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Worldviews and the Youth Ministry

In grad school, I was asked to serve as a youth pastor for a small church nearby. I had only become a Christian a few years before and was unsure what a youth pastor did, but I was certain I could figure it out along the way. Plus, (this was the clincher for me) the church only had three youth in the program.

I quickly discovered that a Youth Pastor’s role was much more difficult and complicated than I imagined. But after a slow start, the number of youth attending our Wednesday evening gatherings gradually grew.

I didn’t expect the youth to be so challenging! Most had never been involved in a church or youth group. They were enthusiastic and hungry to learn, but they were also firmly entrenched in the culture surrounding them.

Many of them were new Christians or came from non-Christian homes. As we got to know them better, I realized how influential their entertainment choices were in their lifestyle decisions. So, I decided to address this issue head-on. I started with their music. I asked them to bring in their favorite songs. We put the lyrics on the screen, listened to the songs, and then asked questions. Questions like: what is this song telling me to believe? What is this song telling me to do? What is this song telling me to stop doing? What does this song say the good life is? What is the worldview of this song? What would Jesus say about this song?

As you can imagine, the discussions were fascinating and revealing. My goal for them was to develop the habit of evaluating everything they saw, heard, or read –  to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; cf. 1 John 4:1). Instead of passively listening to their music, they would be “preparing their minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13, NASB).

Lynne and I spent seven wonderful years with this church and youth group, motivated by how God worked in people’s lives and encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm. We were also convinced that letting students collaborate, ask questions, and evaluate culture gave them the confidence and tools to continue to grow in their faith and desire to serve.

The Role of Worldviews in Shaping Thought and Life

Have you ever wondered why we have a worldview? Three biblical truths answer the question. First, we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). Second, we can transcend our lives and see the big picture of the universe, life, and time. “God has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Third, we possess an innate moral compass (Romans 2:15). These features of human nature were baked in when God created us. Unlike the created animals, we are embedded with abilities to envision truth beyond our own time and space limitations. Our God-given moral reasoning provides the capacity to understand and evaluate everything from our personal choices to great historical movements.

Although our popular lyrics evaluation activity was not entirely a worldview exercise, it highlighted an essential truth: every song, movie, book, ad, meme, and TikTok communicates a worldview, conveying more than words and explaining life’s most important issues.

Even more, they promote a way to believe and live. Former Christian rap artist Trip Lee describes a time when his younger self listened to Jayzee’s songs.

“Yes, I had the clean version, so my ears were shielded from the foul language but not from all harm. There is no edited version that removes worldviews. . . . They were lecturing me about what my aspirations should be and what is most important in the world. . . . I was a star pupil. I ate it up. . . If I wanted the good life, I needed the money, the cars, and the girls” (Trip Lee, The Good Life).

Understanding and Categorizing Worldviews

“A worldview is first of all an explanation and interpretation of the world, and second, an application of this view to life.” (Phillips, Brown, and Stonestreet, Making Sense of the World).

Three practical truths guide us when we talk about worldviews:

1. Everyone has a worldview.

2. Your worldview is how you answer the ultimate questions of life.

3. Your worldview reveals what you desire most in your life.  

A good way to discover a person’s worldview is to ask how they answer four of life’s ultimate questions: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

Origin: where did everything come from?

Meaning: why does everything exist? Why do I exist?

Morality: how do we determine what is right and wrong?

Destiny: where is everything headed? What happens to me when I die?

This chart shows how these combine to differentiate the basic elements of major worldviews.

Naturalism (Atheism, materialism, etc.)Natural Forces      ?Self- determinedAnnihilation
Transcendentalism (Buddhism, Hinduism, “New Age,” etc.Derived from the “ONE”Oneness with UniverseWhat promotes harmony and unityLose personal identity and return to  the “ONE.”
Theism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)God Created allDetermined by GodDetermined by GodEternity with or apart from God
Christian/Biblical (Christianity)God Created allLove and Glorify God; Love othersDetermined by the character and will of GodDetermined by relationship to Jesus Christ


Humanity and the universe came into existence and operate completely by natural and physical forces.

Naturalism is the worldview explaining the natural world is all that is real. Everything that exists is natural; nothing is supernatural; everything is physical; nothing is metaphysical. Naturalism also teaches that everything can be explained solely by natural laws and phenomena without recourse to supernatural or spiritual explanations.

