My research from The Jesus Gap found there’s a gap between what youth workers think churched teens believe about Jesus and what they actually know about him. In response to this data, many youth workers have told me, “I agree there’s a gap. But how do I even begin to catch them up? How do you start building a strong Christology in teens who know nothing about Jesus?”
If this is you, don’t despair. Instead, start with the basics, with Jesus himself.
Make your first series of every new school year Jesus-focused, something many youth workers fear doing because they assume teens who have grown up in the church already know the Jesus story.
My research shows that’s not the case.
Even those teens who have grown up in the church lack a basic understanding of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and why Jesus matters to their faith. Maybe this is because for too long, we’ve assumed they know this stuff and so we’ve skipped it in favor of other important theological topics. Or maybe it’s because we simply tell them the facts, never actually giving them the chance to wrestle with and question Jesus. Or maybe it’s a reflection of the general Biblical illiteracy sweeping our nation. Perhaps it shows how seldom even our churched teens are actually in church. Regardless of the reason, though, since teens don’t know the basics of the Jesus story, that’s your starting point.
So open the Gospels and dig in. My research suggests including the following types of stories in your Jesus series:
- A blessing for youth leaders nurturing faith beyond youth group
- 8 ways to help mission teams conclude more than “poor people are happy”
- The fantasy youth ministry candidate
- What students need most when they’re stuck spiritually
- The tearing of the curtain
- How do you not hate them?
- Messy Ashes
- What it means to be a Bradbury
- The (false) unity of 9-12
- Notes from the pandemic: The plight of young (unvaccinated) children & their parents