One of the biggest roadblocks to effective youth ministry is teenagers’ apathy. It’s an age-old question, but how do we help kids step off the sidelines and start owning their faith?
Every summer, Dare 2 Share hosts a one-week evangelism training called Lead THE Cause (LTC), where students learn how to share the gospel and then practice it in the real world. It’s an intense week, and it’s totally awesome.
One morning during LTC last summer, I was chatting with my friend Brian Aaby at Starbucks. As Brian and I were talking, I was floored by a term he used to describe how LTC impacts students. He said that our full-week evangelism training boot camp “normalizes risk.”
This description struck a chord in me, because it’s true. It also struck a chord in some of his students, who wrote it in Sharpie on their arms before going out on the first day of our LTC outreach.
Why normalize risk?
When teenagers experience a Jesus-lifestyle that normalizes risk, it not only drives their faith deeper, but it takes their faith wider. It pushes them to the edges of themselves. In the words of Tim Keller, it “forces them to rely on God.”
On opening night of LTC we had kids pray out loud… all at the same time… together (#NormalizeRisk). Then we took teenagers to Columbine High School, where a horrific school shooting happened 18 years ago. We told the Columbine story. We then prayed in the school, around the school, and at the heart-wrenching memorial installed near the school. (#NormalizeRisk).
Then those teenagers went out into the city and shared the gospel with complete strangers (#NormalizeRisk). After that, they engaged their own friends in gospel conversations by text or FaceTime (#NormalizeRisk).
The next day, they went out and shared their faith again, learning to normalize risk in the process.
On the last day of LTC, teenagers and youth leaders alike made plans to normalize risk by putting prayer, relational evangelism and disciple multiplication onto their weekly calendars when they got back home.
But why is normalizing risk so important? When teenagers normalize risk, they are taking Jesus and the call to follow Him seriously!
In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Jesus is calling his disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross daily… to make risk-taking a normal, everyday thing!
When teenagers are willing to consistently pick up their crosses through evangelism and risk dying a social death, they are normalizing risk. This brand of risk makes their faith their own. This brand of risk helps them die to themselves in other areas as well.
And when teenagers are more concerned about lost souls than their number of Instagram followers, you know that something significant is happening!
Challenge to risk!
So this week, challenge your students to risk something for Jesus. Challenge them to read their Bible every morning for seven days straight. Ask them to share the gospel with five friends before the end of the month. Take them to a mall or a park to have gospel conversations with strangers.
If you want your teenagers to really grow spiritually, teach them how to #NormalizeRisk and watch them own their faith like never before.
And if you need help getting started with normalizing risk in your youth group, check out what a week at Lead THE Cause is all about. It can move your students from apathetic, lukewarm believers to white-hot, fully-devoted followers of Jesus. To check it out, go to leadthecause.org.