INTRO BY CHRIS: Ryan is a youth pastor in the Bible Belt who never thought he would include science in the topics he covers with his students, and yet that is exactly what he’s doing—even topics like evolution and the age of the Earth. Today he shares his story with us. I hope that, through it, others who work with youth are encouraged to explore science in new (and kingdom building) ways.
The night finally arrived. I’ve been preparing months for this and perhaps this would be the most controversial youth group night ever (even more so than the sex talk). During this night a close friend of mine (who is now a Deacon) and I would present a creation presentation.
Living in the Bible Belt, I find that in most cases Christians are YECs (young-earth creationists). During this night, I decided to recruit a trusted leader in the church and present two other options for considering Genesis: old-earth creationism and evolutionary creationism (the stance I took). I knew this would be a sensitive topic but also knew this is an issue that teenagers find challenging and important. The result of the presentation caught me off guard. I found that the students were genuinely interested in the two views, but some of the adults were more hesitant.
I must admit that during my time in youth ministry I had never thought about bringing science into my interaction with youths until this presentation. Youth ministry books and seminars focus on topics such as relationships, identity, home problems, and sexuality. Although those are important issues that need to be covered, I can’t help but to think about teenagers in this scientific age. It seems like more people are gaining interest in science. Parts of me think that’s great, but I also can’t help but wonder if our teenagers in youth ministry are being left behind when it comes to understanding the relationship between science and faith. Maybe you’re a student minister or a youth leader and, like me, never thought about talking about science as part as your ministry. I hope to encourage you with three reasons why I did and still often do.
Students are genuinely interested
I think students are actually interested in what Christianity teaches about the relationship between science and faith. They are seeking answers during the time that we have with them, and I believe it is to our benefit to let them ask questions. I’d like to make a point here, that whichever position you hold, I hope you would be open to discussing this topic with your students using grace and understanding of other views. I’m not suggesting that we all become science wizards, but I am hoping that we can become comfortable with listening to different perspectives on science and faith and responding with grace.
Some may think they must choose between science and faith
Unfortunately, I think when teenagers hear youth ministers or pastors speak on scientific ideas, what they really hear is this, “Either believe in position X or you can’t genuinely be a Christian.” Rather, I think we should be open for discussion on the issue. I think we should be careful to avoid making them choose between what they know about science and what’s not explicitly taught in Scripture.
They don’t have to be afraid of truth
As Christians I think we all would agree that, ultimately, all truth is God’s truth. So, whatever fact or marvelous discovery we find in science is ultimately going to point at God and bring him glory. We need not be afraid of his wonderful workings, or his marvelous mysteries. When students realize this, they understand they don’t have to worry about their Biology or Philosophy 101 class in college. They can gain a better understanding of God and perhaps their faith by engaging in these subjects.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve said, other reasons to discuss science in the context of youth ministry, or even some of your experiences. Please leave a comment below!