Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Teenagers, Doctrine, and Substance

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Teenagers, Doctrine, and Substance

I went a little too far tonight. Wednesday nights is our intensive Bible study time called "Focus" for teenagers. It is a no frills, verse by verse study of the bible. We have been in Matthew for a few months now, I hope to conclude the study by the end of the month. The purpose behind "Focus" is to strip down to the essentials, namely, the Bible. We leave the topical studies, catchy handouts, dvd lessons and all the other popular youth study material to the side and just open our bibles. It is the most successful and rewarding part of the youth ministry. (by the way, those other items can serve a good purpose perhaps in a different setting, but not at the expense of just good, solid bible study.)

As I have been saying for quite some time now at the Lair, teenagers need to be hearing and digesting things of substance from the bible. Although hearing "God loves you and wants a relationship from you" is a crucial message, one that we all need to repeatedly hear, our teaching cannot stop there. Teenagers, along with adults, need to understand God's love for sure, but also his other attributes and how we are to rightly relate to Him and each other. So, even if they don't completely get it all, teaching solid doctrine to teenagers is for me an essential part of youth ministry.

However, these teenagers are not seminary students. My job is one of balance. I feel an obligation to open their minds and hearts to the wonderful truths of Scripture beyond what they might hear at a youth conference, yet I must be careful to not unduly burden them with material that is beyond their scope at the present time. This is a pretty simple concept, I don't want to be too shallow or too deep. Almost every youth ministry study I have sat in has been woefully shallow. Mine tonight was too deep. I think I recovered at the end and made a meaningful appeal, but I wasted a good bit of time with material that was just too much. Another lesson learned.

I share this experience with you just to encourage you to be mindful of the proper balance, whether talking to a friend or preaching from a pulpit. We won't always hit it just right, but we need to take our people on a spiritual study that will both challenge them to think deeper about the text but not drown them in a sea of information. The bottom line is still that Christ saves.


Blogger Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

I think many well-intentioned churches have treated their youth like infants and imbeciles. Youth ministry, from my perspective, is often little more than safe wholesome entertainment with a veneer of Jesus.

Now, light and fun Christian events for youth are important too. I'm not down on that at all. But this can't be a substitute for in-depth teaching and discipleship.

I can appreciate the struggle for balance that you are going through. We want to teach them to know, understand and love the mighty teachings of God's Word w/o giving the impression that God is remote or purely a dry, abstract academic subject.

January 13, 2008 1:34 AM  

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