It hasn’t happened many times, but occasionally I will snag a large haul of fish, as entire schools are seemingly jumping from the water. Days spent that way make fishing fun! Not being much of an angler though, it really amounts to good luck when this happens.

As a pastor for 35 years, I have needed a much more thoughtful strategy for Matt. 4:19 fishing than just luck. Each year, my staff and I kept two questions in mind while planning evangelistic/discipleship strategies and calendar events.

  1. When is Vacation Bible School (VBS)?
  2. When is Falls Creek?

The rest of the calendar formed after these two priorities were decided. Their evangelistic effects are so key that I placed great importance on being personally present and involved in discipling children, youth and adults during VBS and camps. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always very important.

Now it is 2020, the year of Coronavirus pandemic. This summer looks different—no mission trips, no Falls Creek, perhaps a different type of VBS. Summer events will necessarily take place in a different way, yet the purpose of these strategies can and must go forward!

This summer, we must prioritize discipleship and evangelism. I strongly encourage you to use the time you would have spent on VBS and Falls Creek in a different way to accomplish these same vital goals.

Acts 1:8-9 tells us to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and throughout the whole world.

It seems, for this summer, the Lord has us focusing on “our Jerusalem.” Mission trips and Falls Creek won’t take place as usual, but “our Jerusalem,” our home and church families, are not closed or spiritually quarantined.

In this season, the one true sovereign God has given us a great opportunity to advance the Gospel by evangelizing and discipling those closest to us. Pastors, use this opportunity and lead the way! Specifically, focus on a strategy to share the Gospel with those on your church rolls who have not made a known profession of faith.

As a 10-year-old young man, I professed Christ as my Savior. My pastor, Kenneth Lay, invited me to his office three times to meet with him after I accepted Christ. It was scary, and I was nervous, but I never forgot how personally he ministered to me, even as a child. I have strived to do the same throughout my years of pastoring.

This unique summer may be the best opportunity God has ever given us to accomplish this in such a personal way. Pray for God’s wisdom on how to most effectively share the Gospel with “your Jerusalem.” Ask your prayer ministry team to pray for this priority.

Here are some practical suggestions:

Write notes to 3rd-6th graders.

Let them know that you love being their pastor. Explain the Gospel and encourage them to consider accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Include a resource that explains the Gospel. Without pressuring them, share your own testimony and the importance of trusting Jesus. Hand write your letters if possible. Drop by their homes to deliver these personally or mail them. These types of personal touches will show that you love them and God loves them. Obviously their parents will need to know about this, be a part of it and affirm what you are doing. Even better, include a note for the parents encouraging them to visit with their child about Jesus. Offer your assistance in any way.

Share the need of salvation with 7th-12th graders.

The same approach used for younger children will positively impact older students as well. A handwritten note is best. Collaborate with your youth leader to take some students to lunch. Spend this time learning about them, especially their spiritual backgrounds. Include a clear explanation of the Gospel in your conversation. Later, send handwritten notes to thank them for lunch and to tell them you are praying for them. Be sure to keep their parents involved in these conversations. Challenge your older students who are already professing believers to consider what it means to follow Jesus practically. Talk to them about what it should look like to be a missionary, a minister, or a sold-out man or woman of God. Urge them to follow Matt. 6:33 and Prov. 3:5-6.

You may pray and discover ideas you like better than mine. That’s great! Don’t waste time. Act on them. Just don’t miss the opportunity you have this summer to evangelize and disciple “your personal Jerusalem.”

Even though you and I have wonderfully-capable children’s ministers and youth pastors, we need to team up with them to evangelize and disciple the next generation. Lead pastor, do not leave them alone with this enormous responsibility, especially not this summer. Then while prioritizing children and youth, continue to look for opportunities to share Jesus with the adults in “your Jerusalem.”

Great fishermen know the perfect time that particular fish are biting. They know the depth and warmth of the water and exactly what bait to use. Not all fish are biting at one time, but great fishermen pay attention to which fish are responding at a certain time and place.

This summer, pastors, the fish are biting “in Jerusalem.” Hurry, throw the hook out! It’s summer, and the fish are jumping.