“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”Romans 10:15b
Watching my kids learn how to swim has challenged me to rethink the way I train others to share Jesus. In his book Brain Rules, John Medina writes “90% of what is taught in training is lost within one month, the majority within a few hours.” Couple that statistic with people’s fear of talking about Jesus and we as evangelism trainers have a major problem. We might not be able to change people’s fears, but we can change how we train others to share Jesus.
Training that sticks needs to include three things: it needs to be personally meaningful, experiential, and have clear application.
Jumping off the diving board
My personal motivation to sign my kids to take swim lessons was so that they would be safe in whatever pool, lake or ocean they would swim. But for my kids, they aren’t thinking about safety- they’re thinking about fun! After my son Reuben saw his friend Owen–only a year older than him–jump off a diving board into the deep end he exclaimed, “Can I do that too? I want to learn how to swim in the deep end!” He was motivated by seeing Owen’s success.
As trainers we need to realize that our motivations for sharing Jesus will likely be very different than the people that we are training. Help them to discover their personal motivation. It could be that they want to learn how to have civil conversations with family members rather than debates about faith, that they want friends to experience the love of God, or they felt guilty saying no to the pastor that invited them to come to evangelism training. You can help people discover their personal motivation by beginning to have them dream- dream about what it would be like for their friends and neighbors to experience Jesus. Simply ask them, “If God could do anything in your life, your workplace or family, what would you want him to do?” This will give them a picture that they can ask God to make real in their life.
Getting in the water
Swimming is experiential. You need to get in the water to learn how to swim, not just read about it, have discussions about technique or observe people from the edge of pool. Evangelism needs to be experiential. You need to talk with people about Jesus for them to hear about Jesus. Though it can be difficult for people to have an experience while sitting in a seminar, technology is a boon to helping us reach people with the gospel. During an evangelism training at a Mothers of Preschoolers convention, I invited the women to take out their phones and text a friend who didn’t know Jesus and set up a time to grab coffee with them in the next week. Some women panicked, but all I was encouraging them to do was to create intentional space to learn about their friend’s spiritual background and share how they experienced Jesus at the conference. The room buzzed with delight as phones pinged with responses of “Yes! I’d love to get together with you!” For others it was a wake up call to realize they didn’t have any friends who weren’t Christians.
Just keep swimming!
At the end of summer swim lessons, my husband and I with our younger son cheered as Reuben jumped off the diving board. As he swam to the side of the pool in the deep end, he excitedly said, “I did it!” The thing he had been practicing for finally happened! It bolstered his feeling of success that yes, he could do it.
Evangelism training needs to have a clear action plan and opportunities to keep practicing.
What will people do once they leave your seminar? Will their notebooks just sit on a dusty shelf? Whether you have them set up a time to meet with a non-Christian friend, have an accountability partner to pray for people far from God or to meet again in a month to share how God is moving, it needs to be clear. Evangelism happens from people actively sharing their faith, not simply learning about it.
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