When it comes to communicating theology to teens, the real question is what is your own theology? And then, what is the Vineyard’s theology? When you spit out a generated “pat” answer to one of your teen’s questions, are you pausing to see if you even believe it?
I think as leaders, and mostly volunteers, many of us have been guilty of speaking Christianese, but not searching our hearts for any substance. The study of theology is a practice and a discipline. Theology frames our beliefs. For instance, do we believe that God heals today? Do we believe we are partners with the Holy Spirit, and doing what the Father is doing? Healing is found in the scripture and is spoken of in the miracles in the New Testament that the early church performed. Is that for today? All these questions are answered in what beliefs we hold in our theology. So that is step one: knowing what we believe and communicating that without just giving rehearsed answers we haven’t really thought about.
Step two is listening. For example, a teen comes to you and asks, “do you believe God heals today?” Your answer is yes. They say they don’t. Why, you ask? “My mom died when I was 10 years old and I prayed for God to heal her. I don’t believe in God.” A thoughtful response would be rooted and informed by your knowledge of truth and scriptures, AND in your ability to listen to them. Communicating with teens means LISTENING. What they are thinking is only discovered when you listen. Teaching theology must be applicable and relevant to their circumstances.
Once you’ve listened, you can relate it to your own experiences. Students lean in when you expose your heart and share your stories. Share with them your journey of learning theology such as small group involvement, bible study, and maintaining curiosity.
One last idea is trying ways to capture their imagination within context of the scriptures. Engage their senses by trying different mediums, art, You Tube, Instagram, movies and music. Remember that this is a digital generation and help them discover tools that they can incorporate for daily practice.