Gen Z sees listening without judgment as the leading criterion for effective evangelism, according to a Barna Group report published in early November.
U.S. teens between ages 13 and 18 were asked to select all applicable answers from a list of 14 options in response to the question, “Which of the following characteristics would you use to describe someone who is comfortable sharing their faith?”
Two answers received affirmation from a majority of Christian Gen Z respondents: “listens without judgement” (66%) and “confident in sharing their own perspective” (56%).
Rounding out the top five responses were “demonstrates interest in other people’s story or life” (47%), “good at asking questions” (45%) and “does not force a conclusion” (44%).
The two responses receiving the lowest affirmation from respondents were “quick to point out inconsistencies in others’ perspectives” (13%) and “has all of the answers to questions about faith” (22%).
For non-Christian U.S. teens, “listens without judgement” was also the top approach (72%), followed by “does not force a conclusion” (57%), “confident in sharing their own perspective” (49%), “demonstrates an interest in other people’s story or life” (47%) and “good at asking questions” (46%).
Non-Christian respondents were also presented with the question, “If a Christian wanted to tell you about their faith, how appealing would the following approach be?” They were asked to note the level of appeal for 10 possible evangelistic approaches.
The most appealing approach was “seeing how the person behaves, allowing their actions to speak rather than using words to explain their faith to me,” with 55% of non-Christian teens saying this would be “very appealing” (23%) or “somewhat appealing” (32%).
No other approach received affirmation by a majority of non-Christian teens.
The second most appealing approach was “being asked to give the reasoning behind my own lifestyle choices or beliefs,” with 32% saying this would be “very appealing” (12%) or “somewhat appealing” (20%).
The most unappealing approach for non-Christian teens is to be “quoted scripture or text from the Bible as evidence for Christianity,” with 58% saying this was “not at all appealing” (34%) or “not very appealing” (24%).
“Receiving digital or online Christian content such as a video, blog or podcast” was the second most unappealing approach, with 51% saying this was “not at all appealing” (27%) or “not very appealing” (24%).
“Christians’ assumptions about faith-sharing generally align with non-Christians’ expectations — both of which fit well with teens’ common definition of evangelism, and all of which lean away from overt evangelistic encounters and toward relational, embodied faith,” the report said. “Overall, Christian Gen Z teens do not seem to live in a ‘Christian bubble.’ They exhibit awareness of and even agreement with how their non-Christian peers think and feel about evangelization. They want to have low-stakes conversations for the benefit of their friendships.”
The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.8%. The full report is available here.