Last week, my high school youth ministry finished it's discussion of Gospel Journey Maui by wrestling with the question, “Who is Jesus?” Because I've used this curriculum before, I searched my computer for our “Who is Jesus?” discussion from five years ago. I couldn't find it.
At first I blamed my computer. Then I remembered: The last time I used this curriculum I skipped the Jesus lessons.
The way I figured it, since my ministry talked regularly about Jesus, I didn't need to do a lesson explicitly on Jesus. I assumed the teens in my ministry already knew the stuff that'd be found in such a lesson.
Today I find such logic laughable.
After spending a year researching what high school teens believe about Jesus (the findings from this study can be found in The Jesus Gap ), I now know that when it comes to Jesus, our teens – even those who have grown up in the church – don't actually believe what we expect or even hope they do. Thanks to WWJD, they know far more about what Jesus would and should do than what he actually did.
Having learned this, this time I around, I didn't hesitate to use the segments in Gospel Journey Maui devoted to discussing who Jesus is. I'm so glad I did.
Far from feeling like a boring, repetitive discussion, this discussion with my teens – who like those in my research, have grown up in the church – was incredibly rich. Some had a firm grasp of the orthodox Jesus but others did not. Devoting a week to specifically talking about Jesus' identity – and what it means for us – gave teens the opportunity to ask questions and learn. It also gave those with a firm grasp of the orthodox Jesus the chance to share why they believe what they do about Jesus, something vital to their own faith formation.
Throughout the course of our discussion, we wrestled with how outrageous it is that God would choose to become human. We discussed why the belief that Jesus is God is so foundational to the Christian faith and how Christianity would fall flat if this weren't true. We also challenged teens to articulate their own answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” - whatever it may currently be.
Having experienced the richness of this conversation, it's hard for me to fathom a time in which I would have regarded a week devoted to Jesus as a waste of time. Now I not only talk about Jesus each and every time I meet with my high school ministry, but I also wholeheartedly believe that we need regular weeks devoted exclusively to teaching about Jesus in order to strengthen the faith of our teens.
After all, if Jesus is the foundation of the church – and of Christianity - then we dare not assume that high school teens (or anyone in our church for that matter) know all there is to know about him. I know I certainly don't – even though I was raised in the church and have now been in professional youth ministry for 13 years.
Instead of assuming teens are bored by Jesus, let's regularly introduce our teens to the mysterious, captivating Jesus whose story is found in the pages of Scripture, trusting that when we do, their faith and desire to follow him, will grow.