Editor’s Note: This interview was provided by our content partner, ChristianNewsNow.com.
Greg Stier is the founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share Ministries which is located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Stier started Dare 2 Share Ministries 29 years ago while serving as a pastor for a church in Arvada, Colorado. After the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Stier resigned from the pastorate to pursue Dare 2 Share Ministries full time. According to dare2share.org the ministry equips teens to share their faith and youth leaders to build youth ministries that advance the gospel.
Christian News Now (CNN) recently had the opportunity to talk to Greg, who is on the front lines of youth ministry throughout the United States. In the past year he has spoken to thousands of teenagers, parents, and youth ministers during the popular Christian concert tour WinterJam. A few days ago Barna Group researchers revealed that they believe that the 2020 Pandemic will accelerate a loss of faith among the next generation. It seems that we are in a season where youth need to be pursued more than ever by today’s church, CNN asked Stier some questions that reflect that urgency.
CNN: What do you see as the number one thing impacting youth in the church today?
Greg: Teenagers today are being saturated in a worldly world view. Their views of God are more impacted by Netflix, Social Media and their peers than by the church, their youth leaders, and their parents. Teenagers in the church have almost the same amounts of anxiety, sexual addiction and suicide rates as their non-Christian peers. Youth ministry and parenting strategies need a massive overhaul to turn the statistics around. According to the report, Great Opportunity, we are slated to lose a million teenagers from the church every year for the next 35 years at the current rate of faith/church abandonment.
CNN: Have you seen the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 disconnect youth from the church because of church gatherings not meeting in person?
Greg: As I talk to youth leaders across the nation, I am sensing far more frustration when it comes to teen attendance at both their virtual and in-person meetings, with a handful of exceptions. For those only meeting online, youth leaders tell me that many of their teenagers are “Zoomed out,” in other words, they’re tired of the Zoom meetings and long for face-to-face interaction. Less and less teenagers are showing up for their virtual meetings and those who do often leave early. As for those gathering in groups, many youth leaders have faced the struggle of parents not being willing to allow their teenagers to engage in youth group meetings because of COVID-19. But the dangers of teenagers contracting COVID must be weighed against the dangers of keeping them isolated. Recently, the Director of the CDC stated that we are losing far more teenagers to suicide and overdosing at this time than we are to the pandemic. For many teenagers, isolation has led to frustration which has led to an increase of drug use and suicide attempts. Christian teenagers aren’t exempt from these struggles.
CNN: Does that make you fearful for the next generation of the church or hopeful?
Greg: In spite of all the terrifying statistics, I am very hopeful. God does his best work when things seem darkest. Teenagers are looking for hope. Jesus offers it. Teenagers are looking for purpose. Jesus offers it. Teenagers are looking for community. The church offers it.
CNN: What advice would you give to the church to reach and keep youth today?
Greg: We must reframe Christianity as a relationship with God versus a religion. The true message of Jesus is a love story (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”) When teenagers really get this, they are far more excited to share the gospel with their friends.This may sound like heresy, but I think we must rename the Great Commission. To a typical teenager, the term “The Great Commission” sounds like a bunch of money a real estate agent made on a deal. At Dare 2 Share we have renamed “The Great Commission” as “The Cause.”
CNN: Why “The Cause”?
Greg: It is The Cause of Christ that Jesus gave His disciples when He told them to “go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19). It should be our ultimate mission and primary cause as believers. Generation Z (what sociologists have nicknamed the current and coming generation of teenagers) is passionate about causes. From stopping human trafficking to feeding the hungry to providing water wells for thirsty populations to addressing racial inequities, teenagers today are being mobilized for all sorts of causes.
CNN: You mentioned mobilize, is that what you are suggesting the church does with its youth?
