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Everyday Theology in Youth Ministry

Ahh yes, theology. It’s the eight-letter word good Christians are taught not to use. Sure, some of those questionable people talk about it in the dark corners of the foyer. And there is the occasional legalistic guy who harps on it in small group. But every true Christian knows that what we need is less talk about God and more relationship with God, and I…half-heartedly agree.

In school, I was taught to distinguish between stated theology and grassroots theology. Stated theology is what is in the books, on the websites, and spoken about in polished lectures.  Grassroots theology—or, what I like to refer to as everyday theology—is what actually gets lived out, prayed, and talked about. Both are important in the church, but as a youth worker, my main concern is to promote and guide everyday theology.

One way I attempt to promote everyday theology in youth ministry is to ask simple theological questions. Just recently, I asked a small group of high school students, “What does it mean to share God with a friend (i.e., evangelism)? Don’t we believe God is everywhere and so God is already in your friend’s life (i.e., omnipresence)?” We had some conversation about those questions, and they agreed that sharing God happens when we help people become aware that the God of Scripture is present in their lives.

I asked them, “What difference has knowing that God is present in your life meant?” One teen told a story of how knowing that a powerful God is looking out for him is a comforting thought and makes him happy. Another teen told a story of how God has given him purpose to live life. He acknowledged that living for selfish things like money and fame didn’t make sense to him. Still another shared a story about how she feels free, knowing Jesus forgave her. She went on to tell us how that freedom allows her to love her friends.

Then I said, “This is the gospel of God’s presence that you have to share with your friends. The Bible might say a lot more then what you just shared tonight, but none of that has the significance that your story of God has for your friends.”

In other words, their stories are their everyday theology of the redemptive work of God. Their stories might not be theologically precise in the halls of the academy, but they are theologically honest.

Everyday theology is the starting point for theological education and spiritual formation. Youth workers need to value and honor everyday theology in order to promote the growth of students in their knowledge and wisdom in the Lord.

Questions to Consider:
What is more important in youth ministry—stated or everyday theology?
How do you teach theology in youth ministry?
Where is your starting point for teaching theology?