youth talking theology
May 8, 2008
Just found this post in my drafts, wanted to post it a week or two ago, and somehow didn’t, can’t remember why…
Last week I had one of the best, but also most shocking, youth evenings. It all started when we read Psalm 1 last Sunday with the young high school leaders, and the Psalm only opened up difficult questions. They wondered what it would mean if they are not to dwell with “sinners”, since they know so many people with different believes, and then they started asking questions about theodicy (why do God allow bad things to happen). I didn’t answer the questions, but on Thursday we again read the Psalm with the whole group, and with the high school leaders leading the groups, they simply discussed what they heard, and the questions it made them ask.
The little room was buzzing as the 20 kids was discussing theology. Ons group talked about theodicy, another about how we address different religions, and yet another about the debate about science and faith. Obviously they wouldn’t have formulated their questions using these academic terminology, but that is what they were discussing.
When I stopped them they still wanted to talk, but I moved the conversation to the whole group. They started sharing what they were talking about, asking the questions that really bugged them, and at the same time providing quick answers for their friends.
What really shocked me was that our kids have nearly no tools for discussing God. Many would say: “The Bible says”, but no one would read a text and ask that we listen to what the text say. They use a slogan theology, stating slogans which supposedly are true, and building a whole idea from them in very crooked ways. Maybe worst of all is that very few of them know how to listen to something and evaluate what is being said; after a long conversation I finally ask if I can maybe give some thoughts, everyone went quite, and I said a few basic things which I thought might help, but as soon as the conversation continued, they continued using their slogans. But here and there spots of light appear, with a few coming later on to continue the conversation, asking what I meant with some of the things I’ve said.
Point is that teenagers seem to like discussing theology, or at least, they like talking about God or spirituality or the supernatural or something. But the ways in which this is done provide a very dangerous ground for their friends, because they feed each other with ideas which can be harmfull (I think). Answer is not to start preaching the supposedly “whole theological truth” to them, as if I know it. Many have tried, and many have failed. We need to provide a space where young people can talk about God, and it’s amazing that we have somehow created this safe space. But we also need to help them form a contructive way of approaching questions about God. Not neccesarily a set of answers, but just some tools which would guard them against slogans like: “God did this to test your faith”, when “this” refer to a family member that died…
Any success stories out there of how young people’s theology (way of thinking about God, not neccesarily doctrines about God) was formed in a positive way?
Well, for the youth ministry guys out there, I like following this blog, although it has nothing to do with this current post and my struggles…