Teenagers today live in a cause-centric world. Whether it’s saving the planet or bringing revolution to the streets of Cairo, young people are being encouraged to passionately take up causes. One of your goals as a youth leader should be to stir up and harness your teenagers’ passion and focus it on THE Cause of Causes—Christ’s cause of making disciples who make disciples.
Teenagers and Passion = Cause!
I call the various types of motivations that can stir teenagers to share their faith and live for THE Cause “passion fuels.” Once you understand these various “fuels,” you can help your students discover, understand and feed their own particular passion fuel when it comes to evangelism.
I’ve identified 4 distinct passion fuels that I believe can help mobilize teenagers for THE Cause. All 4 are described in Scripture and all are empowered by the Holy Spirit; there may be more evangelism motivations, but in my experience these are the most common—in no particular order.
- Compassion for the lost
- Eternal realities
- Love for God
Compassion for the Lost
When compassion for the lost is someone’s primary passion fuel, their evangelism efforts are an outpouring of their sympathy for those who are hurting and are separated from the hope only found in Jesus Christ. Scripture describes Jesus being motivated by compassion in Matthew 9:36:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
You know the kids in your group who resonate with this fuel. They are the ones who tend to be more focused on the reality of the hell their friends are going through right now in their day-to-day lives than on the more distant reality of an eternal hell separated from God. Their faith-sharing passion is often born out of the here and now misery they see around them; things like cutting, alcohol, drugs, family dysfunction, depression and suicide.
So part of your job as a youth leader is to make it crystal clear that doing life with Jesus is a better way—freer, joyful, purpose-filled and Spirit-empowered. John 10:10 captures the essence of this truth when it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” When compassion driven teenagers internalize this truth, it will fuel their passion for sharing their faith.
One of the weaknesses teenagers primed by this particular passion fuel often struggle with is caring so much about the pain others are feeling that they fail to verbally lay out the gospel message clearly, for fear of hurting or offending others. After all, we all know that Jesus’ message that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) can sometimes be divisive.
Another challenge teenagers motivated by compassion face is that sometimes in the process of reaching their hand down into the pit their friends are in, they may find themselves getting pulled down into the pit themselves. This is the ongoing challenge we all face of standing firm in Christ as we learn how to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14-18). But I believe teenagers are especially vulnerable in this area and need to be prayed up and forewarned about this ongoing challenge.
Step Up and Ignite the Passion!
In coming energize issues, we’ll be looking at the other types of fuels. But in the meantime, be thinking and praying about what you can do in the next few weeks to help your teens fill up on compassion and gird themselves to stand firm in their faith. Here are a few ideas that might help you ignite this particular passion fuel in your teens:
- Explore with your teenagers the kinds of issues that are going on in their friends’ lives and start praying for them together.
- Set aside some time during youth group meetings to share stories of lives changed by Jesus.
- Check out Interlinc’s free youth group resource that will help your teenagers use the upcoming Sony/Tristar movie Soul Surfer to talk to their friends about how faith in Jesus can help someone overcome overwhelming circumstances.
- Have a candid conversation with your teenagers about being careful as they are exposed up close and personal to the sins their hurting friends are struggling with.
- Consider picking up a copy of Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide to Sharing Your Faith for a more in depth look at all the passion fuels.
By helping your teenagers tap into the fuel that motivates them most, you can inspire them to get serious about sharing their faith with their friends!