In early September, Chris Hurt issued a challenge to the students of First Baptist Church Frisco, Texas.
Hurt asked them to invite their friends to a recent “Pack the Gym” worship service one Sunday morning. The students responded, and more than 400 students filled the church’s gym, culminating in 23 salvations happening that day.
“We just told the kids to get their friends here to hear about Jesus, and they responded,” Hurt said.
This was the student ministry’s second time doing a “Pack the Gym” event, a once-a-year event to encourage students to invite their friends to church.
Hurt and the rest of the student ministry staff encouraged the teenagers to think creatively about bringing friends to church to hear the gospel.
The students responded enthusiastically, with some hosting sleepovers the night before the event and others carpooling with their neighbors to pick up all the other students on their block.
“It was an exciting thing to see the students get behind it,” Hurt said of the October event.
The church staff set an attendance goal of 400, which they shared with the students.
The ministry has an average attendance of 275. The goal was not the number of attendees, Hurt explained, but it gave the students a rallying point.
“No matter how many people came, the gospel would be proclaimed,” Hurt said. “We don’t want to be a numbers-based group, but having a goal really inspired us.”
Ministry staff instilled in their youth that the heart of the event was inviting people to hear about Jesus.
In keeping with that theme, the ministry staff deliberately made sure that, beyond changing their meeting location to the gym instead of the youth room, there were no significant changes to their regular Sunday morning service.
‘Start with a vision’
“We told our students the goal was to tell their friends about Jesus. It wasn’t about distractions or making it a really cool party. It was a worship service,” Hurt said.
They did make one small concession — one of the students requested that, if they reached their 400-person goal, Hurt would get a pie in the face. Hurt accepted, and, when 405 students, including 64 first-time guests, showed up on Oct. 2, he happily stood on stage as a pie was thrown at him.
Chris Lovell, head coach of the East Texas Baptist University men’s basketball team, brought the message, giving a clear gospel presentation.
Following his message, there was a response time, and there were 52 faith-based decisions, including 23 salvations, 26 recommitments and three calls to ministry.
Hurt was blown away by the response of the students and by their willingness to go out and invite their peers to the service. He explained that, despite all of the technology and innovations, the best way to get someone to church is still a direct invitation.
“People still respond to an invite,” he said. “Our students weren’t afraid of the challenge, and they weren’t ashamed.”
In the coming weeks, Frisco First will start baptizing many students who accepted Christ that Sunday.
“It’s so cool to see God move,” Hurt said. “Start with a vision. Give your kids something to believe in, and they’ll be inspired to make it happen.”