“Senior pastors are key. I call senior pastors ‘youth leaders with authority and a budget.'”
Greg Stier is the founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share, an organization that equips students to share their faith and youth leaders to empower teens for evangelism. Here, he gives a snapshot of the ministry’s philosophy and some practical insight for church leaders who want to build gospel-sharing youth ministries.
At what age does a passion for evangelism begin in a Christian’s life?
I think it varies from person to person. For some people, it’s when they’re older, when they’ve become awakened to the need for it. Sadly, some Christians never get awakened to that need.
But I believe that it can be best awakened in the teen years—18 years old and younger—because that’s when young people are asking the big questions of life: Why am I here? Is there a God? Do I have a cause? What’s my mission? That’s when you can really tap in to that primal root of eternity in the soul of a teenager, and turn it toward Christ and sharing Christ.
For me, I was a fatherless little kid in north Denver, in a high crime rate area. My family was very violent. I never knew my biological father. And a church in the suburbs reached out, reached my family with the gospel and gave me the mission as a teenager to share that message with others.
All of a sudden, I had a father, I had my security and I had my mission. I had my cause. That’s when it turned on for me, and that’s what we’re seeing with Dare 2 Share around the nation. There’s a great opportunity to really provide that security and significance for young people through a relationship with Christ and the cause of Christ.
What is a good first step for youth pastors who want to stir up a passion for evangelism among their students?
This may sound trite, but I believe that when you start praying for the lost, God creates room in your heart for the lost. When you pray for your friends who don’t know Christ, you care for them, you listen to them, you love them, and then you share the gospel with them—because God’s been working on their hearts, and he’ll open up those opportunities.
So always start with intercessory prayer, which sadly is not generally programmed into typical youth group meetings. We usually spend more time in announcements than in intercessory prayer. If we’re going to really see our youth ministries transformed, we have to begin to transform them on our knees for the lost.
When Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2 on how to program the church, he said, “I urge you therefore, Timothy, first of all, that prayers be made¬—supplications, intercessions for kings, for those governors, for those in authority—that God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” So the No. 1 priority Paul gave Timothy when it came to programming church was intercessory prayer for the lost.
Sadly, that’s generally not in “the box.” We all get a “youth-ministry box” that we’ve inherited from our youth ministry forefathers. In it, we have games, we have self-image talks, we have pizza—a lot of good stuff, and stuff that should be in the box. But we have to create room for these other priorities, like prayer and relational evangelism.
What role do senior pastors play in equipping the teenagers in their church to share the gospel?
Senior pastors are key. I was a senior pastor for 10 years at a church and had a passion for youth ministry—so I call senior pastors “youth leaders with authority and a budget.” A pastor can prepare the way for a gospel-advancing, disciple-multiplying youth ministry by hiring the right youth leader, by providing the budget and providing the strategic, high-level direction for teenagers to be reached and discipled with the gospel.
The best pastors I know are passionate about reaching the next generation. They look at teenagers as a farm club for their future congregation, but also world-changers now, not just later. I think it’s super, super important that pastors take youth ministry seriously, helping guide that direction beyond playing dodgeball.
I look at it like this: Jesus was a youth leader. If you look in Matthew 17:24–27, Peter, Jesus and the disciples go into Capernaum, but only Peter and Jesus pay the temple tax. And if you cross-reference that with Exodus 30:14, the temple tax is only for those 20 years old and older. So I always say Jesus was a youth leader with one adult sponsor, one really rotten kid named Judas and hardly any budget—but with that youth ministry, he transformed the world. So if Jesus took youth ministry seriously, then we need to, as well.
Give me an example of a local church that has successfully equipped its students for evangelism.
One of the best examples I know of is Immanuel Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In 2006, they had a bunch of suicides in their town, and one kid in the youth group was murdered in a random gang shooting. The youth pastor at the time, Andy McGowan, basically said, “We have to do something about this.” They had a network of youth leaders who would meet once a month called the Allies of Kenosha. Andy said, “Why don’t we meet every week?”
So they began to meet every week for three hours to pray. They had a meal together, and they’d pray for their city, they’d pray for the youth, they’d pray for the young. And then, around that same time, Andy brought his students out to a Dare 2 Share training event, and his students got equipped. He brought more of the youth leaders out the next year. Still to this day, the Allies of Kenosha meet once a week to pray for the lost. Once a month, they gather together for a corporate worship service with all the participating youth groups and do evangelism training and campus-missionary training using Dare 2 Share material.
And now, Andy is lead pastor of the church, and one of the students he led to Christ, Nick, is the youth pastor. What they were doing on a youth-leader level, Andy is now doing with other senior pastors in the area. The movement continues. Their goal is for every teenager in Kenosha to have the opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the gospel by mobilizing the youth for the gospel.
The bigger churches fund the smaller churches. But you have to sign off on the gospel. If you don’t do that, they say, “Hey, we love you, but we’re not here to just sing ‘Kumbaya’ and pour honey on each other. We’re here to get a mission done.” They have Pentecostals, Baptists, mainline churches—a bunch of churches involved.
What can students and youth leaders expect at the Dare 2 Share Live event on Sept. 23?
On Sept. 23, we’re going to do a live simulcast event. There’s no delay: It’s a 9 a.m. West Coast start, and a noon East Coast start. We have close to 70 host churches across the nation. There will be a live worship band in every room and a live emcee/trainer in every room. We’re going to go back and forth between the live simulcast and what’s happening live in every room. Everybody will be released for 2½ hours to collect canned food for local rescue missions and share the gospel. Then, we’ll come back for a national prayer and praise party, where we’re going to pray for revival to strike in this nation and give students a plan to take back to their schools.