Who Jesus really is and why that matters for young people

Caleb Roose, MDiv Image Caleb Roose, MDiv | Apr 13, 2023

I was getting my undergraduate degree in biblical studies and theology, and my professor turned to me and said, “That’s heretical. You know that, right?” My honest answer was, “No.” I had been exploring different ways to think about God and Jesus when—like any good Bible student would—I stumbled upon something heretical.

What heresy did I uncover?

I thought that perhaps, after Jesus rose again and ascended into heaven, he shed his humanity and returned to his “normal” state as the non-human Son of God. This seemed plausible to me: Jesus did what he needed to do on earth, and he could now rid himself of all that “icky” humanness.

What I failed to understand was the full power and significance of the incarnation.

The Son of God did not take on humanity as a temporary act to get the dirty work done on our behalf. Instead, the Son of God came to unite Godself with humanity by becoming a very particular human: a Jewish boy, born into the family of Mary, in the line of David, in the Middle East, under Roman occupation, during Second Temple Judaism. Jesus was and is a particular person who lived, died, and rose again, and who now continually intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of God.

To ignore the particularities of Jesus’ identity distorts our understanding of both our savior and the gospel.

The same could be said about your students.

Teenagers’ unique identities matter

Your students, like Jesus, were born into particular families, with particular ethnicities, into particular communities, and at particular times in history. To share the gospel with them in a way that ignores these important aspects of who they are distorts their understanding of the gospel.

After all, Jesus did not come to save people generally, but particularly.

He came for the student who hides her family culture to fit in, and for the one who feels like youth group is his second home.

Jesus came for the teenager who’s lived in the same neighborhood her whole life, and for the one who’s moved so many times he’s lost count.

Jesus came for the marginalized, the confident, the questioning, and the lonely.

Jesus came for you.

Yet, as pastors, it can be tempting to approach our students’ identities in overly simplistic ways, making claims like, “All that matters is who you are in Christ!” While well-meaning, statements like this tend to ignore the uniqueness of who God created each student to be, dismiss their lived experiences, and may even unintentionally encourage young people to compartmentalize their Christian identities from the rest of who they are—assuming one identity at church and quite another in their day-to-day lives.

We know you want more for your students’ identities and lives of faith. So how can you help teenagers integrate all of who they are with their faith in Jesus?

I’m so glad you asked.

Check out FYI’s new curriculum to help your teenagers discover their unique, God-given identities in Jesus.

Countless youth leaders have told us over the years that they want to help their students know all of who they are in Jesus. That’s why our team has been working faithfully to bring you a new youth ministry curriculum, Who Do You Say I Am?.

At FYI, we believe God calls us to find our identity in Jesus without completely washing away the qualities that make us unique—such as our ethnicities, cultures, migration stories, spiritual gifts, and personalities. Through this youth leader-tested and-approved curriculum, you can start having conversations with your students about identity and faith like you never have before.

It’s time to bring conversations about Jesus, faith, identity, ethnicity, and culture together. 

It’s time to help your students understand all of who God has created them to be.

Tweet this: Jesus came for the teenager who’s lived in the same neighborhood her whole life, and for the one who’s moved so many times he’s lost count.

Teach teenagers to find their stories in God’s story


Young people today are navigating many layers of ethnic, racial, cultural, and religious identities. They need the support of their faith community to truly understand all of who they are in Christ. Who Do You Say I Am? is a high school ministry curriculum that equips your students to integrate all of who they are with all Jesus calls them to be.

Order today

Caleb Roose, MDiv Image
Caleb Roose, MDiv

Caleb Roose is a project manager at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he advises and facilitates FYI church trainings and research, coaches and consults with churches around the country, and develops resources. The coauthor of two FYI resources (i.e., Sticky Faith Innovation: How Your Compassion, Creativity, and Courage Can Support Teenagers' Lasting Faith and Who Do You Say I Am?: 6 Session High School Curriculum Exploring Identity, Ethnicity, Race, Community, and Faith), Caleb is passionate about human-centered design, holistic discipleship, and fatherhood. Caleb has worked in a variety of ministry and professional roles, including volunteering in youth ministries, serving as an associate pastor of discipleship and administration, counseling at and running youth camps, ministering in six different countries with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and managing an after-school program for kids. A Southern California native, Caleb lives with his wife and three young children near Pasadena, CA.

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