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By Chris Roberts, with Jayson French – CIY’s vice president of programming
Each year Christ In Youth has ongoing conversations with youth ministers around the country about trends and issues being exhibited by today’s teenagers. One of the more striking trends that those conversations have brought to light recently is that increasing numbers of young people are hesitant to share the Gospel with their peers.
A July 12, 2010 article from the Barna Group entitled “How Teenagers’ Faith Practices are Changing” said that studies show that less than half of Christian teenagers had admitted to sharing their faith with others (45%).
Jayson French, CIY’s vice president of programming, said he sees six main reasons why today’s teenagers are hesitant to share the Gospel – the biggest of which is that they put too much importance on one single conversation.
“It’s almost like they look at it like diffusing a bomb,” French said. “They’re afraid that they’re going to cut the red wire when they were supposed to cut the yellow wire. Part of it is because we haven’t trained them well enough – we train them in school to do trigonometry and advanced mathematics, but when we tell them to go share their faith we haven’t given them the appropriate training to set them up to succeed.”
French said there are a handful of tactics to help keep students from bombing when sharing their faith and to help when facing any of these six reasons for hesitation:
- “What if I say the wrong thing?” – Remind them that even the members of the early church, as seen in Acts, were intimidated. But God reminds us in Luke 12:11 that the Holy Spirit will provide words for us.
- “What if nothing happens?” – Remind them that sharing the Gospel does not have to be instantaneous or show immediate results. Sometimes it’s a long journey. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul describes the process of planting the seed of faith and letting God water it and make it grow.
- “It might mess up my friendship.” – Help them to look at their world and sphere of influence from a Kingdom of God perspective. When we look at the world the way God does, it changes priorities and becomes a filter for everything. It will eventually help them to look at their reputation beyond just their years in school.
- “What difference does it make?” – For many students, sharing the Gospel isn’t even on their radar because they don’t see Jesus as someone who influences their lives on a daily basis. Point them to the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit – power strong enough to affect change in their lives.
- “I don’t know who to share the Gospel with.” – It’s not uncommon for Christian teenagers to surround themselves with other Christians and have few, if any, meaningful non-Christian friendships. Remind them that Jesus says in Mark 2:17 that he didn’t come into the world to heal the healthy, but the sick. Encourage students to intentionally place themselves on teams or clubs to create those meaningful relationships.
- “There’s never a good time.” – Be intentional about helping them understand it’s not about a singular moment in time, but about being faithful all the time. Help them to look to all aspects of 1 Timothy 4:12 – speech, life, love, faith and purity – and encourage them to let their entire lives be a testimony to the Gospel, not merely the moments when they are given a platform to speak.
Ultimately, French said, Christian teenagers desire to please God, and the thought of disappointing Him by messing up sharing the Gospel scares them to the point of inaction. These easy-to-employ tactics will help equip them for any scenario in which they might share the Gospel with others.