Preaching without Being Preachy

By Sally Johnson Odekirk

Church Magazines

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Young men and young women in Arkansas have learned how to share the gospel by example.

youth by river

When Sierra P., 17, moved to an area where few members of the Church live, her new friends wanted to know about her beliefs. This scenario isn’t new, and sometimes we may wonder how we can share the gospel with our friends without being overbearing. During a recent conversation with the New Era, youth in Arkansas shared what they have learned.

Common Ground

Sierra discovered that she could best answer questions when she asked her friends about their beliefs first and then focused on similarities and differences. “We studied a little about the Church in U.S. history, and that made everyone curious, so they came to me with their questions,” she says. “I had an opportunity to explain the entire plan of salvation to my volleyball team. Some of them realized that we have a lot of faith and are good people.”

Carter A., 16, adds, “Relate the gospel teachings to their lives. Don’t just throw a lot of facts at them, because 9 times out of 10 they’re not going to remember any of them. You have to relate the gospel to their lives and to your life.”

The Importance of Example

Lauren J., 17, says the best gospel conversations that she has had with friends at school have happened after they have watched her interact with others and know what her standards are. “You need to develop a strong relationship with others before you can share the gospel with them,” Lauren says. “I try to remember that I’m the only member of the Church my friends know. It helps to know that my actions not only reflect on my family and me but also on the Church. That pushes me to be kind and to represent the Church well.”

Difficult Questions

Sometimes people like to stir controversy, but these teens know that arguing about religion doesn’t work. Cameron H., 16, says, “I tell them my belief, agree to disagree, and walk away from the conversation. After a while it’s not you trying to defend your religion and your beliefs; it becomes you trying to prove a point. That’s not what I want to do. I’m trying to teach them, not argue with them.”

Photographs by Sally Johnson Odekirk