Questions From Teenagers on God, Faith, and Life in General

Credit: Creative Commons (Ethan Lofton)

I am so excited for a series that we are starting with our combined junior and senior high groups this coming Sunday. For four or five weeks (depending on the construction schedule at our church) we will address a particular question voted on by students. To get the initial questions, we asked students one Sunday to write any question they had about God, faith, or life in general on a 3 x 5 card. I was impressed at how many actually submitted a question, and the things they asked provided a lot of insight for me. For me, the best one was about why we have a coffee shop at our church when Jesus drove out the merchants in the temple. Here’s the complete list of questions, mostly as they were written, but occasionally edited for clarification’s sake:

What do we do when we have doubts?

How can we become stronger in our faith?

Spiritual worship: like ghosts and stuff…I don’t understand it.

What does the Bible say about ghosts and other “supernatural” stuff?

Can ghosts and evil things get me?

Will we have a second chance to go to heaven?

What is heaven like? Do we get to experience life there like we get to on Earth?

Will we see it the way we see Earth through our eyes?

How do you know if you are for sure going to heaven, like, if you asked God into your heart but you still aren’t sure you are going to heaven?

If you are not a Christian and believe that God died on the cross to relieve us of our sins, can they still go to heaven?

What is heaven like? What is hell like?

What is an unforgiveable sin?

Are there “unforgiveable” sins?

Is the unforgiveable sin knowing the Holy Spirit and accepting its existence and then opposing it, or is it having Satan in you without you knowing about it and then claiming it’s the Holy Spirit & vice versa?

How do I know I’m saved?

How to talk to your friends about God/religion, or how to talk about your religion with someone of a different religion?

Why are there differences in books, for example Matthew and Mark when they describe the same situation?

I’ve read many stories and testimonies of Christian brothers and sisters, including Jesus, and almost all SKIP a portion in their lives: the teenage years. So, how and what is an effective (way) to show, shine, and represent our faith as hormonally crazy teenagers?

Why does God allow trials, tribulations, and suffering?

Why do Christians question their faith?

How do you know God is real besides “look all around you”?

How he was made! (I assume, “How was God made?”)

In Genesis, Adam and Eve leave the garden and cities are already there and other people. Please explain.

How do we know if the Bible is true?

What is the best way to approach some(one) who isn’t Christian and ask them to church?

How did people know about God before the Bible?

How did people stay alive so long back in the Old Testament?

How do we know God is real?

How did Dinos exist if not in the Bible?

What if you are trying to get things figured out with your faith but the people you are around aren’t supportive?

How did the people before Moses know how they were doing was right or wrong if they didn’t have the 10 Commandments?

It’s hard to show God’s love. How can we show God’s love to our Mormon friends and just friends in general? And not just the service of this I want to go in depth.

What is the meaning of life?

Get to know God more.

What’s the meaning of life?

Why is it ok for the church to sell coffee and other products when Jesus was outraged when merchants were selling things in the temple?

How do you know he (God) is really there?

How are you supposed to know when you’re making a decision if it’s right? Or when it honors God over yourself?

Life in general

Why?

Traditionally, doesn’t Lent only take place Mon-Sat?

Why does school suck?

What is the best way to read the Bible?

Does God know what we will do?

How do we know God is working in us?

How do we know God is speaking to us?

What do we do when we find out a friend wants to commit suicide?

Why is it wrong to be sexually promiscuous?

Why is envy one of the seven deadly sins?

How do we minister if we are already in a Christian school?

How can we make our faith stronger?

Does Jesus love us all equally?

QUESTION: What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked by a teenager?

Top Posts of 2011, Part 2

Credit: Creative Commons (iUnique Fx)

This week, it’s “avoid creating new content week” as we look back on the past year and the most-read posts of 2011 at Discipleship, Family, Ministry. Of course, posts written early in the year will have an advantage because they’ve been around longer, but you know what, November and December? Life just isn’t fair.

Yesterday I posted numbers six through ten of the top ten list. Today we’ll look at one through five, and tomorrow I’ll share the five most popular videos.

Top Ten “Discipleship, Family, Ministry” posts of 2011: numbers 1-5
5) Theology and Youth Ministry – Beginning the Discussion (January 11th)

4) Theology and Youth Ministry – Paul Martin (January 13th)

3) Theology and Youth Ministry – What’s a Youth Pastor? (February 16th)

2) Theology and Youth Ministry – Brian Kirk (January 12th)

1) What If You Were the First Youth Pastor Ever? (August 9th)

Update: You can see the most popular videos of 2011 here.

