How to respond when teens claim to hate Jesus

I love Jesus.

That's probably not surprising to you. As a youth worker, I'm guessing you love Jesus, too. What's more, I'm guessing you want the teens in your congregation to love Jesus. But what happens when they don't?

Because let's face it, there are probably teens in your ministry who don't love Jesus... Or even like him. There may even be teens in your ministry who claim to hate Jesus. I recently found myself in a conversation with one such teen, who told me in no uncertain terms, “I hate Jesus!”

When teens make comments like those, it's easy to react. It's easy for our defenses to kick in. But it's important they don't. Instead, view bold statements like “I hate Jesus” as an invitation into deeper conversations with teens.

Whenever a student claims to dislike or hate Jesus, ask them to tell you more. Why do they hate Jesus? Which Jesus do they hate? Often, teens who claim to despise Jesus simply don't know Jesus. Or they know the wrong Jesus – a Jesus who, unlike the real Jesus found in Scripture, hates certain groups of people. Truth be told, I don't like that Jesus either. I often tell teens that and then offer to introduce them to the real Jesus found in Scripture – the one who fiercely loved people, hung out with unpopular people, and met needs whenever he saw them. That Jesus is pretty irresistible.

Sometimes, what you'll find when you ask teens why they dislike Jesus is that they don't actually dislike Jesus at all. Instead, they dislike the hypocritical church they're a part of or the parent or grandparent who constantly tries to force Jesus on them. When that happens, acknowledge their feelings. Then ask why they think Jesus is so important to that family member. If possible, actually engage that family member in the conversation with you. As you do, invite the family member to share why Jesus matters to them. Doing so often creates greater understanding between family members.

Read the rest of this article here. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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