Shane was thrilled. He and his girlfriend, Francesca, had just finished hours of conversation with their skeptical friends at a local restaurant. They kicked off the conversation by presenting philosophical arguments for God, eventually convincing their skeptical friends to acknowledge that God must exist.

Next, they moved into a conversation about Christianity while their friends raised objections to Christian exclusivism with the all-religions-are-basically-the-same argument. Shane and Francesca discussed the clear differences among various religious views, arguing that the varying claims about God, salvation and the afterlife are mutually exclusive. Then they offered some of the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity. Eventually the conversation came to an end, but only after they had covered a tremendous amount of ground about God and religion.            

Who exactly are Shane and Francesca? High school students I met while speaking at a summer camp in Missouri. In a message sent to me the week after camp, Shane divulged all the details about their conversation. Often John and I cringe when Christian students talk with skeptical friends about Christianity. Sometimes the conversation ends with the Christian kids doubting what they believe. By the time we learn what happened to them, they’re pleading with us to help them pick up the pieces of a fractured faith.

Not this time.                                           

After the encounter, Shane said he felt confident during the conversation, even in the face of his friends’ serious objections. He shared that his faith in Christ felt “a lot stronger” after the conversation too. Francesca said the conversation made her “think even harder” about her Christianity, but she also expressed a newfound confidence in Christ.                                 

What’s the difference between Shane and Francesca and the typical Christian student whose faith gets challenged? Training before the encounter. After spending five days learning worldview and apologetics at summer camp, Shane and Francesca were equipped to engage. Instead of helping them pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a skeptical challenge, we built a solid foundation of faith before the encounter.

Francesca told me, “Before camp, my heart was won over by the amazing experiences I had at church, but Christianity never made sense in my mind. All of the messages at camp helped me to understand that Christianity is also true rationally, bringing my head and heart together. Thank you!”                             

When we equip our youth with the truth of Christ, they develop courage and confidence for every encounter. And when you help them build that foundation in a pluralistic world, they’ll thank you too.

Excerpted from A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle (’97, M.A. ’13), Copyright © 2017, published by David C. Cook Publishers. Used by permission.