boldly and respectfully disagreeing

Recently, I received an email to an event in our region from a ministry that offered the following incentive:
The student of your youth group who brings the most friends who have not trusted Christ will be entered into a drawing to watch the Lake Erie Monsters game from a Luxury Suite at the “Q” (with the friends they brought) and they and their friends will be given free food vouchers for the concession area.
For those of you who don't know, I have a long background in youth ministry and have seen the positives and negatives of such incentives. I've watched what happens when a minister/pastor uses such motives to fill seats, and know common motivators that will often push them to do so.

Because I've done this myself. And I've also seen the fallout firsthand.

Which is why I wrote back.
Hi... I'm not sure where you are at in your day as you read this, so I hope you receive this well. While I appreciate your heart for evangelism I need to boldly challenge you with how you are going about it with this event.

I am absolutely not on board with this reward system you have in place. It runs the risk of unsaved friends who are invited to this event finding out they were notch marks for the student who invited them, and imagine how that will come across. In fact, I have seen that ruin a person's chance of coming to Christ on more than once occasion.

I'm sure that you have a rationale on how this is about bringing more kids to your event to hear about Jesus, but in the end it is also about bringing more kids to your event... attendance... and a reward system that can cause young ones to stumble.

You mention "principle based youth ministry," and yet I am concerned with the "principle" this reward system communicates. I am writing this as a former full-time youth worker, current lead pastor, and also a volunteer youth worker in my own church. I've seen what happens when unsaved kids find out about such things, and I don't see how you can keep this a secret in the way you're going about it.

There is a better way.

So I humbly ask you to cease this motivation and simply paint a picture of what can happen on an eternal level if kids invite their friends to Jesus. That's the real principle you want to communicate, isn't it?

Because as much as you would like to think you can emphasize both, we cannot serve both God and manna... or in this case, God and hockey tickets.

I hope this comes across as a Christian to Christian, "iron sharpens iron" email. And this is more than a rant fired through an email - meaning, if you wish to talk about this further call me on my personal cell phone at 330-___-_____.

But as I said, I am absolutely not on board with that and stand against such a risk. People matter more than attendance, and their eternity is measured on a greater scale than free concessions. That is reality, and I dare you to promote that reward versus any other.

So if you continue to pursue this action please remove me from your e-mail list.


What do you think? Did I strike an adequate balance of bold challenge with personal respect?

And likewise, where in your life do you have the opportunity to challenge something for the better and need to find a way to do so that tactfully pushes back for the right reasons?

(Maybe it's this very post... go ahead, I'm listening)


  1. Tony - I'm a huge fan. I agree with you a hundred percent on the topic. My 'phrase' has always been - what you win them with is what you've won them to.

    My question - boldly challenging?? - is sending the guy/gal an email the best way to handle it? Any chance a call could be made?

    Of coures...I'm saying this in a comment on a blog...but only because I don't have your cell. ha ha ha

  2. Well said... and I agree with you on this. I am a huge, huge fan of personal reconciliation, and face-to-face whenever possible.

    In this instance, I read the e-mail at an early hour and felt so moved by what I read that I started to write. And then I backed up and saw that this needed to be sent... for whatever reason "this" was the response to this particular matter. I'm not sure why... but I do think this was the way God wanted me to go. Perhaps so it could be forwarded around the organization more easily? Not sure.

    But I did include my cell #. Maybe that is the bridge to further conversation. Thanks for the pushback, Grant.