How Can Parents Train Teenagers to Evangelize?
The first time I shared my faith, the young woman seemingly listened, but when I asked if she wanted to pray, she paused, giggled, and then revealed that she only spoke in French.
This was at a time in my life when I believed that sharing the gospel meant simply getting my testimony out there. The very idea of evangelizing created such anxiety for me because I didn’t quite know what that meant or how to go about it. Because sharing became so rote, I had little regard for the real-life experience of the person I was talking to.
It’s no wonder that teaching our teens what it means to share the gospel can feel daunting. We likely struggle with the same questions our kids do: Do I need to memorize something to share the gospel? What if I just don’t know what to say? Even with the struggle that sometimes accompanies it, teaching our kids to evangelize is necessary. Scripture makes clear that every believer, no matter what age, has a responsibility in sharing the Good News of the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20). So how we can we as parents help our teens better understand what it looks like to engage in evangelism?
Know the Gospel
First and foremost, it’s essential that we know and understand the gospel as parents and that we are teaching it to our children. This is not just a one-and-done conversation, but an ongoing, beautiful telling and retelling of what Jesus has done and how His saving grace impacts every single aspect of our lives. The gospel should be ever present in our hearts, not just our heads.
Summarizing the gospel is a good practice for all of us, and it’s important for our kids to see us work through what it looks like to explain the gospel of Jesus in our own words. Consider asking your kids around dinner one night how they would answer the question: What is the gospel? Then model what it looks like to put it in your own words. The verbal practice helps fight against the temptation to become apathetic and moves us to really consider the magnificence of what it is we believe.
Cultivate an Evangelistic Disposition
There are three important ways we can do this as parents:
- By building relationships with unbelievers
In one of my theology classes, we were asked to write a ten-page letter to an unbelieving friend. When I struggled to come up with someone to write to, I had no choice but to confront the glaring problem…I didn’t know many unbelievers. Parents, we can’t share the gospel with our kids but fail to cultivate a disposition toward evangelism, and one of the greatest ways we do this is by encouraging relationships with unbelievers.
As a mom of a sixteen and seventeen-year-old, I understand how grey the line is between embracing those who don’t know Jesus and embracing their sometimes-alluring ways. There is no easy answer, but what is clear is that we are not called to separate ourselves from unbelievers. Scripture is inundated with references that assume we will know and interact with them. In John 17, Jesus Himself prays that His disciples NOT be taken “out of the world, but that you [Father] keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). This should be our prayer as well as we build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and prudently encourage our children to do the same.
- By demonstrating how to build bridges
The key is understanding that our relationships with unbelievers should be developed with the hope of leading them toward the gospel. The foundation is the relationship. The next step is finding a bridge to gospel-sharing, and that bridge will look different for each friendship. Perhaps start by helping your kids to think of what they have in common with their unbelieving friend. Is it a sport? A certain type of music? A love for movies? All of these can be bridges that open up conversations about Jesus.
What is crucial for us as parents is helping our kids discern the difference between the way they as Christians view this common passion, and the way the world views it. If they love theatre, for example, encourage them to consider giving God the glory when they are praised for a performance. When a friend says, “Why do you answer like that?” there is a bridge to explaining Jesus, the One who gives all good gifts. If your child loves a particular sport, encourage them to not skip church to attend a game. When a friend says, “Why did you miss?” there is a bridge to explain why worship matters.
Even more pointed are the bridges built by taking firm stands in the truth. This is harder to do, but it’s good and right to model and encourage deliberate stances for Jesus. Perhaps it’s posting a Bible verse on Social Media or inviting a friend to a youth group retreat. These are all potential bridges to showing an unbeliever who Jesus is.
- By assisting them in evangelism
There is something beautiful about engaging in evangelism with a child. One of the ways this can happen is by praying for our child’s unbelieving friend by name. When we do this, we are entering into the process of evangelism with them. Asking about and praying for these friends helps our children to remember to be gospel-minded, and it sets the stage for all to see the miraculous work that God can do. It’s not always immediate, but God works through the prayers of His people, so pray boldly and watch with anticipation at the work He will do!
Encourage your children to bring these friends into your home. Our actions can be one of the greatest forms of evangelism that our children will ever see modeled. Simply offering to invite an unbelieving friend to a family dinner is an example modeled by our Savior and one we should seek to model for our children. Pray for your kids as they learn and grow in their understanding of what it means to share Jesus with others. Trust that the Lord is working on their hearts just as powerfully as He is working in the lives of those they seek to evangelize.