Whether we’re called youth workers, youth ministers, or quite simply “the youth guy” (as I’ve been called far too often), the reality is that ours is a theological task. The thing is, nobody warned me about this before I took my first youth ministry gig.
Nobody bothered to mention that I was to be a theologian. That sounds even more daunting than “worker,” or “minister” or “pastor.” Over time, I came to see that if my role as a minister amongst youth people had anything to do with helping young people see God in the midst of life’s ups and downs, then theologian is precisely what I am.
The title “theologian” is not restricted to priests and pastors, or those who inhabit academia’s ivory tower. Theology is the task for the whole people of God. It’s a very practical task. For young and old. Lay and ordained. For those who take seriously their discipleship, and who are asking what it means to follow Jesus in this world.
If, as Christian youth ministers we’re not thinking theologically, we’ve got a problem. Yet how was I to know, without someone telling me? What was I to do without anyone equipping me?
Stepping back to think about it, why would the Christian church not be asking first, and foremost, where God is in any given situation? It makes sense that we should do this – and yet, is theology at the root of our work with young people?
Perhaps we’ve become so captive to the surrounding culture that we think we need to start elsewhere. And yet, the Christian story is one that claims all things hold together in Christ.
If this is the case, then we should most definitely use the tools given to us by science, psychology and so forth.
We must also understand that our lens, our worldview, or way of seeing (and acting in) the world must be shaped first, and foremost by our narrative (or rather, the story of God who enters into relationship with us and all of Creation).
When ministering amongst youth, then, we have the opportunity to engage them in deep conversations about life’s meaning. Where is God? Why does it feel as though God is absent? What does the current situation tell us about God? What might God be telling us about our current situation?
Over the past few days I’ve been reading a book by Youth Ministry scholar Andy Root. In his book, “The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry,” he shares:
- What do you think?
- How do you respond to the idea of youth ministry as a theological task?
- What attracts you to / repels you from this idea?