Growing up as a young Christian, I always knew that it was important to share my faith.
This was never the issue.
The issue was the constant unfavourable narrative that played over in my mind about what sharing my faith would mean for my reputation. What those ‘others’ would think.
Maybe you can relate.
And maybe you notice the same hesitation amongst those that are in your youth ministry.
This challenge is a typical one as we get the opportunity to disciple teenagers in the way of Jesus. But if I’m honest, I don’t know if there’s been a dramatic urgency.
That is, until now.
Barna estimates that 59% of millennials are likely to leave the Church before 2030.
Another report has indicated that between 28 and 42 million teens raised in self-identified Christian homes will choose to leave a life with Christ over the next 30 years – the largest single generational loss in US history.
Evangelism is not just relevant in our youth ministries today–it’s essential.
Rather than approaching evangelism in the same ways that we have over the past couple of decades, it’s time to sound the alarm that this challenge before us is immense and will require a change in our approach.
And let’s start by acknowledging that the way we’ve approached evangelism has easily led to discouragement for so many.
For example, I can recall a time that I was golfing and got paired up with a few guys I didn’t know. Halfway through the round, they asked me what I did for work. My response brought about a wide range of vocabulary that slowly diminished as they sheepishly shrivelled away, along with their golf game. This was a small moment of discouragement that could have led to a lifetime of fear of sharing my faith.
Imagine that discouragement for your teens.
Often the students we lead feel so unequipped and unaware of how to begin, that evangelism is the last of their priorities, and maybe you’ve felt the same.
“I don’t know how.”
“What’s the point?”
“I’ve already tried.”
The general sentiment is that you need to have the right words, the right tools, and a Paul-like gifting to participate in the great commission. We need to drastically change our posture towards evangelism, and here’s why:
The invitation to go and make disciples is for everyone.
Not just for Jesus.
Not just for pastors.
Not just for those who “have it all together”.
Everyone. That means you, and your students.
But what if I told you there was good news for you and the students you lead?
Our role is not to replace Him but to join Him.
To put it another way, Darrel Johnson says, “Evangelism is joining the conversation of the Holy Spirit is already having with someone else.”
God doesn’t need us to do all of the work, because He already is.
Here’s a better thought: God doesn’t need us, yet he chooses to use us anyway.
But how do we practically do this? Let’s look at the approach of Jesus.
Jesus prays… a lot.
What’s your prayer life like?
Jesus spent hours, and I mean hours, in prayer. When things got tough; He prayed. When things were overwhelming; He prayed. Even when things were great; He prayed. This created such intimacy with the Father that it didn’t matter what was asked of Jesus, He did it.
Do your students see this same intimacy between you and the Father?
Mother Theresa was spot on in saying this, “I used to pray that God would change things, now I pray and God changes me and then I change things.”
The more time you devote to prayer, the more His voice will become recognizable.
Jesus pays attention.
Have you ever been reading a book and suddenly realize that you have no idea what you’ve been reading for the past ten minutes?
You’re not alone!
But what if it’s one of your favourites? A book you will take to the grave with you?
It becomes a lot easier to read, doesn’t it?
The more you fall in love with Jesus, the easier it becomes to walk with Him. The easier it becomes to fall in love with His word, His desires, and His mindset. It’s then that you will develop an attentiveness to the Holy Spirit and His leadings.
In John 5:19 we see Jesus, “only doing what I see my Father doing”. Our goal should be the same.
When was the last time you followed the Spirit’s lead on something?
More importantly, when was the last time you influenced your students to do the same?
The more we pay attention to the Spirit’s leadings, we will be drawn to join Him rather than pressured to initiate.
Jesus was asked over 300 questions, but only directly answered 8.
One of the biggest desires for students is to be heard. They are buried beneath thousands of voices in the media, reflecting on what their place is in all of it.
If you were asked 300 questions, would you feel obligated to answer each one?
Maybe the reason Jesus didn’t answer all of those questions because He didn’t need to.
Maybe He knew that all of these questions had a commonality.
Maybe they all just wanted to be heard.
Maybe your students just want you to listen.
Non-Christian Youth are more willing to engage with Christians who listen without judgment and don’t force them to draw conclusions. Teaching our teens to actively listen as Jesus would have, is a huge step in helping them confidently share their faith with others.
One of the most prevalent themes of Jesus’ time on earth was His invitation to follow Him.
How many times have you received an invitation?
If we’re all being honest, most of us have received invitations to events we really did not want to attend.
What hurts though, is when you’re not invited to something important. Something you see as valuable.
Every day people are walking directly past the invitation Jesus has extended, and we’re the reason why.
In John 1:46, we see Philip, a follower of Jesus, extend the invitation to a skeptic. We again see it in John 4 with the woman at the well. A simple, yet profound invitation.
“Come and see”.
The next generation wants to belong to something bigger than themselves.
But what use is it if we don’t offer them the biggest something they could be a part of?
Take the pressure off you, and your students, by grasping this; the invitation is more about the partnership and less about the preparation.
Jesus already created the invitation.
Now it’s in you and your students’ hands to be passed on.
Evangelism is not only relevant in our youth ministries; it’s essential.
Are you looking for more tools to help you teach youth about evangelism?
We hosted an interactive Zoom call to discover more tools for championing evangelism in your youth ministry. On-demand replay and downloadable resources.
Learn more about the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College through their website or by emailing David at [email protected]