Fifteen minutes ago I left the fellowship room of the North County Church of Christ, which is hosting an LST YoungFriends group from Dallas. The group in the fuzzy picture is just one of five, composed of teens from the Dallas youth group, some of the North County church teens, and some teens from the community. They are in their C-Groups (Conversation Groups), talking about the story of Jesus and about their lives. And this is Monday afternoon of summer vacation!
LST YoungFriends is just a mission package for church youth mission trips. What makes it pretty unique is that it is evangelistic! Yes, YoungFriends includes community projects: tomorrow the group is working in a food distribution program; Wednesday it is going to give sandwiches to the homeless in San Diego; and, Friday the group will visit a school in a lower income and higher risk area of Escondido. But what makes YoungFriends different is that the group is partnering with the local teens to offer a way to talk about their own faith—or lack of it.
We did a little review of their training this morning before the first C-Group. We talked about the skepticism local teens might have about joining C-Groups and how to try to alleviate their fears. We talked about being sensitive to talking about our stuff with kids that have much less. We practiced good relationship-building practices, like share from your own life first, and then let others share as they become comfortable with you and trust you. I can’t wait to listen to the debriefing from these first groups today, to hear what this Dallas youth group has learned from just the first day of truly reaching out to others from their own lives and with the story of Jesus.
But my question to you today is this: why is an evangelistic youth mission trip so unusual? Take your pick from the following suggestions:
- Few adults, including parents and youth ministers, have evangelistic experiences, so they do not even think about it for their young people.
- Service projects are easier to plan and more predictable. Anything that involves interaction with people on the other end is a little more difficult to pull off.
- Some adult leaders have had such bad personal experiences with combative evangelism or forced evangelism, that they really don’t believe in any form of active evangelism any more.
- Doing something evangelistic sounds much more challenging to our teens and might be harder to sell to them!
- Some don’t think the kids know enough to tell anyone else about Jesus. Many of the kids in the youth group have not made their own decision for Jesus.
If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. What I do know is that our young people MUST find their own faith and learn to verbalize it in a way that communicates to their peers, or we adults will have failed to raise our children in the Way of the Lord!
So allow me the moment of euphoria, watching this bunch of very normal Dallas teenagers, being silly, being loud, but being like Jesus in a very special way, sharing their faith with someone who needs to hear.