Spiritual Gifts. Probably one of the more difficult topics to discuss with anyone in the church, due to the varying interruptions and practices relating to Spiritual Gifts. Bring a tough topic like this to your students, and, well, you never know what you might get. I was using the S.H.A.P.E. Inventory with my students as we tried to understand and discovery our spiritual gifts. And, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive, as we were a mixed group with different church backgrounds. But much to my surprise, the students responded in an incredible way. They were into it. I mean, really into it. It was a great night!
Now I have taken on a number of difficult topics over my many years in youth ministry. I once taught a marriage, sex, and dating series with a group and the students went crazy for it. It was one of our most attended, most effective series. I’ve also taught on the book of Revelation, and have wrestled with tough doctrinal and theological topics and have had great responses from my students.
I think sometimes we can be a little anxious about dealing with tough topics, especially with middle school students. But experience continues to show me that our students can handle the tough topic issues of faith and theology.
If you are thinking about going a little deeper with your students, here are four thoughts to keep in mind.
1. Don’t be Afraid to Take on Tough Topics…
Now sex and dating is one thing. It’s a tough topic because you’re dealing with what can be intimate and personal issues. But what about the topics of theology. Predestination. The Trinity. Free Will. The Will of God. Grace. Sanctification. Revelation and End Times events. These are topics that are not only tough to teach, but the opinions and viewpoints are as many and as different as the snow flakes that fall in February. But don’t be afraid to take on tough topics. They are in the Bible and at some point will be addressed.
2. Be Prepared…
If you decide to tackle a tough topic, you have got to do your homework. There are many, many things from the Bible that I am comfortable opening my Bible to and teaching on the fly. But when it comes to theological positions and practices, I always take the time to study and prepare. Never wing it. Depending on your situation, you might have to consider not just what scripture has to say but how your church leadership or denomination interrupt, teach, and profess a particular topic. Taking the time to properly study and understand what you are about to teach is vital to the spiritual lives of those in your listening audience.
3. Don’t fake it…
One of the hardest things to do as a leader is admit that you don’t have the answer. You never know what teenagers might ask. And sometimes, they ask really good questions. So what do you do when you don’t know the answer? Be honest, tell them you don’t know. I mean, come on, some of these tough topics are really tough. And some of them come with questions that are not just hard to answer, but they don’t have any answers. I had a seminary professor one time say in class, that perhaps on of the best theological answers we could ever offer is, “I don’t know.” There are things about God we will never know till we are on the other side of glory. So in dealing with tough topics, that bring up tough questions, don’t fake it.
4. Leave them Wanting to Know MORE…
I remember being a student summer camp. As a cabin we told our counselor that we wanted to study the book of Revelation for our nightly devotions. I think part of we wanted to stump our counselor who at the time was a seminary student, but he willingly agreed. (Sucker) An amazing thing that week at camp. Instead of receiving some special understand or insight on a theological position on end time events, we discovered a desire to want to know more! Tough topics are tough because we don’t always fully understand them and that leaves us asking more questions.
After our time looking at spiritual gifts, our students left looking forward to the next week. And, isn’t that partly why we do what we do? To see students develop a desire to know more of God’s word?
Are you willing to tackle the tough topics? To take your students beyond the feel good stories and topics that make student ministry fun and easy? Dive down with your students into the theological depths of God’s Word and teach them how to ask tough questions, wrestle with difficult topics, and seek after the God who’s thoughts are not our thoughts, who’s ways are not our ways! Then watch as God opens up the hearts of your students to His word.
By Jay Higham
Jay Higham is the Director of Family Ministry at Covenant Community Church (C3), in West Virginia. Jay has been working with students for almost 30 years, with 21 of those years in full-time ministry.