Do You Think the Bible Is True?

“Do you think the Bible is true?” My college professor looked me straight in the eye and coyly requested a response. We had just read the two passages in Genesis that depict the story of Noah’s ark. In chapter 6, God asked Noah to bring two of all living creatures, male and female. In chapter 7, God told Noah to bring seven pairs of all clean animals and one pair of all unclean. My professor wanted to know: If the Bible contradicts itself, can it be true? I was 18 years old.

That moment began my reckoning with the Scriptures and faith that had been given to me at birth. My church taught me to love the stories of the Bible and the God they depict, and now my college was asking me to explore that faith more deeply. Along my journey through college and beyond, I felt a persistent tension – perhaps I would need to choose between the unwavering faith of my parents and the critical scholarship of my professors.


Train Up a Child

Do youth think the Bible is true? I regularly wonder how we as church leaders might invite youth to believe. There is a children’s curriculum called Godly Play that I think of as a helpful model. Built on the work of the Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman, Godly Play invites young children into the stories of Scripture. It nourishes that innate capacity of children to wonder – “Why, Mom? Why, Dad? How, Teacher?”

Godly Play transforms the classroom into a sacred space with bookshelves holding the stories of Scripture. Props for each story enable the teacher to share not simply by reading the story but by bringing it to life. It truly is an exercise in storytelling. Lessons conclude with wondering questions such as: 

  • I wonder what you liked about this story? 
  • I wonder what you didn’t like? 
  • I wonder where you see yourself in this story?

It’s a curriculum, I’d suggest, that prepares children to ask and respond to “grown-up” questions about the Bible and faith.


Training Youth for Lifelong Faith and Ministry

When I served at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, I discovered what I think of as a youth version of Godly Play: an engaging group of high school youth theology programs located on college, university, seminary or theological school campuses. 

For example, Duke annually hosts the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation (DYA). It is a space for youth to dive more deeply into their faith. Dr. Fred Edie and his colleagues built a program that asked each participant questions like, “What does it mean to be baptized?” and “How do you live as a faithful Christian?” They brought the Scriptures to life for youth, helping them practice spiritual disciplines and imagine how faith matters for their lives.

When I served at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, I discovered what I think of as a youth version of Godly Play: an engaging group of high school youth theology programs located on college, university, seminary or theological school campuses. 

There are 100+ of these youth theology programs at colleges and universities across the country, and they comprise the Youth Theology Network (YTN). Supported by Lilly Endowment Inc. and resourced by the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE), where I serve as a consultant, these programs welcome rising 9th-12th graders for unique on-campus experiences. They focus on bridging the gap in faith formation from high school to college and beyond.

These programs are collaborating with churches to cultivate the next generation of Christian leaders. They listen to youth ministers and learn how to support them well. They offer summer weeklong experiences for high schoolers, sometimes coupled with yearlong mentoring and service opportunities back at home. They also support alumni as they enter college, offering on-campus resources and leadership roles. 

The Youth Theology Network programs are helping youth explore the Scriptures, engage with contemporary moral and ethical challenges, and consider whether and how they might serve in ministry someday.


Youth Theology Network in Action

In this time of pandemic, many YTN programs are innovating virtual approaches to high school youth ministry. 

  • Examen at Indiana Wesleyan University blended an online learning experience with a “Live Stream” interactive social element, utilizing their campus’s TV station and resources from their youth ministry events department. 
  • Convergence at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia offered free, four-week online Zoom meetings to explore the intersections of faith and science. 
  • Awakening at Hope College in Michigan, which emphasizes worship leadership, offered online video tutorials on worship, musical and visual arts performance, dance, and technology. 
  • The Hendrix Youth Institute at Hendrix College in Arkansas held a three-day online event with a session on spiritual gifts, a panel of clergy and leaders sharing call stories, and time to worship together while reflecting on social justice issues.

Some of these programs have also adapted this year to respond specifically to issues emerging during the pandemic, such as racial justice. 

  • Leaders of Bridge Builders at Tuskegee University in Alabama, a program housed in their National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, are equally articulate in matters of medicine and theology and welcome their participants to be the same. They invite students to identify with the late Rev. C. T. Vivian and the late Congressman John Lewis, two Black religious leaders who lived their faith in the public square. 
  • Living the Questions at Bethel University in Minnesota, located not far from summer protests in the Twin Cities, provided a space for their participants to process the theme of justice and discuss current events. 
  • The Simpson Youth Academy at Simpson College in Iowa focused their virtual “tracks” on faith and leadership in crisis times. 
  • YTI IMPACT at Emory University in Georgia established a blog, a book club about whiteness, and a pastoral care space online for Black program alums.

And some YTN programs during this pandemic are finding new ways to resource their denominational partners. 

  • Kaleo Academy at Barclay College in Kansas held panel discussions with denominational leaders both young and old, streaming live on Facebook. They also offered free classes online to anyone interested. 
  • Collide at the Center for Youth Ministry Training in Tennessee, one of the few YTN programs not located directly at an institution of higher education, worked with youth ministers to craft a mission week that any youth ministry could adapt and administer in their setting during this time, whether online, in-person, or hybrid.


Help High School Students Take Their Next Faithful Step

“Do you believe the Bible is true?” my professor asked me. YES, I do. I see its Truth in history. I see its truth in contemporary lives and issues. I invite its stories to shape how I write my story. 

Most significantly, DYA and fellow YTN programs have modeled for me a way forward that lives into that tension between my child-like faith and academic scholarship.

Do youth think the Bible is true? In partnership with churches, colleges, and universities, Youth Theology Network programs equip high schoolers to respond with a RESOUNDING YES. They help youth continue to embrace the stories of Scripture as they enter their adult lives. They are “grown-up” versions of Godly Play, inviting wondering and faithful commitments. And they are helping youth to imagine and practice serving as church leaders themselves someday.

Do your youth believe the Bible is true? From one fellow church leader to another, I invite you to discover which YTN programs are nearest to you. They can welcome your high school youth into the college experience. They can support the work at your church. They can train students for a future in ministry.

The Youth Theology Network is a resource for your high school ministry, and we invite you to join us.



This article was written by Jodi Porter and first appeared on