Dear Youth Pastor:
This past week, one of our volunteers called me on the phone. He told me about a book he'd been reading about something called apologetics. (I had to look it up just to spell it correctly!) He told me that it had really opened his eyes about how we can know that the Bible is true and that Jesus is who he claimed to be. He said that he thought our high school students could benefit from learning about apologetics, not only to encourage their own faith, but to help them share about Jesus with their friends, especially as they prepare to go to college.
I really wasn't sure if this was a joke or not, so I didn't know what to say. After a few minutes of awkward silence, I told him I'd think about it. After all, does he really think that teenagers are capable of that kind of thinking, or that they even are concerned about this sort of thing? What should I do?
Concerned in Corona Springs
We hear about this sort of thing all the time. Well-meaning volunteers or parents do a bit of below-the-surface thinking, and the next thing you know, they want teenagers to do the same thing. This probably won't be the last time you hear a volunteer using such big words, so make sure you know how to respond:
Keep the focus on what really matters. Teenagers aren't ready for any kind of deep thinking. Youth workers need to stay away from teaching too deep of material, and just entertain our students long enough to keep them around church until their old enough to think for themselves. The best we can hope for is to get students sleep-deprived enough that they are tired and worn out enough to make a highly emotional profession of faith at the end of summer camp or a weekend retreat. Stay away from the deep stuff!
Make sure your volunteers know that teenagers aren't interested in any kind of learning or intellectual engagement. Listen, we all know that the only thing that gets teenagers to youth group is just enough cute guys and cute girls. They last thing they are thinking about is whether the Bible really is true, or if they really can put their trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Difficult teaching of any kind should be avoided in youth ministry. If it's a bit difficult to understand or perhaps even difficult to put into practice, you shouldn't be teaching it to teenagers. And whatever you do, stay away from controversial topics such as whether Jesus is the only way. That's only going to get you into trouble.
I hope that for your sake, all talk of topics that involve words with more than three syllables will be a thing of the past in your youth ministry.
Dear Youth Pastor is a public service to the good people who read this blog, and letters are published every Thursday. To ask Youth Pastor a question, just email him at DearYouthPastor@hotmail.com.