Asking the wrong question

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:6-8, ESV

It was a simple question. And I’m not too sure I wouldn’t have asked a similar question. After all, they had been through a lot, and they had put a lot of hope in Jesus. For three years they followed him. There were times when things began to look up: Jesus began to get popular, gather a lot of support, and even was asked to be king at one point. But he always resisted. Then he was arrested. He was executed. And all seemed lost.

But here he was in front of him, plain as day, alive again. They knew he was the Messiah. No more denying. No more running away. And no more doubting (well, maybe just a little). Okay, they thought to themselves. Now, we get it. You proved that you are really the Messiah, so now it’s time to get down to business. And so they asked the question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Again, it was a simple, sensible question. But it was the wrong question. Their question put another way, was this: “Jesus, now are you going to fix everything?” Jesus’ reply in Acts 1:7-8 is gracious. “It’s not for you to know. But you will be used by God, who will empower you to tell everyone in the world about me.”

The disciples–and their Jewish kin–had a problem. A real problem. They were God’s chosen people, yet they were oppressed. It wasn’t a small problem. It wasn’t a petty problem. And they wanted Jesus to fix it. To make it right. But it wasn’t the problem that Jesus came to fix. Certainly, part of Jesus’ triumph was that he would reign with justice and peace. But the disciples, even though their problem was big, were thinking too small.

Jesus had come to reconcile the whole world to the Triune God.

We’ve got problems, too, you know. Real problems. Painful problems. And just like the disciples, we ask Jesus when he’s going to fix them.

Lord, is this the time you’ll repair my marriage?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll finally heal my daughter?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll help me stop feeling these desperate emotions?

Lord, is this the time when you’ll stop all the violence against your followers?

Real problems. Real questions. But Jesus gently leads us in a different direction. He doesn’t rebuke the disciples for their question, for how they just want things to be set right. He doesn’t dismiss their pain, and he doesn’t dismiss ours, either. He does, however, show us the bigger picture. All of the problems of our world are part of a deeper issue. We need to be reconciled to God. And we are the ones God plans to use in order to spread that message of reconciliation. That’s the bigger picture.

Interesting pattern, isn’t it? We tell God that we are eager for his healing to become a reality in this world. He responds, “Well, just when and how that will happen isn’t for you to know, but I’ll tell you what you do need to know: you’re going to be my witness in your community and throughout the whole world.” Not what I was expecting. But just what I needed to hear.

Theology and Youth Ministry – The Doctrine of Hell

Last weekend, I preached (in our main services) probably the toughest sermon I’ve ever preached: “Would God Really Send a Good Person to Hell?” It was tough not because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say; it was tough because I wasn’t quite sure how to say it.

Let me pause here and recognize that some readers of this blog will disagree with my view on hell–namely that hell exists, that it is a place of eternal and real suffering and torment, and that hell is not empty. In fact, when I posted a simply reminder of our summer service schedule plus what I thought was a harmless teaser about the sermon the day before I preached, a lively discussion ensued on my normally quiet Facebook page. So while I welcome that sort of discussion, my point here is for those who do affirm that the Bible is God’s inspired Word (and you can’t pull the I-place-more-weight-on-what-Jesus-said card on this one; Jesus talked about the reality of hell quite a bit), how do we teach teenagers about hell?

By now, at least a few of you have images of a well-meaning Sunday school teacher coercing young kids into conversion (or at least the appearance of conversion) through scary stories of people burning alive in hell. Or maybe that’s just me. But whatever images (or personal experiences) we have in mind of manipulative (when it comes to speaking on hell) teachers or preachers, let me suggest that we approach this with a clear head.

Ready? All clear? Good.

Now, as I prepared to preach last Sunday (thankfully, I got to develop the sermon with my partner-in-crime, our junior high pastor Chad Holladay), I spent a lot of time in thought and prayer about how to deliver the message. To be honest, part of my wrestling had to do with sinful pride and how people would respond to this difficult message. In the end, my approach was to be as loving and truthful as possible.

That’s also my prayer in how I approach the topic with the teenagers I serve.

In my own self-evaluation as well as in my interactions with lots of youth workers over the years, I would say that youth workers in general shy away from the topic of hell. I believe we do this for two reasons: 1) we don’t want to manipulate emotions or produce false conversions, and so we swing the pendulum to the other side; and 2) the doctrine of hell might be the doctrine that most teenagers agree with, and teaching on it brings up all kinds of negative emotions in our students, which might be directed at us.

