What is an “affinity sphere?”
Our affinity sphere is a coalition of ministries that focus on reaching out to secondary age students in America, middle school and high school.
What is the impact/potential/significance of this sphere across our culture?
Teenagers represent the near future of our nation. Within 5-10 years they will be the entry workforce, the voters and emerging leaders of our country. Most importantly they will be the next wave of parents. This generation of high school students will be the mom’s and dad’s of our American homes for the next 40 years. So the ideas that they embrace and the decisions they make now will determine the vitality of the family and the culture of our nation down the road. We, the Church, must invest heavily in the children of America. It is a non-negotiable. The consequences of not doing so are devastating.
How is the message of God’s love in and through Christ being expressed in this sphere?
The gospel of God’s grace, when appropriately and clearly shared by a friendly person, is received openly by many teenagers. That does not mean that most believe, but many will engage in a conversation about God and the possibilities of knowing Him personally. In other words, teens are curious. Hearing their story, telling your story and explaining God’s story is a conversation that fascinates secondary students. That is why it is so important for Christians to learn how to engage people, including teens, in meaningful conversations about spiritual things. Relational skills blended with effective communication of the gospel is the key to bringing students to Christ.
Last week I met two teenagers coming out of rest room at a beach here in Southern California. One of them was wearing a unique t-shirt with a brand I had never seen before. I said hi and complimented his shirt, asking him what the brand represented. That led into a conversation and in the process I asked them if they ever get a chance to attend church. They did occasionally, and so I asked more about their story. I then shared a bit of my story and the role God plays in my life. They were fascinated. I asked if I could share with them how they could begin a relationship with God, and they affirmed with a yes. After a 30 minute conversation they both wanted to pray and trust Christ to come into their lives. It was a very meaningful conversation for them, and they thanked me for taking the time. Are they different than other teens? Not at all. If I were to encounter teens in that same way day after day, the majority would want to talk, and a number would want to begin that relationship with God. Others would think about what was discussed, another step in their journey to hopefully trusting Christ with their lives.
This is the harvest field we have with teens, not only in America but around the world. The problem, however, is what Jesus described 2000 years ago… the harvest is ready, but the workers are few. Can you imagine the impact on this generation if at every middle school and high school in our nation there were Christian students who knew how to engage their classmates in meaningful conversations about a relationship with God? If there were churches that invested intentionally and creatively in the youth of their community? And if there were adults who sacrificed liberally in reaching this generation? It would mean that the future adults who lead and shape our nation and world would have a much greater chance of being Biblical thinkers and Godly leaders. And they would more likely raise Godly children.
How can an individual involved in/identifies with this affinity sphere become involved in LOVE2020?
I recommend to first begin to pray for the children and teens in your community, those in your church and for sure those who are not going to a gospel focused church. If you don’t know who the teens are, ask your pastor or youth department at your church. To be real creative, ask one of the students in your church to share with you the names of other students you could pray for.
Another suggestion is to go to the website everyschool.com and adopt the school(s) in your community. To adopt means to pray, care and share the good news with students from those schools. You may or may not be able to do all three of those, but start where you can. The website has all kinds of ideas and resources on how to do that.
Third, ask if you can volunteer with a local youth ministry in your community or the youth dept of your church. And you can inquire at the local school, do they need volunteer help? Engage. Don’t hold back because you lack experience, engage and learn what you can do.
What is the path a congregation or ministry organization?
As I said earlier, we, the Church, must invest heavily in the children of America. It is a non-negotiable. The consequences of not doing so are devastating.
We must make youth ministry a priority. We must make campus ministry and priority, because campus is were 95% of the teens in our communities are hanging out, 5 days a week, 9+ months a year.
As a church, adopt the schools in your community. Start there. Go to www.everyschool.com to adopt a school.
As a church ask your youth staff to spend time investing not only in the students who attend your church, but through those students engage the larger community of teens. To do this, emphasize campus focused ministry. If youth leaders are allowed to visit the local campus for lunch, write that into the job description of the youth pastor. When you hire a youth pastor, look for someone who has a heart to be engaged with the great community and the campus, and has a vision to equip the kids in your church to advance the gospel with him.
By developing a ministry to every school in your community, you can literally give every student the opportunity to choose to hear the gospel and follow Christ, before they launch into the rest of their life.
And remember that school life is community life. When Christians and the church serve the school, they impact the broader community by connecting with multiple families, many of which are not attending a church.