Theology is coming back into fashion in youth ministry, says the head of Dare 2 Share Ministries.
“We tend to underestimate the brain power of teens,” Greg Stier told The Christian Post. The church has often thought youths weren’t ready for or didn’t care about theology and the deeper meanings of their faith.
But now key leaders in youth ministry are looking for more strategic approaches to reach teenagers. Stier said they are realizing “the importance of theology and making sure teenagers not only understand but also embrace their Christian faith.”
The trend back to theology stems from various studies like the Barna Group’s which found that 59 percent of young Christians leave or disconnect from the church post-high school, Stier noted. But it’s also a part of what Stier calls “the sticky faith movement.” People are asking, “How do we really get our young people to have a faith that moves beyond hearing.”
In the coming year youth leaders will be looking at ways of filling in the blanks between what teens hear at church and how it can be reinforced at home. Providing resources and questions for parents to talk to their teens about what they are learning is one step in the process.
Dare 2 Share also created a video called “Life in 6 Words – The Gospel,” and a curriculum to tie in with it. Stier said those two resources are “theologically stacked” because he wants teenagers watching it and studying their faith to unpack the Gospel in a way that they understand.
Creating relationships and relational learning is also part of it. Stier said leaders want youth to build relationships with others that can mentor them and help them embrace their faith. “We have to change some of the ways we engage students,” Stier said. They don’t want another “school” to come to on Sundays.
So what do the youth of America really want?
“Something tribal and causal,” Stier told CP. He said that the secular culture has done a good job of presenting causes for teens – things like fighting human trafficking and poverty. Students have engaged in those types of movements and are generally interested in making a difference in the world around them.
But the church hasn’t always gotten it right. Oftentimes they compress youth outreach into a “weeklong mission to Mexico, instead of making it a yearlong mission to our neighborhood.”
At Dare 2 Share they are trying to reframe the Great Commission to be something more than just what kids do on a mission trip to Mexico. They call it “The Cause,” and Stier believes that if youth ministry is truly going to change they need to give teenagers the resources to share the cause of the Great Commission and engage their faith.
Some of that involves getting teens to understand the theology behind their faith, and to raise the bar for them, rather than dumb it down. But it is also about showing teenagers what a life of evangelism looks like – which is where the tribal part comes in.
“Jesus didn’t just unleash Peter, he unleashed a team,” Stier pointed out. “The Gospel is best spread in a group.” Plus, it gives teenagers the encouragement and support they need to share their faith with others in their school and community.
Youth ministry, he stressed, is about equipping teens to show the world that “we have a cause worth living for” and that they can share their faith with their friends and introduce them to Christ.
Stier said the whole reason Dare 2 Share and youth ministry is wrestling with these questions is because they want to mobilize teenagers in every high school and middle school in America to advance the cause of Christ. “We believe teenagers can make a difference.”