Cultivating an outreach-focused youth ministry takes prayer, strategic thinking, practical skills and gritty determination. That’s why we’ve been working our way through the “Five Keys to Nurturing a Faith-Sharing Focus.”
Key #1 was Pray. We looked at several practical steps you could take right away to make prayer a higher priority in your life and ministry.
Today, we’re exploring Key #2: Live. I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is that you consistently model and boldly communicate personally living out the priority of evangelism in your own life. If you expect your students to prioritize sharing their faith with others, they need to see you doing it too!
More is Caught than Taught
People have a tendency to copy what they see—good and bad. Having children has been a joy and a huge lesson in human behavior. Young children can’t read a book about how to learn to talk or read or hold a crayon…they learn new behaviors from observing their parents, siblings and others around them.
There’s a sense in which the same is true with living out an evangelism-focused lifestyle. Of course they need you to train them in the basic skills of how to share the message of the gospel. But in terms of actually consistently prioritizing evangelism in their personal lives, I believe the old saying is true: More is caught than taught.
When it comes to helping students learn to share their faith, more than likely, you, as their youth leader, are the biggest influence on them. So it’s critical that you transparently model the behavior you are striving to develop in their lives—and this includes finding a segue opportunity in every lesson you teach that takes you to the cross, and allows you to give the gospel every week in youth group.
Lead the Way!
Check out this passage:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:1-4).
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do these verses say about Jesus’ view of teachers who do not “practice what they preach” to their students? Do you find this sobering?
- What happens when we teach our teenagers to share their faith with those who don’t know Jesus personally, but aren’t leading the way ourselves?
- Do you think you have to be spiritually perfect or just “one step ahead” of your students?
Think of two or three people you can be purposeful about sharing your faith with as a model for your teens. You do not need to be a gifted evangelist. You just need to be honest, open and authentic.
Faith Sharing Styles
When you model relational evangelism, it doesn’t mean that all your students will do it exactly the same way that you do. In fact, God created each of us uniquely, and that diversity is a great gift. So it’s only natural that different types of people will be comfortable with different styles of evangelism.
There are at least four distinct styles of relating to others that can significantly impact how we prefer to share our faith:
- Talkers are creative and persuasive (Paul the Apostle). Talkers are convincing with their words.
- Stalkers are upfront and bold (Peter the Apostle). Stalkers never seem to let a conversation go by without leading it back to the cross.
- Buddies are relational and loving (Priscilla and Aquilla). They are the listeners. Buddies are “friendship evangelism” wired.
- Brains are logical and smart (Luke the Doctor). They are the thinkers, trying to make sense of it all, and helping others to do the same.
Communicate the Styles
Let your students know there are different styles of faith-sharing. Whatever your own personal style of evangelism is, share that with your students. This helps them see that they don’t have to necessarily take the same approach that you do. Plus, it helps them see that you are honest and authentic. Create a story telling culture in your youth group where everyone, including you, can share their own evangelism struggles and opportunities—the good, the bad, and the ugly. This can happen through a variety of communication channels such as:
- Upfront in the large group
- Small groups
- Individual conversations
- Text messages
This week, look for one or two specific ways you can begin to increasingly model and communicate your evangelism efforts to your students. It could be as simple as communicating your desire to share your faith, and then reporting back on the results at your next meeting.
You’re the youth leader! Lead your youth by personally living out this critical dimension of following Jesus!