Evangelism is scary for most Christians.
Despite the fear evangelism creates within Christians, most believe sharing their faith is essential—especially millennial Christians. A recent report by the Barna Group illuminated this reality about millennials:
- 96% believe part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus
- 94% said the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus
- 86% expressed confidence in responding to questions about their faith
Even though Christian millennials possess an urgency for evangelism, like every other generation, there is a gap between intention and reality. In other words, many Christian millennials don’t evangelize.
Talking about generational differences, the challenges millennials face are different. They experience unique internal and external objections. So, to equip Christian millennials to evangelize, the strategy you use must reflect these differences.
In this post, I’m going to share six ways you can equip millennials to have more faith conversations. Use these tips to create a custom evangelism training plan for your church.
#1 – Cultivate an evangelistic culture
You cannot turn people—especially millennials—into evangelists.
There’s not a program you can provide, a book you can share, or a message you can preach that’ll turn people into evangelists overnight.
For most people in your church, a desire to evangelize will slowly develop over time.
The best way to grow this desire among millennials is to create an evangelistic culture. But let me warn you: Building an evangelistic church culture isn’t easy, and it takes (a lot of) time.
What is an evangelistic church culture?
In short, evangelistic church culture is when the members of your church share the gospel because it’s just what your church does. Like attending a worship service, joining a small group, or bringing food to a potluck, evangelism is what your church pulls together to do.
But my church culture doesn’t support an evangelistic lifestyle. Now what?
If this is what you’re thinking, hang tight.
All hope isn’t lost.
Thankfully, your church culture is something you can influence.
Below are several ingredients you can knead into the life of your church to compel your millennial church members to share the gospel.
#2 – Treat evangelism like a spiritual discipline
As a church leader, you’re called to make disciples.
To make disciples who live and love like Jesus, you have to teach them Christianity 101: reading the Bible, prayer, biblical community, and baptism and communion, to name a few.
Why state the obvious?
To help millennials embrace an evangelistic lifestyle, show them that evangelism is a spiritual discipline similar to praying and reading the Bible. Per Jesus, sharing the gospel is one way we can live like him (Matt 28:18–20).
Let’s be honest:
Sharing the gospel isn’t always fun.
Often, the people we talk to about Jesus will not be open to hearing what we have to say. What is more, many millennials fight the fear of “offending” someone, which makes sharing the gospel … tricky.
But here’s the deal:
The gospel will be offensive to some people (1 Cor 1:18). But we don’t have to share it offensively. There’s a big difference between the two.
Arguably the best way to share the gospel with someone else is in a relationship, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Build bridges with people
Millennials highly value relationships.
Most millennials grew up with divorced parents, and they’ve experienced the pros and cons of developing friendships in light of social media and unfettered access to the Internet.
What is more, based on the survey by Barna, many millennials (40%) feel judged if someone disagrees with them.
Here’s what you need to know:
Millennials will be more open to hearing about the gospel if they know who you are.
Practically speaking, to equip Christian millennials to share their faith, encourage them to build bridges. In general, evangelism is most effective when the person you’re sharing the gospel with believes you have a genuine interest in their well-being.
Sure, there will be times when you’ll feel prompted to share the gospel with a stranger or acquaintance directly. But equipping millennials in your church to start faith conversations is enormous.
Encourage them to ask questions such as:
“Do you believe in a god or God?”
“What do you think about religion?”
“Have you read the Bible before? What did you think?”
These simple questions only scratch the surface. But asking questions is a great way to encourage millennials to engage in conversations about faith.
Equip the millennials in your church to ask good questions and listen well. If they don’t know how to answer a question, let them know that’s okay. They can tell their friends, “I don’t know. But let me look into it for you.”
Here’s another practical idea:
Encourage millennials to share how Christianity is relevant to their everyday life.
From sharing how God is leading them to ways he’s influencing their life every day (forgiveness, reconciliation, overcoming sin), transparency goes a long way in deepening relationships, and it also helps non-Christians see how Jesus is real and relevant today.
