obviously, i jest. i don’t consider myself “wishy-washy” (although i would happily call myself a liberal), and i am slightly uncomfortable with the concept of “christian basics” (as for me this opens all sorts of cans of worms about assumptions and traditions and creeds). but being a youthworker involved in discipleship work with christian (and exploring) young people, i have found myself inevitably asked to do some kind of study series on “what christians believe”.

how do you present the christian faith to young people from the perspective of a post-modern, evolving and questioning personal faith? how do you prepare young people for their friends asking what they believe? and how do you help young people brought up in a traditional church environment to look at their inherited faith in a critical fashion?

there are many, many, many (!) examples of ready-made material outlining “christian basics”. you can find them almost annualy in youthwork magazine, for example, and many respected youthwork practitioners and organisations have produced their own version. however, when flicking through them in the past i have often found myself uncomfortable with some of the things they state a christian should believe. i came to the conclusion that it would be dishonest and inauthentic for me to teach these series to young people without including the critical thought and the sharing of other ideas and perspectives that i try to focus my youthwork around. so, as often happens, i decided to write my own series on the topic. 

i’ve called the series “Christian Basics?” and its main purpose is to highlight the variety of views on various topics within the christian faith. it uses a fairly primitive method to do this: taking one “conservative”/”orthodox” perspective and one “liberal” perspective on 7 different aspects of christian belief and practice, and comparing the two. i am aware that not all “conservative” or “liberal” christians would ascribe to the perspectives i talk about, and i am even more aware of the limitations of this sort of categorisation. however, this series is intended to be a starting point only in introducing the concept that there can be more than one way of being a christian, and will hopefully lead to further discussion and clarification. i apologise in advance to anyone who is offended by any unintended charicatures. 

the series is comprised of 9 sessions (although there is scope for some particularly involved topics to be taken across 2 sessions):

  1. introduction to the problem
  2. the bible
  3. god
  4. fall and redemption
  5. the people of god
  6. the future
  7. discipleship
  8. prayer
  9. what now?

i draw heavily on brian mclaren’s 2010 book “a new kind of christianity” when considering more liberal positions, but also look at shane claibourne’s “jesus for president”, an interesting little book from 1964 by Richard Acland called “we teach them wrong”. for more “orthodox” views and explanations of how we came to believe what we do i use alister mcgrath’s brilliant primer “christian theology:an introduction”. many other texts on specific topics will be mentioned throughout.

as i’m currently on maternity leave, awaiting the imminent arrival of baby o’brien, posting the series resources may be interrupted! But please keep checking back, as i hope the series will be useful for you and your young people.

i have only piloted this series with one group of 12-17 year-olds (most of whom were from a traditional christian background) and would, as always welcome feedback. feel free to use all or part of the series with your youth groups and let me know what worked well and what didn’t and i will work to improve the resource for everyone.