'Trinity' is not a word found in the Bible, but it’s used to describe the essential Christian belief that there is one God who exists as three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each person equally and fully God.
How can we help young people to begin to appreciate and understand this foundational and yet mind boggling Christian belief? How can three persons be one person? Sometimes it helps to think outside the box.
NINE DOTS PUZZLE
Draw nine dots on a whiteboard. The challenge is to connect all the dots by using only 4 straight lines, connected end-to-end. See if your young people can complete the puzzle. Most will only be able to connect 8 dots. The last one seems impossible.
After a few minutes draw the solution on a whiteboard for all to see. Someone usually says something like, ‘I didn’t know you could go outside the box!’ What box?
The reason we struggle to complete the puzzle is because our brain constructs an invisible or virtual ‘box’ which frames the nine dots. We then try to stay inside that box when drawing the lines. This mental restriction or illusion makes it impossible to connect all 9 dots. Only by extending the lines outside the ‘box’ can the solution be found. So, you really need to think outside the box!
THREE IN ONE – DIGGING DEEPER
The theology of a triune God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is a difficult concept. How can three people be one?
But if the word ‘trinity’ is never found in the Bible why did the early Christian theologians develop the doctrine that there is one God in three persons. Simply because it is referenced again and again throughout the Bible.
Introduce to your group the essential Christian belief in a Triune God. Christians affirm
- There is one God
- God is three persons
- Each person is fully God
Write these statements on a whiteboard, chalkboard or a flipchart. Divide the young people into pairs and ask them to investigate a number of verses and passages which illustrate and confirm one of these three statements.
Give each pair one or two verses. Ask them to read the text carefully and decide under which statement to write the verse. Make sure you have looked at the verses, so you know what they say. Add others if you wish.
Try to use a modern translation of the Bible. Help those unfamiliar with looking up verses and passages in the Bible. This simple process of investigation is one which I use often. I try to avoid just telling young people what the bible says, but encourage them to examine the text to see what it says for themselves. A selection of verses could include,
- Genesis 1: 26
- Deuteronomy 6: 4
- Matthew 3: 16, 17
- Matthew 28: 19
- John 8: 54-58
- John 10: 30
- John 14: 9, 10
- John 17: 21
- Romans 9: 5
- 1 Corinthians 8: 6
- 2 Corinthians 13: 14
- Colossians 2: 9
- Hebrews 9: 14
- 1 Peter 1: 2
Summarise the findings and highlight some of the verses for the whole group, to illustrate the affirmation above.
It’s common for youth leaders and pastors to use illustrations to demonstrate the triune nature of God. Ask the group to brainstorm together to see if they can think of illustrations or examples which could help people to understand the concept of ‘trinity’ or three-in-one. Encourage as many suggestions as possible and write them on a whiteboard.
The group may come up with ideas like an egg (yolk, white, shell) or a three leaf clover. Discuss how the illustrations demonstrate the three-in-one concept, but also where it might break down when we think of a triune God. No analogy can be perfect, but it will help the group to wrestle with the concept of trinity.
I have two favourite illustrations. The first is one I used as a young(er) youth worker and it involves the three states of water, ice, liquid, steam. All H2O but existing in three different forms.
I was always a bit uncomfortable with the analogy because of its impersonal nature. However, as I became older and wiser :-) I found an illustration using myself.
Clearly, I’m one person, but I can also be three – a father to my daughter, a son to my parents, and a husband to my wife. One person, all 'me', but with three different roles. To repeat, no analogy is perfect, but it’s one which I’ve found helpful in trying to illustrate the triune nature of God.
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