Sharing faith vs. sharing Jesus

This year in our confirmation Sunday school class, we're discussing the five promises we ask teens to make at their confirmation:

- To live among God's faithful people

- To hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper.

- To share the good news of Christ in word and deed.

- To serve, following the example of Jesus.

- To strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

Despite the fact that I have a lot of evangelism baggage, ever since I decided to do this series, I've been excited to delve into the 3rd promise with this group of teens:  To share the good news of Christ in word and deed.


Because one of the findings I wrote about in The Jesus Gap is that the stronger teens' Christologies (what they believe about Jesus) are, the more they talk about Jesus with both their family and friends. As a result, I now think that teaching teens how to share their faith in Jesus is an important part of discipleship – something that makes evangelism much more palatable to me.

During the first week of our conversation about what it means to share the good news of Christ in word and deed, confirmands – all of whom are in 7th and 8th grade – were asked to fill out a short survey. In this survey, teens were asked to rank how often they talk about their faith with friends outside of church, their parents, siblings, and extended family.

Half of these junior high confirmands said they talk about their faith with their friends outside of church “occasionally”. The other half said they never do.

60% of teens said they talk about faith either daily, weekly, or monthly with their parents. The remaining 40% said they never do.

Here's what's interesting about this. In the discussion that followed, teens were asked how their answer to these questions would have changed had they been asked to rank how often they talk about Jesus with their friends outside of church, their parents, siblings, or extended family.

Across the board, teens responded that had that been the question, they would have answered “never.”

This means that even confirmands who regularly engage in what they themselves classify as “deep” conversations with family and friends about faith say they never have those conversations specifically about Jesus.

Again, the question is why?

One reason for this is that it's fairly easy to talk about faith and even God with others. Since God and faith can mean different things to different people, your risk of offending others is fairly low.

Not so with Jesus. He's specific; He's the very thing that distinguishes the Christian faith from all others. As soon as you start talking specifically about him, your risk of offending and isolating people grows exponentially.

For teens who's primary concern is fitting in, the likelihood of offending people – and therefore being ostracized themselves - by talking about Jesus may not be worth it.

What then are we, as youth workers, to do?

We'll talk more about that when we continue this series next week but in the meantime, I'd love to hear your answers to this question!


Jesus Gap

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Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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