One of our roles as youth leaders is to teach teenagers to abide and and depend on Jesus each day. We want them to move from crisis care (reaching out to God only when they are in crisis) to community with God, having a relationship that deepens over time and stretches through both the ups and downs of their day.
I’m thrilled when I seen teenagers growing in Christ. I see it. I affirm it I encourage it. And our team does the same. They see it. They affirm it. They encourage it.
Sometimes we see, affirm, and encourage in front of other teenagers when we tell their personal stories.
But the most effective way of sharing about their growth in Christ is when they share about their growth in Christ.
Somehow I forget this too quickly and let the gift of “telling” slip through the cracks. When, in fact, it is one of our greatest evangelistic resources.
So, to get back on track, we’re going to start having students tell their stories–how God became more than a name to them–in front of their peers each week.
There are three things I was taught to say when preparing a testimony:
- Before I met Christ
- When I met Christ
- My life since I met Christ
I think this is a good working framework but for someone who is 11 years old, it may be a bit more difficult to articulate a “before” Christ life. When I met Christ can also pose problems to the teenager who has believed in Jesus since they were in pre-school. They feel like they don’t have a story to tell because there wasn’t a crisis moment or event. And life since Christ, for some, isn’t always the best. Even though their lives have completely changed from the inside out, their daily life circumstances may not have.
I’m not saying that this format is bad. I’m just saying it presents some problems as I think about young teenagers telling other young teenagers about their own lives with Christ.
In the past, I’ve done a life-mapping seminar at youth worker conventions teaching youth workers how to deconstruct and understand their own development and how to encourage their students to do the same. A part of this map is a timeline of events from birth to present. And on that timeline, I instruct them to draw a symbol during the time when God became more than a name for them.
I like marking life with Christ like this.
Even if a teenager has been in church and has believed in God and said the prayer of salvation, there is probably a moment in their life when God became more than lessons learned but a person to be experienced and it changed things for them.
I am working on a new set of questions–starting with these:
- When did God become more than a name for you? Describe that moment when you met Jesus.
- How has your life changed or developed since that moment for experience?
- What keeps you growing in God? Name some things that help you grow in your faith.
- Who encourages you as you follow Christ?
- What is a hope or dream that you have given to God?
- What would you say to your friends about what it’s like to know Jesus?
What questions would you add? Developmentally, are there questions that need to be changed to fit? I’d love to hear from the student ministry nation on this.
I love this conversation and think it’s an important one. In my experience the greatest challenge students face in crafting a faith story to share is making Jesus the hero of the story and not a sidekick or last resort. That may be indicative of how they understand the Gospel or it may just need coaching.
Two questions I would consider asking:
1) In what ways are you becoming more aware of your own lostness? (Own ability to save self)
2) In what ways are you becoming more aware of Jesus’ goodness and your need for that?
These are great questions. I think young teenagers would be able to easily describe what “lostness” looks like for them. In addition to knowing, that we’ve all sinned and fallen short, I think they would also be able to share how they particularly struggle….question 2 is also a good one. I’m wondering if a “how are you becoming more like Christ” question is needed (sanctifying work). Thanks for your feedback and conversation on this.