#4 – Start a mercy ministry
The gospel is good news.
To share the gospel, we have to use words.
This doesn’t mean doing “good” deeds isn’t necessary.
Far from it.
Acts of mercy are an essential part of living and loving like Jesus. But we don’t want to confuse the gospel (good news) with the fruit of the gospel (love, kindness, feeding the poor, etc.).
With that being said, here’s one way you can lead millennials to build relationships with people in their community:
Start a mercy ministry.
Think about it.
When you help people in your community, you will naturally build relationships with people, which will place you in a better position to have faith conversations.
#5 – Model evangelism
As a church leader, you have to model evangelism.
As you know, most of what you share will be caught—not taught.
If you want to lead millennials to have more faith conversations, you and your leadership team will need to hit the pause button and take a long look in the mirror.
Do you regularly have faith conversations?
Do you want your church members to model your evangelistic behavior?
If you answered “no” to either one of these questions, then you’ll need to prayerfully consider whether you can serve as a better model. Remember, it’s hard to ask a millennial to do something that you don’t do yourself. They’ll sniff out your hypocrisy a mile away.
#6 – Share evangelistic stories
Sharing stories of God’s work goes a long way toward inspiring millennials to evangelize.
- Stories are relatable
- Stories help people “see” God’s work
- Stories are contagious
- Stories are memorable
- Stories are motivational
- Stories appeal to everyone
Don’t stop reading this if you don’t have an “epic” story to share.
Millennials aren’t interested in hearing something fit for the big screen. Instead, they want to listen to stories they can easily relate to in their everyday lives. As they see God at work in your church, they’ll become more inclined to share these experiences with their family and friends.
Not sure what to share?
Think about the answers to these questions:
- Did someone recently commit his or her life to Jesus?
- Is someone getting baptized?
- Have church members recently built new relationships?
- Can anyone share how they overcame the challenges of sharing the gospel?
As you share stories, you’ll inspire people to evangelize.
Know what else?
You’ll reinforce an evangelistic culture in your church. As a church, you will celebrate what you cultivate.
Over to you
Remember, evangelism training isn’t as easy as downloading software, recommending a book, or running a one-time program. It takes time to cultivate an evangelistic culture in your church, and for Christian millennials to grow in their ability and comfort in having faith conversations.
Starting a college ministry is arguably the best way to reach people for Christ.
Think about it.
Colleges are one of the remaining institutions in the United States where a large group of people gathers together on a regular basis throughout the year. From classes to clubs to fraternities, college students spend most of their time on or around campus.
Know what else?
Many college students are asking tough questions about faith. They’re being introduced to new ideas, and they want to know what they believe and why they believe it. This is an ideal time to share the gospel and make disciples.
Even though colleges boast a potential huge harvest (Matt 9:35–38), starting a college ministry isn’t easy. It takes faith, prayer, and a whole lot of time.
If you’re not discouraged, hang tight.
In this post, I’m going to share with you 6 steps you can take to launch a college ministry, build relationships with students, and make new disciples.
Let’s dive in!
#1 – Do your research
Starting a college ministry isn’t like starting another ministry in your church.
It’s not a Bible study.
It’s not a small group.
It’s not just another hangout.
Will your college ministry include some of these components?
But that’s missing the point.
Here’s what I want to stress:
A college ministry is primarily an outreach ministry.
Starting a college ministry is not only about creating a program for the college students in your church to join—it’s about launching your church into the life of the college or university in your town.
Possessing a missionary mindset is crucial to whether you can successfully launch a college ministry. Starting a college ministry without a missionary mindset would be like starting a cross-country road trip with a half a tank of gas—you’re not going to make it.
As a missionary to a college or university, there are two main things you need to do:
- Know the college
- Know the students
Before moving forward, you need to know who you’re going to reach before you can know what you need to do to reach them. Also, during this process, you’ll be better able to explore your calling to know if God is leading your church to start a college ministry.
