The following is extracted from a survey of 488 teenagers in church youth groups (a longer summary is here)
How confident to outreach are youth – really?
- A third (34%) of young Christians told us they share their faith regularly
- In terms of what this 34% did to share their faith with non-Christian peers, 71% said they told them about their faith, followed by 41% showing friends what it is to be a Christian, and 35% inviting peers to something.
- Comment: …which means youth are more confident in conversation that some would think
What is hindering youth from opening conversations about faith with their non-Christian peers?
- The top barriers to faith-sharing perceived by young people were not knowing answers to difficult questions (38%),
- …and peers not being interested (36%)
- …but 70% agreed or agreed strongly that they should try to encourage others to become Christians and just over half (51%)
- Comment: …so youth do know we should be encouraging faith / ‘witnessing’ to others about the hope we have.
- Comment: The above suggests that addressing ‘apologetics’ questions (questions and answers about the faith) in youth group might be more important than many realise – because a lack of answers will cause many to not initiate conversations to encourage/share faith. It’s not just about knowing the answers. It’s about finding confidence to engage conversations – knowing questions might be asked!
How confident to share faith are our youth? (Where is training most needed?)
- While 65% of young Christians surveyed agreed (or agreed strongly)( that they had the confidence to share their faith with others,
- …80% either agreed (or agreed strongly) that they would like to have more confidence to share faith with others.
- The desire for outreach equipping among youth is stronger than most realise!
- The top ways young people wanted support were to talk to others about sharing faith (40%) and to hear about other people’s experiences of doing so (39%).
- Comment: To put that differently, (1) how to share the message – but also (2) to know how to engage the conversation – which is what I suggest the youth likely believed they’d gain by hearing other people’s stories. (I.e. conversational skills).
How focused on outreach are youth groups really?
- Half (49%) of the youth workers we surveyed told us their churches had no ‘active disciples’ from a non-Christian home,
- …A quarter said their churches had no contact with any young people from a non-Christian background, regardless of their level of engagement.
- 39% of youth workers told us their church youth ministry was focused ‘solely’ or ‘mainly’ on retention (helping disciple young people primarily from the church community), compared with 8% whose sole or main focus was on outreach.
- Also, 87% of the young people taking part in the research were from a churched background, where they and/or members of their family attended church services regularly.
- I.e. The youth groups are mostly made up of church family young people.
- There is very little focus on outreach -with 1/4 not even having any active connections beyond their own group
- Only 8% of groups saw outreach as their main focus
- (While Jesus saw it as his main focus – and the group commission told us it should be ours also!)
Youth and youth leaders: The need for intentional outreach equipping – including (a) how to hare the gospel and (b) how to answer difficult questions about the faith… is clear.
Also clear is the fact that the mission of the God-given church youth group is not the mission of most church youth groups.
For those who see the vision Godtalk exists to serve nationally:
The need for Godtalk.nz (or a similar initiative) to exist and to thrive is clear. This requires manpower though – likely including a collaboration of some core leaders with vision and energy for this, who are not scared of risk, and who know how to network beyond one denomination. They will need to sacrifice greatly to see a movement arise that is trans-denominational (aka ‘Church’), to see the message of hope we carry being heard more clearly across our land.
Much is possible
- and it starts with know what the basics are, and doing them!