What are Disorienting Dilemmas?

BY: Dwight Johnson


[1] Theological reflection doesn’t begin with the learning or recitation of scripture, but with an experience that prompts us to awe and wonder. Whether the blinding experience of Saul on the road to Damascus or the experience of a sixth-grader encountering the poverty of America, when our experiences upend our expectations or normal ways of explaining and experiencing the world we find ourselves in a place of awe. It’s not uncommon to name them — around the campfire, at the altar, or in celebration on the last night of a mission trip.

Theology Together, then, seeks to immediately move youth toward disorienting dilemmas, exposing them to experiences that upend their theories and conceptions about the world, God’s activity in the world, and their participation with God as agents of healing. Such disorienting dilemmas might begin by immersing youth in the midst of relational service in an underserved neighborhood, in listening to the stories and experiences of other teenagers or adults whose lives are lived amidst the broken tapestry of our world, in caring for the mentally and physically disabled, through dialogue and relationship with the unhoused and homeless, or seeing the city through new eyes on a prayer tour that exposes prevalent systems of dehumanization and oppression. Wherever they begin, wherever they become alive, the foundations of theological reflection start here and lead students and leaders into a deeper discovery of God’s movement in the world.



Interested in introducing your youth to a disorienting dilemma? Our ministry partner City Service Mission (CSM) uses our Theology Together curriculum in their service trips. During these service trips, youth and youth leaders live in the heart of their respective city, learn what city dwellers face, learn how urbanites overcome challenging circumstances, and offer their time, energy, and prayers to support ministry sites. They serve in a variety of hands-on service opportunities to supply substantive help to God’s people in the city. And, with the incorporation of Theology Together curriculum, these experiences will help youth and youth leaders gain a deeper and more practical understanding of theology. Sign up today at csm.org.






Further Reading:

[1] Portions of this section are drawn from “Appendix: Leading Youth in Theological Reflection” in Andrew Zirschky, Teaching Outside the Box (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017).


Related Articles

Summer:  Every Youth Worker’s Favorite Season

BY: Dwight Johnson

Meet Hannah Cooley. Hannah Cooley is a 2nd-year Graduate Resident at CYMT who serves at University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, TX.  Hannah recently took her […]

A Deep Dive Into a God View on the Wow

BY: Dwight Johnson

A Deep Dive Into a God View on the Wow The fourth step in the Theology Together’s Wow Theological Reflection Method is “God.” After exposing youth […]


Theology Together:  “The Hill We Climb” – Youth Ministry Activity Guide

BY: Dwight Johnson

“The Hill We Climb” is a disorientation experience that will allow youth and adults to dive into a conversation around what it looks like to be the light in the midst of darkness, to be a mender in the midst of brokenness, to be hope in the midst of despair.