A New Initiative Connects with a Hurting Generation / Interview with Sean Dunn
A New Initiative Connects with a Hurting Generation
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Anyone who has lived through adolescence can testify that it is a difficult time. As they navigate the waters of our post-Christian society, today’s young people suffer from unprecedented levels of depression, anxiety, pressure, loneliness, and desperation for approval. For many, one nagging question motivates every social media post, short-sighted decision, and attempt to self-harm. Does anyone really care about me?
At JesusCares.com, hurting teens and young adults from across the globe find comfort, guidance, and the answers they desperately seek. An initiative of Groundwire, JesusCares.com follows and expands the remarkably effective model that has touched millions of young viewers and listeners since 2006. Using a multi-pronged strategy, Groundwire leverages media and technology to meet the age 15-25 demographic exactly where they are — viewing, listening, texting, or chatting — and to invite them to voice their questions and struggles, so they can find answers in the message of the Gospel. Young people listening to popular radio broadcasts or viewing favorite shows on networks like CW, MTV, VH1, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming, and Comedy Central are interrupted by direct advertising spots that catch their attention, resonating with where they are today.
The initiative includes targeted, authentic, and well-produced commercials that grab the attention of young viewers and listeners by the millions. As they respond to the broadcast messages, they are invited to visit the JesusCares.com website where they can chat with a live spiritual coach available day and night, as well as find a collection of resources such as podcasts by Groundwire’s founder and executive director, Sean Dunn, and daily devotionals.
Watch "When Life Hurts"
“Statistics indicate that 86% of teens believe in God, but most don’t believe He is loving. Even fewer believe they are lovable. What if this generation truly understood and responded to God’s offer of hope, truth, and purpose?” Dunn asks.
Since 2006, Groundwire has interacted with broken and searching youth on thousands of live chats. Students are drawn to the honest dialogue about spiritual issues, often receiving Christ as their Savior as a result of the coaches’ ministry. Coaches then do their best to connect visitors to local churches and resources where they can continue to grow in their faith. JesusCares.com looks to grow Groundwire’s reach in contemporary culture.
“Today’s younger generation hungers for a real and personal relationship with the Living God. And that really transcends culture. Unfortunately, a common misconception many older Christians have about young people is that they only desire interaction with others who are young like them and are products of the same culture,” Dunn says. “The truth is that this group is desperately in need of intergenerational connection. They crave it. The Jesus Cares initiative has already shown us that, when we make ourselves available to listen and respond, young people cling to that, and they are willing—even eager—to share their burdens and receive the Good News we offer.”
Hundreds of volunteers from around the world form a team that offers coaching 24 hours a day, and that number must increase alongside launches of the ministry in new locations. JesusCares.com is seeking coaches of all ages and backgrounds to be available when young seekers respond to the TV and radio ads—coaches like Sue. A resident of Northern California, Sue spends her days caring for her husband, who has Parkinson’s Disease, and her mother, who suffers from dementia. Neither can be left alone, so she spends only three hours a week away from the house. Sue is in her mid-60’s. Essentially, she is homebound, yet since she began coaching through JesusCares.com in June of 2014, she has led 66 young people to Christ.
One of those new believers is Lori, an 18-year-old who lives in the United Kingdom. When Lori reached out to JesusCares.com, she was struggling with a history of self-harm (cutting) and contemplating suicide. “I came on here as a last resort,” Lori shared after receiving Christ during her chat with Sue. “I have 168 tablets I was going to take to end my life. Now I’m going to flush them down the toilet.”
JesusCares.com is rapidly expanding, having arrived in Colorado Springs and Chicago during the first and second quarters of 2015. The initiative will launch in South Bend, Indiana around the first of June, and fundraising efforts are underway to support upcoming launches in Dallas, Tampa, and Denver in October.
A New Initiative Connects with a Hurting Generation
Founder and Executive Director of JesusCares.com
Sean is the founder of Champion Ministries. He is a gifted and anointed communicator who partners with religious organizations to assist them with camps, conferences, retreats, youth weekends, spiritual emphasis weeks, chapel services, missions training, outreaches, youth ministry, training and consulting, radio programs, television ministry, outreaches and crusades.
Q:What motivated you to create the ministry of JesusCares.com?
A: A window of opportunity now exists for us to bring the Gospel to a generation that is literally dying without it. Not with an invitation that can be rejected, but with an invasion of truth that interrupts the lives of people ages 15-25 through the media that they use every day. Our unique strategy—to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all” by leveraging mainstream media and technology—is doable, cost-effective, and cutting edge. More importantly, it’s working.
Q: Through the JesusCares initiative, the parent ministry, Groundwire, is continuing to grow and to “interrupt” the lives of teens across the entire country. What has been your strategy for gaining exposure?
