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Don’t Underestimate Teenagers’ Ability to Understand Theology

Too many times, too many youth leaders vastly underestimate the typical Christian teenager’s capacity to understand, embrace, and apply significant Christian theology. Perhaps this is due to the caliber and “depth” of many curriculum. Most lessons are running low on theology. As a result, youth leaders who browse for and buy curriculum tend to be preconditioned to think this is what kids want and need.

But as I connect with teenagers, I find the very opposite to be true. In fact, the typical teenager appears bored to tears by the typical curriculum because it teaches nothing noteworthy, dangerous, or significant. At first glance, theological concepts such as the Trinity, the problem of evil, and the inerrancy of Scripture may seem irrelevant to the lives of Christian teenagers. But I’m convinced that every significant area of theology is at the epicenter of what kids can and should be talking about in youth group.
You may be thinking, “Theology isn’t relevant to where my teenagers are at.” I’d say it all depends on how it’s being taught. Teaching the Trinity as a purely didactic exercise may cause kids to doze off. But teaching it as a “you’re-never-alone” concept can rock a teenager’s world.

• Jesus says in John 14:23 (NIV), “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
• In John 15:26 (NIV), Jesus says, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” With these words, Christ reminded his disciples that when he left, the entire Trinity would come to dwell within them and speed them on their mission. What a great comfort for Jesus’ disciples—and our teenagers—to know that the one true, living God exists in their hearts as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I’ll never forget teaching this concept to a group of teenagers at a conference. Afterward, a teenage girl came up to me and said, “Thanks for thinking we can get this.” To me, she was speaking on behalf of thousands of kids who are longing to dive deeper into God’s Word as they go wide with the message and mission of Jesus to people around them.

Greg is president of Dare2Share Ministries in Denver, Colorado (dare2share.org). He’s also a half-track leader at our Simply Youth Ministry Conference.

Greg’s favorites –
TV Show:
Amazing Race
Book of the Bible: Acts
Book: Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon

This article was originally published in the May/June 2010 issue of Group Magazine.

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