The first thing you need to do is to get to know the college or university.
To get to know the college you want to reach, you’ll need to gather some basic information.
- What is the strength of the school?
- What majors are popular?
- Does the school draw male and female students?
- What nationalities are represented?
- Are sports popular? What teams?
- Do students live in dorms or off campus?
- Are fraternities and sororities present?
- What events or student organizations are popular?
- Where do students spend their time outside of class?
- What Christian organizations or churches are on campus?
A lot of this information you can gather online or by checking out the college on social media.
But you’ll be able to learn so much more when you explore the campus.
Plan on spending time on campus.
Take more than one day to walk around, observe, and ask questions. If possible, connect with professors or staff members of the college or university to get their input.
While you’re getting to know the school, you’ll also want to get to know the students.
Getting to know what types of students attend the college or university in general, as well as meeting students in person will help you to clarify how to best reach them with the gospel.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- What is their gender?
- How old are they?
- Where do they live (e.g., on campus, off campus)?
- Do they attend sporting events?
- Are they involved in fraternities or sororities?
- Do they participate in student groups?
- What are their values and beliefs?
- What does their day-to-day life look like?
- Where do they spend time online?
As with the school, you can get a good idea about most of this information online. But you’ll receive so much more clarity and insight, and get a better feel for the overall vibe of the school and students by being physically present on the campus.
While you’re gathering intel, start to think through what objections to the gospel you’ll encounter or ways you can best connect with students on campus. Keeping a running log of this information will help you create an outreach plan, if you believe the Lord is calling you to start a college ministry.
#2 – Build a team
Like any ministry in your church, college ministry isn’t something you want to do alone.
You must build a leadership team from the beginning.
The team you build should include two key ingredients:
- College students
- Church Members
Before exploring these two groups in detail, I encourage you to think through the size of your leadership team. To get started, you don’t need a huge number of people. Gathering 3–5 college students and 3–5 church members should be sufficient to create a solid core team.
Reaching a college without the help of college students is really … difficult.
As you prepare to launch a college ministry, I’d strongly advise you to include your church’s college students from the get-go. The college students in your church have relationships with other students, access to the campus and school events, and they will be a tremendous blessing to your ministry.
Do you have a few dozen college students in your church?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but not every one of them can be on your leadership team. That’s way too many cooks in the kitchen.
Before narrowing down who you’d like to invite onto the leadership team of the college ministry, pray and observe who are natural leaders. If college students are already serving in your church, then that’s a good indication they’re open to taking on more responsibility.
Here’s another idea:
Host a night for all of the college students to meet and talk about the college ministry.
Give them an opportunity to dream. Hear their hearts. Listen to the ideas they have to share.
Also, during this evening, see if anyone comes forward as a clear leader of the group. Pay attention to what everyone has to say and see if there are individuals in the group whose peers naturally gravitate toward as a leader.
One last word of advice:
Don’t treat the students on your team like … students. Said another way, don’t give them a voice and then not really count their vote or opinion (you know what I’m talking about). God can work through every single member of your leadership team—including your college students.
The second group of people you want to include on your college ministry leadership team are church members. From this group, be sure to include individual adults and couples.
Your church members can provide support, host students and events, and take part in whatever tactics you put together. Like any other ministry in your church, be sure the church members you invite express an interest and have a calling for this type of ministry.
Recruiting your team
Ready to recruit your leadership team?
There are two things you should do to make it easier:
- Clarify expectations
- Set a date
For anyone serving on your leadership team, make sure to clarify their expectations. Let them know what they should focus on. Give them a handful of things they’ll be responsible for.
Letting your volunteer leaders know up-front what’s expected will help them to make better decisions.
What is more, set a date for how long you’d like for them to commit. For example, do you want them to commit for the fall and spring semester, and maybe one event over the summer?
