I get to hang around a lot of different students from a variety of places because of the nature of what I “do.” They come from varying ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and from parents who go to church and others who don’t. In the mix are even some kids who go to Christian schools or attend school in their living rooms. Among these are a group of students who have heard the “good news” of who Jesus is and claim to have a relationship with Him. We pull back some layers and below the surface I keep finding something interesting. Each student has a dirty little secret.
The 6th graders doubt that God will protect them from covid. The 12th graders doubt that God really has a clear plan for their life. They all wonder if God can hear their prayers if He is really as good as He claims to be, or if their own relationship with God is real. They wonder if they are allowed to doubt at all.
They sit in church services, chapel, Bible classes, Sunday school,and even small groups hearing about the Lord. There is a lot of space for adults to talk at them about who Christ is and how they should live for Him.
The issue isn’t the doubt. The problem doesn’t lie in the uncertainty. The God who created a universe full of life from a void is more than capable of revealing himself to a teenager.
I think there are some issues in the way we adults are helping them with their doubts:
We Talk at Students
We youth leaders like to help with answers. We want them well informed on the Lord. Therefore, we like to gather them in assemblies and share our thoughts hoping they will walk out the door with knowledge. Too often however, we don’t really let them talk back. I keep hearing students who misconstrue that living for the Lord means figuring out how to make Him happy. When is the last time you asked a student if the understand what it means to belong to Christ? More often than not it’s in this question I learn a lot about their perceptions of Jesus.
We Hate Silence
Yesterday, I was involved in a seminar where students were asked to work through some really hard topics. In my small group time I asked my girls some pointed questions about how they feel about Jesus. They stared at me and the ground, but not out of boredom or confusion. They were processing their thoughts, for this was an uncomfortable space for all of us. One young lady hid her face in her hands and kept shifting in her seat. It could have easily been misconstrued as a desire to disengage. That is until she looked up, and point blank admitted some struggles she was having. Awkward silence is actually a good thing it gives them the room to admit what’s in their heart.
We Ignore Tough Questions
A friend of mine hosts a breakfast with students where they intentionally engage questions teens have in walking with the Lord. They talk about topics like creation, tattoos and the use of Snapchat. He presents a hard question and then they talk it through. What I love is that he doesn’t tell anyone they are evil for their questions or for struggling. He offers the truth of who God is and allows Him to speak for Himself. We need to create times where we ask students their struggles and questions and then show them how to let Jesus answer them.
I asked students the other day, “Do you know what it means to wrestle with your faith?” A 17-year-old answered, “To be willing to fight through what you believe in and figure it out.”
We so desperately want students to live for Jesus, we think it’s our job to fill in all of their gaps. We say we know better, but they come with a doubt and we throw out, “Just trust God.” or “Have faith,” or any number of quick fix it answers. Instead let’s not be afraid to give them spaces where they are encouraged to seek the Lord, while we remind them He is going to answer. He has to…it’s one of the promises he makes.
God has to keep his promises. They may honestly not know that.
What are your thoughts?