A lot of our students are pretty inarticulate about their faith.
Many of the students in our youth ministries have a hard time explaining their faith. They struggle to put their faith-essentials into words. Faith makes a difference in their lives . . . they just have a hard time explaining why.
I believe the inability of our students to clearly and logically talk about the basics of their faith lies at the root of many of the surface issues concerning our teenagers' faith.
After all, if teenagers can't articulate the basics of their faith, isn't it because they don't know the basics of their faith? If they can't talk logically about what they believe and why, doesn't it point to a serious foundational issue in their faith development?
I believe as youth workers we have to do a more effective job of two things:
- teaching our students the foundational distinctives of their faith, and
- helping equip them to articulate, or explain these basic faith elements.
Here are a few ways I think we can take steps toward helping accomplish these two things:
Make Knowing The Bible The Center Of Your Youth Ministries
Over the years, I've found it's not safe to assume that knowing and applying the Bible happens in every youth ministry. There are youth ministries that place a premium on fellowship and relationship over a knowledge of the Bible. While these elements are vital in discipleship, if serious Bible study is not taking place in your youth ministry, you aren't offering anything the World isn't already offering. Your students have friends outside of the church. And many have nice, caring adults somewhere else in their life. But your ministry may be the only place they can come to discover God's words to them.
Don't Be Shy About Theology
Theology is simply the study of God. So, do you help your students do this? What if you took six or eight weeks to talk about the character of God? If you're thinking this type of study won't hold your students' attention, you're seriously handicapping the role of the Spirit and the living nature of God's Word. How can your students talk about the distinctives of their faith when they aren't being taught them?
Provide Students Some Basic Phrases That Articulate Core Theology
What if you took a page out of the more liturgical-based denominations and crafted some really simple phrases that capture the basic biblical concepts you want students to know? Phrases such as, "There is one God who exists and is the Creator of all things." Easy, right? Yet it's a core faith distinctive. As these themes come up in your Bible Study, you could take the chance to reaffirm them. You could encourage your students to familiarize themselves with the phrases so when it came time to talk about their faith, they do so through simple phrases backed by deep biblical truth.
Engage In Dialogue
Not discussion. Dialogue. Create moments for your students to talk about what makes their faith distinct with you and with each other.
Create Spaces For Your Students To Engage With Their Un-Churched Friends
What if you could create an environment where your students' un-churched friends could come and have a talk about religion? Not in a pushy or manipulated way. But in an open conversation where your students and their friends engaged in discussions about the nature of faith and religion. Do it away from church in a small group. Whatever it looks like, the more you can help your students talk about their faith (in an environment where you can follow up with them and correct and redirect as necessary), the better they will become at doing it.
Create A Culture Of Expectation
Your students need to know that you place a premium on them talking about their faith to others. Ask them about it regularly. Highlight students who are doing a great job of it. Create the expectation that faith-discussions should be a part of their lives. Are these steps the only answer? Of course not. And they aren't a fool-proof method, either. But they're a start. And it's too important a concept not to address.
What are some additional concepts a youth worker might implement to help students know and articulate their faith better?