YMTV 003: Theology in Youth Ministry

Honoring God with your Mind & Ministry

Here’s the deal. I love finding ways to infuse theology in youth ministry. In Episode 003 of Youth Ministry TV, Ben and I discuss why theology is important, how we have incorporated doctrine into youth ministry praxis, and the tools we have used to do so. Take a watch!

Three ways to infuse Theology in Youth Ministry:

1. In your personal development.
2. In the development of leaders.
3. In your sermons.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

1. Christian Belief: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem – 9 bucks & streamlined (Go this route for leaders.)
2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – more robust but $32 bucks (Go this route for you.)
3. Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem – middle of the pack, $22

Thanks for watching! I hope you enjoyed and I would love to get your thoughts! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and leave us a comment.

Theologians on Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I would share some quotes from men far more theologically advanced than myself. Each of these quotes reflect some element of Christmas, Advent, or the Incarnation.

Reading these will help ground us in the meaning and purpose of Christmas. Enjoy!

Barth On the Incarnation:

Of the incarnation of the Word of God we may truly say both that in the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit and His birth of the Virgin Mary it was a completed and perfect fact, yet also that it was continually worked out in His whole existence and is not therefore exhausted in any sense in the special event of Christmas with which it began. The truth conveyed by the first conception is that the formation and ordering of the flesh in the flesh is represented in the New Testament as a procedure which unfolded itself as it did with a necessity originally imposed upon Jesus. “I have meat to eat that ye know not of .… My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Jn. 4:32f.). “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49). He must work the works of Him that sent Him, while it is day (Jn. 9:4). He must be lifted up from the earth (Jn. 3:14; 12:34). He must go to Jerusalem, to suffer many things, and be killed, and rise again, as the Synoptic predictions of the passion repeatedly say. This is the necessity of His action given at the beginning in the person of Jesus—the incarnation as an already completed fact.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/2, 337


Athanasius on the Incarnation:

“The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus is happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished.”

Athanasius of Alexandria, The Incarnation of the Word of God


Luther On Christmas:

The right and gracious faith which God demands is, that you firmly believe that Christ is born for you, and that this birth took place for your welfare. The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he died and suffered everything in our behalf, as is here declared by the angel: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” In these words you clearly see that he is born for us.

Martin Luther, The Sermons of Martin Luther, volume I:134-160


Augustine on Christmas:

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you.  I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

Saint Augustine of Hippo, (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999)


Bonhoeffer On Advent:

“…And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

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David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

 

Theology Thursday #3

One of my students and I are walking through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Each week we read a chapter and then discuss specific doctrine and how it is applicable to our life and faith. We are only 200 pages into this 1,200 page beast, but plan to finish before he graduates in 2 years.

Our topic of discussion this past week was focused on God’s communicable attributes (attributes we share with God), and more specifically God’s spirituality and invisibility.

Gruden’s definition of spirituality:

“God’s spirituality means that God exists as a being that is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence.”

Gruden’s definition of invisibility:

“God’s invisibility means that God’s total essence, all of his spiritual being, will never be able to be seen by us, yet God still shows himself to us though visible, created things.”

These two topics lead to great discussion about how we think of God and how we worship God in his fullness. For most of my life, I just pictured God as and old man with a huge grey beard and an intense look in his eyes. The student I was meeting with admitted that he only thinks about Jesus, and hadn’t given much thought to the appearance of the Father. Which isn’t the worst thing in that “Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and is “the bright radiance of the glory of God” and is “the exact representation of his nature” (Heb. 1:3).”

But it starts to mess with your brain when you think about the vastness of God, how we will never see Him in his fullness, in that we will always operate in one place and time where God is omnipresent and for Him to be fully present in one place means He would not be present in others.

I can tell this idea even messes with a great mind like Grudem. You can hear the wonder in his statement that “…we must say that God is spirit. Whatever this means, it is a kind of existence that is unlike anything else in creation.”

Application to Youth Ministry

So how do we talk about God to students? How do we describe what is indescribable? How do we define what is undefinable or even attempt to convey what is unmeasurable? Answer: Intentionally and faithfully. May we not limit the God we convey to students, but may we be diligent in conveying different parts of his nature, character, and love, that students might see, if only in part, the vastness and greatness of God.

