the percentage of teenagers growing in and sharing their faith, and the like. These are the kinds of things that the book of Acts records:

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Acts 11:21-26

Here we see both quantitative and qualitative results. People were coming to Christ and growing in Christ. These are the kinds of measures that matter.

7. Ongoing programs reflect it.

The first-century Church’s programs reflected their priorities. They didn’t just talk about prayer—they prayed (Acts 4:31). They didn’t just talk about evangelism—they evangelized (Acts 5:41-42). They didn’t just talk about multiplying disciples—they multiplied disciples (Acts 6:7).

Show me your youth group program rundown, your weekly youth ministry schedule, and your annual ministry calendar, and I’ll show you your true priorities. I strongly encourage you to program intercessory prayer into your gatherings, evangelism training into your schedule, and things like Go Share Days and Dare 2 Share LIVE into your annual calendar.

This post briefly skips across each of these 7 Values like rocks across the water. But for a deep dive, I encourage you to download my Gospelize book here and read it.

Join the movement of Gospelized youth ministries across the nation. It’s time to advance the best news ever to a generation that desperately needs it.

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