Invading America’s High Schools with the Gospel

MINNEAPOLIS MN. (EP) – Youth Invasion Ministries has a plan. The organization, which sponsors a “Strategy” youth worker conference each year, presented its “master plan for invading America’s 44,000 public schools: most recently at Strategy ’88, and at the April 7-9 seminar held in Minneapolis.

That kind of successful invasion sounds like an impossible dream to many who are discouraged by court decisions that limit religious activities in public schools. But Rick Olson, co-director of Youth Invasion Ministries, says the idea that schools are closed to the gospel is a myth. “We are allowed in,” he insists. “I work with youth pastors all over the country that are on campus every week, some of them every day of the week. I know of over 50 ways for a youth pastor or other adult to be allowed in a school.”

Olson, who also works as a youth specialist for North Central Bible College (an Assemblies of God school in Minneapolis), acknowledges that there are some restrictions. “You can’t just come in and set up shop for God,” he says. “But you can come in to support the school’s programs and in that way greatly influence students.”

Olson, who presents the “Strategy” conferences with the help of fellow-worker Wendell Smith, says he works to teach youth workers to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. “We talk about classroom speaking – how a youth pastor can be invited to speak on whatever topic is being talked about by a class and tie in a Christian perspective. We also see how an adult can teach the Bible as literature, act as chaperon for a high school class activity, or serve as a referee.”

But getting adults on campus isn’t the whole answer, says Olson. “As we raise up effective adult leaders, much of their ministry for invading the public schools will be behind the scenes training Christian students. They’ll be equipping ‘Holy Ghost SWAT Teams’ for the campus. If we talk to kids about how to reach their campus, those kids can make a huge difference when they go to school.”

Olson says his emphasis is on raising up volunteer workers and lay youth workers, rather than on equipping professional youth workers. “If we’re going to affect whole high schools and towns it will take a great team effort, with qualified adults who know how to reach kids,” he says. “Our goal is not on showing people how to put on big events in youth ministry, but to raise up big people for youth ministry who will pour their lives into kids so they become big kids for God.”

The l988 conference is the third “Strategy” meeting by Youth Invasion Ministries. What has happened as a result of the first two meetings? “We have a number of ministries that have been birthed, and others that have been charged with life because of the first two,” says Olson. “I would say that the name of our conference really denotes what has happened in many ministries. People who have a burden and passion for kids suddenly have a strategy for their ministry. It’s not a philosophy, but a hands-on approach to ministry.”

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