Exo Day

As a Christian, I want to make use of every opportunity to evangelise. I want everyone to know about what Jesus has done for them and that they too can be one of God’s people. And as a youth minister, I am especially interested in going into high schools and reaching those school students who don’t know him. But the question is: how do I do this in the most effective and appropriate way? Some people think Exo Days are the way to go. But as I discovered whilst listening to Triple J news this morning, not everyone is happy about this.

Read about the controversy here.

Exo Days are designed for high school students to show their friends at school that “life is excellent with Jesus.” They’re fun events with a gospel message integrated into the run of things. The problem with Exo Days, as highlighted by the article, is that they are seen as covert evangelism. It appears people aren’t aware they are showing to an event where they will be told about Jesus. I came because there was a barbeque. You didn’t say you’d be telling me to convert.

From my experiences of Exo Days, I’m not a big fan. To me, they’re one big Bait-And-Switch. All of the fun stuff that is planned is made the focus, and then, when people are in the swing of things and really enjoying themselves, the music is turned off and someone stands up and tells them why they should be a Christian. To me, it feels like false advertising. Like you need to hide the gospel from people and spring it on them, like hiding a child’s vegetables inside a rissole. The Bait-And-Switch feels dishonest. And as Christians we are called to be tellers of truth. Colossians 3:9-10 says “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self”. The ends do not justify the means. If we shouldn’t lie, then we should be open and honest about our methods to evangelise.

When I’ve gone into schools as either a Scripture teacher or to present a Christian seminar, there has always been an option to not participate. When a student walks through the door, they know that I am there to teach them about Jesus. Whether the event is opt in (you choose to come) or opt out (you choose if you don’t want to go), there is a choice. With an Exo Day, this choice is diminished if you don’t have enough information to make a choice.

I’ve been to too many Church band nights where the main draw was the music. And when the music stops and the talk starts, people feel ripped off. They feel like they’ve been lied to. And this is not condusive to the gospel. As youth ministers, we need to think through carefully what events we run and how we run them. Because I don’t think that the Bait-And-Switch accurately represents our Father.

How would I feel if a group from another religious affiliation was running Exo Days in schools? If an organisation rallied their young people together to put on an event that would lure people in and then try and convert them to their god? If they did it in such a way that people didn’t know what they were getting into? I’d be upset. I may even be furious. I would stand up and say something. So why should I feel any different when it is Christians doing it? I NSW we have many open and valid ways to get into schools. Let’s be transparent and honest in our evangelism. Because I am not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). So why should I act in a way that says otherwise?

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14 responses to “Exo Day”

  1. micey says :

    Amen brother!

  2. Luke Thomson says :

    Totally agree with what you’ve said.
    I read that smh article this morning, and have been chewing over what some of the people were actually saying. The danger is that the public response to Exoday can cause limitations to what we can actually do in schools.

    “The vision is to see evangelism and growth come from the students themselves in your youth ministry.”
    I would think most of us what to see people come to know Jesus through the work we do in schools. Some of the stuff they quote from the leaders handbook sounds fine to me. I guess the issue is how it gets done (which is a bait and switch type method). I worry that this sort of stuff will prevent the good, clear Christian stuff from happening so much.

    With the comments about all instruction should be secular apart from SRE classes, it almost sounds like some people don’t want God mentioned at all – not even by kids in casual conversation. I know that’s a bit extreme, but my (limited) understanding of American schools is that it’s not too far from the truth. We have a very privileged opportunity in NSW at the moment to reach kids with the gospel!

    As an aside, I found the following quote an interesting observation of what Exoday is all about to the outsider: “It’s 40 minutes at lunchtime … there’s no hard-core message or evangelising,” he said.” It does fly in the face of some people who claim it’s a clearly christian event.

  3. Joel A Moroney says :

    Well put Luke. I haven’t experienced Exo Day at a public school but I could easily see how the excitement and zeal of the students could come across badly. It’s a fantastic thing that these students want their friends to know God but there are much better ways of doing it.
    We don’t want negative reactions to a well intentioned event to stop us from promoting the gospel in schools.

  4. Joel A Moroney says :

    And how will this affect ISCF groups (are they still called ISCF groups? I’m so old…)? Those public meetings of Christians in School playgrounds that are open about what they are doing? Is there a danger that they may be shut down?