That is just plain wrong. And cowardly. And know that as I say that, I am judging myself.

What follows are some short theological observations that should guide our teaching. For brevity’s sake, I won’t get too in-depth here, but rather point you towards the sermon, where I cover most of this in detail.

Every one of us has sinned against our holy God and is deserving of spiritual death, i.e. eternity in hell. I find this to be the most unpopular of the topics surrounding the doctrine of hell. But it’s an important baseline to establish, because none of us are good according to our acts. To drive this point home in the sermon, I mentioned that if God were to judge me according to my acts right now and send me to hell, he would be 100% just in doing so. Everyone–you, me, Hitler, Mother Teresa–are all in the same boat when it comes to our rebellion against God (James 2:10) and the death we deserve.

We cannot–on our own works or merit–atone for our sin. No matter how hard we try, we still rebel and our RAP sheet grows. But God provided a way through Jesus, the second person of the Trinity and the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, taking upon himself the punishment for our sin and the wrath of God.

There is no other name under heaven but Jesus that we can be saved (Acts 4:12). To make the results of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross a reality in our life, we must trust in Jesus alone to save us. There are no magic or exact words, and no ritual that we must go through. We must simply trust that Jesus’ work on the cross–not anything we can do–has saved us and provided eternal life. God is love, which is why he provided away. Many conclude that if hell exists, then God is not love. But rather, the reality of hell and what Jesus endured so that we might have eternal life is the most poignant picture of God’s love.

Because of the points above, youth workers have an obligation to lovingly (and un-manipulatively, if I may create a phrase) tell students the truth about hell. From what I’ve already written, I’m not advocating an over-emphasis on hell at the cost of other important truths. But we ought not shy away from it. In fact, to do so would be shy away from telling the full truth. If the Bible really is true, then the only thing that can save us from the ultimate consequences of our sin is the sacrifice of Jesus. And if that’s true, then don’t we have an obligation to tell the students we love? As Mark Driscoll put it once in a sermon on heaven and hell, “My job is to tell you the truth. Your job is to make a decision.

QUESTION: What are good ways to lovingly and truthfully teach the topic of hell to teenagers?

A Theology of Buildings, Ministry, and High-Cost Tools, Part 2

In Part 1, I shared a bit of an email conversation I had with my friend Jim about the cost of church buildings and their relation to ministry. I’ve heard it asked (and asked in my heart as well), should churches spend money on buildings? I’m still working through what I think is a biblical way to think about buildings and other high-cost ministry tools, but these are a few guidelines:

Saying, “The church in Acts didn’t have buildings, so we don’t need any, either” isn’t all that helpful. That’s about as helpful as saying, “The early church didn’t have guitars, so we don’t need them, either.” The fact is, the early Church (and even Jesus followers before his death, see Luke 8:3) had expenses, and those expenses were paid for by other generous followers of Jesus. This doesn’t mean that any expense is okay or that we can be justified in spending whatever we like on buildings, but it’s simply unhelpful and untrue to suggest that spending money on a ministry tool (including a building) or program is not in line with the NT Church.

It’s biblical to spend money toward the goal of seeing lost people come to faith in Jesus. There are a LOT of good things that Christians’ and churches’ money could go toward. People knowing Jesus is one of them. As noted in the previous point, financial supporters were a part of Jesus’ ministry and of the early Church, presumably to help pay for expenses. In addition, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9 that pastors ought to be paid for what they do. It’s a good thing to spend money toward the end of people knowing Jesus.

There are people who are hungry RIGHT NOW in your community. Now, it’s unfair to weigh every ministry expense against the fact that the money could be spent on the poor. In fact, such a complaint was made by none other than Judas Iscariot, and I think we should probably try to avoid following his lead wherever possible. However, we are also charged by Jesus to care for those who are suffering in a practical way (Matthew 25:31-46, for instance). The previous point shows that it’s okay to spend money on worthy ventures other than feeding the hungry. But the question does need to be asked, “are we building a monument to ourselves at the detriment of loving the outcast and the poor?”

It’s okay to spend money glorifying God. As a former Anglican, it strikes me as odd how much we as Evangelicals overlook this. One of the most important things we do as the Church is to gather corporately to worship God as the body of Christ. So, why wouldn’t we encourage people to give sacrificially to have a gathering place that points to the glory of God? Again, when we start building monuments to ourselves in the name of Jesus, we have a problem.

