“I’m having doubts.”
“I doubt that is true.”
“How do I even know if God is real?”
When I was growing up in church, doubt was a bad word. If you were having doubts, your parents were setting up a meeting with your youth pastor. Worse yet… your lead pastor. This method of parenting wasn’t bad in theory. Our parents, I believe, genuinely wanted us to have an authentic relationship with Christ. The problem was that this wouldn’t happen in the context of “believe because you’re supposed to believe.” Many people weren’t given the chance to discover and seek this relationship, so the relationship was never there.
When students have doubts, it leads them to ask questions. When they have questions, they seek answers. When they seek answers, it is our job, along with the parents, to provide a safe place in which to search. When this is done, doubt turns from a bad word into an exciting word.
It is our job, as the Church, to provide the safest place possible to walk students through these doubts and questions. How do we do that you may ask?
- Encourage them to ask questions. When students feel like they are safe to ask questions, they will. This is a culture that must be established. You will have to lead the way. Ask them open ended questions.
- Don’t spoon feed them the answers. Allow them to walk through these questions. Don’t answer their questions outright. Always give them the chance to think through what they have asked. Always ask follow up questions. Allow for the uncomfortable silence. Allow them to think.
- Wrap up the discussion concisely. When you allow students to ask questions, discuss, and really think through issues that are rocking their faith. It is so important to wrap up the discussion. Don’t just leave them hanging. Leaving a student hanging will lead to bad theology and upset parents. Even if the wrap up is saying, “let’s talk about this again next week,” make it clear the conversation isn’t just dropping.
There are many issues in our faith that are black and white. They have answers. Its OK to be direct when students ask questions that have a YES or NO answer. But there are also many gray areas. Be comfortable wrestling in the tension. It was Paul that said to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We aren’t doing students any favors by wrapping them in bubble wrap and rocking them to sleep in their faith.
Ask questions. Let them wrestle. Continue open conversation.