Sharing Christ UCA Students Host Evangelistic Series

What happens when a teenager has a dream about sharing Christ with others? Add a few friends, a sponsor, and a determination to make an evangelistic series all their own, and you get a nine-night series that results in several requests for Bible studies.

It all started last April during a student-led church service when junior Jonathan Gardner had an idea of doing an evangelistic series in the Spokane area. “I thought it would be cool to have something totally different—a series geared especially toward youth, led by youth,” says Gardner. Since his only previous outreach experience was participating in a mission trip, he thought it was a strange idea! But he decided to approach friends Mariah Gage and Kevin Riffel about it.

A couple more leaders were added, and they decided it was time to present their idea to the Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) administration. “After seeing how receptive the staff was to the students’ idea of a banquet to benefit Katrina victims last year,” says Gardner, “we felt we’d receive support for this idea as well.”

The faculty gave them an enthusiastic nod of approval, and many hours of planning and labor followed, with the students being the leaders in the entire process. “I wasn’t sure we’d have anyone at all at the meetings, but several nights we were over 100 in attendance, with our largest audience being 140,” shares Riffel.

Gage recounts how she felt while listening to the testimonies shared by UCA’s student-presenters. “It was so unique and personal in the fact that they are right now in the midst of their struggles and situations. It’s not like listening to an adult who struggled with these issues 20 years ago! They are feeling God’s acceptance and help right now.”

Matt Smith, UCA’s freshman Bible teacher and associate pastor, was the sponsor of the series and really enjoyed seeing the new perspective and thinking of teens when coupled with evangelism. “It was unlike any series I’ve seen done before,” says Smith. “What young people bring to evangelism is the ability to think out-of-the-box, not being restricted by doing things like we’ve always done in the past. Their focus became allowing God to be God and letting Him target the right audience for His glory.”

All participants say the group learned invaluable lessons about organization, expectations, and how to measure success, remembering this was a seed-sowing not a reaping event. “We’ll start earlier next time, spending more time in outreach with the community before the meetings begin,” ponders Gardner. But when asked if it was a success or not, without hesitation, the answer was an enthusiastic “oh, yeah!”

“These kids have a real heart for God,” shares Smith. “I have been moved by their dedication and willingness to take part in spreading Jesus’ love. This is only the beginning of many good things to come.”

Featured in: March 2007