You may be raising your kids in the church, but what about your teenagers’ friends? Chances are, our kids have friends from school, sports, and other activities who have never been to church or have never accepted Christ. With the summer ahead, these kids may be in our homes more often, or even join us on family outings or vacations.
We asked some of our Rooted parent writers how they build relationships with their kids’ friends and how they open the door to talking about Jesus. You’ll get some good ideas about hospitality here, as well as some practical suggestions for evangelism in your own home.
And also: Join us on Wednesday, May 25 at 1:00 CST for our webinar “Sharing Jesus with Unchurched Teenagers.” Youth pastors Clark Fobes and Arek O’Connell and Parent Steering Committee member Katie Polski will discuss practical tools for sharing the gospel with the teenagers and families God places in our lives. Time will be given to brainstorm with webinar participants. Register today!
David Brashler, father of four
Making the Space – Kids love to play, eat, bounce, laugh, etc. As our kids get older, how they like to hang out with their friends will change, but our goal as parents remains. Suppose we can make a space where our kids want to spend time together. In that case, we increase our proximity with our children. Their friends get to be in our home, see our decor, hear our conversations, watch how Christian parents act, serve one another, etc. Simple things like an extra box of popsicles in the freezer, or big things like a giant trampoline in the yard, can help make a space where our kids want to bring their friends. As much as possible, keeping TVs and computers in common areas also increases my interactions with their friends, not to mention the benefits of supervision.
Melissa Powell, mom of two
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a summer camp, Bible study, and church community that modeled and normalized hospitality and evangelism for me during adolescence. Most of what I do as a middle school mom is recreate those experiences for my son and his friends in our community. First, we purchased a home within walking distance of our public middle school. It does not escape me that this is a privilege that not everyone can practically accomplish or afford, but one that I witnessed as a child and felt compelled to do as a tool of evangelism. Second, my husband and I try to arrange our work schedules so that one of us is home by 3 PM, as this is the time that our child and any number of friends or neighbors start passing through our home or yard. This advice came from a respected mentor and mother of four now adult children. Third, I stock the pantry with snacks; our porch with games and swings; and our backyard with balls, chairs, a trampoline, a hammock, and a zipline. I have learned from Christian counselors that boys relate and communicate best side by side, while playing or working together, so we’ve tried to create spaces and opportunities for boys to engage with each other in fun and active ways outdoors. Then I simply invite them into our everyday family life as Christians, by checking in on their day at school, saying a blessing at meals, asking them how their family is, or sitting in our living room and reading the Bible as they come in and out of the house.
The years between “old enough to walk to our house” and “before they get a driver’s license” are fast and fleeting. I long for these kids to know that the Lord God is with them wherever they go (Joshua 1:9), so my prayer is that by being with them in intentional ways now, they will know we will be here for them in the future if they need us. Finally, since parenting is a marathon and not a sprint, I try to live within my limits so I don’t exhaust myself – I may never be the sleepover Christian mom, but I can be the after-school Christian mom.
Joey Turner, father of three
Think of it this way: Our effectiveness for “reaching” our neighbors will be directly linked to our prayers for our neighbors. We’ve found that our biggest issue in not engaging our neighbors, or thinking of creative tactics, it is ourselves. When we don’t believe that God wants to, and can, change our neighbors’ hearts, it shows in our lack of prayer and desire for hospitality. When we believe God loves our neighbors and can drastically transform their lives, it is exemplified in our prayerful dependence on Him, and we are amazed with what Paul E. Miller calls the “creative energy of God.”
I think the first place to start is with our own hearts of and confessing and repenting of disbelief in God’s transformative desire and power in our neighbors’ lives. I know that is the issue with our family. God can and will give us a genuine love for the people we live around. Wherever you live, your home is a garden of good fruit for your neighbors, by virtue of Christ in you! Christ has done it all! And God will provide what you need to love your neighbors. Lord we believe, help our unbelief.
Molly Witherington, mother of three
When our kids were only three, one, and a far-off thought, Hunter and I strategically bought a house near our church (and recently put a pool in the back) with the idea that we’d host the youth group regularly. In an effort to be the home where teenagers want to hang out, I frequent Costco for soft drinks and bulk snacks. We’ve tried to make our home a welcoming environment for all, even if it does mean I have to let got of my affinity for neatness!
If an unchurched teenager spends a significant amount of time in the home of a family that follows Christ, it shouldn’t take very long for her to wonder at the differences she notices in the rhythms and habits of that home. In his final sermons on the plains of Moab, Moses exhorts God’s people in the ordering of their new homes saying,
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:6-9)
I’ll be the first to admit that our family devotions don’t happen with the regularity that I’d hoped when I was a new mom. And I don’t know what frontlets are – the only thing between my eyes are worry lines. Our “gates” currently showcase our support for the Memphis Grizzlies. However, we do keep a Bible at the breakfast room table, and if anyone is with us for more than a few meals, she will hear God’s word read. If she spends a weekend with us, she’ll be joining us for corporate worship unless she is picked up by her parents early Sunday morning. If she spends the night she’ll kindly be asked – to the horror of my kids – to put any electronic devices in the basket outside the master bedroom, where they’ll remain until morning. She might also be surprised when social media doesn’t work on our wifi network.
Moses anticipated that when the Israelites settled into their new homes, their kids would wonder at the way their values and habits contradicted those of the surrounding nations. We can anticipate the same questions from our own kids and their friends and turn to Moses’s instruction. He wrote,
When your son asks you in time to come, “what is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharoah’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (see all of Deut. 6:20-25)
To sum up what Moses taught, “When people ask you why you do the things you do, share with them what God has done for you!” As Christians, we were once slaves to sin (Rom. 5:8). When our kids’ unchurched friends spend time in our homes and wonder at the habits, values, and rules we’ve put in place, we have an opportunity to tell them what the Lord has done for us. Our way of life – that often contradicts the ways of those around us – is the faithful obedience of people who have been set free through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Dan Hallock, father of three
We’ve found mealtime to be an easy way to talk about our faith with our children’s friends. Praying together before the meal is the perfect opportunity model prayer for our guest. Take a moment to go around the table and ask everyone if they have any prayer requests. Then, have someone lead in prayer as they thank the Lord for the food and for your guest and lift up the requests to the Lord.
During the meal, there are several ways to get to the topic of Jesus. You can ask your guest if their family attends church anywhere. You can ask your guest how life is going for them, and offer to pray for any difficulties they or their loved ones might be having. Another option is to read a short passage of Scripture and discuss it together. At the end of the discussion, it’s worth making a final comment of gratitude to the Lord that we can know him not because of our perfect performance for him, but because of Jesus’ perfect performance for us in his life, death, and resurrection.