If you’ve spent much time with young children, you know one of their favorite questions is, “Why?”. Somewhere along the way, they learn that asking “Why?” irritates many adults and they don’t ask the question quite as often. By the time they reach teen Bible classes, young people may have dozens of questions in their heads, but rarely ask them.
It’s unfortunate, because often those questions are the beginning of pulling away from God. Not because they have those questions, but because they aren’t answered in meaningful ways by Christians. One of the biggest questions young people often have is “Why are we doing Christianity?” Oh, they probably would say they understand about going to Heaven, but for many teens Heaven is just a word. Often young people leave because their original question later morphs into “Why bother?”
An interesting secular study discovered something that can have huge implications for how we teach young people about God and the Bible. Researchers found that when they spent time helping young people connect a higher purpose to the things they were learning in school, they had a corresponding improvement in several areas. Students who understood the things they were learning had meaning in their endeavors to reach a loftier goal – like improving the world – had improved grades, were more likely to attend and graduate from college and spent twice as much time as others their age in doing boring academic tasks.
So what does that look like in our church setting? Taking the time to explore God’s higher purposes for Christians is crucial. Teens need to understand God’s expectations for His people to do good works and to help others learn about Him so they can spend eternity in Heaven. They need to know God has specific good works He has planned for each one of them to do and He has given them special gifts to use in completing some of those deeds. They need to understand Christianity can not only help solve some of the world’s problems, but also is the only way to spend eternity with God.
We need to take it a step further though. As we teach young people concepts from scripture, we need to help them explore how knowing, understanding and practicing these verses will help them reach those higher purposes God has planned for them. For example, teaching teens the Bible says drunkenness is a sin, has a place. For many young people though, it will resonate even more if they understand why their sobriety can make them more effective in attaining the goals God has for them and why drunkenness undermines what God has planned for them to do.
Of course, all of this takes extra time and effort. Personally, I believe it is more impactful if you can help students discover these connections rather than merely throwing them out in a lecture. (Although mentioning them is better than not mentioning them!). Yet without helping young people understand the higher purposes of Christianity beyond attending church services, they may eventually leave to find something else that they believe provides a higher purpose for their lives.