How Can Teens “Be The Light” In Their Schools?
In this article, Christian Dunn of Vineyard Youth USA, gives practical suggestions that are do-able, effective ways teens can "be the light" in their schools.
Leader, Vineyard Youth USA
Four Practical Suggestions For How Teens Can Share Their Faith
High school is one of the most challenging stages of life in which to share your faith. It is already a season full of potential social pitfalls, and then we are asking teens to introduce their friends to Jesus.
What happens if they share their faith? Will they lose friends? Will they be isolated? They have to see these people every day for the next few years of their life. A wrong move could literally alter their social universe for years to come.
As an adult who works with teens, I have to keep this reality in my mind at all times. It is much easier for me to preach on the importance of sharing our faith, than it is to give real-world practical advice. It is easy for me to say, “you are the light of the world! If you don’t share, who will?”
It is much more difficult to answer this question – “How am I supposed to share Jesus during biology class with the junior who sits in front of me and has no idea I exist?” When I don’t answer that question though, and hide behind just preaching easy biblical messages, I end up throwing guilt and not offering any real world help for actually “being the light.”
With that in mind, here are four practical suggestions that I think are both do-able and effective.
1. Pray For Your Friends
Sometimes it is easy to discount prayer. We want quicker results. We want a tangible experience. But prayer is the foundation! Prayer can move things in people’s hearts that 1000 words cannot. So let us encourage our teens to be praying friends.
The other aspect of prayer that I love is that literally anyone can do it! For many teens the prospect of sharing their faith with someone is daunting. But anyone can pray! We can pray for God to soften our friend’s heart. We can pray for divine opportunities. We can just pray for whatever they are going through!
2. Authentically Model Your Faith
This one is complicated. While I think it is really true and important that our friends are watching us, I also know that no one is perfect. Teens are still maturing in their faith, emotionally, mentally – so I am careful to not place too fine a point on it that their friends are watching how they live their lives.
That is why “authentic” is important. Realize that what you do, how you talk, the decisions you make do have an impact on how people view your faith. And don’t be fooled – people are most certainly watching you. However, there is also grace. You are not perfect. And living authentically, rather than trying to hide behind religious masks of perfection, will be much more appealing to friends who don’t follow Jesus yet.
3. Be Present In Your Relationships
One of the greatest ways that I’ve seen teens help their friends meet Jesus is by simply being present in their lives. Often I have found that teens are drawn to the Holy Spirit in our teens. They come to them when life gets hard, when they encounter obstacles, and when they need advice. I see all of these as kind of a ladder working together too.
If we are praying for our friends, and authentically modeling our faith so they see us as trustworthy and real, then they will be drawn to us when they need help and advice. Of course this isn’t a guaranteed outcome, but I have seen it happen many times. And so probably the best advice I can give teens is to be present. To be willing to be the one your friends come to when they need help. And in that moment you are able to minister Jesus to them either explicitly or implicitly.
4. Create “Invitable” Opportunities
Lastly, and as a church planter this is big on my heart, we need to be invitational with our friends. However, just saying “be invitational” isn’t really fair if we aren’t providing “invitable” opportunities. I’ve had long talks with my teens about what they would feel comfortable inviting their friends to, and what they would not.
If as adults we have preset agendas about what we “do” at our church, we may limit our teens’ ability to introduce their friends to Jesus. I personally was not a very “game” oriented person for my first 10 years of youth ministry. However, as I began to listen to my teens, I decided I would do whatever it took to create an atmosphere that encouraged them to be invitational. And it has worked!
Be A Light
“How can I be a light in the world with my friends in school whom I see every day?” This is a heartfelt struggle for many teens in our churches today. Let’s offer them some sound, non-guilt-laden, practical solutions that will not only work, but allow them to participate in God’s heart for those who are far from him!
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