By Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace
First responders understand the importance of training. Fire, medical, and law enforcement personnel train because they know they will eventually have to deploy. In fact, there’s no point in training at all if you never plan on deploying!
Training comes to life when you schedule a deployment. This single act (of calendaring a challenge) turns teaching into training. It doesn’t take much to activate what you’ve been teaching your kids or students. You don’t have to take a week-long excursion to give your young people a reason to study and take their Christian faith seriously.
The challenge can be much briefer, as long as it (1) raises the bar, (2) requires young people to make the case for truth, and (3) pushes them just beyond their comfort zone. Let the following brief list of suggestions become your starting point.
1. Surveys and Conversations
Conducting a survey and having a conversation about the topic is perhaps one of the easiest ways to “deploy,” as it requires the least amount of preparation.
Consider engaging people publicly about their spiritual beliefs by using a simple printed survey. Most people are open to answering brief spiritual questions, especially if you begin by saying, “We’re conducting a survey about people’s spiritual beliefs. Do you have a minute to answer a few questions?”
We’ve done this in a variety of settings, using the survey as a launching pad for conversations. If your youth are just getting started, they can use the survey to simply collect information. As they become better prepared, they can use the questions to trigger deeper conversations about the evidence for Christianity.
For most of us, the idea of sharing our faith publicly is scary enough to motivate us to prepare well. In fact, fear is probably the one thing that keeps people from evangelizing in the first place. What if somebody asks a question I can’t answer? We’ve used public evangelism opportunities to form the basis for several weeks of training related to theological issues, apologetics issues, and behavioral issues.
3. Teaching in a Family or Class Setting
One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. As youth pastors and teachers, we’ve asked our students to teach a variety of theological or apologetics topics to their classmates or youth group and calendared the day about a month from the assignment.
Without needing to be asked, the student-teachers began researching their topics on their own, if for no other reason than they didn’t want to look foolish in front of their peers. Ask your kids to teach during your family devotional, or work with your church’s pastoral leadership to arrange an opportunity for your students during a Sunday school session or midweek small group meeting.
If you teach high school Bible at a Christian school, have your students teach a theological or apologetics lesson to younger kids at the school.
4. Creating a YouTube Video or Blog Entry
Given that Gen Zers are digital natives, this kind of task may be just the kind of thing that would activate their preparation. Create a YouTube channel or simple blog, and ask your student to answer a simple theological or apologetics question on video or in a written format.
The public nature of this request can be a real motivation, and you can decide if it’s appropriate to allow comments on the video or written post. Set a due date for going live, then tell your student or child that he or she can distribute the post to friends or family members on social media.
5. Serving in a Neighborhood
Service projects help students connect the dots between Christian behavior and evangelism. We’ve helped elderly people and single parents repair their homes, served disabled neighbors who needed their errands run, and cleaned up local parks and beaches.
In every opportunity, our Christian service (behavior) eventually opened a door to a spiritual conversation. “Why are you people so kind?” “What motivates you to help me even though I didn’t ask?” “Why are you out here on a hot day?” We’ve used these scheduled events to motivate our students to live out the truth they believe.
Often these outings provide the opportunity to ensure that our students know how to both share and defend their faith.
6. Visiting a Local University Campus
Pick a local university and ask to visit the campus during an academic session so students will be present in the courtyards and common spaces. You can decide whether your students should use the spiritual survey we’ve described or if they’re ready to engage in more traditional forms of evangelism.
If possible, arrange a meeting with a student group to talk about spiritual matters, or simply ask what life on the campus is like, given their worldview.
7. Visiting a Religious Community or Facility
We’ve visited mosques, Mormon wards, Universalist churches, and a variety of religious groups to attend services, ask questions, and engage in conversations. While these trips may seem entirely theological or apologetics in nature, they aren’t.
Students who attend these opportunities are challenged to learn how to respond in love, even when someone makes a false claim about Christianity. Exhibiting solid behavioral training prior to these trips is crucial.
8. Serving at a Local Mission or Ministry
Our groups have served at local rescue missions, soup kitchens, and churches. These trips allow us to explore the behavioral commands of Scripture, but they also require some theological and apologetics training.
Our students almost always engage people with the gospel and find themselves answering questions and objections.
SEAN MCDOWELL (@Sean_McDowell) is a professor at Biola University and speaks and writes extensively on reaching the next generation. J. WARNER WALLACE (@jwarnerwallace) is a Colson Center Senior Fellow and an adjunct professor at Biola University. Taken from So the Next Generation Will Know (David C Cook) by James Warner Wallace and Sean McDowell © 2019. Used by Permission.