“I hear all these wonderful stories of Ray going to Huntington every week and Mark & E.Z. going witnessing with their church every Friday. How do you get a street witnessing team started up?”
Speak with your pastor. If you want to set it up as a ministry of your church, and thus be able to promote it within the church (have more people come—thus reach more lost people), you need to talk it through with your pastor. Make sure you think everything through (e.g. who will do the teaching, where you will go, when you will meet, where you will meet, how often you will meet, etc.). Then make a formal, thought-through proposal–don’t just casually bring up the topic and ask for an OK. (It would be best if you could type up your proposal and give it to them to look over.) Your pastor may not feel this is the right time for you to lead a ministry at the church (for various reasons), but he may be interested in having another leader begin a witnessing team. If so, praise God! It’s about the lost getting saved not about you leading a ministry. If he turns you down and there are no plans to begin a church team (and believe me there are more church-wide strategy elements and logistical considerations when launching a new ministry than you could imagine), you can still reach the lost with a group of friends. Follow the same steps listed below, it just won’t be an “official” church ministry. Just grab some Christian friends and plan to go witnessing on the weekends.
Never lose sight of your vision. The vision for any witnessing team should be twofold: 1) Reach the lost. 2) Equip the saints to reach the lost.
Focus on equipping the saints. Those who join you will need to be taught effective, Biblical evangelism. Most people don’t have a good grasp on what the Bible teaches about witnessing. You will have to explain it to them. This is an ongoing process. On and off I would have teaching sessions before you go out witnessing (SHOE, basic apologetics, tips for soul winning—the material you’re learning in this academy, you can even use the same outlines if you like).
Train the team to memorize the WDJD outline (or one like it). They need to understand the message if they are to effectively relate it to others. Give them outlines they can take home and study. Review this lesson frequently throughout the year. Do role-plays. Ask people to recite the points from memory. I once had the team write witnessing letters to celebrities and then gave them critiques on the content and how it came off before we mailed them out. I did the same thing with them writing their own tract—I created a cool looking template with an invite to the church on it, gave them a word limit, and reviewed their rough and final drafts with them before printing everyone a stack of their own tracts. They need to have the message (WDJD) memorized—help them. Occasionally you may consider asking a team member to prepare a brief Bible study on one of the points and let them share it before you go witnessing.
Build Group Captains before you start promotions. Before you open it up to everyone, build your leadership. Grab a few core guys and go witnessing for a few months. Pour into them. Personally mentor them. Transfer your experience into them—if you have experience, and if you don’t, figure it out together. Don’t give them the expectation that one day they’ll be Captains of groups, just informally invite them to come witnessing with you this Friday, then make plans to go again next weekend, and take it step by step—it’ll weed through those who could/couldn’t be leaders and help you catch up on mixed motives, wisdom, heart, leadership, etc. before you’re too far along. This is a crucial step you can’t skip. Think multiplication not addition. By equipping one-day leaders now, they’ll be able to equip many more in the future (you can only train 2 people in your group at a time, but invest into a handful of potential leaders now and they can train dozens in the years to come).
Develop a solid leadership structure. Every Master has a Padawan, every Padawan has a Master (where did Darth go wrong).
· Team Leader. This is the department head, perhaps you. The leader overseas the ministry; they are responsible for teaching, decision-making, picking groups—based on who shows up and your Captains personality, gifts, strengths/weaknesses, etc.
· Group Captains. The Captains follow the leadership of the Team Leader, each Captain is responsible for training a group of 2 (so there are no more than three in a group). The Captain is an experienced soul winner; the other two are newer to witnessing.
While the Team Leader will do most of the classroom teaching about witnessing, the Captains will be the ones who will show hands-on what witnessing looks like. Developing quality Group Captains takes time–often months; be patient. Keep in mind your investment in equipping one Captain today will result in many being equipped through them tomorrow.