Two ways to talk about God:

1. The names of God: In Scripture we see God called by different names, each of which reveal something about his nature. Here is a great list and study from Blue Letter Bible: Names of God (Also a great resource for studying scripture!)

2. Analogies or descriptions of God from Scripture: (Instead of recreating the list, here is what Grudem gives us in his Systematic Theology)

Descriptions of God

Click to enlarge.

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

Theology Thursday #2

In this weeks “Theology Thursday” we will be breaking down the doctrine of sanctification (the process through which we are made holy). More specifically, we will be looking at mortification and vivification.

While this sounds like high and lofty language that has no place in student ministry, you will be surprised how applicable the concepts are and, more than likely, you have been teaching these, just not by name.

Mortification

Les Galicinski in his paper, “John Calvin’s Doctrine of Sanctification” puts it this way:

“Mortification is the continual practice of putting to death the old self. Mortification is necessary because man’s nature is corrupt through the fall.”

In this definition, we hear strong ties to Colossians 3:5 that says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Mortification is the process by which we put to death what our depraved nature craves. We are a broken, sinful, selfish, self-centered, & self-serving people. Our actions continually indicate that we would prefer to be god and receive glory. Therefore, mortification is the process by which we battle this inclination.

Mortification is crucial concept for teenagers. Jesus is not just something they can add into their lives at no cost. There is a tangible cost to following Jesus, and those who don’t feel this tension, don’t understand mortification. While the Gospel is more than a list of do’s & don’ts, a heart that understand what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf feels the impetus to flee from sin, or that which separates us from Christ.

Vivification

Vivification, as defined by Calvin in his “Institutes for Christian Religion“, is:

“the desire to live in a holy and devoted manner, a desire arising from
rebirth; as it were said that a man dies to himself that he may begin to live to God”

Here again, we find ties to Colossians 3:2 which states, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Vivification is the process through which we become the new self “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). 

Vivification includes pursuing a righteousness that is not our own in that it is not meant for our glory, but for His. Students who grasp this concept understand that we are called to think, live, and act in a way that might not make since to those outside Christ. Faith is not something put in a drawer or on a shelf, but rather something that is lived out by loving God, loving others, and making disciples.

Youth Pastors: May we be found faithful in helping students grasp the two-step process of sanctification. May we faithfully navigate students in the process of putting sin to death and making Christ preeminent.

David Hanson: Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava & Ben, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask.

TYMB 006: Theology and Youth Ministry

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CLICK HERE to listen in iTunes!

In this session of the podcast I discuss theology and the role of theology in youth ministry.

While your listening, read this post by Josh Robinson that sparked this discussion.

A Couple of Points:

  • Theology divides
  • Division without love is dangerous
  • Theology in important
  • Theology without action is harmful.
  • We are called to worship God with our minds.
  • Our theology should lead us to further love God and love others.

The Role of Theology in Youth Ministry:

Read this post on How I am training Small Group Leaders in theology and doctrine.

We must transform the way we are training our leaders and volunteers! Don’t just teach them how to “fit in.” Teach them how and what to teach. Here are some good resources to get the ball rolling…

1. Christian Belief: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem – 9 bucks & streamlined
2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – more robust but $32 bucks
3. Taking Theology to Youth Ministry by Andrew Root – youth centered & $11 bucks

(Complete Transparency – The above links are affiliate links, which means I get a few cents if you buy a book. This goes toward keeping The Youth Ministry Blog awesome, so thanks in advance if you chose to get one! I only offer resources I believe will be helpful for you.) 

Action Items:

1. Give the podcast a Rating and Review on iTunes so that other Youth Pastors can find us!
2. Examine your recent preaching and curriculum. What theology or doctrine have you hit? What have you NEVER addressed? How can you become intentional in your theological approach to youth ministry?

What’s the Big Deal about Theology?

Theology is a misunderstood word in today’s culture. Many times it is used in a derogatory way or because it is misconstrued. To some people, it means a person who is filled with knowledge who loves to debate others. To others it simply means, “the study of God.”

To most, we think of certain “tribes” of people who hold to a certain doctrine. Calvinists, Armenians, premillennialists, amillennialists, and the list goes on and on. Without knowing it, we have put more emphasis into people who wrote about the Bible, than actually studying the Bible.

