“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:
The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.
The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.
Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.
I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?
This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.