On Tuesday night during our Bible study time with the kids, I realized that it had probably never occurred to them that there are people who don’t believe what we do about Jesus.
I asked, “Did you know that not everyone knows about Jesus? And that some people who do know about Jesus don’t believe He is real or that the Bible is true?”
Kenna’s eyes became huge. She then suggested, “We should tell them!”
And just like that, a multitude of childhood evangelism “failures” flooded over me. Every Sunday I heard about the importance of telling others about Jesus, but almost every time I tried to witness to my friends, my attempts were met with a negative response. I eventually just gave up.
The problem was that no one really ever told me how to do it – or, perhaps more importantly, how not to do it. With a wrong (or less than ideal) approach, evangelism can become a negative experience. We need to help our kids learn what to say AND what not to say.
For today, here are 4 things kids should learn NOT to say when sharing their faith.
As a disclaimer, God can absolutely create good from any evangelism work we do. This list is not to suggest that these things always have negative value – faith seeds can grow in many ways. These are, however, considerations to share with your kids that can make their evangelism a more positive experience.
1. Are you saved?
I grew up in a church that was very focused on the salvation decision. We frequently talked about people being saved or unsaved. It became a standard part of my vocabulary and I had no reason to believe that other people weren’t talking about salvation all the time too.
Therefore, it didn’t seem strange to me that one night at a slumber party, after watching a sweet New Kids on the Block video, I asked my friends out of the blue, “Are you saved?” Their response: “Saved from what?” My reply: “From hell!” The conversation went downhill from there.
Other kids typically have no idea what it means to be “saved,” and if they do, it immediately puts them on the defensive (depending on their age). For both reasons, the question usually closes rather than opens conversation.
Kids need to be given appropriate context for the “objective” of evangelism. The goal isn’t to systematically determine who isn’t saved so we can save them. The goal is to find ways to positively share our faith so God can grow those seeds.
2. You’re going to hell if you don’t (fill in the blank).
It really doesn’t matter what you fill in the blank with here. Any time a person starts a sentence with “you’re going to hell,” there is a personal judgment involved. We are never in a position to tell anyone that they are or are not going to hell. Only God knows a person’s heart. It’s extremely important that we teach our kids the difference between explaining what the Bible says about salvation and using that information to make a personal judgment about someone else’s status with God.
Kids won’t automatically see that difference. We need to explain how important the words we choose are and the difference in meaning behind personal judgments and explanatory statements (“the Bible says that…”).
3. Your (church/religion) is a (any label with negative connotations).
I so clearly remember the giant book called “Worldwide Cults” that sat on our living room bookshelf growing up. I was fascinated by the names of each featured religion and wondered what a member of a cult would look like.
One day during 5th grade recess I was playing with a new friend. It seemed only natural to ask if she knew about Jesus. She said yes, and that she was a Jehovah’s Witness. My eyes popped out of my head; she belonged to one of THE CULTS! (And, yes, I unfortunately replied, “that’s a cult!”)
Sometimes we don’t even realize how we label other religions or churches in front of our kids. Whether we call something a cult or just casually refer to the “weird” church down the street, we are giving our kids a vocabulary that can be very harmful if used in talking to others about Jesus.
Kids need to understand that negatively labeling someone else’s beliefs is offensive and will typically make them not want to talk further. Sharing our faith does not require criticizing someone else’s.
4. How can you believe that (fill in the blank)?
I was so certain that everything I knew about God was fact growing up that there was very little room for understanding the gray areas of faith. By the time I got to high school, my approach to talking with others about faith often took a more condescending form such as, “How can you believe that (fill in the blank)?” Conviction is a gift, but it has to be used with grace.
Kids need to understand that the nature of faith means that people can reasonably have different views. The more we are honest with them about the gray areas of faith, the more they will be prepared to graciously discuss differing views with their friends.
Have you talked to your kids about how to share their faith? What are good conversation starters you’ve personally used or your kids have used?