One of my passions as a follower of Jesus is apologetics. Simply defined, apologetics is the method and practice of defending the truth of Christianity. When you engage in a discussion with someone about why you believe Jesus is who the Bible says He is, you’re “doing” apologetics.
But it seems to me that apologetics isn’t exactly a big thing in youth ministry.
I rarely see youth ministry curriculum that focuses on helping teenagers know why they can believe what we’re teaching them. Whenever I attend a youth ministry conference, I scour the seminar schedule for a session on apologetics. Very rarely do I find what I’m looking for.
But I believe apologetics is something we should be very intentional about teaching to teenagers. Teenagers have great questions about their faith. But unfortunately, not many youth ministries include apologetics in their regular teaching rotation.
Why? Here are some myths I think contribute to the problem:
Myth 1: I’m not smart enough to teach apologetics.
Books on apologetics are intimidating, even before you open them up to start reading. The latest comprehensive tome on apologetics, Doug Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics, weighs in at an impressive (and heavy) 750 pages. Teaching apologetics may take a bit more work. But you don’t have to be an expert to teach apologetics. You only have to be willing to learn. (In addition, there are some great resources out there that let you learn right along with your students.)
Myth 2: Teenagers don’t care about or aren’t ready for apologetics.
Next time you’ve got a small group of teenagers together, simply ask a question such as, “How can we really know that God exists?” and you’ll likely be peppered with several follow-up questions. Teenagers discuss spiritual matters with their friends far more than we realize. They want to know whether what they’re learning at church is trustworthy. Teenagers are already thinking about apologetics, even if they haven’t ever used the word. And if they’re already asking the questions, they are ready for some solid answers, developmentally speaking.
Myth 3: Apologetics is too academic.
Yes, apologetics does involve a bit more brainpower than some youth minister and their students may be used to using. But it’s OK to make your students think. After all, God created us with brains. He designed us to use them in our pursuit to know Him and to make Him known. I understand the danger of having too much of a “heady” approach to one’s walk with Jesus. But your students can handle a few weeks out of the year dedicated to apologetics. You’ll probably be surprised at how many students end up wanting a whole lot more of it!
Myth 4: Faith means not questioning the Bible or asking whether Christianity is true.
If this is what you’re teaching your students, whether it’s said out loud or implied, please stop. Apologetics can’t answer every single question we have about God, faith, or life in general. And at the end of the day, we can only see and know in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). But there is plenty of evidence available that gives us confidence that what we believe is true. Apologetics not only removes intellectual barriers some people have before they decide to follow Jesus, but it also strengthens followers of Jesus in their faith, because they can have confidence that what they believe is true.
Don’t let these myths keep you from helping teenagers know that they can trust the Bible and know that Jesus really is who he said he was.