Recently I found myself in a conversation with some youth workers after a training event I had lead. Someone made the statement, “The biggest weakness in my students is that I can’t seem to motivate them to openly talk about their faith.” We chatted for a moment about this, with several of the other youth workers offering input and agreement. But this comment stuck with me for a few days.
I thought about this youth worker’s comment. If I looked at the teeagers in our youth group, many of them would fall into this category: unwilling (or seemingly uninterested) to engage others in meaningful faith conversation.
I thought about the reasons why this might be the case. I jotted down a few. I wonder what you would add or subtract from these?
• Fear of Rejection/Fear of Social Awkwardness—Self-explanatory. We are by nature “risk averse.” Most of us want to be accepted and don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. So, we are timid in our expressions of faith because we don’t want to offend. Teenagers who value friendships so highly seem particularly prone to this.
• Fear of Insufficient Information—Teenagers (and adults) fear that awkward moment where someone asks a question they can’t answer. This is a particularly tragic obstacle to me, as we have been given God’s Word precisely so that we might know the Gospel. We have all the info we need at our disposal. This also shows a lack of reliance on the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us to testify to the truth.
• The Intangible Nature of the Consequences—This idea came straight from a friend and was articulated very well. Death and eternity and judgment are simply too far “out there.” The consequences of our sin and separation do not seem real. Therefore, the urgency in sharing the Gospel is not there.
• The Influence of Cultural Context—I call this the “-ism” effect. Religious pluralism, moral relativism and secular humanism have created a cultural Bermuda triangle where absolute truth claims go to die. If you claim there is only one way to salvation and eternal life, watch out.
• An Incomplete Grasp of the Gospel—This takes a few forms. Maybe students don’t have a full understanding of the real consequences of sin; that sin earns for us death and separation from God. Or maybe they don’t grasp the power of the Gospel message, how Christ alone is able to bring life and purpose to us. Whatever the case, there is some sort of disconnect with the full understanding of the Gospel message.
• Do Not See Evangelism Modeled in Any Adult Figure in Their Lives—This is a big one to me. Study after study (The NSYR and some of Ed Stetzer/Lifeway’s research come to mind) show that parents are still the main influencers in teenagers’ lives. And meaningful, nonparent-adult relationships are high on the list. If youth workers and parents model the importance of evangelism, students will begin to value its importance.
I’m sure I’ve left out something. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I missed. And it’s important to make sure that we don’t paint with too broad a brush. There are teenagers who are actively engaged in sharing their faith. And we need to encourage and praise and continue to train these students. But there are many others who aren’t actively sharing their faith with the lost. And that, to me, is an issue.
In God’s plan to redeem the lost, we are His primary means of sharing the truth of the Gospel. The questions is, do the students in your youth group embrace this truth?