For years, youth workers have been asking this very question. Welcome to the club! There are a ton of things that we have tried to see a difference in this, but if you had to focus on two main things it would be evangelism and program.
Ministries that have strong evangelistic programs have one big thing in common; their students know and understand the Gospel. We expect our students to bring people to church if they don’t know the why they are doing it. The Gospel, and the subsequent calling to do so, is what helps drive and inspire students to share Jesus and invite their friends to youth group.
We also have to teach them how to do it and make it super practical. Our ministry is really big on teaching our students friendship evangelism. We encourage our students to set themselves apart by loving and serving others and letting those relationships be the focus of their evangelism. We did a campaign once called, “Be a Bringer” where we had our students write down three names: one person who walked away from the church, one person that is just waiting to be asked to church, and one person your think would never come. For some reason, getting them to focus on three people made it so much less daunting for students and we saw incredible results.
Program for the non-believers
Flat out, students don’t want to bring their friends to something dumb. One of the biggest blows I got from a student once was, “I didn’t bring my friend to youth group because he would think it was lame.” Ouch! As much as that hurt to hear, it was great to be able to talk to the student and ask them what we could do different to make our ministry a place they would want to take their friends.
We can’t overlook the importance of good programming. The content and quality of your programming has a direct influence in the evangelism results of your students. We have seen our numbers dramatically affected by our service… our sex series always brings in the most students of the year! When coming up with program elements, never be afraid to ask for the opinion of trusted students. Some of our biggest successes have been the brainchild of our students. Their advice is invaluable.
There are so many other ways to help get new students through the doors (advertising, going on campuses, etc), but these two things are the most essential elements to getting your students to invite their friends.
JG & Colton