Here are my personal thoughts on how to teach Systematic Theology in Student Ministry:
Make sure that Every Lesson, Session, and Doctrine are Fulfilled in Jesus. There is no such thing as biblical truth that does not lead to or center on Jesus. Remember, there were a group of people that taught Bible truths absent of Jesus: the Pharisees. Today there are a huge group of people that continue to teach truths absent of the Gospel: Legalists. Truth is not understood in depth or fulness if it is not connected to Jesus.
Teach Systematic Theology to your whole Student Ministry. Don’t just teach Systematic Theology in a book study or small group study. I highly suggest teaching Systematic Theology to your whole during Wednesday worship service or in Sunday morning Small Groups. I believe every student needs to learn from both Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. Biblical Theology is the foundation to the best understanding and teaching of Systematic Theology. Some students learn better in narrative (literature, Biblical Theology) while others learn better in logic (mathematics, Systematic Theology). I believe a healthy view of both will help round-out a students theological understanding of Scripture. But also, preaching and teaching Systematic Theology to your whole student ministry will help you be accountable to communicate it with more illustration and application.
Teach Systematic Theology Chronologically. Have you ever noticed how nearly every Systematic Theology textbook begins with the Doctrine of Scripture? I believe that a proper study in Systematic Theology should begin with the Doctrine of Jesus. Here’s why: Jesus is the main character of God’s Story, the centerpiece of God’s Word, and the conclusion of God’s goal. Jesus was in the beginning with God because He was and is God (John 1:1). But also, I believe that we need to understand every other doctrine (including the Doctrine of God) through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. That’s how Christocentric we must be! Here’s my suggested order of Systematic Theology that I’ve taught for years. You’ll notice not only an order of importance, but also a chronological order, as well.
- Doctrine of Jesus
- Doctrine of God
- Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
- Doctrine of Providence
- Doctrine of General Revelation
- Doctrine of Special Revelation
- Doctrine of Creation
- Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons
- Doctrine of Humanity
- Doctrine of Sin
- Doctrine of Salvation
- Doctrine of the Church
- Doctrine of Eschatology
Teach Systematic Theology to Drive Students to Make Disciples, not Debates. The secret here really lies in how you teach Systematic Theology. Are you setting them up in debate groups, or are you encouraging them to discuss how to apply these important, deep truths to making disciples and missional living. Debates have no winners. Everyone walks away feeling frustrated, sometimes hurt, and most of the time flustered. Let your lessons of Systematic Theology lead your students into humility before our great God and desperation from an understanding of our deteriorating culture.
Teach Systematic Theology from your Wholistic Understanding. Notice I did not say full, complete, or perfect understanding. All I’m asking here is: make sure you’ve read the whole Systematic text yourself before you begin teaching know. This way there will be no surprises for you along the way, you’ll have a plan in place, and you’ll know where the author is going the entire time. Even though I know it may feel like it takes forever to read through, I promise you it will help you in the long run.
Lastly, Teach Systematic Theology in Big Pictures not Minute Details. Nothing can ruin a great Systematic Theology study worse than teaching it where there is no end in sight. People naturally remember big pictures better. I highly suggest teaching one doctrine over a month’s time (on Wednesday nights and/or Sunday mornings), and teach all of Systematic Theology over the course of a student’s career (from 6th – 12th grade, all 13 major Christian doctrines). If you’re teaching it in small group, I believe a doctrine a week is just about right (13 – 14 weeks total).
I pray all of my mistakes I’ve had to learn from over the years will save you from making the same as you teach your students the wonderful world of Systematic Theology.