A lack of financial resources does not exist in most American churches. I’m not saying that people are not going through difficult times. My point is that we often discuss these issues surrounding building and church finances as though we live in scarcity. The reality is that we as Americans spend far too much on ourselves, and that if we really gave sacrificially, perhaps there wouldn’t be as much of a tension between feeding the hungry and having places for people to gather and hear about Jesus in a corporate setting. On a personal note, every time my wife and I “cut the fat” out of our family budget, God shows us (often using an unexpected expense, such as medical bills or my car breaking down) how far we have to go in learning to live without things we think we “need” that are actually wants.

Thoughts? How do you see this relating to youth ministry?

A Theology of Buildings, Ministry, and High-Cost Tools, Part 1

The church campus (our church currently has three campuses) I serve at is about to undertake a remodel/building project. I’m pretty excited about it, because it will give the high school ministry a bit bigger of a meeting space, while focusing on providing more room for small groups to meet at church.

As we’ve been meeting with our architect and drawing up plans, it’s hard for my mind not to wander to the purpose and need of buildings in the life of a church. I’m thankful that I serve at a church that approaches buildings and construction conservatively (spend what we have, NOT what money we think will come in if we have a really cool building). Still, in our last meeting, we talked about the need to determine what kind of audio/visual equipment we’d like to have in our new meeting space, and I found myself struggling with making a distinction between what would be fun to have and what tools I feel is really necessary for how God is leading us to serve our church and community. So, I emailed my good friend and missionary (currently serving in Kenya) Jim to see what he thought. He’s got an amazing heart for God’s Kingdom and is a really sharp thinker and writer. I was interested in his response, because he’s anything but a bells-and-whistles kind of guy; he grew up in a church that gives away a huge chunk of its budget to domestic and international missions (I believe it’s one-half of the budget, but I haven’t double-checked that). Here’s what I asked him (I’ve provided just the highlights):

What role does a building play in church life? I think our church approaches building conservatively…I just wonder what buildings really do, such as our new youth rooms (not really new construction, just moving locations and pushing some walls around). Are we building cathedrals that will one day sit empty like the grand cathedrals in Europe?…Do we really need to spend thousands on a sound system for high school students? Or could I teach the word of God just as effectively with a Bible and a bullhorn?

Here are some highlights of his response (shared with permission):

Heh! Easy question… *sarcasm*

It’s easy to say that a fancy building is NOT what the church should be about. The early church had NO building. Yes, a Bible and bullhorn is probably just as good as a thousands of dollar sound system with lights and fog… Much more effective than a bullhorn and a Bible is a meal and a conversation or a cup of Starbucks and some prayer or just working alongside somebody for a few hours. I think making a more ‘interactive’ experience with the audience probably makes it even easier to fall into the trap of attending church for the experience rather than focusing on experiencing God. So not only is it easy to argue that a cutting-edge building is unnecessary, but even detrimental.

BUT – the American church has great value – even her conventions. The ripest fruit sits in American churches expecting a certain experience… and a good sound system. That experience is probably an easier ‘in’ for an authentic gospel than anywhere else in the world. Give the sleeping heart an experience – that gets interested people in the door. Then through radical personal interaction with a few, maybe a large-scale change can be triggered. The Western church needs revival (to use an old-fashioned and over-used term). Nice sound systems will NOT bring it, but it does attract what might be the largest crowd in the world that is ripe for authentic revival. The way we think about Christianity in the West needs to change. A state-of-the-art building will not change it in the least – it’s probably a negative reinforcement – but there is great potential for a radically different faith sitting in ‘pews’ every Sunday. Using convention to capture their attention/vision for a moment could be one of our most effective tools for spreading a desire for relationship with Christ and radical faith with Him, as I see it.

In part 2 I’ll try to organize my thoughts into a “theology of buildings and ministry tools” for lack of a better phrase. What do you think about the questions I posed to Jim or his response?

Update: Read part 2 here.

Theology and Youth Ministry – What’s a Youth Pastor?

