By Emily F. Miller, Crosswalk.com
It can be an exciting time for kids and teens to have a new member at Youth Group, or even a friend who is interested in learning a little more about their faith. However, one person’s excitement could easily result in a “seeker” being overwhelmed. It is important to prepare youth on how to engage with seekers and new believers, and to educate them about what could end up turning someone away.
1. Pretending to Have All the Answers
A mistake many people make with seekers and new believers alike is thinking they, as a more mature Christian, need to have an answer to every single question. This, however, is impossible and not the case at all.
When questions come up, advise youth not to pretend to know it all or even guess at answers. Saying “I don’t know, let’s go ask someone” or “Let me do some research” are much better responses and will leave seekers and new believers feeling more secure and trusting in others. Spewing false information could lead someone down the wrong path and/or deteriorating their trust.
Humility is an asset when talking to seekers. If seekers feel like they are talking to someone who is being honest and vulnerable, they are more likely to be more open and trusting.
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Luke 14:11
2. Being Heavy-Handed with the Law
If one’s first instructions regarding faith primarily include long lists of “Dos” and “Don’ts” then something isn’t right. The first step of someone’s faith should be meeting Jesus and getting to know Him. Introducing a set of rules to a seeker or new believer is counter-productive.
In Hebrews 11 Paul explains that we do things by faith and our works flow from faith, not that our works get us to faith. In the same way, a seeker needs to first be introduced to faith and what it means to follow Jesus before they are told a laundry list of what they should and shouldn’t do as Christians.
Critiquing someone’s every move, especially when they are new to the faith, can be detrimental to their growth. No one is capable of being perfect or perfectly completing the law, that is why Jesus came to fulfill the law for us and bring us into relationship with Him. Holding someone to an impossible standard rather than nurturing a relationship with Jesus is sure to push them farther away.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. – James 2:11
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:3-4.
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3. Being the Only One Talking
Discussion is important in any setting, especially in matters of developing faith. Conversations move our knowledge of each other and the world forward and make us better. It is vitally important to hear what the seeker or new believer has to say.
Everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences, and, unfortunately, that might include a negative experience with religion and life in general. It is important to listen to someone else’s experiences to hear them, not just to respond. Be open to what they have to say and acknowledge what they have been through without becoming defensive.
Respond with Truth and avoid talking at someone. Have open and honest discussions. Vulnerability opens so many doors.
My dear brothers and sisters. take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. – James 1:19
4. Expecting to See Immediate Fruit
Sowing seeds is an important part of someone’s faith journey. One will often not see immediate progress in all areas at once. Growth takes time.
Faith is a life-long journey in which we grow and learn, forever deepening our relationship with God. A person cannot be expected to mature spiritually at the same levels as established believers. Encourage youth to be patient with new believers and seekers, not expecting them to jump to match their level of spirituality.
Putting pressure on seekers and new believers to be at a certain level can end up pushing them away more than it brings them in. It is good to be supportive and even challenge new believers and seekers in growth, but pushing them to levels they aren’t comfortable with too soon could be counterproductive.
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. – 1 Corinthians 3:2
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5. Becoming Prideful
This is extremely important for everyone talking to new believers and seekers, especially youth. People can sense when you think you are better than them, which is an immediate turn-off for someone looking for a sense of community and support. Everyone should humble themselves and let God work through them.
There is often a mentality of “I’m doing this work for God” rather than “God is doing this work through me.” Pride oozes from the first mindset while humility before God radiates from the second.
God is capable of doing the work, He just chooses to include us in His Kingdom growing. We should be honored and excited to do that work, not prideful or reluctant.
A very important message for youth, especially when building relationships with seekers and new believers, is to never make someone else’s faith your own personal project. It is important for believers to understand that God is pursuing that person. Their life, faith, and salvation are completely in His hands, not dependent on the works of others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves – Philippians 2:3
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2
Youth should be encouraged to engage with new believers and seekers, and even nonbelievers. It is vital that believers do not just put themselves in a bubble with other Christians. Jesus gave us The Great Commission to reach those that have yet to be found. He wants to use us to bring His Kingdom into fruition.
However, mature believers should also be engaging with young believers, encouraging them, and teaching them the best ways to engage with others. Ultimately, youth should understand how to talk to others about faith, but also know they are not responsible for the salvation of others. God wants to use people of all ages for His Kingdom, which should be an exciting opportunity!
The Great Commission
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:18-20
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Emily F. Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Akron. She currently works at Rahab Ministries, a non-profit serving victims of human trafficking, and is a women’s college ministry leader for Delight Ministries. Her personal blog is alwaysemily.blog and her Instagram is @emilyfmiller16. In her free time, she loves cooking and baking, reading, going for walks, and having coffee dates with friends.