Give the Gift of Gospel Conversations This Christmas
The lights are lit, the food is out and the activity is about to begin.
Family is about to flood through the front door. There will be hugs and merriment, stories and laughter, but your heart is anxious. Although you are looking forward to the camaraderie and connection, you are also hoping to have meaningful conversations … conversations about life, faith and the hope that you have in Jesus.
You are hoping these conversations will reveal where your loved ones, particularly the teens and young adults in your life, stand on spiritual things. As you celebrate the birth of Jesus, you want to make sure you don’t leave Him in the manger only when talking to your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and cousins and friends. You want to influence and encourage them with your values if they don’t share your faith in the One whose birth Christmas celebrates.
You want them to understand that He cares about them deeply and has a plan for their life. You want them to know that He offers peace in a crazy world and hope in dark times, but those conversations are so difficult to have. So how can you steer the discussions there in an organic and noncontroversial manner?
Begin, well before the house fills and the revelry starts, by praying and ask God to guide you. Be intentional and make a plan. Think through three or four questions and have them top of mind. Look for opportunities to have the one-on-one intimate exchanges with each one just to let them know that you love them and are praying for them.
Then try a few of these:
- Ask, then really listen: People don’t care what you have to say until they personally feel you have listened to them – this is particularly true with those closest to us. Because of that, asking the right questions can move the conversations in the right direction.
Make the questions meaningful. Instead of asking the anticipated “What is your favorite subject in school?” you might ask a student “How are you dealing with the chaos in culture?”
Rather than say, “What was your favorite memory from the year?” ask, “What do you hope to achieve next year?”
- Don’t talk about what you hate. Focus on what you believe in. Culture says, not without justification, “We know what Christians hate, but we really don’t know what they stand for.” Don’t let these conversations creep into your dinner conversations with those you love the most.
Don’t point out how beautiful your granddaughter would be if it wasn’t for her tattoos (I have had girls tell me that relatives have said these things to them). Tell her how much you love her and how precious she is.
Talk about goodness and kindness without complaining about the political trends that they might embrace. Engage them to listen to them, learn about them, not to tell them what you think or how you feel. Make them and their perspectives, not you and yours, the stars of your discussions.
Get Appropriately Personal
- Share what God has been teaching you: Instead of telling them what you want them to hear, let them hear in you what they are looking for — but don’t even realize it. “I had some very difficult times this year, but I sensed God’s presence and peace in a very tangible way.”
If you want the barriers to go up, talk at the people around your table. Tell them what you think they should be doing or point out what they are doing wrong. If you want the walls to remain down, share what God is teaching you. They may look disinterested; but they are paying attention.
- Ask them how you can pray for them: If faith is not a comfortable topic at these celebrations, you might not want to do this in a large group, but make sure you ask your kids and grandkids how you can pray for them.
Before sending your kids back to college, ask them, “How can I support you? How can I be praying for you?”
Counteract Their Anxiety and Stress
The majority of young people have tangible anxiety and stress, and if approached correctly will welcome this type of support.
No matter how it goes, commit to following up. If you see pain and brokenness in the eyes and responses of one in your home, make plans to spend time together. A breakfast date after Christmas might just lead the conversations even deeper. And, as Scripture instructs, pray without ceasing. It’s the best way to love without ceasing.
Sean Dunn is founder and president of Groundwire, a global ministry with the mission to lead every youth and young adult into a personal relationship with Jesus by leveraging current media channels to connect with them wherever they are. The group led more than 114,000 to Christ in 2020 and has seen more than 165,000 salvations this year. For more information, visit www.groundwire.net