Every youth worker wants the students he or she disciples to know Jesus better, but are they following the true Jesus? In Jen Bradbury’s excellent youth ministry book, The Jesus Gap, she embarks on a sociological study of various church youth groups in the Evangelical Lutheran tradition to understand their Christological beliefs. What she finds is remarkable and a bit troubling. While nearly every youth worker would say Jesus is a central part of their teaching and ministry, the data suggests that many young people have an unsteady or unclear picture of the true Christ. Most alarming to me were the stats that more than half (56%) of the surveyed adolescents did not believe or did not know Jesus was God. Similarly, only about one-third of the adolescents believed Jesus was perfect and sinless. I read these stats wondering, “What would the young people in my own ministry say?”
The Jesus Gap offers a candid look at the Christological pulse of American evangelical teens. While Bradbury’s study was on a smaller scale than similar sociological research such as the National Study of Youth and Religion or Fuller’s College Transition Project, her findings were strikingly similar. In the church, we can do much better in helping young people know and follow the true Jesus with their whole lives. Bradbury offers excellent practical wisdom and stories in each chapter, and her final evaluation is one of hope, not disappointment.