How to Position Youth as Theologians Using the WOW Theological Method


Why youth theology?

Youth theology is theology built upon the simple doctrinal principle of the priesthood of all believers, and takes that principle right down to its natural conclusion:  that all believers, including youth, teens, adolescents, etc. are theologians.

It is theology that values all youth as theologians.


How to engage in youth theology through disorienting dilemmas and the WOW Theological Method

Disorienting Dilemmas

Disorienting Dilemmas — experiences/collisions that upend the way students are currently experiencing the world and shakes everything they have come to know about God and God’s activity in the world. Examples of disorienting dilemmas are: visiting and volunteering at a ministry/organization, interviews with the elderly, experiences with other religions, protest/rally, or an online simulation experience.

Disorienting Dilemmas can occur while hearing someone’s first hand story of transformation, while experiencing or learning something new, or while doing mission work in a new and unconventional context.  Additionally as youth encounter others’ perspectives and challenge their own assumptions, they will begin to ask the questions below as they seek to reconcile what they have known with what they are experiencing. Each dilemma creates intentional space to help youth move outside of their comfort zone and into the unknown.


WOW Theological Method

The WOW Theological Method is a 5 step process that provides the framework for deep theological reflection.

The steps are:

  1. WOW!  Allow young people to share their “wow” story.
  2. WHY? Lead young people to explain why that moment wow’d them.
  3. WHAT? Help teens consider what culture would say about that moment.
  4. GOD? Consider God’s perspective.
  5. ALIGN. Aligning with God’s perspective.


Step 1: Telling the Wow Story – Someone in the group shares a story of something — or someone — they encountered that made them go “wow.”  We ask them specifically, “What was the conversation, incident or person that you encountered today that was meaningful, shocking, sobering, poignant, and that you don’t want to forget?”

Step 2: Why That Moment? – In the second movement of the WTRM we lead young people to explain what exactly was the wow moment within the broader story, and why that moment filled them with awe or wonder.
Step 3: What Culture Says – Once we have helped participants identify the ways that their wow story functions as an upending of their usual expectations, prejudices, or ways of explaining the world, we ask them to further expose societally stereotypes, prejudices, beliefs and assumptions.  We ask them what their family, friends, or the  “average joe” on the street might say about the situation or people encountered in their wow story.  Even if the wow story that is being interrogated was only experienced by one person in the group, nevertheless, everyone in the group can begin participating at this point because they all are able to surmise how “an average person” might respond to the story. When participants begin to recognize how their experience in the wow moment compares and contrast to the normal expectations of their culture, then we’re ready to move to the expressly theological moments of the process.
Step 4: A God View on the Wow – In the fourth movement of the WTRM, we ask participants to turn their attention from their own and culture’s preconceived ideas about the people and situation of their wow story, to consider God’s perspective. We ask questions that push participants not only to state what they think God’s perspective on the situation might be, but also their reasons for believing this. Rather than a conversation about God’s providence, the conversation is about God’s providence in this particular situation that was meaningful to participants.
Step 5: Aligning with God – Here we take time to consider how the group should revise and rethink its actions in the future: Where in the story was there an opportunity to offer ourselves as expressions of God’s grace, love, judgment, compassion, or mercy? How might God want you to live or act differently? How might we act as agents of God’s Kingdom in future situations like this one?