Get the word out! Request it be announced in church, put in the bulletin, etc. Keep in mind the greatest advertising is always word of mouth. Ask people personally if they’d like to come. And then keep asking as the weeks and months go by. People will slowly join in.
Go out to eat afterwards. Ok, I admit this may seem like the least spiritual point of this list, lol, but in fact it may be the most important! The fellowship of the gospel is sweet. There are few closer friendships than those of war buddies; people who have fought in the trenches together. This meal is a great time to ask each other how the night went, talk about tough conversations, share testimonies, questions that stumped you, how to approach things better, and to just laugh and goof off! Some of my best friends today came through our weekly witnessing team.
Don’t get discouraged. Not everyone will be committed to this ministry, not everyone you witness to will immediately drop to their knees in repentance, and not everyone in your church will appreciate what you’re doing. Generally, this ministry is not well recognized in the church. Unlike nearly all other church ministries, most of the actual ministering is done outside the church. Church people don’t see your labor to applaud it. Keep reminding yourself of the eternal impact you are making. Your labor is not in vain. Encourage yourself in the Lord.
Never forget the ripple God could make through your efforts!
v VIDEO | http://youtu.be/rHZiR7qCwSE (EDIT TO 0:00-3:26)
“I lead a street witnessing team, what practical tips would you recommend I share with them about street witnessing?”
· Don’t chat with a friend when someone’s witnessing. If you’re leading a group of teens I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how easily distracted they can be–especially when a friend walks past or there is another bored group member standing right next to them. Make sure you clarify this point to them.
· Pay close attention to what’s being said even if you’re not the one speaking. If they’re not paying attention they may be distracting the person being witnessed to and they definitely won’t learn anything. Teach them to stay interested. Tell them to keep their eyes intently focused on the person who is witnessing. If they take what’s being said lightly it gives your listener the impression they should too.
- Rotate. Let everyone (who wants) get a chance to share. Don’t hog the mic. It can be hard to memorize and share the entire message on your own, to ease a person’s fears and give them a first step; you could chop up the message and let each person share a slice. Billy shatters the ice, Tom helps them see their need and opens up the gospel, and then Billy explains how to be saved.
- Stay in your group; don’t stray off. Being in a team gives you the opportunity to learn from one another and help each other, it also offers safety. If you have youth I would warn them that if they walk out of their group your will not allow them to come witnessing; their safety is your #1 concern.
- Only witness in safe, public areas. No, “Hey, it’d be cool to witness in that dark alley.” There are plenty of lost people in well-lit areas. As well, with youth I never take them anywhere that isn’t well lit or doesn’t have security at night. Take their safety and their parents trust very seriously.
· Don’t steal sheep from other congregations. Make clear to your team that if someone mentions they go to a good Christian church they should encourage them to be involved in their church. Team members should not invite people from other churches to their own church. Christians pulling other Christians from their congregations has started many divisions between local churches.
· Pick up the trash. If you see any of the tracts/invites you handed out on the floor pick them up and throw them out. If your tracts begin to cause a litter problem and you’re in an area where there is security, it will only be a matter of time before you’re asked to leave.
· Guys witness to guys; girls to girls. If you have a group of all girls (and I try to break up the groups by gender when possible), tell them to witness to other girls, etc. It’s not uncommon for outreach to roam off into romance; the devil will try anything to get you off course. Same gender witnessing minimizes that temptation.
· Honor the authorities. Whether it is a Sherriff or mall security, if they ask you to leave, respond with respect and politeness. Personally I don’t recommend you quote your First Amendment rights, debate public vs. private property, and thus talk yourself into getting barred from a location. If they ask you to leave, I’d very politely say you understand and leave... and then come back in a month. It wasn’t a huge incident, it didn’t get heated—so they likely won’t remember you, you didn’t get barred or banned from coming on property—because you didn’t make it a big deal, so you can now come back. I went to a local mall just about every Friday for 5 years, I probably was asked to leave about 3 or 4 times and I always politely did and then just came back with the witnessing team a month or two later with no problem. Remember Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
“What logistical notes could you give to someone who has just launched a new evangelism team?”
