Amid reports of skyrocketing atheism among Generation Z, an evangelist who mobilizes youth to share the Gospel is urging Christians to redouble their efforts to reach young people. And the current strategies churches are employing are just not working, he says.
Greg Stier, the founder of Dare 2 Share whom was interviewed by The Christian Post in June, said Wednesday that if the latest Barna research is correct — that those born between 1999 and 2015 are "the first truly 'Post Christian' generation and that percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is twice that of the American adult population — it is beyond time for some major changes.
"The youth groups trend of fun games and short Bible studies have resulted in frail youth groups and shallow young people. And spiritually immature teenagers will not lead their atheistic friends to Jesus," Stier said.
"And if young atheists have doubled, we must double down, and the first step is to double our prayers."
In a massive research project Stier's group commissioned in 2013, they discovered that the most effective youth groups reaching unreached teenagers for Christ were the ones that prioritized intercessory prayer.
"We must program the priority of prayer into our actual church services and youth group meetings. Through prayer we tap into the very power of the Trinity to turn the statistics around in a way that only God can get the credit for," he explained, referencing 1 Timothy 2:1-4, in which the Apostle Paul directly connects the dots between prayer and evangelism.
"If we want to reach the lost we must pray for the lost. As it has been said, "Before we talk to people about God we must talk to God about people."
That same 2013 study they commissioned found the churches that prioritized relational evangelism training with their teens proved most effective in outreach.
"This should not come as a surprise. If a teenager is motivated to reach their friends, equipped to turn conversations toward God and trained to explain the Gospel message in a clear and compelling way, they are far more likely to reach their friends for Jesus."
Teenagers must be equipped to "engage not enrage" their atheistic friends, Stier continued. In Dare 2 Share they train teens in a three-step process: "Ask, Admire and Admit."
"We equip them to ask questions and discover what they really believe. Then we train them to look for things they can admire and agree with so they have common ground. Finally, they must be trained to 'admit' that the reason they are a Christian is they are so messed up they needed Jesus to save them."
This humble approach toward evangelism allows the walls to fall down in the hearts of the most ardent of atheists, he said.
He encourages young people to utilize the social media utilities as part of their mission field.
During Dare 2 Share live simulcast events teenagers from across the nation are inspired and equipped to share the Gospel with their peers and are then unleashed to go do it; one such live event will be coming up on Oct. 13. Gospel conversation starting videos are texted directly to their friends or uploaded to their entire social media feeds.
But the evangelist is quick to add that it will take more than one day a year to close the gap on Generation Z.
"For this to happen, youth leaders must change their philosophy of youth ministry from being driven by fun to driven by faith. The Church cannot compete with the world when it comes to fun anyway because we don't have the money," Stier said.
"But the world cannot compete with the Church on a deeper level because they don't have the truth."
The Barna study, which CP reported on last Wednesday, indicates that 35 percent of Generation Z teens consider themselves atheist, agnostic or not affiliated with any religion, whereas 30 percent of millennials, 30 percent of Generation X, and 26 percent of Baby Boomers said the same.
"[Y]oung Christians are struggling as much as we have seen it in the 20-plus years I have been at Barna and in the 35-plus years of our company to understand how to live out their faith in an increasingly skeptical culture," said Barna President David Kinnaman.
"They are having to represent what the Bible says, what it means to be Christian, in a culture that doesn't understand it or who believes that the Bible is simply a book that is religious dogma that has been used to oppress people — that being Christian is extremist or irrelevant in our society."