How can I encourage my peers to follow Jesus?
Have you ever asked this question? I know I have.
Throughout my years of following Christ, I’ve struggled with watching many of my peers slowly drift away from God. It’s hard to see friends make unwise decisions and watch them struggle in their relationship with God. It’s painful to see them leave the church. It’s lonely when your friends don’t share your love for Jesus.
When sixteen-year-old Hannah reached out to me, struggling, I completely understood. She wrote, “Most of my friends don’t really have a personal relationship with God. In fact, a lot of them say they’re too busy to spend time with God every day. Because of this, many of them are becoming apathetic toward God, the Bible, and spiritual things.”
Fifteen-year-old Gracie also shared her burdens for her youth group, “So many are stumbling in their walk with Jesus. They’re just deciding it’s too hard or it doesn’t make sense. It breaks my heart to see them struggle and give up.”
If you’ve ever felt like Hannah or Gracie, you’re not alone. Having a heart for your peers is so important and is the first step in helping them grow in their walk with God. If you’ve ever wanted to help inspire your friends to live for God, here are 6 tips.
1. Cultivate your own relationship with Jesus
In order to serve and help others, you need to be strong. Pouring into friends can only come from a place of fullness yourself. How strong are you in your walk with God? How often do you spend time in prayer and Bible study? These questions need to be answered before you begin helping others. Diligently guard your own relationship with Jesus and you’ll be stronger and better equipped to encourage your friends along the way.
2. Stay strong and don’t compromise
The desire to fit in is real. Even when we’re burdened for our peers, there’s a small part of our hearts that feels left out and excluded.
During my mid to late teens, I had few close friends. Many of my friends were slowly changing as they grew older and choosing to walk paths I didn’t want to follow. Because of this, I drifted away from those relationships. I didn’t consider myself better than they were and I struggled deeply with loneliness, but I knew remaining close friends would require me to compromise as I tried to fit in.
Never compromise—not even in an attempt to reach someone. It may be tempting to think that we (and our message) might be more relatable if we tried to fit in, but the opposite is actually true. It’s easier to pull someone down than it is to pull someone up.
Don’t compromise your own relationship with Christ, no matter what your peers do. The only way to inspire another is to stay strong yourself. The power of seeing another young person living sold out for Jesus is tremendous. You do stand out. And that does matter.
3. Pray for them
Prayer is always our number one strategy. Pray your peers would become discontent with apathy. Pray for God to open their eyes and light a fire of passion in their hearts. Pray that God would guide the youth leaders and other influencers in their lives to serve them and preach truth boldly. Pray for opportunities to reach out and for conversation starters and for courage to shine the light of Christ brightly.
Revival always starts with faithful prayers and faithful prayer warriors. Your prayers can have a tremendous impact in your youth group and among your friends.
4. Start a small group
It can be difficult to reach out to everyone one by one. Especially if, like seventeen-year-old Abby noticed, “Most of the teens I know don’t want to have deep discussions. I think I make them uncomfortable, even if I just ask how I could pray for them.”
In these situations, it’s easier to reach out in an environment that will feel welcoming and natural. Small groups are an incredible way to bridge the gap from “just hanging out” to more heartfelt discussions in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
Reach out to your youth pastor or leaders at your church and discuss starting a small group which you could offer to lead. Book studies or video sessions are great resources to set the stage for conversation and to share meaningful and truth-filled content with your peers. If your church isn’t interested or available to fit your group into their schedule, don’t be afraid to branch out and start one on your own.
5. Do ministry together
Engaging in hands on, nitty-gritty ministry together is one of the most impactful ways to break out of complacency. So often, our apathy is rooted in an overabundance of self-focus. When we get out of our own heads, our eyes are opened to the bigger story around us—the needs, hurts, and lifestyles of fellow individuals made in the image of God. When our hearts are stirred by the needs around us, we’re reminded of the power of the gospel and the ultimate need for Jesus in each human heart.
Present ministry opportunities to a group of friends or to your youth pastor or youth group and offer to lead them. Ministry is a wonderful way to connect with others on a deeper level and also helps you focus on a shared mission. Things like feeding the homeless or passing out hygiene products, street witnessing, volunteering with organizations and ministries, or simply ministering to those in your church family (such as the elderly, single parents, new moms, or families struggling financially) can be eye opening and impactful experiences. Most importantly, these activities remove the focus from ourselves and help us grow by stepping outside our comfort zones.
6. Love like Jesus
When it comes to sharing God’s truth with anyone throughout our lives, we need to look to the example of Jesus.
Throughout Christ’s ministry on earth, genuine love flowed through His every action. Like I say in my book, Love Riot, “He spoke hard truths and revealed areas of sin. He didn’t mince words. He challenged complete and radical obedience. But He genuinely loved those He spoke to. Matthew 9:36–37 says, ‘But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”’ We’re the laborers, but I don’t think we’re as moved with compassion as Jesus is for the harvest. That’s where sharing the gospel needs to start—with our love. If we don’t have love, we’re compromising the message. If we don’t have love, we’re probably not sharing it at all.”
Every heart has a craving for love. Like Jesus, don’t be afraid to speak hard truths. Like Jesus, don’t compromise. Don’t shy away from the messy, intense topics and always point back to the radical obedience Christ commands. But like Jesus, seek to genuinely love through the power of the Holy Spirit.Like Jesus, don’t be afraid to speak hard truths. Like Jesus, don’t compromise. Don’t shy away from the messy, intense topics and always point back to the radical obedience Christ commands. But like Jesus, seek to genuinely love. Click To Tweet
Christ is always our example. Jesus knows how to reach those around us. He knows what they need. He knows their story and even now, He is relentlessly pursuing their hearts.
Don’t give up. Grow in Christ. Stay strong and faithful. Reach out and serve. And don’t forget to love like He does.
That’s how to reach your peers.