In this cultural climate, it often takes a significant amount of courage to express a Biblical viewpoint in the public square. But the good news is that an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 students did just that in public schools across the nation for the student-led Day of Dialogue, sponsored by Focus on the Family. Candi Cushman, Focus’ education analyst and facilitator of the event, shares the feedback Focus received from students.
CitizenLink: Candi, what were some of the more creative ways students got involved with the Day of Dialogue this year?
Candi Cushman: That was a refreshing, encouraging thing to watch. We can learn a lot from the students by observing the way they think out of the box to engage in a redemptive way with their generation. Day of Dialogue, held in mid-April each year, simply gives them the confidence they need to take action based what’s already on their heart.
For instance, Quencie and Sarah, 21-year-old college students, reported that: “We set up … a place for students to watch a Day of Dialogue video, and smaller tables were set up for conversation and prayer. We also had a prayer wall where students could write on the board in one word how they would like us to pray for them.” Before the event, Quencie said they wanted to “give students the assurance of hope, and love. Here at our college, we will be used as tools to raise lost souls from the dead.”
I also loved the comment we received from Kara, age 17: “This year, I baked sugar cookies and put them in bags with the verse Romans 6:23. When people saw the cookies and asked about them, I told them that they were free and let them reach for the bag. I told them that this is like God’s gift of eternal life for us. Like all gifts, it is free, but you must take it to receive it and to have it. I used this as a gateway to talk to them about God’s love and their beliefs. I chose to participate because I wanted my peers to know about God’s true love, not the distorted image the media broadcasts. I wanted an opportunity to give them God’s opinion so that they would know that what the world thinks isn’t the only viewpoint.”
CL: What seems to really be motivating the students who participate?
CC: Many are motivated by a passionate desire to share how God’s grace has redeemed their own life with their peers. Here are some examples of comments reflecting that:
Jacob, age 17, said: “I put a Conversation Card in every student’s locker with my name and phone number on it. …I chose to participate in the Day of Dialogue because this event was God’s answer to my prayers. I had the church praying that I would have boldness to preach the Gospel of Christ to every student in my school before I graduate this year, and on this day, Jesus gave me the courage. … It went well. I went to the center of the lunch room, stood up on a chair and said, “Hey everybody!”… Everyone got quiet and listened the whole time. I shared three truths (one of which was that). I said I am a Christian and that the goodness and love they saw in me has only been Jesus Christ, that I am not a good person, but a forgiven and redeemed young man. I told them that I am what I am, only by God’s grace.”
Roxanne, age 17, also shared: “I got a few friends together and we talked to people in our Christian group at school … we had 40 new members on the D.O.D. (Day of Dialogue), and we had a lot of people saved that day. I chose to participate because I want to spread the word of God and tell people and show them how I love Jesus and how strong I am in my faith.”
Logan, age 15, said his youth group planned “to share the wonderful news of Jesus’ love to others. It only takes one person to turn the school or community upside down by telling of God’s forgiveness and righteousness.”
Photos contributed by Quencie, Missouri college student
CL: Do you think some students are participating as a way of dealing with the pressure at school?
CC: Yes, many of the students are also looking at it from a worldview perspective and seem motivated by a desire to balance out the one-sided presentations and marginalization of faith-based viewpoints they perceive in pop culture and at their school. Here are a couple of examples that seem to reflect that:
Before the Day of Dialogue, Nathaniel, age 14, shared that “my school is heavily atheistic and pro-LGBT (promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender topics) and Christians (who have a Biblical viewpoint on sexuality) are constantly under fire by our teachers and peers. My friends and I plan to use Day of Dialogue as a way to gather Christians together, who at my school have been (dealing with it) alone up to this year, and support one another.” Nathaniel said his group planned “to spark discussion” and that “we plan to speak out for the LORD … showing God’s love and compassion” and wanted “to answer questions and show that God’s plan for life and marriage is the right way to go.”
Kaleigh, age 15, also said: “I printed out the Conversation Cards to hand out to my fellow students. I passed these out and was open to conversations about my views. I chose to participate to show people the other side to the issue.”
CL: What about church leaders and parents — do you receive feedback from them?
CC: We hear from parents and pastors who share how the “Dig Deeper” teen-friendly articles on the DayofDialgoue.com site help them talk with youth about issues they’re encountering at school, as well as in music and movies. We also hear from youth leaders who work with teens.
For example, we received feedback from Pastor Bill, who said he is part of a weekly mentoring program for teens from a high school for students “struggling with academics or disciplinary issues.” His mentoring day happened to fall on the same day as Day of Dialogue. He shared: “On the Day of Dialogue, we explained what students were doing across our nation, talking and sharing openly about their faith and beliefs. We then opened the door to them to ask what they believed. By the end of our very interactive discussion … they all agreed that, with faith in God, they would have a better chance at personal success and be more highly motivated and have increased self-esteem because they will see themselves as God sees them rather than how they currently view themselves or how others perceive them.” He also added that the students “are now trying to work out the kinks to starting a Christian campus club. It was a Good God Day!”
CL: Why do you feel it is important for Day of Dialogue to continue?
I feel this event is vitally important to equip the next generation with the confidence that the Gospel of Christ has the redemptive power to speak into even the most sensitive cultural issues. I also feel that this is needed — particularly at this time in our culture when religious freedoms are under severe attack — to proactively carve out a safe space for students to exercise their First Amendment rights to express a Biblically based perspective. This not only equips this generation, but also safeguards religious freedom rights for future students.
Please note: The parenthetical comments in the interview were added by the editor.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about Day of Dialogue.
Learn how you can help Focus continue empowering Christian students to exercise their religious freedoms.