Let me offer you a challenge: ask a group of Christian students if they want to evangelize their friends.  These are friends they go to school with, play soccer with, and interact with every day in math class or at their locker.  Maybe a hand or two will rise in the audience, but I have experienced a palpable amount of nervousness and fear at the mention of that word...“evangelize.”  Now try the same challenge again but replace the word evangelism with a phrase like, “Do you want to help your friends discover Jesus?”  Virtually every hand in the audience will go up with passion, anticipation, and hope.

Friends, something has happened to the word evangelism.  Good or bad – something has happened.  The word has become loaded in a negative direction.  Bring the word up around a teacher, administrator or parent and they will think you are training their students to proselytize on their school campus and to their peers.  Yikes.  Flashbacks to bullhorn guy. 

Despite the shift in understanding around the word evangelism, we as youth leaders and disciplers of students continue to use the word.  Is it all we know?  Do we not have a greater context for what God calls us to as followers of Him and the Great Commission?  We do, and we must not dismiss the command to be witnesses of God’s work in our lives and our student’s lives.

Looking for ways to deepen your student’s understanding and practice of evangelism?  Here are a few tips that might help:

  1. Dump the conventional language (5 spiritual laws, the word “evangelism,” the napkin drawing, the circle drawing, and the tracts).  I am not calling these things wrong or bad, but they are generally not helpful to a student discovering what sharing their faith is about.
     
  2. Emphasize relationship.  Students are in relationship with their friends every single day in class and out of class.  If we can train students to influence their friends towards Jesus in the context of their existing relationships, rather than using some form of leverage or force, our students will be trained to influence their peers toward Christ for a lifetime.
     
  3. Model.  No I don’t mean dressing up in your latest outfit and taking pictures of yourself.   What I mean is this: begin a relationship with a peer of your own who doesn’t yet know Jesus.  Take loving risks with them and influence them towards Christ via relationship.  Share your journey openly with your students.
     
  4. Share stories.  Students sharing their stories with each other is hands down the best way to energize them and spur them on to continue reaching out to and loving their friends.

By: Kevin Bussema, National YFC Core Director

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