Our teenagers are used to getting challenged. They get challenged in sports. They get challenged at school. They get challenged by their friends to give into peer pressure. Often, about the only place teenagers don’t get challenged is in church. Instead, they learn safe little lessons about safe little things.
Yet, in the Gospels we see Jesus calling His disciples to danger, to a cause, to active participation in His search-and-rescue mission for lost souls. In Matthew 10:16-20, He actually warned them of the dangers they were about to face, and then He unleashed them to face those dangers by sending them on a community-wide mission trip.
Look, I [Jesus] am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.Matthew 10:16-20
Much of what passes as disciple-making today is a faint echo of Jesus’s model. We have discipleship without danger. But discipleship without danger is no discipleship at all. If I’m a teenager, I have nothing to lose in a typical youth group except an hour of time. The closest I’ll get to danger is a paper cut from turning the pages of Scripture during a lesson.
But when a teenager is put in a position of sharing the Gospel with their friends, everything changes. Now they have purpose. Now they have a vested interest in understanding their faith so they can explain it to others in a clear and compelling way. Now they’re hungry for spiritual truth that can reach into the lives of their lost and hurting friends. Now they’re motivated to pray with passion as they see that Heaven and Hell stand in the balance when it comes to their friends’ souls.
Evangelism as Firestarter
You may be thinking Well, my teenagers aren’t ready for that step. That’s because we have a twisted process of discipleship. We think of evangelism as an outcome, but Jesus thought of it as a trigger. If evangelism is an outcome, then after a certain amount of church attendance, Bible study, and prayer, our teenagers should be ready to evangelize. Well, how’s that worked out for the adults in our churches? The average adult has attended hours and hours of sermons and classes and rarely or never share their faith!When a teenager is put in a position of sharing their faith with their friends, everything changes. They gain purpose and grow hungry for spiritual truth that can reach into the lives of their lost and hurting friends! Click To Tweet
Jesus turned this model upside down by putting His disciples in dangerous situations. He challenged them. He pushed them. He coached them, and He trained them along the way. Think of it this way: Say your church leadership decided they want you to sit through a mandatory six-week, twelve-hour-a-day bomb-defusing class. You don’t have to pass it. You just have to sit through it. Do you think you’d be bored after a half-hour? But what if you were told that after the class was over you were going to Afghanistan to defuse bombs?
We’re forcing our teenagers to sit through what feels to them like a twelve-hour-a-day, boring, bomb-defusing class, but never deploying them to Afghanistan! What is “Afghanistan” for them? It’s sharing their faith in their schools, or on Instagram or Snapchat.
Try This! ❯
Challenge your students during youth group this week to start praying for one friend who needs Jesus.
Our teens are hungry for purpose and meaning in their lives. Let’s give them a cause to live for—THE Cause of telling others about the salvation Christ offers. Jesus made spreading His message a centerpiece of His discipleship strategy. You can too. Light a fire under your apathetic teenagers by making evangelism a centerpiece of your discipleship strategy.
What Can You Do?
What can you do to get started? Here are a few ideas to help you increasingly prioritize the advancement of the Gospel in your youth ministry:
- Set yourself ablaze! Are you on fire for evangelism? Are you burning to reach the lost? Do your teenagers see it in your life? Identify one person you haven’t shared the Gospel with yet, and determine to begin the conversation this week. Then tell your students about your efforts.
- Read or reread Gospelize Your Youth Ministry. If you don’t already have a copy of this handbook for how to build a Gospel Advancing ministry, get your free digital copy of the book here.
- Be persistent. Tie evangelism into as many talks as you can. Have your teens identify everyone in their circle of friends who needs to hear the Gospel. Then hold them accountable and ask them to do the same with you.
- Take 5 for THE Cause of evangelism. Set aside five minutes in every youth group meeting to make evangelism a priority. Spend a couple minutes having one teen share a story of what they’re doing to reach their friends, whether their story is good, bad, or ugly. Then challenge the other teens in your group to share their faith too. Invest a couple minutes each meeting to give the Gospel and invite students to put their faith and trust in Jesus.
- Pray for the lost! Set aside a few minutes each week to pray for friends who don’t know Jesus.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus had His group of followers with Him for about three-and-a-half years, pretty much the same amount of time the average youth leader has their teenagers from 9th to 12th grade?
Let’s use those years to ignite a passion for Christ and His cause.