Discipleship: Should Jesus Be a Part of Every Conversation?

Credit: Creative Commons (Clemson)

As a youth pastor, I spend quite a bit of time with teenagers. Appointments in my office, coffee at Starbucks, and one of my favorites as of late, getting in a quick nine holes at the local disc golf course. Sometimes, I’ll meet with a student to talk about something in particular. Other times, like with disc golf, we’ll get together just to have fun.

A while ago, a colleague of mine–who also spends a ton of time with teenagers–asked a question about the time we spend with teenagers: is it okay to sometimes hang out with teenagers and not talk about Jesus?

My first thought was I hope so.

Because there are plenty of times when I hang out with high school guys in our church and Jesus doesn’t come up. It’s not that I avoid talking about Jesus; it’s just that sometimes we’re just playing disc golf and having fun.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin.

I’m a youth pastor, after all. My job, among other things, is to point people to Jesus. Shouldn’t I take every opportunity to talk to a student about Jesus? Should I really spend an hour in a coffee shop with a student and not ask how their relationship with Jesus is going? Or if they aren’t a follower of Jesus, shouldn’t I share the Gospel at every opportunity? Maybe being a good youth pastor means that we can always point a conversation toward Jesus. Or perhaps that line of thinking just makes us lifetime members of the Jesus Juke club.

Personally, I don’t think Jesus has to be a part of every single conversation with a student, even if it’s a long conversation. While I’m passionate about telling every teenager I can about Jesus, sometimes I think youth pastors need to learn how to shut up and listen to teenagers — who are often in a lot of pain. We are often too guilty of believing we have all the right answers for all the right situations. Still, I know there are times when I need to be more bold when it comes to sharing about Jesus — I think we all do. But being bold doesn’t mean being pushy. It just means that when the Spirit prompts us to speak, we speak. But when we just need to listen, or hang out, or laugh a whole lot, we do. Maybe Jesus is a part of the conversation, maybe he’s not; but he’s always present in the way we love students.

What do you think? Should youth workers try to fit Jesus into every conversation with teenagers?

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