Faithful speech doesn’t need to rely on formulas.
In fifth grade, I received evangelism training through my church. It went something like this: Memorize a series of verses (the famed “Romans Road” of evangelizing), identify an unbelieving friend, ask her to get together, share the gospel, and invite her to place faith in Christ.
My Sunday school teacher spent the summer helping us learn the words we would need to know, and in late August, she drove two of us to pick up a classmate and test our skills. I remember nervously sipping a milkshake next to our target unbeliever, terrified I wouldn’t get the formula right or remember the Sinner’s Prayer. I don’t remember whether the evening ended in conversion, so I’m guessing it did not.
I’m not here to knock my well-intentioned teacher nor critique the various memory tools or verbal formulas for evangelism. God certainly uses these means. But my husband and I chose a less formulaic approach to train our children to be invitational, relational, and convictional in the speech they used to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
It may seem counterintuitive to train children in gospel words even before they themselves have professed faith. But when we focus less on apologetics and more on Christian speech, these patterns can and should be taught as soon as they start to talk.
First, we should train our would-be tiny evangelists to be fluent in kind words. Children in Christian homes should be taught to forgo sarcastic, bullying, and teasing speech for gracious, encouraging, and affirming speech. When we model and reward kind speech inside our homes, our children are likely to use it outside of them. Kind language is in short supply in our culture, and children who learn to stem the tide of vitriol …