Young Christians are leaving the faith in record numbers. This trend, coincidentally, comes at the same time in which enrollment in Christian elementary, middle, and high schools is skyrocketing. Needless to say, Christian schools have an incredible opportunity to model effective apologetics in the classroom. I say “effective” apologetics because a new generation of young people simply aren’t interested in most traditional, logical proofs of Christianity. So what can Christian educators do?
The issue at hand is something I can directly attest to as a middle and high school Bible teacher. When I lecture on traditional theistic arguments for God’s existence, I’m met with blank stares and uninterested yawns. What’s particularly interesting is that even the Christians in the room simply don’t seem to care. The general perception, mistaken as it may be, is that old Christian proofs are for older Christian generations and are therefore not particularly relevant today. In light of this reality, Christian educators, like myself, are faced with the necessity to adapt apologetic approaches in the classroom.
Prominent thinkers such as Gavin Ortlund and Justin Brierly have recently written on this very issue of a new generation being dissatisfied with traditional apologetics. However, what remains largely unaddressed is what role Christian educators can play in this goal of reimagining apologetics. Based on my experience in the classroom, I would commend these two practical ways that teachers can participate in reimagining apologetics in their classrooms.
1. Facilitate effective classroom discussions on controversial religious and social issues by sharing your opinion and not shying away from doubters.
Multiple times a week during my Bible classes, we have open discussion periods. These discussions started out slow but have steadily grown in terms of student engagement. I choose a controversial social or apologetics topic related to Christianity and then open up the floor for discussion. Throughout the discourse, various opinions are often shared and respectful debates regularly arise as well.
Choosing controversial topics pays off, by the way. Today’s students don’t particularly care about non-controversial topics, and it just so happens that defending Christianity in today’s polarized climate is a rather controversial topic. Whether abortion or the LGBTQ+ movement, these issues pique the interest of young Christians and non-Christians alike.
What also piques their interest, somewhat surprisingly to me, is what I have to say about the controversial topic at hand. But on second thought, is it really that surprising? Younger generations are clearly visual learners. They want to see thoughts and ideas in action–Christianity among them. I’ve found that my students don’t care so much about what “Christianity” has to say on an issue (though they should); instead, they care more about what specific Christian individuals have to say about an issue. They want to see if Christianity is actually a viable worldview option on the table. They want a space to be open about their doubts. They want to see Christianity in action, and Christian educators have a unique opportunity to be that very example of a Christian in action. In this respect, the educator is a living apologetic.