Sharing the Gospel with students can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Because the vast majority of Christians received Christ before the age of 22, it is of paramount importance that we as believers work hard to expose students to the Gospel.
Of particular strategic significance are high school and college students. When a young man or woman enters high school, he or she begins to become very aware of the world around them, especially as it pertains to adulthood. They are learning to make important life decisions, such as in the areas of dating, love and sex, job and career choices, and study habits. They begin to become somewhat autonomous from their parents, as they seek to transition into an adult in society. It is a fruitful time to introduce them to Christ; if Christ is present in the above mentioned areas, their lives in the long term will be much better as they learn to make wise, Christ-centered decisions.
College students, if possible, are even more strategically significant. They have left home and are seeking to engage the world on their own terms. They are not constrained as much by their home environment. Any decision they make in their lives can be acted upon and implemented immediately. As they are notoriously cause-oriented, college students who are passionate about Jesus can affect real change in the lives of others, having a tremendous influence for the kingdom of God. College students are also among the most mobile segment of society. Usually coming from a higher income level, and having time off from school several times each year, college students are capable of great travel, with the potential to be a driving force for world missions.
What are some other reasons you can think of that make students a significant target for the Gospel?
How did God work in your life when you were a student?
Can you think of others who came to know the Lord when they were students?
One thing to note when we think about sharing the Gospel with students is that the student culture has changed in recent years and continues to change. Some of this can be attributed to the so-called ‘information age’, while some can be attributed to the recent infatuation our culture has had with ‘postmodernism’. It is important to understand where students today are coming from.
There was a time, not very long ago, when communicating the Gospel involved presenting a set of propositions about Christ and allowing the student to decide if by intellectual assent or by the ‘meeting of a need’ they would choose to begin relationship with Jesus. More and more, that is no longer as effective as it once was. Nowadays, students have grown up with a technological savvy unequaled in history. They are children of the Internet. For them, information has bombarded them constantly since they became aware the world around them. As a result, they have to a great degree lost the ability to sift through propositions, decide which are true, and make decisions accordingly. That is not to say that they cannot learn to do these things, but rather that they need help and guidance to do so.
How does this affect sharing the Gospel? Simply said, there must in many cases be a trust component to the presentation. If the Gospel were presented as information about Jesus, most students would shut down. If someone the listener trusts presents the Gospel, they will listen closely and with a desire to hear what you have to say. This in turn makes it easier for them to understand the Gospel and make a decision.
What are ways we can build trust with those with whom we share the Gospel?
What tools might be helpful to present the Gospel in manner that fosters trust?
The other change that has happened among students is what might be called ‘post postmodernism’. For several years much was said about how the young culture was becoming more postmodern in their thinking. Some of the tenets of postmodernism were a rejection of an objective truth, a rejection of meta-narratives (grand stories, such as the story of redemption, that apply to everyone), and the belief that no real meaning can be discerned from any other person’s written or spoken words, as that person’s perspective is too unique for anyone else to understand.
It is the belief of many that the younger generation, as a whole, is moving away from this postmodern worldview. However, the aftermath is a generation that is very inexperienced at discerning what is true. It is almost as if society is relearning the concept of truth.
These two factors, coupled together, have produced a generation that largely believes that truth is found in other people and their experiences, not in texts or information. It has produced a very ‘tribal’ mentality, that is, that ‘insiders’ can be trusted, but all outsiders, no matter their qualifications, are suspect sources for truth. No longer does the expert carry authority; a friend is seen as having greater weight as a spokesperson for what is true.
What is the value of being an insider?