You Can Have it All: Building a Youth Ministry that Strengthens Christians and Welcomes Non-Christians (Rooted 2017 Workshop Preview)

Early in my youth ministry career, I remember reading an article by a really successful youth pastor claiming that each youth ministry event could have one and only one purpose. So for any given event, a youth leader had to choose whether he or she was going to target Christians or non-Christians. Either discipleship is the focus, or evangelism. But you can’t do both.

I didn’t believe him and I’m glad I didn’t.

Maybe it’s because I love having options. Give me the “triple dipper” at Chili’s (three different appetizers). Let me have froyo with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Thank you very much for a serve-yourself soft drink machine so I can start with a Dr. Pepper and end with Diet Coke if I want to.

Or maybe it’s because I think God has a heart for the lost and a heart for his children to grow deeper in their understanding of His love for them.

What I’ve seen in my context is the ability, during our weekly youth group meetings, to create a place that nurtures and encourages Christian students while being a place where non-Christians feel invited and welcomed—they even feel like the night was designed with them in mind.

In my workshop, I will share practical stories about how, by the grace of God, we’ve been able to create a culture that values an emphasis on both outreach and growth. Non-believers are saved; believers are discipled.

You can have it all! Because I think that’s what Jesus wants.

This workshop will be presented at Rooted 2017 in Dallas, Texas on October 26-28. To register for the conference, click here.

Syler Thomas is a native Texan who has been the student ministries pastor at Christ Church in Lake Forest, Illinois, since 1998. He writes a column for YouthWorker Journal, has had articles published in Leadership Journal and the Chicago Tribune, and is the co-author of two books. Syler and his wife, Heidi, have four kids.

More From This Author