Here’s the deal:
When volunteers know there’s a deadline to their commitment, then they’ll feel so much more comfortable accepting your offer.
Need more help developing your leaders?
Take the time to develop a leadership pipeline in your church.
#3 – Pray, pray, and pray
Prayer is so much more than a rote activity.
Prayer is the engine that runs your church.
As you explore starting a college ministry, first commit to praying.
At first, you don’t have to launch a church-wide prayer campaign. The best thing to do as a church leader is to pray yourself, and then invite your church’s leadership and others who may be interested in starting a college ministry to join you.
After you launch a college ministry, the way you approach prayer will change.
You’ll want to continually pray for the college or university, the students (in general and by name), your leadership team, and for your church.
Here are three ways you can incorporate prayer:
- Ask for church-wide prayer
- Build a prayer team
- Use social media
When encouraging your church to pray, be sure to add your college ministry to whatever prayer lists you currently have available. Also, if your church hosts prayer meetings, add time into your meeting to pray for your college ministry.
Another idea to consider is building a prayer team. When it comes to your college ministry, many people may not be able to physically participate in your work. But they may be able and willing to join you in your spiritual work through prayer. Find someone in your church to lead this prayer team, and provide him or her with updates and prayer requests.
At times on social media, share prayer requests or let your social media followers know how they can join you in prayer. One easy way to do this is when you share updates about your ministry.
#4 – Build relationships
As a missionary to a college campus, God calls you to make disciples.
There are many ways you can connect with new college students and share the gospel.
But there’s one thing you can’t afford to miss:
Before thinking through events, programs, and Bible studies, you and your team will need to clarify how you’ll build relationships with college students.
Here’s the deal:
According to one study and confirmed by many others, most college students (64%) feel lonely. But like the vast majority of people, most of these college students will not be open to hearing what you have to say if they don’t know you.
There’s a time or place for hard-hitting evangelistic tactics. But in general, that’s not going to work on a college campus. To reach college students, you have to get to know college students.
Practically speaking, be slow to share the gospel and be quick to build relationships. It’s okay to take your time with this process. In other words, don’t focus on building a program or hosting a one-time event. Instead, focus on building long-term relationships with students.
To be honest, there’s nothing too fancy about this process. All it requires is to be present and patient.
In your college ministry, there’s a good chance that most of your time will be spent hanging out with students, and that’s okay. This tactic may not be looked upon favorably by people who are not involved in your ministry. But building relationships is vital to the livelihood of your college ministry.
Practically speaking, plan on carving out a significant portion of your schedule to be present on campus. It’s also a good idea to empower your leadership team and others to spend time building relationships too.
Now that we’ve settled this point, let’s turn our attention to reaching and discipling students.
#5 – Reach and disciple students
There’s at least one good thing about starting a college ministry:
You have a ready-made calendar to work with.
When launching your organized events, it’s best to work with the school's calendar. For instance, you don't want to launch a big event during spring break—no one is going to be on campus.
As you think through your plans, work your way into the natural rhythms of the school.
There are two ways you can do this:
During the week, life at the college or university you want to reach has natural ebbs and flows. In other words, it’s best to swim with the tide instead of launching something that goes against the rhythms already in place. As a missionary, your goal is to work yourself into the life of the campus—not against it.
For example, you’ll have to work around class schedules, time students tend to hang out during the day, or sporting events, programs, or clubs taking place during the week. Instead of competing with popular events or scheduling a Bible study during normal class time, find a way to work whatever you do into the life of the school.
Three additional big items you want to be aware of are fall, spring, and summer semesters.
As you think through your plans, be sure not to launch big events during midterms or finals. Instead, think about providing food and drinks for students or a place to refresh themselves during this time.
When it comes to the different semesters, keep in mind that activities on campus ramp up toward the beginning of the semester, but life on campus tends to die down toward the end.
