Over the last five years, Ryan Ries, the co-founder of The Whosoevers, a movement that seeks to deliver the message of the Gospel to schools and empower students to realize their true purpose in life, has seen hundreds of thousands of children, teens, and young adults come to Christ.
“We've seen over 100,000 students give their life to the Lord in public school systems worldwide through our Kill the Noise tour,” Ries, who founded the group with P.O.D. frontman Sonny Sandoval, told The Christian Post.
“We're getting into public schools through the Christian clubs and we're filling the gymnasiums at lunch. We're seeing a revival break out with hundreds of thousands of kids coming down to the floor, praying to be forgiven of their sins.
“I tell them that they're dirty sinners, they all start laughing — because they know they are; no one has to tell them — and they're repenting, they're receiving Jesus and they're getting filled with the Holy Spirit. We're giving them Gospels and plugging them in to local churches to get disciples,” he said of how the ministry reached youth before public schools were shut down last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lockdowns forced Ries to rethink how, exactly, to do ministry. A seasoned skateboarder, he felt God calling him to the skate park — an outdoor space rife with teens experiencing hurt, neglect and addiction.
“God just gave me this idea like, ‘Hey, there are skate parks in every single city across the U.S.,” he recalled. “I’ve been skateboarding my whole life, so I thought, ‘This is a perfect idea.’”
Ries explained that many teens and young adults who frequent skate parks have troubled home lives. For them, skating is a way to take out aggression and pain.
"It's an environment for misfits," he said. “I grew up as a skateboarder since the '80s, and I can tell you this lifestyle is about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It’s a very loose environment for young people to get into trouble, to start smoking cigarettes, look at pornography, do drugs, drink alcohol. There’s a lot of brokenness, depression and suicide.”
Answering God’s call without hesitation, Ries., his family and The Whosoevers team packed their bags and went to Idaho to begin witnessing in skate parks across the state.
“I made 10,000 fliers saying there was going to be a $100 best trick contest, and about two weeks before the event, I literally drove to every skate park to pass out flyers and talk to the skaters,” he said.
On the day of the event, the skate park was “packed,” Ries recalled, and a number of kids ending up getting saved.
“We'd go to the skate parks, have conversations, and get the party started,” Ries said. “From there, we gave out money as they landed the tricks. At the end, we gave out our products, and from there we shared the Gospel. By the time we shared the Gospel, we'd already developed a relationship with them. There was really no bait-and-switch. We were able to pray over hundreds of kids before the end of the day."
The Whosoevers’ Idaho tour is the subject of a new documentary, “The Whosoevers Full Send Tour: Spreading the Gospel During Difficult Times in the Pandemic,” which was released earlier this month.
The documentary follows Ries and The Whosoevers team as they travel to skate parks across the Midwestern state, sharing the Gospel and praying over teens struggling with physical, emotional and mental ailments. Impressive skate action is also sprinkled throughout the documentary, along with an upbeat soundtrack.
“So many of these kids come from broken homes. When I read about Jesus, He went from town to town, hanging out with disreputable sinners among the crowd. We’re following the model of Jesus, going from town to town, village to village, meeting the people right where they’re at,” he added.
While there’s always a “huge need” for the Gospel among young people, Ries said the demand is greater than ever amid the pandemic. He cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show anxiety, depression and suicide have increased to an all-time high because of the ongoing lockdowns.
“Kids are depressed, suicidal and struggling, and these issues are the same both with kids in the Church and in the secular world,” he stressed. “When you sugarcoat the Gospel and don’t hit on those hard issues like self-harm, suicide and anxiety, you do them a huge disservice. We’ve got to be honest about how this stuff happens in the Church too. That’s the only way freedom will take place.”
“The harvest is so ripe,” he added. “The fruit is so ripe it’s literally falling off the trees up to this point. Everyone is giving their life to the Lord, but you’ve got to have conversations and be genuine with them and let them know that you love them and will meet them where they are.”
Ries and his team are going beyond Idaho, taking their Full Send Tour to skate parks nationwide.
“We want to continue to get in front of as many people as possible,” he said. “Right now is the most crucial time because the youth are in a dark place, and they need to hear the Good News of the Gospel and they need to encounter the love of a loving Father in Heaven.”
Ries’ heart for the next generation comes from his own testimony of how God saved him from a life of pain and addiction — a story he recounts in his forthcoming book,Kill the Noise: Finding Meaning Above the Madness. Despite growing up in a Christian home, Ries found himself struggling with addiction at an early age.
“I'm a perfect example of a kid that got caught up in pornography at second grade, smoking cigarettes and drinking by fifth grade,” he shared. “It wasn’t long before I was off to the races.
“I found God in a hotel room after nine days of cocaine, Xanax, and alcohol,” he added. “From that point, I started going to church and discovering who Jesus Christ was. I felt God calling me to dedicate my life to ministry.”
The Whosoevers movement, he said, takes its name from John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes would not perish, but have everlasting life."
“Whosoever means anyone, from bum to president,” Ries said. “We want to go out and break down walls between all the different denominations and unite a brotherhood and sisterhood and proclaim our testimonies of what Christ did on the cross for us.”
Ries, who also hosts a radio show, challenged other Christians to “step out in faith” and allow God to use them for His glory. The next generation, he said, is "craving" discipleship.
“Jesus sent out His disciples and told them to preach the Gospel because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He said to lay hands on the sick and cast out demons. That is the Great Commission and that is our call in life, to obey and walk by faith,” he said.
“God can do extraordinary things with the ordinary man,” Ries added. “If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, God will use us. It just depends on our availability. Are you available? Are you willing to answer the call? When you are, God will move in power.”