This week I was given a discussion question. I was asked to “present a list of diagnostic questions that can be used to evaluate the theological foundations of the discipleship program of a local church.” At least three of the diagnostic questions needed to address God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in response, I prepared several evaluation questions aimed at discovering how God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are being presented to our youth, including questions aimed at discovering the level of understanding regarding the importance of teaching theology on an applicable level.
Questions to Evaluate the Theological Foundations of a Youth Discipleship Program
In The Teaching Ministry of the Church Octavio J. Esqueda defined the word theology as “the study of God,” which comes from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (speech, reason, word). Then he went on to say, “To do theology is to reflect on God. Our theology, or the lack of it, affects the way we think and live.” So, the first question is…
“What are we teaching our youth about God that will not only inform them of his nature, but will cause them to live differently than they are taught in the world?”
How we think about God should affect how we live, but even though many may learn about God’s attributes, they rarely learn to appropriate the truth that He is ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful in their lives. The problem that many churches face, including ours, is scores of children who learn enough about God to describe him intellectually, but know little of him from an experiential perspective. Do they fear Him? Have they ever made the personal connection that what God did to his Son should have been done to them? Do they know that how they live outside of church is more important than their Sunday school attendance? How they really understand God as a real person will affect how they think and live outside of the classroom. They need to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1) in the world, not just church.
In two different places (Matt. 16:13; Mk. 8:27) we read how Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” Who do our youth say that Jesus is? Is He a perpetual baby wrapped in swaddling clothes? Is He just the namesake of the club (the church) they were forced by their parents to join? Do they think of Him as God, or as a moral teacher akin to the founders of other “great” religions? Michael J. Anthony wrote in A Theology for Christian Education that being able to articulate one’s understanding of the deity, humanity, earthly ministry, and work of Christ is essential to one’s spiritual maturity. Are we turning out “mature” young adults when they leave our youth department? The second question is…
“How are we teaching who Jesus Christ is, and in what ways can we determine what we are teaching is effective?”
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Baptists are typically scared to death. They are more likely to talk about fried chicken than the “fire” of the Holy Ghost. However, Jesus spoke very clearly when he said that he would send another Comforter to abide with us (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is not only critical to our ability to teach, but to understand the Bible, the core of our curriculum. Do we ever teach our young people about the indwelling power of the Spirit which enables them to deal with peer pressure and temptation? Do they know about His ability to help them understand the “bronze-aged” document their atheist professors routinely ridicule? Therefore, the third question is…
“What are we teaching our youth about the Holy Spirit?”
The sad truth is that many youth programs, if not the majority, lack quality teaching, and we are sending our youth into the unbelieving world unprepared. Just take the word school in “Sunday school” – it’s a misnomer – it doesn’t exist. If it does exist, then most youth programs are the equivalent of a high school that sends students to college without ever teaching them how to read!
Something drastic has to be done, that is for sure. Regular teachers in regular schools try to prepare students to deal with life once they graduate. They teach with a goal in mind. They have lesson plans. They are forced to show that their students are learning. What are we doing in the church? Are our children any more prepared for the world than when they first started coming? Will their faith endure or fall apart once they reach college?
We have such a narrow window through which to teach our youth how to be Christians, not just wear a label. They spend eight hours a day in a school that teaches them how to “gain the world,” but what will if profit them, or us, if they lose their soul (Mark 8:36) due to one hour a week of poor Christian education? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The reason so many are departing is not because the proverb is false; it’s because they have never been taught.
God help us. One day we will give an account.
 William R. Yount. The Teaching Ministry of the Church. 2nd edition. (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2008), 32.
 James R. Estep, Jr., Michael J. Anthony, and Gregg R. Allison. A Theology for Christian Education. (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2008), 125.
- Laying Down the Legalism (onetruewife.com)