5 Ways Youth Pastors Can Defend against the Deconstruction Trend - Dare 2 Share
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students to reach their world.
Helping youth leaders empower
students to reach their world.

5 Ways Youth Pastors Can Defend against the Deconstruction Trend

Lead your teens to a faith that lasts.



Students walking away from the Christian faith is nothing new. If you’ve worked with teens for more than about 10 minutes, you’ve undoubtedly known some who—either during their teen years or later as young adults—turned their backs on what they once professed to believe.

In recent years, social media has made this phenomenon trendy, casting it as an approach to belief that’s authentic, intellectual, even highly moral—and giving rise to a fashionable word for it: deconstruction.

This reframing of an age-old problem can make it hard for youth leaders to approach it in a way that resonates with students. Here we help you understand deconstruction and coach you how to help teenagers walk through doubts in ways that strengthen their faith rather than demolish it.


In simple terms, deconstruction is a dismantling of one’s Christian faith.

In some cases, people pick apart the elements of historical Christian beliefs to evaluate which ones they want to discard and which they’d like to hang on to. But even if they don’t reject Christianity completely, what survives often doesn’t look much like the biblical view of the Gospel.

That’s because at the root of the deconstruction movement is a belief that many core Christian doctrines are “toxic theology,” said Alisa Childers, apologist and co-author of The Deconstruction of Christianity: What it is, why it’s destructive, and how to respond, when she appeared as a guest on a recent episode of The Greg Stier Youth Ministry Podcast.

“In the deconstruction movement, it’s virtuous to leave behind those doctrines,” Childers explained. “Things like being told you’re a sinner or being told that you must go through Jesus to be saved or that the Bible is your authoritative standard for truth or that Jesus is coming back to judge the living in the dead or that a place called Hell exists—those are considered toxic.”


Given that, it’s important to stick to the broader culture’s meaning of the word when you use it, said Childers’ co-author and fellow apologist Tim Barnett, who also appeared on the podcast. Otherwise, you could discourage teens from practices that are actually good for their faith.

For example, Barnett explained, Christians sometimes use deconstruction to mean taking the elements of Christianity you’ve been taught and examining them against what the Bible says to see if they line up—which is a good thing. Take, for instance, what Luke said in Acts about the Jews in Berea:

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11

Christians also sometimes call it deconstruction when they re-examine what they believe about a secondary doctrine—perhaps changing from a Young Earth creation view to an Old Earth one, Barnett said. But again, that use of the term can, especially on social media, lure students into ways of thinking that ultimately shipwreck their faith.

Barnett and Childers instead recommend using the word reformation to describe an approach to doubt or questioning that stems from a belief in the authority of the Bible rather than against it.

“With reformation, people immediately think of someone like Martin Luther,” Barnett said, “because he saw there were a lot beliefs held by the church that weren’t biblical—beliefs that needed to be examined and rejected, but, and this is the important piece, according to the Word of God.”


OK, maybe deconstruction-proof is too strong of a term, but there are things you can do to instill in your students a faith that can withstand examination.

Here are a few tactics that came to light in the podcast as Barnett and Childers talked with Greg Stier:

1. Deal with the tough stuff. Don’t shy away from difficult topics during youth group. Students are less likely to let anti-biblical arguments sway them if you’ve already worked through hard topics and taught students why and how to find answers in God’s Word. This approach will help them grow roots that enable their faith to weather all kinds of challenges.

PRO TIP An idea to get you started: Take your students through Hard Questions: Examining gender, sexuality, and identity through a Gospel lens. Click here to download it for free.

2. Recognize the source. Students who’ve experienced trauma can be drawn to the deconstruction movement as a way of processing their pain. Intentionally create an environment where teens can be authentic about their struggles, and be willing to address or find help for hurts that come to light, even ones that might seem minor. Help them see the answer to their pain is turning to God in the midst of it versus pushing Him away.

3. Teach that truth is real, not relative. Help teens understand that Scripture has objective meaning that lines up with reality. It’s not just open to everyone’s interpretation.

“It’s so important for youth pastors to teach that God’s Word is the anchor, the unshakeable foundation we can stand on,” Childers said. “It’s especially important in this culture where people feel like they have to go to social media to find out what they’re supposed to think. That’s a very shaky foundation.”

PRO TIP It’s also important to teach students, through apologetic reasoning, about how we know God’s Word is trustworthy. For starters, download Bible Rant, a free one-session, video-based curriculum.

4. Coach students to challenge what they see online. Deconstruction is often framed as an individual pursuit of truth. But those “individual” pursuits are often posted on social media somewhat evangelistically, in an effort to talk others out of their faith.

I truly believe that the deconstruction movement as we see it today does not exist without social media,” Barnett said. “It’s like a digital Tower of Babel.”

To help you counteract this movement, Barnett offers tools that will train your students to think critically and biblically about what they see on social media. At Red Pen Logic with Mr. B, you’ll find short videos in which Barnett plays a reel that challenges a Christian doctrine and then graciously counteracts it with biblical truth, modeling how students can view online content through a logical and Scriptural lens.

PRO TIP: To train your group using Red Pen Logic with Mr. B videos, you can play the reel (usually the first minute or so of the video), stop the video and have students wrestle with how they would respond, play the rest of the video, and then discuss Mr. B’s response. You can also encourage students to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

5. Train teens to share their faith, and take them out to practice. When students engage with people who have different worldviews, they’ll inevitably encounter questions and viewpoints that challenge what they’ve been taught. If you encourage them to bring those questions back to the youth group, you can work through them together.

“When you mobilize students to have those hard—not theoretical, but real—conversations with lost people, they come back hungry for apologetics,” Greg Stier explained.

In the Scripture, the apostle Peter warns us that “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He then exhorts us to “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9). When you employ these five ministry strategies with your students, you’re equipping them to resist the temptation of deconstruction and stand firm in their faith, which will ultimately result in them receiving “the crown of life” (James 1:12). So go on the offensive today!


For more insight into the deconstruction movement, get a copy of The Deconstruction of Christianity: What it is, why it’s destructive, and how to respond, by Alisa Childers and Tim Barnett. Also consider the six-part video curriculum (DVD or streaming) and study guide.

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