Greg: Yes! We need to mobilize the teenagers in our churches as gospel activists for the ultimate cause–The Cause of Jesus Himself. This doesn’t mean they need to get rid of all of their other causes. The gospel actually can extend their impact to addressing other causes as well. They can stop human trafficking and “soul trafficking” (since Satan has been trafficking souls to hell since the beginning of time.) They can give the hungry both bread and the Bread of Life. They can give the thirsty both water and the Living Water. They can build a home for the homeless on earth and in heaven! And when it comes to addressing racial inequality, the gospel is the solution. Galatians 3:28 reminds us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
CNN: How should the church go about encouraging our youth to take up their cross as Christ commands His disciples to do in Matthew 16:24-26 and mobilize them to take the gospel to their friends?
Greg: We must rebuild youth ministry on a biblical foundation. Effective youth ministry is more than fun and games and a short Bible lesson. Effective youth ministry makes and multiplies young disciples. When you think of Jesus as a youth leader (after all, most of the disciples were probably teenagers when they began to follow Jesus) you can begin to see what effective youth ministry looks like. His earthly ministry was like a 3 ½ year mission trip separated by teachings along the way. His earthly ministry was a ‘gospel advancing’ approach that was built on biblical values that we see throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts. My book Gospelize Your Youth Ministry unpacks these values and is available as a free digital download.
CNN: So, Dare 2 Share Live happens this Saturday. Give a brief overview of what it is.
Greg: Dare 2 Share Live is a one-day teen mobilization event. Teenagers will be inspired and unleashed to share the gospel from coast to coast. Currently, we have over 300 sites across the nation participating and thousands upon thousands of teenagers. It’s a powerful program (Vertical Worship, Skit Guys and an array of top notch speakers) but what makes it especially powerful is when teenagers are unleashed during the outreach time to spread the gospel. Using our free Life in 6 Words app, teenagers will be triggering tens of thousands of digital and personal gospel conversations. As I remind youth leaders, teenagers can share the gospel with a mask on from six feet away. I do it all the time!
CNN: Why should someone attend Dare 2 Share Live?
Greg: I’d encourage every youth leader to go to www.dare2sharelive.org right now and sign their youth group up. Your church pays a fee ($149) and all your teenagers can go free (and all of their friends.) It’s a fun day full of laughter. It’s a focused day full of mission. And we will give the gospel clearly with an opportunity for teens to respond. Within two hours, they are sharing their faith with their peers using our amazing digital tools.
CNN: This year has brought some of the largest challenges youth pastors and youth leaders might ever face during their time of ministry. What encouragement would you give them today and in the unknown future?
Greg: I’d tell them, God wants to use this time to build you. Satan wants to use this time to destroy you. Our passage for Dare 2 Share Live is John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” This is true both of teenagers and youth leaders. Don’t give up. But don’t waste this pandemic. This is a time to strengthen your soul in the Word and prayer, to make evangelism part of your daily routine and rebuild your youth ministry strategy on a biblical foundation. You can come out of this stronger or weaker…so can your youth ministry. Let this horrific pandemic lead to a deepening of your relationship with Christ and an absolute transformation of how you view and do youth ministry.
CNN: You mentioned the Life in 6 Words app. What is it and why should every Christian have it on their smartphone?
Greg: If you can swipe and read, then you can share your faith using this one-of-a-kind evangelistic app. I’ve used it hundreds of times and have never been turned down when starting a gospel conversation with it. It’s a well done, aesthetically appealing app that is highly interactive. You can put the names of the people you are seeking to reach in your “Cause Circle” and create faith-sharing groups. You can track on a map all the gospel conversations happening around the world using the app. It also can be quickly changed into 7 other languages, so it’s an amazing mission trip tool as well. We are constantly adding new languages as well.
CNN: So youth pastors should download it and encourage their youth to as well?
Greg: Definitely, use it yourself and have all your teenagers download it. The Life in 6 Words app is what we will be using at Dare 2 Share Live to mobilize a generation. Have all your teens join us in this amazing event! Pray with me that God triggers revival that day and sign your youth group up to be a part of it!
This is the third year for Dare 2 Share Live. Sign up and attended virtually this Saturday, October 10, 2020.