This past week, July 16-22, rising 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade teens arrived on the campus of Roanoke College ready to take part in biblical and theological scholarship event Theology for Teens. The event, hosted by Roanoke College’s Religion department works with teens in attendance to help them leave with a sense of mission, and feel equipped with theological tools that will enable them to meet the challenges facing the church today, all backed by a history of the church and a wider context of other religious and social communities to guide them.
Over the course of the week, the teens in attendance learned from religion professors and Roanoke College students. Together they held Bible studies and lectures centred on Matthew 5-7, as well as a focus on the life and thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer- a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and vocal opponent of the Nazi dictatorship of Germany.
During the event, the teens also got a chance to engage with leaders and students from a variety of communities including members of the Jewish and Islamic faith. They also got to visit a range of locations for educational field trips, including a local jail, synagog, farm, and several museums in Roanoke.
Theology for Teens is sponsored by a four-year grant from the Lilly Foundation in the effort to encourage, support, and educate a new generation of talented pastors and to strengthen current pastors. In only its second year, Theology for Teens is continuing to make a change in teens’ lives and foster a bridge for them to openly communicate with a range of communities outside the church.
Top Ten Takeaways from T4T
This year, attendees of Theology for Teens were asked to share what their biggest takeaway from the event was. As the teens had many opportunities to hear from unique perspectives, and visit a variety of locations for experiential learning, each teen’s event experience was unique to them and their continued faith journey!
1. Hearing other points of view from people I normally wouldn’t encounter has helped me build a better understanding of my own faith.
2. This event has given me a greater appreciation for learning and understanding other denominations of Christianity and world religions.
3. Everything in life is way more connected to theology than I ever realized! Knowing this now will continue to shape my core beliefs.
4. Theology for Teens has been really enlightening. It’s raised a lot of new questions for me to consider in my own faith life.
5. Hearing from people who worship differently than I do and their assumptions about what it means to be Lutheran has been eye opening.
6. Now I more clearly see God in action in my everyday life.
7. I really appreciate not only spending time with my friends but learning all the new information on the word and having the opportunity to process it as a group.
8. It’s not true Christian theology if it’s not about love, joy, hope, and faith- not hate.
9. I love how close we can grow together as a group studying theology. I get to feel like a real theologian!
10. It’s okay and normal to ask the hard questions about God.
To see more of what went on during Theology for Teens, check out the Storify with photos and moments shared by Roanoke College Chaplain, Rev. Chris Bowen, and the teens present. Click here to view the Storify for T4T.