What Happened to Teen Evangelism?
Today’s Kids Aren’t Sharing Their Faith
When I was growing up, my Christian friends would often share their faith with me in hopes that I would come to know Jesus, myself. Sometimes, it might take the form of an engaging conversation; other times it might be an invite to a lock-in, a Bible study, or an Audio Adrenaline concert. (Google them.)
Thank God I grew up when I did. I might not have ever met Jesus if I was growing up around today’s kids.
Silent about the Savior
According to a study from The Barna Group, a research entity that analyzes spiritual matters from a Christian perspective, 47% of today’s Millennials believe it “is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” Translation: roughly half of those who are approximately 22-37 years of age think it’s actually bad to witness to people in their social sphere. (Barna’s report, entitled “Reviving Evangelism,” didn’t include research on Gen Z, but those leading the study rightly believe the nation’s youngest generation would only “amplify this stance toward evangelism” given their “thoroughly post-Christian posture.”)
Ironically, a staggering 96% of Millennials know that “part of my faith means being a witness about Jesus.” Moreover, 94% of young believers understand that “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.” A whopping 86% of them even claim to know how to handle questions that arise from their unbelieving friends or family members and 73% think they’re “gifted” at sharing their faith with others.
And yet, almost half of them won’t share their faith because they believe witnessing is wrong. That bad news is compounded by the fact that, on average, each Millennial has four close friends or family members who hold to a faith that’s not Christianity. Their impact on the Kingdom could be staggering.
Instead, it’s stumbling.
Before we furrow our brow and menacingly cross our arms wondering “what’s wrong with kids today?” we should pause long enough to survey the national landscape. This upsetting reality is just a symptom of bigger problems facing faith today, namely a decline in religion, an overall apathy for spiritual matters in general, and a growing suspicion for people of faith.
So, has Christianity seen its better days?
Regardless of the current state of affairs, we don’t have to allow things to stay this way. In fact we don’t need to become overwhelmed with trying to counter every lie out there, instead we should be ready to engage our kids in conversations about truth. Youth leaders and parents are uniquely poised to help young people develop biblical convictions on this matter, overcome any fears associated with sharing their faith, and model obedience to what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Here are two very simple tips that will nudge your teenagers in the right direction.
- Ask questions to find out where they stand on the subject. You won’t know which “half” your kids are in until you ask them, so pick a time to sit down and talk with them. But don’t reduce your conversation to a lecture; instead, ask a few thought-provoking questions to find out where they stand on peer evangelism, and more importantly, to see what they think scripture says about it. Here are some ideas to get you going:
What does the Bible have to say about Christians sharing their faith?
Do you think sharing your faith in Christ with others is a good practice or not? Why?
Be honest. Do you regularly share your faith in Christ with others? Why or why not?
If yes, what approach do you use…and how effective is it?
Why do you think it’s so difficult to share our faith?
What’s the worst that can happen if you share your faith? What’s the best that can happen?
Who is God leading you to share your faith with in the coming days? How can we pray?
- Provide helpful, realistic, and effective training. Our kids need more than a pep talk to get them off the bench and involved in the spiritual lives of their friends. They will probably need some great training. Fortunately, there are some really helpful resources out there, one of the best being the four videos from Jonathan McKee called Real Conversations (the first one is on YouTube for free). In addition, our friend Greg Stier at Dare 2 Share Ministries is one of the best at equipping young people to reach their friends with the good news of Jesus. He offers great resources (like this four minute crash course on sharing your faith), tons of free resources on his website, and leads fantastic conferences that really help young people know how to pray, how to listen, and how to speak when it comes to sharing their faith.
I firmly believe that one of the best ways we can grow the faith of our kids is by helping them learn how to share their faith with others. We don’t have to settle for stagnant faith in our own kids, nor an absent faith in the lives of their friends. If we can help our kids think and live biblically, only God knows what’s possible!
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.