For many students, faith makes a difference in their lives—they just have a hard time explaining why. And if they can’t articulate the basics of their faith, it may be because they don’t know the basics of their faith. Here are six ways to more effectively teach students the foundational distinctives of their faith and equip them to articulate these to others.
1. Prioritize knowing the Bible.
Many youth ministries place a premium on fellowship and relationship. While these elements are vital in discipleship, if serious Bible study is not taking place in your youth ministry, you aren’t offering anything the world isn’t. Your students have friends outside of the church, and many have nice, caring adults elsewhere in their lives. But your ministry may be the only place they discover God’s Word.
2. Don’t be shy about theology.
Theology is simply the study of God. So, do you help your students do this? Take six or eight weeks to talk about the character of God. If you don’t think this type of study will hold your students’ attention, you’re seriously handicapping the role of the Spirit and the living nature of God’s Word.
3. Provide phrases that articulate core theology.
Craft really simple phrases that capture the basic biblical concepts you want students to know—like “There is one God who exists and is the Creator of all things.” Easy, right? Yet it’s a core faith distinctive. As these themes come up in your Bible study, reaffirm them. Encourage your students to familiarize themselves with the phrases so when it comes time to talk about their faith, they do so through simple phrases backed by deep biblical truth.
4. Engage in dialogue.
Not discussion. Dialogue. Create moments for students to talk about what makes their faith distinct with you and with each other.
5. Create space to engage with unchurched friends.
Create an environment where your students’ unchurched friends can come and talk about religion—not in a pushy or manipulative way, but in an open conversation. Do it away from church in a small group. The more you can help your students talk about their faith (in an environment where you can follow up with them and correct or redirect as necessary), the better they will become at doing it.
6. Create a culture of expectation.
Your students need to know that you place a premium on them talking about their faith with others. Ask them about it regularly. Highlight students who are doing a great job of it. Create the expectation that faith-discussions should be a part of their lives.