In a world of information, students are looking for the truth. They have never had more access to information, yet they are more confused than ever. Students in this generation usually talk about their emotions well, but they don’t control them and often can make unwise choices. They also want to be people who do stuff; they don’t just want to talk about it; they want to experience it. So the question becomes, how do we shape our youth ministries in a way that speaks to some of the particularities of students today?
Here at Reframe, we have a simple structure that shapes our content:
- Head – Orthodoxy
- Heart – Orthopathy
- Hands – Orthopraxy
Proper teaching of the scriptures is essential. Biblical literacy in this generation is low, and even the things people picked up about the Bible culturally are not happening anymore. We think this is an incredible opportunity to teach the scriptures without baggage.
We must remember that students do not just want to hear what we have to say, they want to contribute. We need to give them space to do this around the topic we are addressing and the scriptures. We have found that presenting a whole pericope of text to them and asking them questions that elicit engagement with that passage give us the social capital we need to preach the authority and intent of the scriptures with listening ears in return.
In short, we let them talk first; then, they listen to us in return.
How we feel is important to God. We want to create a safe environment where students can process their feelings and learn how to follow Jesus with their emotions. Students want to share their feelings but rarely know what to do with them. This is a chance for the church to step in and provide them with a framework to understand and process their emotions from a Christian perspective. Students are asking questions of care before meaning. They want to know if they are loved by God and by you before they understand how it all works. They live in an age of information, which means you don’t have to come to you to get it; they want to be known by you and, more importantly, God.
Our faith should be lived out, not just talked about. We want students to see that Christianity is not just about agreeing with certain doctrines but living them out day by day. Funnily enough, this is what makes something real to them. They need to see people living out what they say they believe. Students who see Christians around them living out of generosity, compassion, and justice will be drawn to Jesus. But it cannot stop here; there must be an invitation to participate. This will help convince them the Gospel is real.
However, you shape your ministry to reach students; we must meet them where they are but show them how the Gospel has spoken to the things they care about long before anything else has.
Jordan Francis is a team member at Reframe Youth in Phoenix, Arizona