Teenagers in the throes of seeking independence generally are not inclined to pay much heed to an adult lecture on their need for God. However, when facing a problem, they do seek out and take to heart the advice of friends, making teens an often untapped resource for evangelizing through their natural relationships. Nevertheless, teens have fears and insecurities about speaking up, just like adults. So if you want to teach your teenagers how to evangelize, addressing these issues provides your youth with the social, mental, emotional and scriptural skills necessary to overcome the barriers to effective evangelism.
Be the example. Pastor Michael Turriff of the Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, points out, "If adults are doing it, kids will catch it." Be open about your faith and talk about what Jesus has done for you in everyday events and in His death and resurrection. Make spiritual conversation a natural part of your daily communications so your teens have a reference point for how it's done when talking to their friends.
Acknowledge your teen's fears and the obstacles she faces when sharing her faith, such as potential rejection or ridicule, feeling inadequate and tongue-tied, not knowing what to say or how to say it or being labeled "uncool" or "weird" by those they want most to impress and receive acceptance. Talk with your teen about the big questions that come up in a witnessing setting such as, "Don't all roads lead to God?" or "How can a good God allow evil in the world?" Approach it as a dialogue between you and your teen rather than a parental lecture to help him process and understand the explanation on a deep enough level that he can explain it to someone else should the occasion arise. Many of his fears might dwindle as he realizes he doesn't have to be a great orator or debater with all the answers to witness for Christ, just a good friend who has learned a few nuggets of good advice to share.
Train your teen with a solid foundation in the gospel basics using the Bible and real life stories to help her learn to appreciate how it applies to her everyday realities. Explain how the gospel comforts and encourages you and you want her to receive the same comfort and encouragement, just as she desires to be a loving support for her friends in turn. Share your own story and admit your need for a savior. Tell what Jesus has done for you personally, not only on the cross, but also in the circumstances of your life.
Dialogue with your teen about how knowing Jesus has blessed his life. Encourage him to think of specific instances and personal stories that illustrate how God is working in his life and growing his character. Point out that these are stories he can use to share his testimony with his friends. He doesn't have to be heavy-handed about it, but just as the opportunity arises say, "Hey, let me tell you about something I've personally experienced and found to be true and valuable." Emphasize that witnessing is really just telling the truth about what you've seen and heard so it doesn't need to be an intimidating or scary thing. If it would help his confidence, he can write out his personal testimony to use as a guide when sharing with others.
Role-play with your teen various evangelism scenarios. Take on the role of an unbeliever of varying persuasions and let your teen practice approaching you and answering your objections or questions. If you are involved in evangelistic outreach with your church, take your teenager along to witness evangelism in action. Pastor Michael Geiger of Good Shepherd Church in Burnsville, Minnesota, suggests other venues to give teenagers an opportunity to put their evangelism skills to work in a low-key, nonthreatening environment: hospital or nursing home volunteer work, at-risk youth outreach, passing out invitations in the community for special church events, writing welcome letters to new people and visitors at church, being a greeter at church services and assisting with children's Sunday school classes.
The key to effective evangelism is to keep the doors of communication open. Asking sincere questions and giving honest compliments can help someone to open up and engage in real conversation with you about God. Whether you are the parent encouraging your teen to witness to her friends or a teen with a desire to share the good news of the gospel with your friends, communicate that you love and care for that person as a friend, mentor or role model. They are much more likely to receive and respond to your message when they feel loved, encouraged and valued as a human being. Gospel tracts can help your teen structure his message as he gains experience and confidence in his evangelism abilities.