Respected youth ministry scholar and Luther Seminary professor Dr. Andy Root recently led a team that conducted some preliminary research into what youth and youth ministers think about science and faith issues and how these topics are handled in their churches. He shared some of his conclusions in the July/Aug issue of YouthWorker magazine in an article titled, “Teaching at the Intersection of Science and Faith.” I’ll pass on a few insights.
Through focus groups and online surveys, the team found that youth pastors “saw conflict between faith and science” and felt “under-resourced to deal with the topic.” Though youth ministers admit they are often asked about science by students, (and most common topic by far being origins and evolution), about one-third say they “never teach their youth about science.” Further questions revealed that if youth pastors felt more prepared and had access to better resources, they would probably engage the topic more, though many expressed some concern at how other local church leaders might respond.
Dr. Root concludes the article by recommending 3 practical steps youth workers can take to improve their preparation for conversations with students about science. First, they should become more knowledgeable about scientific realities by adding one science-related article to their weekly reading list. (Bookmark biologos.org or subscribe to our feed and you’ll be all set with this one!) Next, he suggests “Introduce yourself to local scientists and begin relating to them. They are in our churches. Do you know them? These scientists become models for how it looks to be devout and faithful scientists.”
Lastly, he acknowledges that sometimes scientific realities can “make our faith feel unbelievable” but instead of letting this push us away from science or from our faith, let’s use these moments as an opportunity to confess our uncertainty and ask that God meet us in the mystery. “Science,” he claims, can therefore be “one piece of a broader and ongoing invitation to wonder and adventure.” If we are able to do this, students will understand that we need not fear or feel threatened by science. We can still uphold God’s authority and sovereignty, even when we don’t have all the answers.
Are you involved in youth ministry either as paid staff or as a volunteer? Has science come up in your conversations with youth or during lessons at youth group, camp, or retreats? We would appreciate hearing more about your experiences below or email me at email@example.com.