Naturalism provides the worldview framework for atheism, materialism, scientism, secular humanism, physicalism, etc.

“Here’s what happens when you die– you sit in a box and get eaten by worms. I guarantee that when you die, nothing cool happens.” – Howard Stern



Humanity and the universe are the physical manifestations of true reality which is completely spiritual and impersonal.

This worldview explains that all reality, seen and unseen, is a cosmic, impersonal force, the “One.” It is the supreme existence or absolute reality and makes up the entire universe. Humans are spiritual beings seeking to attain spiritual union with the “One.” 

Numerous religions align with this view, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

“Ultimately, the Force is the larger mystery of the universe. And to trust your feelings is your way to that.” – George Lucas                                                                                       



Humanity and the universe are created by and supervised by God.

Theism, as a worldview, holds that God created and oversees the universe and everything in it. The major theistic religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—agree that a personal God is the ultimate authority in issues of truth and morality. In other words, we do not create our truth and morality but discover them from God’s revelation. Thus, our human responsibility is to conform our lives and institutions to God’s truth.


Humanity and the universe are created by and supervised by God, who has revealed Himself to humanity through His creation and His Word (written and Incarnate).

Christianity is a subset of Theism but differs from the other two theistic religions by claiming that God took on humanity and lived among us. Because of His deity, Christ’s death serves as the means for God to forgive sinful humanity, taking on the sins of a fallen world to provide a way to restore the relationship between Himself and humanity.

Christianity is Christus Nexus, “Christ at the Center.” For the Christian, the focus of life is the person of Jesus Christ. John Stott says,

“Christianity is Christ. Take Christ from Christianity, and you disembowel it; there is practically nothing left. Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference” (Basic Christianity, by John R. W. Stott).

Most people do not consciously take on a worldview, at least not at first. They follow the worldview of their family until they are old enough to make moral decisions on their own. Even then, most do not take on their worldview for intellectual reasons. Rather, they choose a worldview that fits the kind of life they want to lead.

Many college freshmen leave their families’ faith not because they were argued out of it but because the new environment and the tasty immoral experiences rip away the feelings that their faith is true. Since our culture so closely ties together emotions and truth, the natural step is to discard the faith and follow the feelings—a dangerous yet all-too-common decision among today’s youth. For example, Aldous Huxley admitted, “The philosophy of meaninglessness was for me essentially an instrument of liberation – sexual and political” (Texts and Pretexts).

Worldviews and Your Youth Program

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).

I don’t want a worldview that fits me; I want one that fits the world. We do not want validation for a self-chosen set of beliefs and lifestyles; we want what is true. The Christian worldview helps to transform our minds to understand these truths and gives us the knowledge to compare and contrast alternative worldviews.

When we dive into the Christian (or Biblical) Worldview, remember it is . . .

1. NOT merely teaching the Bible (although God’s revelation informs and forms the Christian worldview).

2. NOT a political or social agenda (although political and social values reflect the prevailing worldview of a person and a culture).

3. NOT simply academic or intellectual (your worldview is the framework of your life. You may not live what you profess, but you will live what you believe).

Helping youth see the world through a worldview lens gives context to all you teach them from the Scriptures. Each of them has a worldview. Whether by choice or default, their worldview is part of being human and created in God’s image. They cannot NOT have a worldview. Their worldview categorizes fundamental beliefs about the world and their place in it. Your teaching, mentoring, and modeling show them how the beauty and fulfillment of the Christian worldview.

A worldview approach to life and the world opens new vistas for your youth. However, these sessions cannot replace teaching the Word and mentoring them to study and understand the Word for themselves. Teaching worldviews allows them to see the truths of Scripture lived out (or rejected) in this current cultural moment. 

How can you best utilize a worldview approach to life and the world?

  • Provide a robust setting for worldview thinking and cultural engagement among the youth (and don’t forget their parents).
  • Seek to educate and inoculate, not indoctrinate.
  • Teach a broad understanding of worldviews without getting into the theological weeds of Christian denominational differences. Focus on “mere Christianity.”
  • Provide a safe environment for students to ask questions, express doubts, and dialogue openly.
  • Maintain a conspicuous presence of grace among the youth.

If you would like a PowerPoint presentation on worldviews with your students, email me at [email protected], and I will send you a link to download it. Feel free to edit it for your use!

Stay faithful, encouraging, and confident! 

– Bill

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