One of the greater joys I’ve had in ministry over the last years is watching middle school and high school students grow in mission. As in…legitimately begin to live the Great Commission in their everyday life. As I look back and ponder my growth as a leader and how I evolved in leading them in that over the years, there are many things that stick out. Here are a few…
In my early days as a youth pastor – sure, we’d talk about evangelism and I’d preach with all the energy I could muster to give them vision for how they could be used by God to reach their friends. I’d remind them that the disciples were teenagers and give them countless reasons why they shouldn’t let anyone look down upon them because they are young. I’d have them think through their story of how they’ve encountered God and practice talking about what God has done for them because, after all, no one can argue with your testimony. Now, while that’s true and all of those are great things, I can’t say it was effective. We had students who loved Jesus and could worship their heart out, but weren’t necessarily reaching their friends who didn’t know Christ. Frankly, I don’t blame them! We gave them the WHY, but not the HOW.
The way we were teaching them to bring Jesus to their friends was only realistic for very few students. The extroverts. The charismatic personalities. The ones who had the more outrageous testimonies. But for the majority of students, being an “evangelist” of sorts scared the daylights out of them! Panic set in when they began to think through the horror of possible rejection, of not knowing how to respond to a question, of potentially losing a friend if they were to bring up Jesus.
In recent years, we have used the strategy Jesus used when he deployed his disciples to go out on mission. In Luke 10, Jesus gives his disciples a STRATEGY for mission. Look for people of peace – those who are open to you, like you, and want to serve you. Essentially, pay attention to those who want to hang around you, who ask you questions about you, who serve you in some way (buy your lunch when you forgot one, offer to come pick you up, etc.) Often times, the Holy Spirit has already been working there. So all of a sudden, their job becomes simply partnering with the Spirit in what he’s already been doing. Engaging in conversation about their faith with someone who is interested and engaged because the Lord has already prepared the way is so much easier and more fun than the cold conversations that made them sweat.
I’m still a big fan of letting them practice talking about what God has done for them and working out all their awkward while we are together. But helping them recognize people of peace has been a missional game changer!