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2002 PE Report stories

Congregations demonstrate weekly prayer yields results (December 30, 2001)

L.A. Dream Center, Angelus Temple make history, reach more with merge (December 16, 2001)

Rain, gang doesn't halt impact of newly formed congregation (December 9, 2001)

Women urged to minister hope at global gathering (November 25, 2001)

Volunteers meet needs at Pentagon cleanup (November 18, 2001)

Fear, uncertainty open window of opportunity for evangelism (November 11, 2001)

'Jump for Jesus' raises $40,000 for STL (October 21, 2001)

Widows, single mothers gain practical blessings (October 14, 2001)

Five new executive presbyters elected (September 30, 2001)

Credit card 'freedoms' tempt college students (September 16, 2001)

Fellowship, nation show ethnic makeup changes (August 26, 2001)

Congregations extend a hand, spread gospel after tropical storm (August 19, 2001)

Single-parent families find hope at camp (August 12, 2001) caught in middle of culture war (July 22, 2001)

Pentecostal World Conference looks toward future cooperation (July 13, 2001)

Crossover Community Church ministers to hip-hop culture (July 8, 2001)

Prison chaplain hooked on ministry (June 24, 2001)

National Singles team convenes, plans regional conferences (June 17, 2001)

Children's ministries take center stage (June 10, 2001)

U.S. Christians trek to Israel despite news reports of danger (May 27, 2001)

A/G ministries combat eating disorders (May 20, 2001)

Mobilizing laity leads to church growth (May 13, 2001)

Fellowship convenes conference for women (April 29, 2001)

14,547 'honored guests' attend Convoy of Hope outreach in Dallas (April 22, 2001)

Hollywood sends wrong signals on teen smoking (April 15, 2001)

Iowa community faces unique challenges (April 8, 2001)

Churches support ministries to lead youth out of lifestyle (March 25, 2001)

English lessons reach Chinese with gospel (March 18, 2001)

A/G church, police, schools partner for strong community (March 11, 2001)

Church uses 'human hunt' as evangelism tool for teens (February 25, 2001)

Ministering in the fast lane (February 18, 2001)

Abstinence education saves lives, futures (February 11, 2001)

Donated food helps Convoy of Hope extend hand around the world (January 21, 2001)

American Indian College students impact boarding school (January 14, 2001)

2000 News Digest stories

Church uses ‘human hunt’ as evangelism tool for teens

(February 25, 2001)

As First Assembly of God youth pastors Joel Labertew and Erik Thornton in Joliet, Ill., prepare for their third "human hunt" later this year, the focus remains the same: bringing teen-agers to church — and to Christ.

Senior high pastor Labertew devised the human scavenger hunt idea as an evangelism tool in 1998. The four-week intense competition involves youth group members searching for other young people in their community who have unusual traits or features.

Measuring the largest biceps is one category.

Under the human hunt guidelines, the junior and senior high youth groups — which have a combined 160 members — each divide into three teams in a competition to find the highest number of humans on a 35-category list.

There are two types of categories. Two-thirds involve factual, observable qualities: a basketball player shorter than 5 feet, 10 inches; someone born in Europe; a cheerleader with black hair; a tuba player; a yodeler. The other categories are measurable contests, such as the person who can eat the most hot peppers in one sitting, someone who has the most passport stamps or the biggest biceps. Junior high pastor Erik Thornton has helped refine the event with creative categories in expectation of the next one.

The teams have a preparatory month to work together to recruit people who fit the requested categories. For three weeks at the regular Tuesday evening gatherings they strategize how best to fulfill the list. Much of the networking to find the right components is done at schools during the day. On the fourth week, the guests are invited to the human scavenger hunt assemblage. Thus, at the end, the ideal is for each of the six teams to bring visitors — teens who had never attended a Joliet First Assembly of God youth group meeting — into the church. Visitors can be used to fill only one category.

"We’re providing a competitive and fun way for students to invite people to church," Labertew says.

Points are awarded in each classification. For example, the team that brings the "tallest student" receives the most points for that category. The winning team is rewarded with a meal after the service.

Erik Thornton preaches a 15-minute gospel presentation at the end of the competition. At the last gathering, 120 visitors came, 40 raised their hands to receive the Lord as Savior and 20 participated in evangelism follow-up.

At least three other A/G churches in Illinois — First Assembly of God in Normal, Christian Life A/G in Coal City and Calvary Temple A/G in Waukegan — have adopted the human scavenger hunt concept for their youth groups.

"The purpose is just to get as many kids here as possible," says Joliet First A/G senior pastor Earl Thornton, Erik’s father. "It’s like an old treasure hunt — except with humans from outside the church."

For Joliet First Assembly, the human hunt is only one of several innovative — and reliable — evangelism outreach methods. In one six-month period alone, 425 people accepted Jesus as their Savior at the church.

Using the popular Left Behind series of Christian novels, Earl Thornton preached four sermons on evangelizing friends. At one of the meetings, he dramatically read passages from the Book of Revelation, with moving mood music, dark red lights on the pulpit and video footage.

"One young adult came to me afterwards and said, ‘Pastor, that was awesome. Can I have a copy of that sermon?’ I said, ‘You already do. It’s called the Bible.’ "

Thornton has been at the church, which has an average Sunday morning attendance of 950, for three years. The church is located on 33 acres in suburban Joliet, a city of 91,000, southwest of Chicago.

— John W. Kennedy


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