I recently asked my student leaders to evaluate who our ministry talks about most: God the Creator, Jesus the Savior, or the Holy Spirit.

My student leaders waffled between God the Creator and Jesus the Savior before one eventually suggested, “I think we talk about God more but you emphasize Jesus most.”

When I asked this student leader to explain what she meant, she described how whenever I ask a question, she and her peers almost always answer it with a statement about God. I then turn that “God-language” into either a question or statement about Jesus.

She’s right. With annoying frequency, I turn God-language into Jesus-language.  Why?

Because in my research about what teens believe about Jesus (published in The Jesus Gap), I found that one thing that contributes to a poor Christology is when we talk about God when we really mean Jesus.

As youth workers, we do this a LOT. Since we know that Jesus is God, we use the two names interchangeably.

However, this is confusing for students. For them, it makes no sense that Jesus can be both fully human and fully God. To them, that belief seems to defy the laws of both biology and reason.

To help teens understand this better, it’s important to address Jesus’ humanity and his divinity rather than to emphasize one over the other. It’s also important to talk about Jesus – and not just God – when we mean Jesus.

After all, Jesus is what Christianity is based upon. Jesus is the heart of our faith. Jesus is also what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions.

Because he is, Jesus is also the hardest part of the Trinity for students to talk about. They fear that in doing so, they’ll stand out, be made fun of, or be labeled intolerant. Since teens are far more likely to talk about God than Jesus outside our church buildings, unless we’re careful, this God-language will make its way inside our youth rooms as well. And when it does, that can be dangerous.

Because even though it sounds good, when students talk about God, they don’t necessarily mean Jesus, which is problematic since Christianity rises and falls on Jesus.

As youth workers, it’s our job to help students understand who Jesus is, what he did, and why he matters – not just to their faiths but to their lives.

You cannot do that unless you actually talk about Jesus. And you cannot talk about Jesus by just talking about God.

So, youth workers, don’t replace Jesus with generic God-language. Be intentional about talking about Jesus. Then challenge your students to do the same.

Doing so will enable teens to better understand Jesus.

And when teens know and understand Jesus better, lives change. Both their own and others.


To help your students better understand Jesus, check out Jen’s student devotional, The Real Jesus, which includes 50 short devotionals that address the gaps found in the research published in The Jesus Gap.