- Arrive before the team does. The Team Leader should be at the church (or wherever you meet) at least 15 minutes earlier than the set time. You don’t want team members getting there before you do. (If teens are involved it may not be safe to have them waiting by themselves and parents certainly will not like waiting for you to get there.)
- Keep to schedule. This is my typical schedule to help you get some ideas on what would work best in your world. Fridays have always been the day I could find the most people, so this schedule is usually on Friday nights.
7:00pm :: meet at church and pray (sometimes do a short teaching)
7:30pm :: leave for “hot spot” and witness
9:30pm :: head out to a restaurant
10:30pm :: call it a night
Keep in mind I am a youth pastor, my focus is on students, if I were working with primarily adults I’d probably stay witnessing a little bit longer. The peak time at movie theaters seems to be around 9pm, when most movies are getting out and “night life” comes to full bloom.
· Find out where the local “hot spots” are. I have always had the best success finding crowds outside movie theaters, at malls, and occasional fairs in the area. In my area I’ve found the best night is always Friday night, Saturday night was always much less busy anywhere I went; however there may be a good park in your area you could go to on Saturday afternoons. Ask around and find where the “hot spots” are. I always strive to keep the locations close to the church for the higher likelihood that when I give them a church card at the end they’ll be able to come (15% of my youth group has come in through local witnessing).
· Never have more than 3 people in a group. (The Group Captain is counted as one of the three.) Being approached by more than three people can be very intimidating to a person. Its awkward enough being approached by one stranger let alone a mob of them.
· Put an invitation to your church and a tract in their hands. At the end of the conversation invite them to your church even if they didn’t seem interested (remember one sows, another waters, but God gives the increase—I’ve bumped into many people I’ve witnessed to that said they still have the tract/card in their wallet) and always leave them with a tract. Later, when they think over what you said it is huge to have something they can read to remind them of the key points. (For terrific tracts at great prices check outwww.livingwaters.com.) If it’s within your church’s means/interest I would encourage you to hire a graphic designer and make your own professional church card/tract (at my church we’ve made a tri-fold that folds to business card size with the gospel on the inside and a map, service times, etc. on the outside).
- Get permission slips. If you’re taking out anyone under the age of 18 make sure they have a permission slip filled out by a parent or legal guardian. You need to protect your church and yourself from liability. (Many churches have a liability release form on file for the youth group–speak with the youth minister about getting one so you can run copies.) It’s also a great idea to get a photo copy of all the driver’s insurance cards and licenses; and every once in a while go over safety rules for driving (no speeding, everyone has on seat belts, horn has to work, etc.).
- Call team members when bad weather strikes. It’s likely that most places you’ll go witnessing at will be outdoors and rain can dramatically hinder your outreach. You could cancel the outreach altogether, meet at church for prayer, have a Bible study, or spend some quality time in fellowship (aka. video games). Be sure you call everyone if the weather starts getting bad and let them know what your decision is. Don’t wait till the last minute. Give people forewarning (so if you decide to cancel they can make other plans). Let everyone know what the plan is 2 hours before the meeting time. Don’t be “Mr. Last-minute” or you’ll soon find yourself witnessing alone.
- Don’t miss too many witnessing outreaches in a row. Set a regular day of the week to go. Set a fixed time to meet (don’t change the time too often–it frustrates creatures of habit). Go out at least twice a month. People won’t be committed to a ministry if the leader isn’t committed to it.
- Request the ladies wear loose fitting clothing. We don’t want to distract from the message. (If it’s a big enough group where someone in particular wouldn’t feel singled out, I’d recommend you make this a general statement instead of speaking with an individual.)
To watch today’s “On The Box with Ray Comfort” episode, visit our YouTube channel:http://www.youtube.com/thewayofthemaster