Young People Ask . . .

What if I Meet Someone From School?

“Going back to school on Monday was torture. If any of my friends had seen me, I’d make up these elaborate stories. For instance, I’d tell my friends that I had been out collecting money for the Labour Party.”—James, England.

“At school I was ridiculed by people who had seen me. I felt a lot of pressure.”—Débora, Brazil.

WHY were these youths so afraid of being seen by their friends? Were they engaged in some kind of illegal activity? On the contrary, they were engaged in the most honorable and the most important work being done on earth today. They were doing the work that Jesus commanded when he said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.

According to a U.S. Gallup survey, over 90 percent of teenagers believe in God. About half go to church every week. And while many youths are involved in church-sponsored activities, such as singing in the choir, few talk about God with their schoolmates. Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, are known the world over for their door-to-door preaching activity. Thousands of young Witnesses participate in this work.

If you are a young Witness, no doubt you too already share in this preaching work. But this does not necessarily mean that you find it easy to do so. Like the youths quoted at the outset, you may find the thought of meeting a schoolmate at the door distressing. “One of the worst things,” admits a British youth named Jennie, “was for one of my schoolmates to see me all dressed up, in a skirt, carrying a book bag—looking a lot smarter than I did in school.”

Fears of encountering a schoolmate can be so intense that some young Christians have resorted to subterfuge. A youth named Leon says: “I know one young Witness who wears a hooded jacket while he’s in the ministry, so he can pull it down over his face if he runs into his school friends.” Yet other youths simply avoid  preaching in certain neighborhoods. “I remember praying that we not work a certain road,” recalls a youth named Simon, “because I knew it was packed with people from school.”

It is normal to feel a bit uneasy about running into someone you know when you’re out preaching. However, letting that fear dominate you can only do you harm. “I had such a bad attitude toward preaching,” admits a German youth named Alicia, “that it had a negative effect on my spirituality.”

Why, though, should you have to preach in the first place—especially if it is hard for you to do so? In answer, let’s consider why God lays this obligation upon you. Then we will show how, with effort and determination, it is possible for you to overcome your fears.

The Obligation to Preach

First of all, it may help you to consider the fact that there is nothing new or strange about sharing your faith with others. From ancient times, God-fearing men and women have done so. Noah, for example, is best-known as the builder of an enormous ark. (Genesis 6:14-16) But according to 2 Peter 2:5, he was also a “preacher of righteousness.” Noah felt obliged to warn others about the impending destruction.—Matthew 24:37-39.

Later, although the Jews were not given specific commands to preach to non-Jews, many did share their faith with others. Thus, a foreigner named Ruth came to learn about Jehovah. Grateful to her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth told her: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Later, King Solomon indicated that many non-Jews would come to hear of the “great name” of Jehovah and worship at His temple.—1 Kings 8:41, 42.

Now if these ancient servants of God spoke to others—in spite of being under no direct command to do so—how much more should Christians today feel obliged to preach! After all, we have been commanded to preach “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) We are like the apostle Paul, in that necessity is laid upon us to declare this good news. (1 Corinthians 9:16) Our very salvation is at stake. Says Romans 10:9, 10: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, . . . you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”

Where can you make that “public declaration”? Although preaching informally has its place, the door-to-door ministry is still one of the most effective ways of reaching others. (Acts 5:42; 20:20) Are you exempted from having to share in this work because you are young? Hardly. The Bible issues this command at Psalm 148:12, 13: “You young men and also you virgins, you old men together with boys. Let them praise the name of Jehovah.”

The Challenge of Preaching to Peers

Admittedly, it can be awkward and unsettling to be out in the ministry and meet up with someone who goes to your school. After all, it’s only natural to want to be accepted by others. Nobody wants to be teased, taunted, or abused verbally. And as a youth named Tanya puts it, “the kids in school can be so vicious!” So you may naturally wonder how your schoolmates will react if they see you all dressed up with a Bible in your hand. Sad to say, it’s entirely possible that they will ridicule you. “There was a boy in my class who lived in my building,” recalls a Brazilian youth named Felipe. “He would say, ‘There you go with that Bible! What do you have in that briefcase?’”

Being a victim of such teasing is no laughing matter. The Bible tells us that Isaac, the son of  Abraham, received what actually amounted to vicious teasing from his half brother, Ishmael. (Genesis 21:9) The apostle Paul did not make light of this mistreatment. At Galatians 4:29, the apostle rightly called it ‘persecution.’

Similarly, Jesus warned that some people would be hostile toward his followers. He said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”—John 15:18, 19.

As a Christian, then, you have to be prepared to suffer some amount of persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) Even if you never said a word about the Bible to your peers, some might still persecute you simply because you maintain high standards of conduct and don’t join them in mischief. (1 Peter 4:4) However, Jesus offers these comforting words: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake.” (Matthew 5:11) How can being teased or taunted possibly make you happy? Because you know that you are making Jehovah God’s heart rejoice! (Proverbs 27:11) And by pleasing God, you put yourself in line for the reward of everlasting life!—Luke 10:25-28.

Fortunately, it is not likely that all—or even most—of your schoolmates would be hostile were you to encounter them in the ministry. A British youth named Angela reminds us: “When you meet a schoolmate at the door, often they’re more scared than you!” In fact, some may be quite curious about what you have to say. In any event, many young Christians are enjoying great success in witnessing to their fellow students. Our next article in this series will discuss some ways you too can do so.

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Many youths fear running into a fellow student while out in the ministry

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Never let teasing make you ashamed of your faith