Cast the net the inclusive way

A definitive description of NET '98 activity

Ron Whitehead is the director of the North American Center for Youth Evangelism.

No question about it! With NET '98 coming upon us on October 9,1998, many youth and young adults want to be involved in the coordinating, working, and follow-up of this great crusade.

Youth and young adults want to be part of this event, but often they withdraw themselves. Either they are not used to such programs, or they have never been given an opportunity to participate. As spiritual leaders, pastors need to challenge their youth to get involved. Here are some fascinating facts about youth/young adult evangelism:

1. It is needed. Eighty percent of all youth workers say that evangelism is one of their top three values; yet few youth workers actually know how to involve youth in evangelism.

2. It's time. Seventy-five percent of all people who become Christians do so before their eighteenth birthday.

3. It matters to God. Matthew 28:18 commands each of us to go and make disciples of all nations. That includes youth.

4. It's been proven. An army of youth rightly trained and furnished ...

Here are some ways and events through which to involve youth and young adults in evangelism.

Holding seminars

According to a recent survey, the top three New Year's resolutions are to: (1) stop smoking; (2) lose weight; and (3) become financially secure. These are topics that attract the interest of a large number of young people. So why not involve the youth in seminars that will help other youth and young adults?

Stop smoking seminars. Smoking is making a comeback in teens and Xers. This provides a viable avenue by which you may introduce them to your church community. Recommended resource: Breathe Free Director's Kit, Item 15230, $69.95. Health Connection 800-548-8700. This resource has a built-in support system. The participants go through the process in small groups. Match them up one-by-one with church members, and continue afterward with small group meetings once a week, going through the 12 Steps for seekers. 12 Steps—The Path to Wholeness, $4.95, Serendipity House; 800-525-9563.

Weight loss seminar. You could teach this seminar. Your teens can assist you and mingle with the guests. For follow-up, have your teens volunteers in pairs to exercise (walk or jog) with the guests on a regular basis. Resource: Abundant Living Weight Management Seminar, Item 15400, $24.95; 800-548-8700.

Money management seminar. Present the ABCs of financial freedom, by Gordon Botting. Two-video seminar set and leader's guide, $69.95, AdventSource; 800-328-0525. Participant's workbook, $4.95.

Meeting youth needs

Your youth can be involved in meeting several felt needs of children, youth, and adults. Here are some ideas:

Parents' night out. The Foster Memorial Adventist Church in Asheville, North Carolina, gives community parents a free night once a month from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The church sends a letter to all the parents with children up to 12 years old. The letter encourages the parents to tell their neighbors about the program. The parents are invited to bring the children and leave them in the church for an exciting program, geared to each age group. This is not a simple baby-sitting program but one that has a spiritual and evangelistic element in it. The program usually takes the following format: worship (15 minutes), dinner, group games and crafts (divided by age). For more information on this type of ministry, contact Summer Ministries, AdventSource, $19.95; 800-328-0525.

Basketball renovations. In Benton Harbor, Michigan, two young adults decided to make some friends in the community by hitting the basketball court. This particular court was located in a park that had been overrun by drug dealers and gangs. The court sparkled in the sunlight from a coating of broken glass. The nets had been torn down months earlier. The young volunteers brought a broom, some duct tape, and a couple of nets. As they began sweeping off the court and assembling the nets, young people started coming out to play. Some friendships were born that day that may last for eternity.

Holy Spirit van. Load up a van with food, drink, blankets, jumper cables, money, your Bible, a rope, flowers, umbrellas, and such items as may be used to aid a stranger. Have your group in the van and take turns praying for the Holy Spirit to lead you where you can be of best help. After prayer, begin driving, keeping your hearts and eyes open for that opportunity to reach out in love and service. The idea was first tried out by Danny Hernandez, chaplain, Forest Lake Academy; 407-862-8411.

Service projects. Develop local humanitarian and service projects. Young people admire community organizations that "walk the walk" locally. Being involved in Habitat for Humanity, local homeless shelters, and other community service action opportunities in your region will be a natural arena in which you get to know prebelieving Xers as you work hand in hand with them. To learn more about developing your own service projects or to become involved in mission trips, contact Fred Cornforth, director of Service Station (an Adventist support ministry) at 800-617- 2498 or [email protected].

Ministry to single parents. Understand the needs of single parents in your community and develop ministries to address those needs. Auto servicing ministry, affordable child care, parenting seminars, cooking for baby classes these are all examples of how you can provide support for a whole cohort of Xers and Boomers. To learn more about developing needs-based outreach to your community, contact the Adventist Center for Creative Ministry, 800-272-4664 or Adventist PlusLine 800-SDA-PLUS.

