January 8, 2015

Explorative Theology: Helping Students Embrace What They Believe

I recently had lunch with Joe, a former youth group member who had just graduated from college and was living at home again while trying to figure out what he was going to do next. We reminisced about old times, talked about his time in college, and he shared about some of the opportunities coming his way and how he was hoping a full-time job would be right around the corner. About three-quarters of the way through lunch, I turned the conversation to faith and church, wanting to know where he was with Jesus. As it turned out, he really hadn't been to church much at all in the four years he was away at college except when he was home and his mom invited him. He explained that he believed in God but also had some disagreements with Christian beliefs—and he was more concerned with having fun.

This was not the first conversation of this kind that I've had with former students, and it won't be the last. A lot has been said during the past few years about high school graduates walking away from the faith during their college years. It seems as if many youth workers are wrestling with how ineffective our programming is at helping teens keep their faith in college. Despite all the negativity this is drawing from so many in youth ministry, I have concluded that it's a good thing.

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