This is the first installment of “Theology and Youth Ministry,” in which I’ll tackle a theological topic and how it relates to youth ministry. Honestly, I’m not really sure what I’ve gotten myself into. Some weeks, I’ll cover topics usually addressed in what is commonly known as systematic theology–theology proper, hamartiology, ecclesiology, etc. Other posts will cover “practical theology,” otherwise known as “pastoral theology”–topics that are a bit more narrow and seek to address a particular situation, such as when a student experiences a particular tragedy. Today, we’ll address a basic question: What’s a youth pastor?

These days, the term “youth pastor” is often used synonymously with the term “youth worker.” We’ll take a look at just what it means to be a youth pastor, then apply that knowledge to how a youth pastor should function in his or her role.

Look in the Bible for a youth pastor as we know it, and you won’t find one. But you will find “shepherd,” a term referring to a leader of the local church in the New Testament, and from which we derive the word pastor. A few observations about the term “shepherd” in the New Testament (as it applies to a person other than Jesus):

A shepherd is a church leader, often associated with an elder (presbuteros) or overseer (episkopos). The Greek term for the noun shepherd is poimen and the verb form is poimaino. In Acts 20, Paul calls together the elders of the Ephesian church, and in an address to them, he tells them that the Holy Spirit has made them overseers to shepherd the Church (v. 28). Paul also lists “shepherd” as a particular gifting alongside apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). And in 1 Peter 5, Peter exhorts elders to shepherd their flock. You will note that different churches and traditions align the term “shepherd” with different church offices (Elder, Overseer, etc.), and I won’t address those issues here. The point is that a pastor–biblically speaking–holds a position of authority within the Church.

There is no detailed “job description” of a shepherd in the New Testament. Some who see the current state of youth ministry point out that there is no such thing as a youth pastor in the New Testament. While I do think those of us in youth ministry have some serious evaluation to do regarding the state of youth ministry, to point out that there are no youth pastors does not really tell us anything. There are no worship pastors or electric guitars, either. (No offense meant here to my Church of Christ brothers and sisters here.) Some areas had several elders, and while we can speculate just how the early church was organized (especially under the leadership of Paul), we don’t really have a lot of information to go on. What we can know are the qualifications of being an elder or overseer (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and what the goal of an elder was (to equip the believers in the church for ministry, not to do all the ministry; see Ephesians 4:11-13). The rest is speculation.

“Elder” doesn’t necessarily mean “old.” This assertion does not have a lot of data, but I do believe it fits the biblical evidence.  Obviously, the word itself assumes that those who are elders in the church will be older rather than younger.  However, the emphasis in the Bible is on spiritual maturity, which often implies a physical maturity as well, but this does not have to be the case. For instance, Timothy held some sort of leadership position in the church in Ephesus (tradition holds that he was appointed the overseer (episkopos) there in 65 AD. The point here is two-fold: 1) that a pastor can be young; and 2) we should take the spiritual leadership of our churches seriously, perhaps restraining from licensing a young youth worker who directs a youth ministry as a pastor right off the bat. But more on that later.

The Implications
So, what does this have to do with Youth Pastors? Here are a few conclusions:

A youth pastor needs to be seen as pastor for the whole church, not just one area. Wayne Rice notes this in his book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again), and I definitely recommend it as a good read for all church leaders. A youth pastor’s congregation is not the teenagers, or even just the teenagers and their families.  A youth pastor holds a position of authority in the church, just as the other pastors do. While a youth pastor has a distinct role, a youth pastor should be seen as a spiritual authority for everyone in the church, not just for the teenagers. If a person is not ready for that kind of spiritual authority, don’t give him or her the title, “pastor.” Which leads us to… 

There’s a difference between a youth pastor and a youth director. Again, the term pastor does not indicate just a job, but rather a church office. Different traditions handle licensing and ordaining pastors in different ways, so I won’t really go into details here on how this can work in a particular congregation. But regardless of your church tradition’s ecclesiology, it’s difficult to read the New Testament and not see that God intended for the Church to have people set aside as spiritual leaders. A church can make two big mistakes in this area: 1) hire someone to run a youth program and give him or her the title of “pastor” when that person is not yet mature enough to be given that spiritual authority, and 2) hire someone as a youth director, but give that person the responsibilities of a pastor without giving them the authority that goes along with it. In fact, I think those two issues are what set most aspiring youth workers up for failure in a church ministry setting.