Finally, during the summer semester or break, consider hosting events or mission trips to encourage college students to stay connected or serve others. Organizing short-term trips can be a great way to build community and maintain your momentum going into the next fall semester.
#6 – Evaluate your college ministry
Your college ministry will never “arrive.”
There’s not a destination you’ll reach when you know your work is done.
As you build a team, pray, and reach college students, you can learn a ton along the way and God may lead you to do something you didn’t originally plan on.
After you start your college ministry, plan on gathering your team together to evaluate how things are going after the fall and spring semester. This doesn’t mean you can’t address things in between these times. But it’s best to set a time to evaluate (and celebrate) your work.
Here are some questions you can ask to evaluate your ministry:
- How does everyone feel about his or her role on the team?
- How many new college students did we meet?
- How many students took next steps?
- Did we accomplish our goals with the events, Bible study, or weekly gathering?
- What can we do differently?
- How well did we keep the prayer team informed?
These questions will help you to get started.
To put together a more thorough evaluation, our team created an evaluation tool you can use. It’s a part of the resource library we created at Church Fuel. This form will help you to evaluate every nook and cranny of your college ministry, and it will also provide you with a list of topics for conversations.
During your evaluations, make it a point to celebrate your wins. From meeting new students to starting a small group, provide everyone on your leadership team an opportunity to share one or more recent wins, as well as how he or she is growing from the experience.
Over to you
If you have a college or university in your town, consider starting a college ministry.
If your church isn’t in a great spot to launch a new ministry, consider partnering with another church in your community or an organization that is already active on campus.
There are countless college students who need to hear the gospel. Pray and see if God is calling you to be the one to share the good news.
Visiting a church for the first time is intimidating.
For someone to visit your worship service is a big deal.
First-time visitors likely have a host of questions racing through their mind and they probably have a ton of reasons why they should just turn around and go home.
Regardless of why someone visits your church, easing the tension your first-time guests feel is essential. By creating a positive experience, you will compel them to visit your worship service again or take the next step in getting further involved.
One way to create a better connection with your guests is to share with them a small gift for visiting your worship service.
In this post, we’re going to talk about:
- Why you should give gifts to your first-time guests
- How much your first-time gift will cost
- How to make people feel comfortable—not awkward
- 5 examples of first-time guest gifts
Let’s get started!
Why you should give gifts to your first-time guests
Inviting people to your house (or house of worship) is a big first step.
You’re extending a personal invitation for someone to enter your space, and making your guest feel comfortable is a hallmark of Christian hospitality.
Think about it.
You’re inviting someone new into your family’s weekly gathering. There will be many people they don’t know. They probably won’t know how to handle him or herself. And they’ll have no idea where anything’s at in your facilities.
By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’re not only creating a good first impression. But you’ll be able to do three additional things:
- Show people you care
- Get their contact information
- Follow up later
When you give a gift to a first-time guest, you’re letting them know you care. Gift giving is a simple act that lets people know you planned ahead for their visit, and that you’re thankful for their presence.
“When you give a gift to a first-time guest, you’re letting them know you care. Gift giving is a simple act that lets people know you planned ahead for their visit, and that you’re thankful for their presence.” – Church Fuel, Twitter.
By providing your visitors with a gift, they will be more inclined to share with you their contact information. When visitors share with you his or her contact information, they’re expressing an openness to hear from you in the future.
Following up with your guests is essential in encouraging them to consider visiting your church’s worship service again or to get further involved. Touching base with your guests after their visit is one way you can extend a positive experience, answer any questions, and let them know you’d love for them to visit again.
To accomplish this goal, be sure to include connection cards in your gift bags.
With your connections cards, aim for simplicity. In other words, only require visitors to share with you the bare minimum of information—their name and email address. Making it easy to complete your connection cards will increase the number of visitors who will actually complete them.
By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’ll be better able to close your church's backdoor and encourage visitors to come back.
How much your first-time gift will cost
Sharing gifts with your first-time guests is a nice gesture.
