Barna Group study shows teens hesitant to evangelize; InterVarsity proclaims the opposite

By July 20, 2010

USA (MNN) — A recent Barna Group study shows that Christian teens from the U.S. are less and less enthusiastic about sharing their faith.

Information on the study released last week provided evidence that "among born again Christian teenagers, the proportion who said they had explained their beliefs to someone else with different faith views in the last year had declined from nearly two-thirds of teenagers in 1997 (63%) to less than half of Christian teens in the December 2009 study (45%)."

Not only does it appear that evangelism among teens is in danger, but the study also noted that Christian teenagers are much less likely to even interact with non-Christians than they were ten years ago. These two factors combined do not bode well for outreach among teens.

Yet, although these statistics proved true among the Christian teenagers surveyed by the Barna Group, the results are not appear exclusively accurate; at least, not if you ask an InterVarsity student.

"Over the last five years, we have actually seen a record number in our history of conversions," explains Terry Erickson, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship National Director of Evangelism. "We're seeing lots of people coming to faith. So despite the fact of what was discovered about teens — and it is true with college students as well — we are having an uptick in evangelism."

To have such a dramatic decrease in evangelism among teens but then such a dramatic increase among older teens and young twenties is striking to say the least. So what is it that InterVarsity offers that most teens surveyed have yet to receive?

Erickson says that when many Christian teens first enter InterVarsity chapters in college, they struggle with a few key roadblocks keeping them from sharing their faith. "I think many teens as well as young college students have really bought into the cultural view of tolerance," notes Erickson. "You don't want to offend anyone, so there's a reluctance to share your faith. So we see lots of students that have to get over that hurdle in college if they want to do evangelism."

There may be an even deeper issue than loyalty to tolerance, though. "I think there's a theological issue as well," says Erickson. "That issue really has to do with many of our students, and I think this is even true for teens, really need more understanding and more conviction about Jesus being the only way to God."

The Barna Group study also showed that the "practice of prayer has dropped from 81% to 71% among teens since 1997," another factor that may contribute to many teenagers' increasing apathy toward evangelism.

"Those students who are developing a prayer life–who are in fact doing Scriptural study, who are involved in worship–tend to do better as they grow up in their faith," says Erickson. InterVarsity not only encourages these practices but makes clear what the Bible says about the uniqueness of Christ and His desire for His followers to be fishers of men.

"I think that combination [at InterVarsity] of looking at Jesus in the Scriptures–giving them actual training that just is not geared toward one type of person; moving away from the sales to much more of a journey metaphor of discovering faith; and then finally this whole idea of praying for non-Christians–I think that helps motivate these students to get over some of those hurdles."

Clearly InterVarsity's approach has been working as they've reported record numbers of conversions due mainly to students opening up and sharing the Good News. Pray that the Lord would continue to bless InterVarsity with wisdom as they defy the odds and reach out with the Truth to college students. Pray for Christian teens across the U.S. to grasp the truth of the uniqueness of Christ and to be convinced that their faith is worth sharing.

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