Students ask lots of questions. I’ve had college-aged students in theology
programs ask what a Gentile is, and I’ve had sixth graders ask about “Apostolic
Dispensationalism”. I’ve come to learn that, no matter the level of ministry, we will
get easy questions and we’ll get off-the-wall questions. The good news is that
we are small group leaders because we love the Lord and love students… and
we are not expected to be a walking Bible Commentary.
Here are three things I’ve learned to do WHEN (not if) students ask a question
and I don’t know the answer:
1) AFFIRM THEM. Make sure they know that asking questions is a good
thing. As leaders, the last thing we want to do is to make our students feel
like questions are bad. Often times, students are afraid to ask questions
because they’re afraid of looking stupid. So they are left not knowing what
to do with their doubts and curiosities.
2) BE HONEST. If they ask a question and you don’t know what to say, the
last thing we want to do is to make up an answer, or give it a good guess.
Let them know you’re in the same boat.
• OPTION ONE // FOLLOW-UP. And do. Don’t make empty promises or
flippant commitments. Even if you know the student may forget within the
next fifteen minutes, make a note to find the answer. Write it down. Set a
reminder on your phone. Tattoo it on your arm. Whatever it takes. It goes
a long way when you follow up on a question. It shows you take them
seriously and care enough to follow through.
• OPTION TWO // HOMEWORK! If it’s something you think they’ll be
able to find on their own, equip them to do just that! We don’t want to
teach students to be dependent on us. We want to coach them to own
it themselves. Tell them to figure it out, because you want to know the
answer, and remind them throughout the week to come ready to talk
through the situation.
3) SEEK HELP. Don’t be afraid to lean into your student pastor or another
staff member, especially if it’s a potentially controversial subject. In these
cases, it’s important for the small group leader’s answer to align with the
pastor and/or church’s stance. Your student pastor will also have great
suggestions on where you can look (online or in commentaries) to help
you find the answers you need.
So whether it’s a simple factual question or the foundation of a long-standing
theological debate among the most notable Biblical scholars, encourage
your students to ask questions. Then, be dedicated to helping them reach a
conclusion. Some of the strongest faiths are built from a time of doubt and