(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
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.
"Were 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
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, Eriks father.
"Its 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. Its 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