How to T.R.A.I.N. Christian Students (Rather than Teach Them)

by J Warner Wallace

I’ve written repeatedly about why the Church needs to stop teaching students about their faith. Young Christians are leaving the Church in tremendous numbers during their college years, and our efforts to teach them has been incapable of reducing this rate of attrition. That’s why it’s time to stop teaching students and start training them. There’s a difference between teaching and training. Teaching is about imparting knowledge; training is about preparing for battle. As I explain this principle around the country, I use the acronym, T.R.A.I.N. to help people understand the conceptual difference:

T – Test
Challenge students to expose their weaknesses.

R – Require
Expect more from students than we sometimes think they can handle

A – Arm
Provide students with the truth and teach them how to articulate it

I – Involve
Deploy students to the battlefield of ideas

N – Nurture
Tend to students’ wounds and model the nature of Jesus

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This week I’m going to briefly describe each step in this process. You may be thinking, “Hey this youth ministry stuff doesn’t really apply to me.” You’re wrong. I think the problem facing young Christians in our culture is indicative of the problem facing all of us as Christians. If we hope to become better Christian Case Makers so we can influence the culture and respond obediently to the command of God (1 Peter 3:15-16), we’ve got to rethink our approach to knowledge and Christian education. So let’s examine the TRAIN paradigm and see what it can provide. We’ll start today with TESTing.

Whenever I work with a youth group for an extended period of time, I begin with a test. This accomplishes two goals. First, it helps me see where specific weaknesses may be so I can focus my efforts. But more importantly, testing helps students understand how much they need to be trained. My experience as a police officer has helped me to understand why this is so important…

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