You've probably heard the statement, "You're either a thermometer or a thermostat" in some sort of sermon or Sunday School lesson. Basically it means you're either reflecting the spiritual temperature around you or controlling it.
It's true of youth leaders when it comes to evangelism and their teenagers.
As I travel across the nation and speak to youth leaders I often hear statements like, "My teens aren't ready for evangelism yet" or "My teens are apathetic when it comes to sharing their faith." But behind those statements often hides an ugly reality...it's the youth leaders themselves who don't feel ready for evangelism yet or, worse yet, are apathetic towards it.
As I've dug a little deeper into conversations with these youth leaders some have admitted to me that evangelism is just not a part of their lives. Some say things like "it's not my spiritual gift" (mercy is not mine but I am supposed to be merciful anyway.)
With others it's a theological thing. Some will say, "Well, I preach the gospel with my life, not my lips" which may look good on a bumper sticker but doesn't cut New Testament mustard. After all it was Jesus himself who commanded us to "make the disciples" (Matthew 28:19) and "preach the gospel to everyone" (Mark 16:15.) This entails our lives AND our lips.
For me it comes down to passion and programming. Youth leaders program what they are passionate about. If they're passionate about worship they'll program it. If they're passionate about teaching they'll program it. If they're passionate about evangelism they'll program it. This programming will be more than just doing outreaches once in awhile but also challenging and equipping students to relationally share their faith week in and week out.
There are many times I'll talk to youth leaders who have a passion for evangelism, or want to have a passion for it, but don't know how to get started. These youth leaders just need some basic training when it comes to gospel sharing. (By the way, if this describes you start diving into Dare 2 Share a bit and we will help you. This is our passion!)
Thermometer youth leaders reflect the temperature of their teenagers when it comes to evangelism. But thermostat youth leaders set the temperature.
One of my great joys in ministry is meeting thermostat youth leaders who are cranking up the heat when it comes to teenagers sharing their faith. I think of Pete Green in Maryland, Mr. Bill in Colorado, Andy McGowan in Wisconsin and Jason and Laura Loewan in Michigan...just to name a few. Just this week Jason wrote me this,
"I took the youth pastor job at Walloon Lake Community Church two and a half years ago. God had been challenging me to be excellent at our regular programming, to pick only essential extra events, and to focus on leadership development. Luke 10:2 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into his harvest fields.' Wrapped in this verse is a promise that the harvest is ready right now, and specifically amongst teens the fields are ready and waiting. Our leadership program needed to be grown, trained, and equipped to take in the harvest, so that’s where we focused for the first year. Nine months in we took 25 students to D2S Chicago, while there we say most of our students make first time or significant decisions for Jesus. Eight students were so moved by the Lord and The Cause that they were called to come to LTCU to receive some amazing training in leadership and further training in evangelism. The momentum that was gained through the D2S conference carried through the remaining months of the school year and led into LTCU. The eight students that we took to LTCU became the backbone of our Wednesday night outreach program. They provided incredible leadership for our worship, greeting, games, teaching, and frontlines ministry. (Frontlines is a student led, evangelistically charged, weekly challenge) At LTCU we committed to pursuing 40% new conversion growth, which meant seeing 16 students give their lives to the Lord and become involved in the youth program. By the following spring we saw 20 students who gave their lives to the Lord and were getting involved in the youth ministry."
Why did all this take place? Because Jason decided to be a thermostat and not a thermometer. Yes, Dare 2 Share helped provide inspiration and training for him and his teenagers but he made the choice. As a result he started programming his passions and lives are being transformed as a result. He and Laura started setting the temperature for evangelism and not just reflecting their teenager's attitude toward it.
What about you youth leader? Are you a thermometer or a thermostat when it comes to evangelism?
Wherever you are at it's time to crank up the heat. Let us help you do just that. We would count it an honor.