These seven obstacles to your teens sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life:
1. You're doing it for them. Think "outreach" in youth ministry, and we automatically think "event." The words go together like "dodge" and "ball." The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach "event." Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends, they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in gospel conversations.
Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing teenagers to be the outreach event.
To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just, "Hey kids, bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives," we must equip them to bring the "J" word up with their own peers.
2. They don't understand the urgency. When's the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that's right, hell. Of the 12 times the word "hell" is mentioned in the New Testament, 11 are from Jesus Himself. Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors.
Was He using scare tactics? Of course He was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on his 4-year-old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour. It's out of love that Jesus "scares" us with what is at stake for those who are lost.
3. It's not a true priority in your youth ministry. I'll never forget getting a personal tour of a multimillion-dollar nonprofit ministry and asking the guide an awkward question. On a plaque, the ministry had listed their values and priorities.
The first was evangelism. I simply asked the tour guide which of their many divisions were focused on evangelism and how it was being fleshed out on a grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded (as the other leaders with me cringed). Evangelism was a plaque priority but not a real priority in this ministry.
If evangelism is truly a priority, then our youth leaders will be scheduling time for evangelism training on their calendars and in their weekly meetings. Are you carving out time to have teenagers share stories (good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations they are engaged in? Are you taking the time to give the gospel just in case any unreached teens show up that week?
4. They don't know how to bring it up. If teenagers don't know how to bring up the gospel to their friends, they probably won't. If their friend says, "It's hot in here," and they respond, "It's hot in hell too," that's probably not the best strategy.
Teenagers must be equipped to naturally engage their friends by asking questions and listening. The free Dare 2 Share app has a simple strategy we use called "Ask, Admire, Admit" on the "How 2 Share" segment than can be very effective in equipping teenagers to bring the good news up with their peers.
We also have developed high-quality, beautifully illustrated outreach books that youth leaders can receive free of charge on share6campaign.com. Over 260,000 of these books are being used across the nation to help teenagers engage in gospel conversations.
5. It's not being modeled by your leaders (yes, that includes you). Share the gospel. Have your leaders do the same. Set the pace as leaders.
6. They suffer from a lack of gospel fluency. Could your teenagers pass the microphone test? If I put a microphone up to their face as they were leaving youth group and said, "You have two minutes to explain the gospel message to me," could they do it in a clear and comprehensive enough way for a lost person to understand the good news? If not, then your teenagers are not fluent enough in the gospel message.
7. There's not enough intercessory prayer. Is intercessory prayer for the lost a "first-of-all" level priority in your youth ministry? As someone once said, "We must learn to talk to God about men before we talk to men about God."
If every week in youth group you set aside some time for intercessory prayer for the salvation of unreached teenagers, God's love for the lost will begin to marinate into the souls of your teenagers.
These obstacles to your teenagers sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life.
Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which mobilizes teenagers to share their faith.
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