Every week, Sidney and I talk about the things a mentor talks to a mentee about. Sometimes it’s via text, sometimes it’s over a salted caramel macchiato—either way, we’re committed to spending time checking in. I ask her questions about school, family, and friendships. And she asks me questions about my life. (How old were you when you got married? Where did you go to college?) But often her questions target big things—faith, relationships, doubts, and Jesus. I’ve tried to make our relationship a safe place for hard questions. Sidney knows she can ask whatever she wants, with no risk of embarrassment.
Many teenagers just like Sidney don’t have a relational safe space place for asking hard questions. I have the capacity to mentor one or two teenagers in my ministry, but that’s it. So where and when can the rest of them ask difficult questions and get the kind of support that I’m able to give to Sidney?
We’ve tried to target that problem, in part, by installing a question box in our youth room. A question box (either physical or digital) gives every student a safe way to ask a burning question, anonymously.
I like having both a digital question box and a physical box. Every Sunday night after our worship service we discuss a question from the question box. You can also post questions and discussions somewhere online so that students always have a place to engage in the conversation, whether or not they’re physically present.
If you find common themes in questions, consider spending more time on the discussion. For example, our youth ministry question box consistently attracts questions about other religions. So we decided to offer a small group on Sunday mornings to explore world religions. We didn’t want to rush through the questions, so we offered our kids something more.
Whatever format you choose, make the following things clear to your students:
1. The location of the question box.
2. How it works (make the purpose of the box clear).
3. Who can ask a question.
4. When and how questions will be discussed.
Sometimes teenagers don’t feel vulnerable enough in a group setting to ask what’s really important to them. If God is loving, why did he ever allow evil in the world? They need a safe, consistent space for these types of honest questions.