No More Outreach Events – Part One

problems-in-traditional-ymEarlier this week Tim shared with the blogging world why he has abandonded outreach events. His decision mirrors one that I made a while back myself, and he shares some great thoughts. I thought perhaps I might share my perspective with the blogging community as well.

I long ago learned that we win teenagers to what we win them with. It is an old cliche that was tossed around like confetti while I was in college, but it rings true. When we host events that are built around an iPod giveaway, or a hot band, that becomes the focus and the purpose of attending the event. I have been guilty of this myself, having hosted “outreach super bowl parties” that were attended for, you guessed it, whoever was on the field… or the commercials. It was really split down the middle on that one. There were others, but you get my drift.

Simply, traditional outreach events (read, the ones that we all tend to slip into) require teens to come to us. In our building, in our concert hall, whatever. Then after giving them a concert, a movie, entertainment of some sort, we pull a bait-and-switch with a speaker who appears out of nowhere to share their testimony. Then the evening ends with an altar call, or we dive back into the entertainment.

Sure, there are different ways to go about this (remember, this is a broad stroke with the paintbrush). But ultimately most of our outreach events look similar to this. They tend not to work for a few reasons.

  • Teens are forced to come onto our turf. To truly be outreach, we should really be getting OUT of our zone. Not demanding teens come to our space to meet God.
  • These events tend to be a gathering of Christian teens. Seriously, the attendance at most outreach events tends to skew toward this area. Not many outreach events are filled with un-saved (or even un-churched) teens.
  • There is no relationship to build upon. Traditional outreach events are one-and-done events with nothing to build upon. To truly impact a teenager’s life, we need to be building a relationship with them. They need to see our faults and shortcomings, as well as how we rely upon God in all areas of our life.
  • Follow-Up? What’s that? With most outreach events being one-and-done, we really tend to drop the ball when it comes to following up with teens who were present unless they made a verbal commitment to live their lives for Christ.
  • It’s all about us. The focus (intentionally or otherwise) shifts to ourselves. It becomes about our efforts instead of the Holy Spirit’s. If many teens come to Christ we feel a sense of accomplishment. If none do (or only a small percentage) we feel defeated because our efforts were in vain.

So where does this leave us? Check back tomorrow and see what my thoughts are. And if you are part of a ministry that hosts successful “outreach events” please hold any accusations or venom you might have until part two goes up.