theology in youth cirricula
July 16, 2008
I’ve heard the arguments about curricula in Sunday school and youth programs over and over again. Honestly, I’m not very interested in them, and usually I just get myself out of them with the sharpwitted (or maybe not so much) comment that a good teacher or leader with a bad Sunday school book will still have a great group, while, for a bad youth leader you can give any book or material you like, and the group would still fail. OK, I’m aware that there might be exceptions to this, but you get the point.
But still, I’ve been thinking about what we are supposed to do in our youth groups lately. The two sides of the argument is usually: (1) should we address issues from the context of our youth, or (2) should we teach theology. In our church this usually mean an argument between: “we should address topics like friends, parents, drugs, drinking etc”, and “we should teach the teachings and dogmas of the church, the creeds and the Bible”. A compromised is then often found by saying that we should teach the Bible stories to kids, and address life issued with teens. And obviously you always have the smart people who claim that you should do both.
In a number of conversations with young people I’ve been shocked the past months by the total lack of theology in our young kids. They don’t have the tools to articulate their faith in God, neither to make God part of everyday life. When they talk about faith it’s usually by using slogans learned from some guru, or otherwise with words like “sin”, “faith”, “convert” etc of which they have no idea what it means. They fall for creationism, crazy ideas about demonology, and every charismatic revivalist preacher that’s new to the block. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is beautiful young Christians I’m talking about. People I trust to be leaders at camps, and who even sometimes give me hope for the church. But I fear for their faith when crisis strikes, and I fear that their lives will become compartmentalized, because they don’t know how to integrate faith and life, something which a good doze of theology might have helped with.
So, where common logic taught us not to discuss theology with kids, because it might just rock the boat, or because it’s not cool, and they aren’t interested, I’m becoming more and more convinced that we need to discuss theology, deep deep theology! with our youth. We need to help them to think about faith, give them tools to integrate faith with everyday life. Gavin again brought this thought into my head, reminding me of the fact that our society have become so outcomes based that we forgot that we need to learn because we can. And really, oughtn’t the task of the church be to help young people grow in faith, and not just survive the next party or relationship? Also the chapter titled The Theology, Stupid! in Tony Jones’ The New Christians brought along some thoughts on the neccesity of this.
Maybe one difference between what I’m saying and the traditional Sunday School programs is that I’m not talking about the recitation of creeds and learning of one-liner Bible verses, but of helping young people think about their faith. To use the title from a book of Wentzel van Huyssteen, theology is a critical reasoning of our faith, and I believe that in our society today we need to help our kids in this quest.