  5. Luke Thomson says :

    My limited understanding of politics is that there are a small minority who probably do want things shut down considerably (particularly SRE and the like). I don’t suspect this will happen for quite some time though (if ever). The nature of SRE being optional, in NSW legislation, and many people’s lack of understanding (can actually be an advantage sometimes, as they think it’s just a nice thing to do) suggests to me that it will be a while before most people vote to get rid of it all.

    I do wonder whether stuff like Exoday will bring everything else under greater scrutiny (which we should be open to), but therefore greater restrictions (which we don’t want).

    I think they are still called ISCF groups (at least technically – im sure most kids dont know that name…). They are organised with Scripture Union, and are the only legally allowed ‘official’ Christian groups in schools as far as I’m aware (ie. you have to register with SU to run a group in your public school. private is different, obviously).

  6. Lucy Carter says :

    As the triple j news journo who put that story to air, I’d LOVE to have a chat with you. I’ve sent you an email with my contact details..
    Thanks :)

  7. Daniel says :

    As a student at a school that ran Exo Day, I can tell you that my experience with Exo Day was very, very different to yours. There was no point at which “music is turned off and someone stands up and tells them why they should be a Christian”. Students at my school would also have been aware that it was run by Christians, as all the advertisements in the school bulletin were put there by the chaplains (and this was written on the bulletin in plain English).

    As well as church volunteers, we also had people come in from a large non-religious community group – they helped cook and serve during the day. They certainly weren’t doing any evangelism!

    I don’t feel my school did a bait-and-switch, and I’m sorry if you got burnt by a group that did.

  8. Joel A Moroney says :

    Thanks for dropping by Daniel. I’m interested to see how Exo Days have worked at other schools. Was your school a public school or an independent Christian school? Was there a Christian address or just fun events?
    While I haven’t been burnt by Exo Days, I have significant doubts about their effectiveness. If it is all just fun events, then there has been no proclomation about Jesus and therefore has not acheived its goals.

  9. Daniel says :

    Public school, and as far as I am aware, no specific Christian address. Fliers for a “Pandemonium” event run at a local church on Friday night and for the “Adrenaline” concert on Saturday night were handed out. I went to both, and there was no direct address at Pandemonium, but there was both a direct address and invitation to respond at Adrenaline. (I should also point out that Adrenaline tickets weren’t free and the concert was run in a major stadium, not a school)

    With regard to their effectiveness/achieving goals, the question is, what goals is Exo Day really trying to achieve? In my school, the chaplains were quite clear that the main goal of Exo Day (at least at my school) was to “bless the school” – those were the exact words. In that sense, the day was very successful.

    I think it was also effective as a ‘stereotype buster’ – it showed that ‘Christians do have fun’ and that it is more than just a belief we profess each Sunday by going to church. It also caused people to ask a lot of questions – why are you giving us free food when we’d normally have to pay money for it? Who is paying for it? etc – all of which provide segues into talking about faith or church.

    I agree, though, that if your goal is out-and-out proclamation, then yes, Exo days aren’t hugely effective. But then there are very few ways to get into a public school to do openly Christian things.

    Another thing that most people have missed is that Exo Day is supposed to be “student-run”: certainly at my school that was the case. Students contacted churches for help and support – we had people from at least 4 different churches/Christian groups coming in to help.

  10. Joel A Moroney says :

    Sounds like it was a successful event, Daniel

  11. Luke Thomson says :

    “But then there are very few ways to get into a public school to do openly Christian things.”

    My understanding is, in NSW at least, there are lots of opportunities for Christians to do stuff in schools – SRE classes, seminars, lunchtime groups are the obvious ones. If there are Christians to do stuff, the schools can’t legally say no.

  12. Joel A Moroney says :

    That’s my understanding of the law as well, Luke. It is different in other states, though.

  13. Luke Thomson says :

    As an aside, with lots of talk in recent years about having a federal education system rather than a state-run, I wonder if this would impact our ability to go into schools. I suspect it could have huge ramifications, but I haven’t heard anyone talking about it…

  14. Dave says :

    Well said. Let’s face it, Hillsong wouldn’t be supporting or organising these Exo Days if they weren’t going to get a few converts out of it.

    And Luke, you wonder about the ramifications of a federal education system (should it ever come about). I think it would probably make it easier for this sort of thing to happen. Especially if the current and immediately preceding Prime Ministers are anything to go by…

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