Well, I feel like a silly youth leader! How did I not clearly see this brilliant “resource” in front of me when sharing the gospel with my teens and their friends?
I was an adult leader in a ministry that regularly attended high school events to develop friendships and share the gospel with teens. Boy, was it awkward (#AwkwardIsAwesome)! And while going to where the teens were at was helpful, the relationships took a while to build, which delayed us inviting them to group.
I couldn’t help but wonder, is there a smarter way to go about getting unreached student to come out to group so they can hear about Jesus sooner?
Sadly, I was lazy and didn’t seek out that smarter way. So, God, in His ever-so-gracious and loving character, showed us (through one teen girl) how to effectively spread His good news faster.
Apart from this girl, the majority of our teens seemingly came to group for the games, laughs, social atmosphere, and left with an encouraging message that only helped them out with their own struggles. And while encouragement is important, the heartbeat of the gospel is really about going and sharing it with others.
As we discipled that one core girl, her heart started beating to the same rhythm as the gospel’s. She began to invite her friends and classmates to our group, and before we knew it, she had brought tenfold the number of teens we leaders normally brought.
Because as a teen, she had greater leverage with her peers than we as adults ever did! (Which is the reason why my efforts always felt so awkward.)
Teens Reach Teens for Christ Better & Faster
The truth is, teens have a better chance of reaching other teens than youth leaders do. But don’t let that sting you. Let it be fuel for an effective and impactful way to do ministry!
When you spend your time pouring into a few disciples who can then make and train more disciples, you’re working with gospel multiplication instead of addition.
At Dare 2 Share Ministries, our vision is Every teen everywhere hearing the gospel from a friend. And the reason why we emphasize “hearing the gospel from a friend” is that over the last 25+ years, we’ve seen again and again that when teens share the gospel with other teens, it spreads faster and better.
Here are three reasons why teens spread the gospel faster and farther among their peers:
1) Teens know more teens than you
The average teen has 425+ friends on Facebook. Between classmates, extracurricular activities, neighboring schools, and social networks, teens are connected to other teens in ways youth leaders can never be (which makes sense!).
And because teens know more teens than you do, even just a few influential students who are motivated and mobilized to share their faith can greatly impact their schools and communities and take the gospel places you will never be invited into.
Imagine this! If you concentrated on pouring into three of your students as disciples (who each have 425 online friends) and then equipped them to have gospel conversations, your ministry could potentially reach 1,275 students with the message of the gospel. Now that’s ministry impact!
2) Teens have 100x more influence with their friends
When I was a youth leader, developing friendships with teens during events wasn’t easy and it took a few consecutive school events to foster relationships before we could confidently invite any of these students to group. And that was just asking them to come! Sadly, not every teen said “yes” to our invitation.
While our efforts to build friendships were still worthwhile and important, that same core girl I mentioned earlier already had friendships with many of the teens we were trying to reach. By simply being their friend, she had leverage for a successful invitation we didn’t. And because of her, the sophomore class that year outnumbered all other classes by nearly triple!
3) History shows that teens have been in the forefront of several revivals
Historically, teens have been early responders in many Christian revivals and movements. And some movements were led by teens:
Jeremiah, as a young prophet, said “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth. But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say, I am a youth. For you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak'” (Jeremiah 1:6, 7)
In the 1st Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The revival has been chiefly among the young.”
In the 2nd Great Awakening, D.L. Moody led an army of young people to bring the gospel to hundreds of thousands.
In 1859, during the Great Welsh Revival, one witness reported, “One of the most striking characteristics of the movement was its effect on young people and even on children. The youth of our congregations are nearly all the subjects of deep religious impressions. Very young people…children from 10 to 14 years of age, gather together to hold prayer meetings and pray very fervently. In many places, the young people hold a prayer meeting of their own, and these sometimes proved instrumental in bringing the powerful influences of the revival to that particular locality. The majority of all converts of the revival…were young people.”
During the Jesus Movement of the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, tens of thousands of young people took the Good News of Jesus throughout North America, Europe and Central America.
When you think about it, it makes sense why teens were at the forefront of all these revivals and movements. Teens, for the most part, are idealistic and quickly see the empty words and outright hypocrisy of the generation before them. They are searching for something that will provide greater purpose and meaning for their lives. Teens are also in a very moldable state as they are discovering who they are, who they want to be and what they want to stand for. Teens are wet cement.
Adults, on the other hand, are not. They often have a harder time changing the way they think and what they do because they have years of habitual thinking going against them and are often more cynical and skeptical.
When teens are energized, they’re willing to risk it all! And, they are often technologically ahead of adults when it comes to being connected to other teens and the world around them. They are perfect candidates for sharing the gospel with their peers for multiplicative results.
Your Critical Role as a Youth Leader
Of course, teens sharing the gospel with teens is impossible if they don’t first know how to share it. And that’s where your role as a youth leader is of the utmost importance!
You get the respected honor of training and coaching your teens how to engage others in gospel conversations, as well as prepare them for the times when those conversations get shut down. Because no matter how badly we want our family and friends to know the love of Christ, not every gospel conversation results in another saved life. (Which can be discouraging for new or timid believers — heck, for any kind of believer! After all, it is a social risk.)
Your teens need you.
They need wisdom from your experience sharing the gospel. They need your encouragement to keep at it when the conversations go sour. They need your willingness to challenge them to share their faith. And they need you to pour into them so that their hearts also beat the same rhythm as the gospel’s.