Teaching Young Teens to Articulate Their Faith Stories

One of our roles as youth leaders is to teach teenagers to abide and depend on Jesus each day. We want them to move from crisis care (reaching out to God only when they are in crisis) to community with God, having a relationship that deepens over time and stretches through both the ups and downs of their day.

I’m thrilled when I see teenagers growing in Christ. I see it. I affirm it. I encourage it. And our team does the same. They see it. They affirm it. They encourage it.

Sometimes we see, affirm and encourage in front of other teenagers when we tell their personal stories.

But the most effective way of sharing about their growth in Christ is when they share about their growth in Christ.

Somehow, I forget this too quickly and let the gift of “telling” slip through the cracks. When, in fact, it is one of our greatest evangelistic resources.

So, to get back on track, we’re going to start having students tell their stories—how God became more than a name to them—in front of their peers each week.

There are three things I was taught to say when preparing a testimony:

  • Before I met Christ
  • When I met Christ
  • My life since I met Christ

I think this is a good working framework, but for someone who is 11 years old, it may be a bit more difficult to articulate a “before” Christ life. “When I met Christ” can also pose problems to the teenager who has believed in Jesus since they were in preschool. They feel like they don’t have a story to tell because there wasn’t a crisis moment or event. And life since Christ, for some, isn’t always the best. Even though their lives have completely changed from the inside out, their daily life circumstances may not have.

I’m not saying that this format is bad. I’m just saying it presents some problems as I think about young teenagers telling other young teenagers about their own lives with Christ.

In the past, I’ve done a life-mapping seminar at youth worker conventions, teaching youth workers how to deconstruct and understand their own development, and how to encourage their students to do the same. A part of this map is a timeline of events from birth to present. And on that timeline, I instruct them to draw a symbol during the time when God became more than a name for them.

I like marking life with Christ like this.
Even if a teenager has been in church and has believed in God and said the prayer of salvation, there is probably a moment in his or her life when God became more than lessons learned, but a person to be experienced, and it changed things for them.

I am working on a new set of questions—starting with these:

  • When did God become more than a name for you? Describe that moment when you met Jesus.
  • How has your life changed or developed since that moment or experience?
  • What keeps you growing in God? Name some things that help you grow in your faith.
  • Who encourages you as you follow Christ? 
  • What is a hope or dream that you have given to God?
  • What would you say to your friends about what it’s like to know Jesus?

What questions would you add? Developmentally, are there questions that need to be changed to fit?   

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Brooklyn Lindsey
Brooklyn recently founded The Justice Movement, a church youth movement that helps teenagers help others. Her priority is to inspire and resource youth to break cycles of poverty through faith in action. An ordained pastor, Brooklyn has served in full time youth ministry for the last 16 years, authored numerous books, contributes and communicates for Orange Leaders, and speaks at camps and conferences. She, her husband Coy, and daughters Kirra and Mya live in Lakeland, FL where they like being outside, playing with their dog Marley. www.brooklynlindsey.com @brooklynlindsey/ www.justicemovement.com @thejustmove