Is it possible to break through the social media clutter with a Gospel message of life in Christ?
Groundwire is an evangelism ministry that works to reach youth and young adults with a message of hope, forgiveness and life found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. The organization has a unique outreach method to reach the younger generations – Millennials and Generation Z. They use online advertising that touches the hearts of young people, who then contact the ministry and chat with volunteers about issues in their lives and about the Christian faith.
The ministry reports that in May alone, their online commercials were viewed almost 20 million times. That same month, Groundwire had almost 187,000 visits to its various websites, and 14,376 young people made a profession of faith, entering the kingdom of God.
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We spoke recently with Sean Dunn, the founder and president of Groundwire. He told us that in 1997 he was a full-time evangelist, travelling the country and speaking to about 150,000 teens and young adults every year with the gospel message. While he was reaching many, he knew that there were 33 million teens in the U.S. – more than he could reach by himself.
He had the stark realization, “I’m only influencing people who want to be influenced,” those who were already attending church and youth groups, as well as their friends who wanted to be with them. He began asking, “How do I reach those who don’t want to be reached?”
Dunn began placing ads on MTV, radio and billboards in 2003, giving out a hotline number where young people could call in and talk with someone. The ministry began digital outreach in 2017, he said, “Because that’s how teens consume media.”
A typical advertisement will deal with deep points of pain or need in a young person’s life, such as living in a broken family, feeling like no one cares, dealing with rejection and loneliness, or feeling envious of those who project the perfect life on sites like SnapChat and Instagram.
The ads end with an invitation, such as “Even when life’s not perfect, Jesus cares. Log on to JesusCares.com to chat with someone who understands.”
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72% of the ministry’s budget goes to buy advertising time on social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Dunn says the ads are inserted into programming that viewers want to keep watching – so they can’t just click past the commercial after watching five seconds.
And that’s the first step in Dunn’s strategy: Interrupt young people’s lives. He says, “70% of American Millennials believe the American church is irrelevant.” So he doesn’t invite them to an event to tell them about Jesus – Dunn uses technology to interrupt their lives.
The website says, “Groundwire does not offer an invitation to church that may be ignored; instead, we interrupt them right on the smartphones they never put down.”
The other four steps of his strategy are communicate, commit, educate and connect. To communicate, the ministry uses videos, their website, email, and chat lines, manned by trained coaches, to discuss and explain the gospel with those who contact the ministry. Those who do so are often at a very vulnerable point in life, ready to hear about how a relationship with God can bring peace and life.
Last year, trained volunteers gave 70,689 hours of time to the ministry, to talk with hurting people and share the gospel. One young lady logged in to chat online and asked, “Do I matter? Do you see me?”
The volunteer responded, “You absolutely matter. You matter to me. You are created in God’s image. You are the crown of His creation, the apple of His eye.” By the end of the conversation, that young lady had committed herself to Christ and knew that God saw her, that her life was worth something.
She wrote to the volunteer, “I matter!!!”
That’s the goal and the third step, to lead people to commit to Christ. The goal of communicating is to engage upcoming generations in theological discussions about sin, the penalty for sin, what Jesus did for us, and how to step into a relationship with him.
Then, coaches help educate these new believers about how to grow vertically towards Christ and horizontally towards local believers.
Dunn told us that many young people have no idea how Christianity and the church operate. They ask questions like, “How much will this cost me?”; “Do I need a reservation to go to church?”; and “Jesus sounds interesting; is there a book I can read about Him?”
He says that many teens and young adults are dealing with deep issues like suicidality, pornography addiction, shame, alcoholism, broken hearts, family struggles and substance abuse. Groundwire’s advertisements offer them a point of contact, someone to talk with who has a real message of hope and life.
Dunn says many churches want to get people into the building, while he wants “to take the message out to people.” He uses the term “apathiests” to describe many Millennials, who believe in God, but ignore Him and don’t really think He matters.
That’s the group Dunn wants to reach with the good news about a life with Christ. In 2020, Groundwire saw 116,437 people saved. In 2021, the ministry goal is 250,000, and in 2022, the goal is 475,000 people brought into the kingdom.
To learn more about Groundwire’s social media gospel effort, check out their website.
–Focus on the Family