A youth pastor’s job is to lead and equip, not to do all the ministry. I know, this should be obvious by now, but it’s worth saying out loud. There are several debates going on regarding the nature of youth ministry, what a youth ministry should look like, and how it should relate to the broader vision and structure of the local church. But I’m convinced that if we would stop encouraging teenagers to consume and start encouraging and equipping them to use their gifts to love people in Jesus’ name, and if we could start equipping and encouraging believing parents to be the primary disciplers of their kids, we’d be very much on the right track, no matter what that “looks” like practically. See Ephesians 4 for more on this.

And there you have it: a brief theology of the youth pastor. What are your thoughts on the role of the youth pastor in the local church?

Looking for more on Theology and Youth Ministry? View the Theology and Youth Ministry page here.

Theology and Youth Ministry – Continuing the Discussion

Last month, a few guest bloggers were kind enough to join me in a discussion about theology and youth ministry. I really enjoyed the conversation, and it’s really gotten me fired up. Here’s why:

1) What you believe about God greatly affects how you “do” ministry. For instance, some of what I would consider my least effective times as a leader have been when I’ve whined to God (totally different than lamenting and crying out to God, by the way…there is a time for those things) about my situation. Yeah, sometimes youth pastors are in a tough spot. I once served at a church that was going to close, and for much of that time, I had no idea what I was going to do next, not just to serve but to feed my family. If I believe that God is faithful and good even when I am drowning in difficult circumstances, how I act will look much differently than if I believe that God’s given me a raw deal.

2) Real theology isn’t boring. I love my wife. She’s incredible. And I’m always learning new things about her. That’s what studying theology should be like. Loving God so much we just have to find out more about him. It’s not an academic exercise; it’s a labor of love. I continue to be surprised by Jesus, not because he’s changing, but because I learn more about him all the time. And when I’m engaged in that kind of study, I’m actually giddy when I get to share what I learn with the students I serve.

3) Youth workers need more theological education. I’m not saying seminary is necessary. I’m saying that there is a theological depth that is lacking in the field of youth ministry. We should be always learning so that we can be better teachers and preachers and equippers.

4) The teenagers we serve want real answers to real questions. This doesn’t mean we have to have all the answers. It’s that we sometimes don’t even know how to get them started in their investigation of this Jesus guy. And they can take the deep stuff. Last week, we watched a sermon by Perry Noble on “Why bad things happen to good people” that was an hour long. It was intense, and they ate it up. In addition, we’ve been going through Mark each week on Sundays just a few verses at a time. We’re through 3 chapters after 4 months…and they’re into it. Real life is deep. Let’s be prepared to dig deep with students.

So…what does this mean practically? I’m glad you asked. Starting next week, I’m going to dive into a theological topic once a week, and apply it to youth ministry. I’m excited for the challenge and really looking forward to the conversation. And if you have any suggestions of theological topics you’d like to see covered, just let me know.

Update: Check out all the posts from the Theology and Youth Ministry Series here.

Theology and Youth Ministry – Wrapping Up (But Not the End)

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been in a series at Jesus and Teenagers on Theology and Youth Ministry. In the first post, I began with these words: “What you believe about God affects what you believe about youth ministry.”

These are words the youth ministry world dearly needs to take to heart.

Brian (one of the posters) correctly noted that one of the benefits of four youth workers sharing how our theological views affect how we “do” youth ministry is that we can gain an appreciation for one another’s traditions. I echo that sentiment, but I believe the main benefit is this: we learn that our theology has a profound impact on our methods of ministry.

Poor theology will always lead to poor youth ministry.

For this reason, I have resisted editorializing on my fellow youth worker’s thoughts that have been so kind to take the time and share about their beliefs about God and their practices of youth ministry. Obviously, the four of us agree on some points but disagree on others. What I hope will stick with readers is that as we can’t have a good discussion about the methods and philosophy of youth ministry if we are unsure of what we believe about God, the nature of humanity, and how it all fits together.

To my friends who shared their thoughts here: thank you. I encourage readers to check out the whole series of essays (these aren’t quick 500-word posts) and read them when you have time to digest them:

Theology and Youth Ministry – Beginning the Discussion
Theology and Youth Ministry – Brian Kirk (Progressive Christianity)
Theology and Youth Ministry – Paul Martin (Anglicanism)
Theology and Youth Ministry – Chris Wesley (Roman Catholicism)
Theology and Youth Ministry – Benjer McVeigh (Evangelicalism)

Update: I’ve created a page to keep track of the expanding list of Theology and Youth Ministry posts here.

Above all, I encourage you to have a relentless passion for knowing God. Only then can you have a relentless–and well-guided–passion for youth ministry.