It can do all of the things we just talked about above and more.
However, if the gift you share is done half-heartedly, you’ll end up discouraging people from returning, which defeats the entire purpose.
When planning your gift, be prepared to budget accordingly.
After talking to 33 church leaders across the United States about the gifts they provide to first-time guests, Rich Birch discovered that the average cost per gift was $4.88. In his research, he discovered that the least expensive gift was $0.75 and that the highest amount spent was $15.00.
How much you spend will look different from church to church and city to city.
For your gift, we suggest investing in a few gift bags to get started. This will let you know how much you should expect to pay, how much time it takes to put them together, and what type of feedback you’re receiving from your visitors.
How to make people feel comfortable—not awkward
Giving someone a gift is more of an art than a science.
Here’s the deal:
Make guests feel comfortable—not awkward.
What time you give a visitor a gift during your worship service is key and there are several times you can choose to give them a gift. But one of the best ways to hand your guests a gift is after your worship service.
To pull this off, here’s what you need to do:
- Dedicate a space to first-time guests
- Let first-time guests know where to go after your worship service
For this last point, it’s best to let your guests know during your announcements where they should go and to include this information in other places, such as your bulletin or in your foyer.
If you have a dedicated space with clear signage and volunteers present, first-time guests will be better able to identify where they need to go. But whatever you do, make sure this location is easy to find and not tucked away in a dark corner of your worship space.
One final point:
Don’t ask your guests to raise their hand or stand up during your worship service to get their gift.
For the vast majority of people, this is uncomfortable and making this request is arguably the number one way to drive away your guests. If you didn’t know, now consider yourself informed.
5 examples of first-time guest gifts
Not sure what your first-time gift should be? The ideas below will help you to get started.
Feel free to use these examples or come up with your own.
Regardless of what gift you give, remember that whatever you choose, it should help you do these three things:
- Show people you care
- Get contact information
- Follow up later
If the gifts you choose accomplish these goals, then go for it!
Whatever gift you give, make sure it’s also something you think your visitors will like and that it’s relevant. For example, providing a gift to first-time guests with children may look different than a gift you will give a single person or grandparent.
In the meantime, here are five first-time guest gift ideas for you to consider:
The sky's the limit with the type of book you can give away.
Sharing copies of the Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible for families, or seasonal books related to Christmas or Easter are all viable options.
With the book you give, keep this in mind:
Make sure it’s relevant and accessible.
Giving everyone a copy of a children’s book may cause some blowback, and giving someone a book fit for a seminary class isn’t the best idea, either.
#2. Gift card
Do you know what most people feel after your worship service?
Hungry or tired.
Not because your service is long or boring. Since 10:00 AM is the most popular start time for Sunday services, most people will be ready for a bite to eat or a little coffee afterward.
With this in mind, consider giving your visitors a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop.
#3. Coffee mug or tumbler
Did you know that 64 percent of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day?
Did you know that tea can be found in 80 percent of American households?
These stats may sound random, but here’s the point:
A coffee mug or tumbler is an excellent choice for a gift.
There’s a chance someone won’t appreciate this gesture, but we don’t talk to people who don’t drink coffee, so that’s okay (just kidding).
#4. Local item
Is there a small gift from a local business you can provide?
Not only will this gesture support local businesses in your community, but it’s also a way to share something heartfelt from your town that people will enjoy.
Giving away food can be tricky.
Since nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies, you’ll need to give away basic food, such as:
- Hot Chocolate
Speaking of popcorn, you can pair this treat with a gift card to Redbox, Amazon, or iTunes to create a movie night experience for your visitors.
If you’re just considering first-time guest gifts, then we encourage you to start small.
Don’t spend a ton of money at first.
Test out different ideas.
See what resonates with people.
Remember, whatever gift you give is not only about making your first-time guests feel comfortable, but it’s also about leading them to get connected and ultimately about placing your church in a better position to share the gospel.