By Jacob Haywood
What do you believe about God? How do you know what’s right or wrong? How do you think someone gets to heaven?
These are important questions that everyone has opinions about, especially Christians, but few are engaging in regular conversations about them with their peers.
A recent Evangelism Explosion study conducted by Lifeway Research found most Americans are open to having conversations about faith, yet most say their Christian friends rarely discuss their beliefs.
Whether this lack of evangelism is born out of fear, uncertainty about one’s ability to witness, or ambivalence towards matters of faith, every Christian’s call is to make disciples. Churches can’t wait until their students are adults to equip them to share their faith. They must prioritize equipping students to boldly share their faith now so it’s natural for them to continue engaging in faith conversations as adults.Churches can’t wait until their students are adults to equip them to share their faith. They must prioritize equipping students to boldly share their faith now. — @jacobhaywood Click To Tweet
In fact, even more than most adults, students have a wide scope of friends they’re in close contact with, giving greater opportunities to evangelize more people. Furthermore, the research shows that curiosity about faith is higher among young people but decreases with age. So, evangelism can and should start exactly where students are.
Evangelism is “the spreading of the gospel through public preaching or personal witness,” writes Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at Lifeway, in his book, Student Ministry That Matters. “A healthy student ministry will share the gospel through its preaching as well as train its people to share the gospel in a personal setting.”
The fields are ripe for harvest. So how do we help Christian students catch the excitement for sharing their faith? Here are three things that will help students develop the practice of sharing their faith.
1. Proclaim and promote the gospel regularly
Sharing good news comes naturally. Conversations about faith and the gospel should be just as natural as conversations about a great movie, sports highlight, or prize someone won. After all, the Greek word translated as “gospel” literally means good news.
We must have faith conversations with students regularly. If the only time they hear us talk about Jesus is from the pulpit or in the Sunday School classroom, Jesus won’t seem like a big deal in our lives or worth sharing. To motivate students to share about Jesus, we must proclaim the gospel and constantly promote it as the good news it is. When students regularly hear from their pastors, coaches, parents, and friends about how good the gospel is, they’ll more naturally share it, especially if they themselves have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. When you have good news, it’s easy to want others to also partake in the goodness you’ve experienced.If the only time students hear us talk about Jesus is from the pulpit or in the Sunday School classroom, Jesus won't seem like a big deal in our lives or worth sharing. — @jacobhaywood Click To Tweet
Also, encouraging students to speak the name of Jesus out loud at home and school will make conversations about Him come about more easily. Try adding his name into everyday talk, like “Thanks to Jesus, I am where I am today,” or “This world is crazy, but I’ve got Jesus.” After all, it’s by the name of Jesus that we are saved (Acts 4:12).
2. Equip with tools
Students must be equipped with not only the desire to share Christ but the tools to do so.
The research reveals the evangelistic method of delivery—tract, pamphlet, app, or conversation—doesn’t change a person’s willingness to hear the message. But it can be helpful to equip students with a tool they’ll be comfortable using.
There’s an abundance of evangelism tools to use and equip students with, including The Roman’s Road, 3 Circles, Evangelism Explosion, and Life in 6 Words. The mode doesn’t matter as long as it accurately shares the gospel.
What matters, and what the research shows, is that people are open to hearing the gospel. So, students need to be trained with a model they can easily and confidently share and take with them wherever they go.Students need to know their time and energy hasn’t been wasted when they share their faith and their friend doesn’t immediately confess faith in Christ. — @jacobhaywood Click To Tweet
We need to train and equip students to be able to share the gospel, ask probing questions, and partake in spiritual conversations, but we also must remind them that it’s God who saves. It’s our duty to proclaim.
Students need to know their time and energy hasn’t been wasted when they share their faith and their friend doesn’t immediately confess faith in Christ. They could be leading someone to question their disbelief in God or little by little see the grace of God and the hope they can have in Him.
3. Model with lifestyle
Lastly, we cannot expect students to live out their faith in a lifestyle of evangelism if we aren’t doing so ourselves. In his book Engaging Generation Z, Tim McKnight says students “will duplicate what we model.”
He argues, “If we want evangelistic, missionally minded students, we must be evangelistic, missionally minded role models for them to follow.” Modeling a lifestyle of evangelism must start from the senior pastor and be evident throughout all members of the church.If we want evangelistic, missionally minded students, we must be evangelistic, missionally minded role models for them to follow. — @drtimmcknight Click To Tweet
Christianity is meant to be shared. Christians are called to talk about our faith and who God is “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7, CSB).
The research shows if our faith matters to us, people are willing to hear it. So, we must proclaim, equip, and model evangelism to our students, as we equip them to carry it into the future.
The gospel is good news. Good news must be shared.
Jacob is a PhD student in Christian Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pursuing a ThM in Christian Ethics, and an alumnus with a Masters of Divinity in Christian Ministry. He is the student pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma, TN.