The history of First Priority and the last 25 years.

T he story of First Priority of South Florida starts back in the late 80’s while Chris Lane attended college in Birmingham, Alabama. While working on his degree in Education and getting involved in youth ministry, he heard about a new ministry called First Priority. At the time, it was little more than a group of churches getting together to go into schools, connect students on campus, and form outreach clubs to share the Gospel. The concept was definitely of interest, but Chris’ focus was on his classes and his growing involvement in church youth ministry. Following graduation, Chris came back to South Florida and became a youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. For several years he and FBC Fort Lauderdale would host the regional Dawson McAllister Student Conference that would connect him with local churches, reaching thousands of students. The youth pastors of those churches would gather to brainstorm how to improve student ministry, have fellowship with each other, and pray together. Out of that, strong relationships were formed and Chris along with several of those youth leaders began to do joint youth events on a regular basis throughout the year. As they met and prayed together, they started to recognize how few of their students had any sort of Christian activity taking place on their school campuses. As a result, many students did not feel they had an effective opportunity to reach out to their friends at school. It was at this point that Chris remembered the idea of First Priority back when he was in college.

Never one for wasting time, Chris reached out to First Priority of America to get more information and to discuss the possibility of starting a branch in South Florida. Chris then brought the vision to the youth pastors that had been gathering to network and all of them embraced the idea. The only question now was, ‘who would take the lead?’ It would be impossible for any one of them to head up a church youth ministry as well as a school club ministry at the same time. At a youth pastor network lunch one of the participants spoke up and said, “Hey, we really need somebody to do this full-time, and Chris, we think it’s you.” As Chris prayed, God steadily confirmed the calling in his heart. God was also at work in the hearts of others and funding was given to start First Priority of Broward County in the fall of 1998!

Little by little FP clubs were up and running, students were coming to Christ, and many were getting connected to local churches! As more schools and churches came on board, it became too much for one person to organize alone. And so, the First Priority team grew too! Fred Revell was the first to come alongside Chris two years into this venture and has remained faithfully on staff since. After a few years in Broward schools, the vision expanded and clubs began to launch in Palm Beach County high schools. As First Priority continued to grow, it was now doing ministry as First Priority of South Florida. There was expansion of ministry to Miami Dade County, then to Martin County, then to the whole Treasure Coast and finally Brevard County in 2021! In 2019, while First Priority middle and high school clubs continued to widen its reach geographically, it expanded its mission to include reaching 3rd through 5th grade students at elementary schools with the launch of FP Game Day! So, on the occasion of its 25th year of mission and ministry, First Priority has asked God to help them to be on 300 High School, Middle School and Elementary campuses before the end of the school year! God has faithfully opened doors for His gospel to be shared and the team at First Priority fully trusts that He will continue to open more and more doors for His name’s sake.

Chris remembers back to the early days of starting First Priority: “I remember one of our very first clubs was at Pompano Middle. We had four girls who started the club. They were SUPER excited about inviting their friends and we had a huge invite day planned, but there ended up being an after-school track meet, so nobody came. We continued to encourage them to keep inviting people and a few weeks later a kid named James came. James had failed many of his classes several times, was still in middle school and wasn’t necessarily looking for a change. He probably came to the club for the wrong reasons. But God got ahold of his heart. James came to know the Lord, got connected to First Baptist Church, went to a discipleship weekend with them and got baptized. James’ mom came to the Church and said, “I don’t know what’s happened, but my son James’ life has been changed. I want to make sure that this happens to my other son as well.” Later that year, James ran for student body president. He didn’t win, but he gave a speech. He was all dressed up and wearing a tie. All the teachers were amazed at what had happened in this kid’s life. The change that took place was because he came to know Jesus and got connected to a church and grew in his faith. James’ life was impacted forever by the Gospel.”


Dawson McAllister Student Conference at First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale brings youth ministers together. (Chris Lane is chairman of the conference and youth minister at First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale)

Broward County youth groups begin to meet together for quarterly youth events.

The first four First Priority campus clubs start during the school year.

There are 40 campus clubs in Broward with expansion into Palm Beach County.

First Priority expands into Miami Dade County Schools.

First Priority expands into Martin County School.

There are 110 First Priority campus clubs in South Florida.

Campus clubs are meeting at 200 campuses in the Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin County area.

First Priority hires a full-time director in the Treasure Coast.
Game Day Clubs are launched with the goal to reach students in elementary schools.

Campus clubs are launched in Brevard County, expanding First Priority to the Space Coast.

First Priority begins their 25th year of campus ministry.