According to David Kinnaman in You Lost Me, 52 percent of youth group teens aspire to science-related careers but only one percent of youth workers have addressed issues of science in the past year.
Knowing this, I was excited when my student leaders suggested we discuss the faith verses science debate. Before this discussion, one of them asked if I’d share how the physicists I knew from my days interning at a national lab believed in God not in spite of science, but because of it.
On the one hand, it was encouraging to know students are not only listening to me, but retaining what I say as well. On the other hand, this student’s question set off several internal alarms for me. Ultimately, I want students not just to know my story, but to know the stories of others in their family of faith. More importantly still, I want them to know the story of Jesus.
The fact that this student leader had already heard my best personal story on the subject suggested that rather than hear it again, what I most needed to do in this discussion was give students the opportunity to hear someone else’s story.
So I asked around and compiled a list of people in our congregation who are scientists. I then contacted the person who’s name bubbled to the top of everyone’s list: An older gentleman, active in our congregation for 42 years, who also has a PhD in chemical engineering from MIT.
I invited him to come and be part of our high school youth ministry’s discussion about faith and science. He readily accepted.
He joined my students in debating faith verses science, eagerly sharing his love of both Scripture and science with them. He participated in our discussion as we wrestled with the validity of Biblical miracles.
Finally, he shared his story. He talked of how his interest in making stuff explode as a young boy translated into a long, distinguished career in science. He shared how his love for faith and science have co-existed, each one furthering the other. He talked of the miracle of faith and the importance of the body of Christ. He then challenged students to take seriously both science and faith and to pursue both with scholarship and faithfulness.
Throughout the night, this man’s wisdom in both faith and science was evident.
Even so, I know most of my students left with questions about the juxtaposition of faith and science.
But I also know they left with something more than that: With a new relationship with one of the saints of our congregation and with his example.
I suspect that the next time my students are confronted with the faith verses science conundrum, this man’s story will serve them well, providing them with a living example of someone who’s faithfully pursued both scientific discovery and God.
My hope is this man’s story will even inspire some of them to do the same.
Jen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She’s the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She blogs at ymjen.com