Teenagers can be a tough audience and sharing the gospel a tough subject. So how do you inspire a tough audience to engage in the tough stuff of evangelism?
As the leader of a ministry called Dare 2 Share, an organization that annually equips tens of thousands of teens to evangelize, I am in the motivation business. I have to be. If a clinical approach to evangelism were enough to motivate teenagers we could just do a video-based training series for youth groups and leave it at that. But it takes way more to motivate teens to actually go beyond talking about evangelism to actually doing it.
Here are the 5 essentials I have discovered about motivating teenagers to share the gospel:
1. Reposition evangelism from being just another Christian duty to being the ultimate cause.
Jesus rebuked the religious grumblers and mumblers of his day with a crystal clear comeback, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" Luke 19:10. The driving mission of Jesus was a hands-on search and rescue mission for the lost, disenfranchised, too-evil-to-rescue sinners. Specifically in this passage he was referring to Zacchaeus, the tax collector who was despised by the Jews and used by the Romans. But once this tree climbing traitor put his faith in Jesus he gave half of his possessions to the poor and quadrupled payback for any social injustices he had committed.
Help your teens see Luke 19:1-10 as the key to eradicating poverty, stopping human trafficking and advancing social justice. The more we can lead people to Jesus the more they can create change in their circle of influence. Stop separating social justice from evangelism (like I did for years) and view it as the real key to multiplying change-makers across the planet.
2. Share a lot of stories.
The more stories of changed lives your teens hear the more motivated they will be to evangelize. Stories can capture the heart of teenagers in a way that mere lecture cannot. Maybe that's why Jesus was such a prolific storyteller. He bypassed intellectual objections and went straight to the hearts of his hearers. But Jesus wasn't the only story-teller in the New Testament.
When Paul and Barnabas were headed back to Jerusalem they told stories of changed lives along the way, "The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them" Acts 15:3,4.
Have teenagers share stories of those they are engaging with the gospel. Tie stories into your weekly talks. The more stories you share the more inspired your teens will be to share their faith.
3. "Create" more stories by taking your teens out to evangelize.
If you want to have more stories to share then create them. In other words, go out and evangelize with your teenagers. Go to a park with some of your teens and have a pick up game of basketball with the teenagers who are there and, afterward, share the good news of Jesus (or get one of your teens to do it and you be their wingman.)
There are many ways you can get your teens involved with evangelism. Here are a few:
-Do a community survey. Use it as a way to take the spiritual temperature of your neighborhood as well as a springboard for evangelistic conversations.
-Sponsor a free car wash and take prayer requests of those in the cars (which can lead to more gospel conversations.)
-Take your teens to a local shopping mall, break up in twos and engage in conversations with other teenagers.
-Give out free bottles of water at a busy walkway on a hot day and use it as an opportunity to talk about the living water with those you are serving.
There are many ways for teens to engage evangelistically. Ultimately, the best place for them to start sharing their faith is in their own circle of friends. Hold them accountable to do just that and let them do the same with you.
As you lead your teenagers to evangelize you'll create more and more stories that you can share with the rest of the youth group to inspire them to do the same.
4. Talk about hell.
There I said it. Teenagers need to be reminded of what's at stake for those who die without Christ. In a very real way, those who don't know Jesus are unknowingly headed 100 mph at a cliff that leads to everlasting destruction. Our job as caring Christians is to jerk the steering wheel...and to get our teens to do the same with their friends.
Paul put it this way in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."
Jude put it this way in Jude 1:23, "save others by snatching them from the fire...."
John put it this way in John 3:36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them."
Jesus put it this way in John 5:24, "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."
We need to inspire our teens to help their friends cross from death to life. We must equip them to rescue their friends from the hell they are headed to and the one they are going through apart from Jesus Christ. (By the way there's an app to help you do just that!)
Ultimately, the power to truly inspire teenagers to share the gospel is rooted in the Holy Spirit. Pray for your teenagers consistently, specifically and fervently. Pray that they will be inspired to live and give their faith in powerful ways. Intercede on their behalf that God will fill them with an unstoppable passion to spread the good news.
As God answers your prayer your youth group meetings will be filled with an air of excitement and a more and more new believers! And that will inspire everyone!