Confession: I live in a Christian bubble. I work at a church, I regularly interact with church families, and most of my close friends go to my church. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for connecting with people outside of the church. This imbalance bothers me because Jesus calls his followers to make disciples of all nations, which includes the people right in front of me. Something is out of whack if I’m not making disciples in my personal life.
Over the past year, God has begun to increase my desire to make connections with people who don’t know Jesus. I sense God calling me to increase my personal level of outreach in everyday life.
I have also sensed the need to increase the amount of outreach that happens in the middle school ministry that I lead. Inevitably, this will mean challenging middle school students to live a more outreach-oriented lifestyle. Here’s the related question that I’ve considered repeatedly: What does it realistically look like for a middle school student to share his faith, specifically in school since that’s where students spend many of their weekday hours?
Here’s what a middle schooler sharing his faith doesn’t look like:
- Carrying a big Bible around school all day.
- Wearing shirts with Christian themes or logos on the front.
- Darting in and out of social circles and pointing out the various sins that are evident in people’s lives.
- Preaching the Gospel and calling students to repent during passing time from a megaphone while students are at their lockers.
- Challenging his science teacher to an epic “God’s Not Dead”-style debate about the existence of God in front of the whole class.
So, what does it look like? We can realistically expect a middle school student to share his faith by:
- Being kind and respectful to his teachers and other staff members at school.
- Praying for friends who seem to be far from God or who don’t know Jesus.
- Doing his best to be a good friend to the people around him.
- Occasionally inviting friends to come to church with him.
- And, most importantly, resisting the sinful temptations that invade every middle school social culture, especially swearing, gossip, and being nasty to other people.
Notice what’s not in that list. I think it’s unrealistic to expect a middle schooler to share his faith by sitting down with a friend, sharing the Gospel message, and praying with his friend to receive salvation on the spot. In my ten years of middle school ministry I haven’t heard any stories like that. I’ve heard first-hand about high schoolers engaging in that kind of evangelism, but not middle schoolers. In middle school, there’s too much peer pressure and students’ self-confidence is too fragile.
I’m sure there are there are some exceptional middle schoolers with the spiritual gift of evangelism who have shared the Gospel with a friend and seen their friend make a commitment to Jesus. I just don’t think it’s very common so let’s not expect students to share their faith like that.
Instead, let’s focus on small, tangible ways to encourage middle schoolers to share their faith. We can encourage them to respect their teachers, pray for their friends, be a good friend, invite friends to church, and resist peer pressure. Those five challenges are, at the least, a good starting point.
This applies for students in public school and Christian school settings. There are non-believers in every Christian school and students at Christian schools struggle with the same issues as students at public schools.
In closing, I’d like to ask you with the question I’ve been asking myself: How are you doing with outreach in your own life? It’s tough to encourage a middle schooler to share his faith if you’re not modeling it in your own life. Outreach is not just for the small percentage of Christians who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. It’s for all followers of Jesus.
Don’t know where to start when it comes to doing outreach in your everyday life? Start by reading Organic Outreach for Ordinary People or Organic Outreach for Families by Kevin & Sherry Harney. Each book is a quick read that contains practical wisdom, encouragement, and ideas for outreach in your everyday life.