I’m not a Calvinist or Armenian. I’m a Christ-follower. That is enough for me.

We are all theologians. What? Seriously, Josh? I didn’t go to a specific university or seminary so how am I a theologian? All of us, each day, reveal what we believe. Our actions stem from our beliefs, and where and how those beliefs originate develop a theology.

Simply, theology is the study of God. The implications of studying who God is will have an impact on our lives. Theology dictates what and who we believe in and how we live our life. Eternity hangs in the balance, depending on our theology.

I went to Bible college during my undergrad and went online for my master’s with Liberty University. During my time in Bible college and seminary I noticed that no other word created more fiery debates than “theology.” But what I noticed was that most so-called theologians only wanted to debate secondary issues. The debates I overheard, and admittedly was a part of at times, included a lot of small issues that were blown into large issues.

But each Sunday morning and Wednesday night as I left the dorm room to go serve at a church 45 miles one way, what I noticed was that most of the “theologians” were still in their dorm rooms.

In that moment I realized that your lifestyle reveals your theology.

Anyone can debate, fight and claw to win, but those who actively serve in the mission to seek and save the lost have the right theology.

My friend, if you spend your life trying to find the exact, “perfect” theology but miss the calling to live it out and share Jesus, your theology is dead.

Studying God’s Word is crucial but not just to prepare to win the next argument. Studying God should transform us into the image of God in our humility, passion and love for people. The whole of the Bible could be summed up in two phrases, “Love God, love people.”

Next time you hear the word, “theology,” my encouragement is to stop and think about your lifestyle. Does your theology FIT your lifestyle or does your lifestyle FIT God’s character?

Stop trying to win arguments and start winning people to Jesus by the way you live.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/joshrobinson.png[/author_image] [author_info]Josh is the student pastor at Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida (www.thesprings.net). Josh has served in student ministry for 9+ years and has a passion to lead students to imitate Christ and influence the world! He has a personal blog at http://joshrobinson.cc[/author_info] [/author]

Thinking Theologically

Sunday we had our first Small Group Leader Training. Every year we tinker with our training and try to make them better than the year before. We want to honor the time that our small group leaders put in and make the training worth missing time on Sunday afternoons with families, napping, watching football, or getting stuff done around the house.

The Problem

Many youth ministry leader trainings are nothing more than band-aid meetings. By that, I mean youth pastors helping volunteers know how to better control kids, relate to teens, or address specific issues students are going through. While there is a time and a space for peripheral issues, that is precisely what they are…peripheral issues. Things going on around the central focus of seeing students engage with the gospel in community.

The Solution

This year our trainings will be less, “here is how to keep a teenagers attention,” and more theology driven.

I believe that if trainings are centered around core doctrine and theology, we will see the depth of our leaders and the quality of our groups increase. For example, this Sunday we taught our leaders about the “Knowability of God.” We concentrated on the idea that while God is incomprehensible, He has chosen to reveal himself to us in a variety of ways and desires for us to ever pursue Him and His will.

After camping on this idea for a bit, we then turned and helped them understand why this is important for students. We examined how discussing integrity and purity are mere behavioral modification discussions unless they are centered in how doing these things help us further know God and walk in His will.

In student ministry, we must make the theological turn. I know authors like Andrew Root are doing a great job of leading in this direction and we would be wise to follow.

If you are looking for where to begin, I would suggest picking up one of a few resources:

1. Christian Belief: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem – 9 bucks & streamlined
2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – more robust but $32 bucks
3. Taking Theology to Youth Ministry by Andrew Root – youth centered & $11 bucks

(Complete Transparency – The above links are affiliate links, which means I get a few cents if you buy a book. This goes toward keeping The Youth Ministry Blog awesome, so thanks in advance if you chose to get one! I only offer resources I believe will be helpful for you.) 

Whether you use one of the above resources or if you already have a book on doctrine and theology, come up with a plan for your leaders. Look at the number of trainings you plan to have and let your leaders know where you hope to go and what you hope to accomplish this year. Cast vision for the trainings. Get them excited about diving deeper and show them how it will benefit their Small Groups.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this. I would love to answer them. Comment below and let me know how you plan to train leaders this year!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Photo-on-2-20-13-at-4.14-PM.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask, Email David.[/author_info] [/author]