Spiritual ministries

Outreach is not limited only to meeting the social and personal needs of people. Out there in the community there are many suffering from a spiritual want. Theirs is a spiritual need, and they would love to have your young people meet that need. Here are some ideas:

Bible studies. Invite teens to give Bible studies in the homes of persons contacted through door-to-door surveys, mass mailing of Bible study offers, newspaper ads, It Is Written or Voice of Prophecy followups, literature evangelist contacts, former Adventists, Signs or Message magazine recipients, persons who have attended health-related seminars, or children from the local Adventist school who would like to receive Bible studies in preparation for baptism. Contact the pastor for your leads.

Big brother/sister Bible program. One powerful and proven method of Bible study is to follow up on non-Adventist primary and junior age children who have attended Adventist VBS programs. Suggested approach: "Hi, Mrs. Jones. My name is Cindy, and I am the leader of our church's youth group. Susie attended the VBS this past summer at the Auburn City Adventist Church, and I thought she might enjoy our big brother/big sister Bible program.

"Here's how it works: A couple of teens come to your home for about half an hour every Tuesday night. They bring a book of Bible lesson guides (Good News for Kids, Marge Gray, 1989, $5.95; 800-765-6955) that has games, puzzles, and questions about important subjects like heaven, angels, and honesty. Everyone looks up the answers together from the Bible. It's been really nice for our youth group to do something positive for the community, and the kids have really enjoyed having Christian high school friends. Is this something you think Susie would like?"

When the teens go to the home, they take stickers and Bible games or short videos. They encourage the children to finish the lesson on their own during the week. If they do, there's time for a Bible game, and of course, almost all kids love to get stickers on their lessons. Sometimes the parents ask for studies too!

Visual outreach

People remember about five to ten percent of what they hear but 50 percent of what they see and hear. Here are some resources for starting visual outreach ministries:

Puppet outreach. Start a puppet out reach at the county fair, public schools, youth group meetings, etc. For more information, call Go Tell Productions (SDA) 313-487-9760; International Festival of Christian Puppetry and Ventriloquism, One-Way Street, Inc., P.O. Box 5077, Englewood, CO 80155-5077; phone 303- 790-1188; fax 303-7900-2159; email: [email protected]; Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers, c/o Sherry Patterson, 6813 Giro Court, Citrus Heights, CA 95621, 510-634-0495.

Drama ministry. Another great way to use the creative arts to reach and involve Xers is through drama. Perform for schools, local churches, detention centers, and in public areas (e.g., street theater). To learn more about drama ministry, contact Maria Rodriguez [email protected]), a former director of the Destiny Drama Company.

TV ministry: Plug into your local cable public access channel and broadcast an almost-free teenage talk show that shares Christ. For more information, contact Hilda Torres at 301-680-6412 or [email protected]

And there's more

The sky's the limit for what you and your youth can do in missionary outreach. Here are some more ideas:

• At one of your youth meetings, have the youth go through newspapers to find people in need. Maybe someone has died or someone's house has burned down. Your youth can send a comforting card or take some food and clothing. Such activities can keep your youth focused on real missionary work of helping people in need.

• Contact a local community service agency or hospital volunteer department and see if they need people to mow lawns, paint houses, help people move, etc.

• Hold a worship service in a local park that is totally youth-led. Ask young people to invite their unchurched friends.

• Have your youth go door to door giving out flowers to mothers on Mother's Day or pens to men for Father's Day. Distribute soda or juice at the local beach, park, or bike path. Place a sticker on each can with the name, phone number, and address of your church and include an inspiring quote.

Child evangelism

A lively troupe of children have been at work performing for the video portion of the NET '98 child evangelism materials package. Joel Thompson is directing the productions. Print materials are also under way. Donna Habenicht, professor of Educational Psychology at Andrews University, is overseeing the full package, with a team of individuals experienced in NET and other child evangelism. Dr. Habenicht is the author of "How to Teach Children in Sabbath School" and "How to Help Your Child Really Love Jesus."

The children's materials package will be offered to churches through Seminars Unlimited. Entitled "Come, Meet Jesus," the materials are for children ages 4-7 and 8-11.

Get involved

That much for materials and programs. But they are of no use unless you and your youth and your church members get involved. Prepare now for NET '98. When the time strikes, your church will be ready for the greatest electronic evangelistic thrust our church has ever launched.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Ron Whitehead is the director of the North American Center for Youth Evangelism.

May 1998

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