5 Myths about Teaching Apologetics to Students

by Sean McDowell

Training students in apologetics is one of the most important tasks for any youth leader today. Whether through classroom teaching, speaking, personal conversation, on apologetics mission trips, or through writing, I have been training students to defend their faith for nearly two decades. While there are certainly some exceptions, in my experience, the vast majority love it.

Nevertheless, some leaders continue to resist the need for apologetics training for students. In this post, I briefly respond to five common myths about teaching students apologetics:

Myth 1: Students will become arrogant and argumentative if they study apologetics

One of my favorite presentations to do at churches, camps, and conferences is my “Atheist Encounter.” I put on my “atheist glasses” and do my best to role-play the atheist worldview while taking questions from the audience. Interestingly, student groups (and really all groups) tend to become agitated, defensive, and argumentative. After the experience, I often ask groups the reason for their defensiveness. And the point I make is this: we get defensive when we don’t really know why we believe what we believe. Confident people, who have a good rationale for their beliefs, don’t tend to get defensive. Rather than making them arrogant, apologetics can actually help young people develop a calm confidence in their faith so they can engage others in thoughtful spiritual conversations.

Myth 2: Students need information dumbed down for them

There are endless debates in youth ministry about whether we should teach up or teach down to students. In my experience, students are capable of far more than we give them credit for. In fact, I think most students will rise to the level of expectations we set for them. If students can take algebra, world history, and biology, they can certainly learn how to defend their faith at a high level. We do need to work to make apologetics interesting and relevant to students, but that doesn’t mean we always need to dumb it down. In fact…

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5 Myths about Teaching Apologetics to Students – Sean McDowell