When I started at my youth group I didn’t know the level of my kids’ biblical or theological literacy. My first series was through the book of Philippians and quickly I understood that my youth knew who people were in the Bible, understood some Christian terminology and had a solid basic understanding of the gospel.
However, in the lives of many of my youth, there was this stench of complacency towards Christian living and personal devotion that really bothered me and their parents. Most of my youth are “good” churched homeschooled kids who aren’t allowed to watch MTV and can only watch movies after their parents check it out on PluggedIn.com. I don’t have that kind of background. I was the kid who went to church to talk to the girls and I thought Christian music was as lame as the Christian shirts people wore. So their complacency confused me.
I realized that a lot of our kids understood the do’s and dont’s of Christianity, but not the whys and hows of Christianity.
They knew Jesus saved them. However, if you asked them from what and why, you would get confused answers from all over the board. They knew the Bible was the word of God but didn’t understand inerrancy or even know if inerrancy mattered. Some believed in different forms of heresy and didn’t even know it. Doctrines of the incarnation, trinity, atonement, creation, and of the last days were all a bit of a blur.
If we are honest, unless you were one of the lucky few, you didn’t learn your theology in Sunday school at church. You learned it in Bible College or from reading books.
So when these heinous statistics come out that 9 out of 10 seniors in high school “lose their faith” in college, it shouldn’t surprise you because they have no substance or foundation to lean on. We can’t expect our youth to go to these secular universities and expect them to survive when they don’t really understand what they believe in.
So I decided before I go on any further and try to teach through books like Romans and Hebrews, which are very theologically heavy and rich, I better give them a basic understanding of Theology.
I used the book Doctrines by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears as an outline and reference. Depending on what camp you are in theologically, you may agree or disagree with certain second hand issues in this book. But you should never just read a book and regurgitate it on your youth. I interacted with it and taught what I felt was necessary and consistent with my church’s doctrinal statement. It is written in a way where your youth can understand it and it is easy for you to teach it. It is a great resource! I kept my Berkhof and Grudem Systematic Theology books nearby but Doctrines did an excellent job breaking down the truths and explaining what it means practically to the Christian.
The youth loved it! One thing that gets me really hyped is when a youth tells me something they learned about God and it causes them to be in greater worship. My youth are stronger and more prepared now than ever. I have teens that are in college now who email me, telling me how they had to defend what they believe and the theology they learned in youth group helped them. I would encourage you to tell the parents to buy the book and read it too. Parents should be the main disciplers to their youth and them teaching their kids theology while you go and reinforce what they are learning at home is a very beautiful thing. Plus, the theological illiteracy isn’t just in youth. You coming along side the parent may cause the parent to learn something and have a greater response of worship to the Lord because of this.
A word of caution: It is easy to be dry and cold when it comes to theology.
There is a way to teach about the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God that are relevant and interesting and a way that will cause your kids to play Temple Run during the whole service. You have to learn how to contextualize what you are teaching. They need to hear the truth but you have the freedom to package it in a way that is relevant to them.
Theology is helpful to youth and they can handle it! Kids are learning advanced calculus and learning Latin. A little theology is not beyond the realm of their capacity. I believe this has been one of the greatest deficits in youth ministry for the past 20 years. If youth ministries are producing more theologically astute Christians, this can only benefit the church in the long run. Theology should always lead to a greater worship and love of Christ. If it isn’t, you are doing it wrong.