Not training a Christian teen how to share their faith is like refusing to train a basketball player how to shoot the ball.
Rate Yourself: How competent are you when it comes to energizing your students to evangelize their world?
(Not even on my grid) (So-so) (Feeling good about this area)
This little exercise is not intended to be a guilt trip. It is intended to be a reality check for one of the essential priorities Jesus has given every one of His followers. After all, HE’s the one who has called each of us to be “fishers of men” and “go and make disciples.”
Risk and Reward
Obviously, obedience to Jesus and seeing people come to Christ are two of the primary reasons why it’s so important that we become competent in the area of evangelism training. But I’m convinced there’s another highly compelling reason to make sure our young people are mobilized and equipped to share their faith: it will help them grow spiritually.
As your Christian teens move outside their comfort zones and risk their popularity for the sake of the Jesus’ gospel message, their relationship with God will grow deeper. They will learn how to pray fervently and cling to Him as their rock. As they learn how to put words to what they believe and why they believe it, their theological understanding of their Christian faith will mature. Evangelism training will help prepare them for a lifetime of following Jesus. Research shows that teenagers who know, own, live and share their faith have a much stronger likelihood of keeping their faith long-term.
Developing Fully Devoted Followers of Jesus
In her book Almost Christian, based on the National Study of Youth and Religion, Kenda Creasy Dean identifies four marks of young people who are highly devoted to their faith traditions:
- “They confess their tradition’s creed, or God-story
- They belong to a community that enacts the God-story
- They feel called by this story to contribute to a larger purpose
- They have hope for the future promised by this story.”
Teenagers who fully embrace Jesus’ gospel message, grasp the reality that something intensely important is at stake in a larger story here—the souls of their friends. They understand the truth that they—they personally—have a role to play as Christ’s ambassadors to a lost and hurting world. They truly believe and live out Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20:
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
Missing the Bar
Here’s a disturbing statistic for you. In The Jesus Survey by Mike Nappa, only 9% of Christian teens surveyed expressed strong confidence in the four key doctrines of Christianity (the Bible is trustworthy; Jesus is God; Jesus died and rose again; Jesus is the only way to heaven).
But here’s an encouraging stat for those of you who are Dare 2 Share conference alumni. In our extensive 2013 survey of teens and youth leaders, 82% of teens who’ve been to a Dare 2 Share conference know what they believe and why. Is it because we teach them well at our weekend events? Partly, but it’s also because as they go out and share their faith, what they believe and why they believe becomes steeled and sealed in their souls. The very process of sharing Jesus and articulating His message of grace to those who don’t know him helps them grow deeper in their relationship with God.
Attending a Dare 2 Share event provides great evangelism training for your teenagers, and serves as a fantastic initial catalyst for prioritizing outreach in their personal lives and in your youth group as a whole. But I think of it as a merry-go-round. As a youth leader, you have to keep the momentum going after the big event by continually pushing it. You also have to remember that Satan is pushing that merry-go-round in the opposite direction.
Remember how Paul told the Thessalonians, “We wanted to come to you…But Satan stopped us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18)? The Evil One would like nothing better than to distract and discourage your teenagers’ efforts to share the gospel with others. This is why prayer is so vital when it comes to evangelism and your efforts to make it a priority in your youth ministry.
Building Your E-Training Competency
So how do you go about continuing to build your own evangelism training competency, and that of your leadership team? encourage you to get familiar with (or revisit) the wide variety of e-training resources Dare 2 Share has developed to help you. Check out some of the following:
- Online articles for youth leaders on prioritizing evangelism
- Free, creative online Outreach Activities ideas
- “Take 5 for THE Cause”
- 100 free outreach books available at Share6campaign.com
- Live THE Cause Video Series for Youth Leaders
- Live THE Cause Video Series for Student Leaders
- SALT evangelism training curriculum
- Fearless evangelism training conferences for teens in 2015
- Evangelism training books and curriculum available at www.dare2share.org/store
Building your e-training competency has life-long implications for your teenagers, and eternal implications for their unreached friends. You can help your leaders and students develop the attitudes and habits that lead to a lifetime of faithfully living out the gospel of Christ in word and deed.
Get them fit for life!