A: Groundwire’s strategy is to buy ad time on television and radio stations. Our thirty and sixty-second, Christ-centered radio spots proclaim the message of God’s unconditional love to millions via some of the most influential secular stations. We also reach our target audience through television buys on MTV, VH1, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Comedy Central, TruTV, and Nick at Night.
Q:What happens after someone views or hears a JesusCares spot? How do you then go beyond the radio and TV spots to share the message of the Gospel?
After encountering a JesusCares ad, young people are directed to our website to download podcasts, read online devotionals, or talk with a spiritual coach. Hundreds of volunteers from around the world form a team that offers coaching 24 hours a day. Since 2006, we’ve interacted with broken and searching youth on thousands of live chats. Students are drawn to the honest dialogue we offer about spiritual issues, often receiving Christ as their Savior as a result of our coaches’ ministry. We then connect as many as we can to local churches and resources where they can continue to grow. We are praying for more volunteer coaches to join our ministry.
Q: Some Christians might be hesitant to volunteer as a coach because they feel they aren't qualified. What kind of person makes a good spiritual coach?
A: Spiritual coaches are sold-out Believers who are committed to the Great Commission and love people. They realize that although they are not perfect, God desires to speak through them. They realize that technology offers amazing opportunities to minister to people all over the world. Coaches need to be over eighteen and willing to submit to a background check and go through the necessary training. The key qualifications are compassion, a teachable spirit, good listening skills, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading, patience, resilience and authenticity.
Q: What does the process of becoming a coach look like?
A: Training begins when an application is completed and returned to the Director of Ministry. From that point, the majority of training is done online and consists of learning how to deal with the different types of conversations that might take place. There are a series of written responses that take place in email format and then an online mock chat as well.
Q: Describe the issues JesusCares coaches address most often as they interact with young people.
A: The most common issues include:
• Self-Image: Students are trying to figure out who they are. They are looking for acceptance, belonging, and meaning.
• Loneliness: An abnormal number of people live lonely and desperate lives in the midst of families that care and with crowds all around. They feel isolated and as if no one cares.
• Hopelessness: Many students feel that their life will never get better. They are trapped in painful circumstances and can’t envision a time when things will get better.
• Fear of Failure: They are afraid that they won’t live up to others’ expectations for them. Some respond by placing all of their value on their achievements. Others stop trying all together. They won’t disclose their goals, so that no one will ever know if they fail.
• Transition to Independence: Many students rely on their parents’ faith, morals, and convictions without developing their own. When it’s time to venture out and make their own choices, they give leadership of their life to the first person or group that comes along.
• Lust, Immorality, and Sexual Addiction: Many people (even Christian young people) are caught in this horrible battle with lust. They are drawn in by sexual images and fantasies but then feel dirty and guilty after giving in to them. The shame that comes from sexual mistakes continues to hold them in a difficult cycle. They want to be pure but don’t know how to get there.
• Spiritual Connection: They hunger for a real and personal relationship with the Living God. They long to know God intimately but have never been taught how. It has not been intentionally modeled for them. So, they wonder if the person down the street, who appears so close, loves them more than a seemingly distant God. They think something is wrong with them.
Q: Through JesusCares and other initiatives, Groundwire targets not just teenagers, but young people in their early twenties. Why do you think young adults continue to struggle with so many issues that were once associated just with the teenage years?
A: Young adults do not have the stability of healthy families, strong spiritual lives, and distinct purpose that used to be more common. They are struggling to find themselves, find purpose, and find hope. To quote scripture, this generation is “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus recognized these conditions in Matthew 9:35-38, he came to a conclusion. “The harvest is plentiful”.
Q: How have you seen JesusCares impact the families of the young people you counsel?
A: One young man we coached first responded to a JesusCares spot because of fears over his parents’ constant fighting. During the chat with our coach, “Taylor” accepted Christ. A few days later, he discovered that a friend on his lacrosse team was a Christian. That friend invited him to church. Soon, Taylor’s family visited the church to witness his baptism. Before long, the rest of the family responded to the gospel, and his parents sought relationship counseling through the church. In Taylor’s words, “My home feels different now. It will take time, but my parents say they want our house to be `full of Jesus’ from now on.”
Q: Not all the individuals reached by JesusCares are non-believers. How have coaches encouraged Christians who are struggling?
A: There are countless stories. Recently, one of our coaches encouraged a teenage girl from a believing family to tell her parents she needed to take a pregnancy test. Praying with the coach and experiencing the support of her parents has helped this young woman deal with feelings of shame and fear and withstand pressure from the baby’s father to get an abortion.
Q: What is your vision for the future of JesusCares?
A: We are working towards a national launch and anticipating this impacting millions in the US before we take it into some other strategic nations. The goal is to flood the culture with pictures/messages about Jesus as He truly is--kind, loving, compassionate, and forgiving.