This month in our youth ministry, our leaders decided to let the students choose topics to discuss. Throughout the year we have been teaching on theology, Scripture, and spiritual formation. While engaging and often entertaining, my feeling was that there existed more pertinent and important issues facing our students.
Faith is not simply about what we believe, but how our beliefs intersect the reality we see daily. If youth ministries are unwilling to have open and honest conversations about real topics, then I wonder what is the point of our teachings.
Here is what we did:
I made a Facebook question survey with 8 issues; theological and social. We asked students simply to choose their top three and then the overall top 4 results we would cover in one month.
The students voted for the following:
Gay Rights (marriage and adoption)
the existence of Hell
Pluralism (many faiths, same God)
and Does the Supernatural happen today
(this one tied with Drinking and Premarital Sex)
Not surprisingly most of the questions have come up in popular events or social media. Paris had massive demonstrations for and against homosexual marriage. Our city and schools are very diverse and so students have dear friends from many religions backgrounds. Islam and Judaism are the two largest and so naturally our students are faced daily with how Christianity and those religions compare and contrast. They are asking, “Will my friends really go to hell because they worship God in a different way? Which of course then brings up the question of Hell. The Supernatural issues (demons and miracles) I suppose is a result of the many exorcism and ghost movies produced in the past year. Drinking is interesting because the legal age in Europe is of course 18 and most families allow children to drink much younger. However, when our students visit the U.S or go there for college, they are faced with the crisis of not being able to drink legally.
The point of all that is to say I am glad we have listened to the voice of the students. They need to be validated and space created for them to share.
Our leaders discussed and decided that we would not make this a “teaching series”, meaning we would not create additional lessons and pick Bible verses to support a particular view. Instead we would maintain neutrality and allow for students to openly and honestly share their views on these issues and, very importantly, why they hold those views. I have discovered that students thoughtfully think through these issues are indeed longing for the Church to be a safe place for them to wrestled with complex issues.