How can we support our young people in building their faith? In Proverbs 22:6 it says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (The word ‘children’ in this verse from the original translation actually means young person.) Let’s take a look at one those foundational tools that we can teach our young people; a tool that Jesus modelled to us really well — asking questions.
The Youthscape’s research team recently did a study on 16-19 year olds called ‘No questions asked’. They gathered a range of young people, some with faith and some without. The aim of the study was to discover what questions young people had about God and faith. They discovered that young people showed a severe lack of questions and curiosity about faith due to five main reasons. One of the reasons given was that young people saw questions as disrespectful.
Here is an extract from the article (you can read a summary of the published article here):
We were surprised to find a lack of questioning among some of the religious young people in our sample. For some of the religious young people, this was due to what they perceived as active discouragement from the religious communities they are part of, or for fear of what would happen if they aired their questions publicly. Take the following example from Ammir’s interview.
Interviewer: Are you comfortable talking about any of those things that you don’t have answers for at the moment?
Ammir: Not really.
Interviewer: Okay, yeah.
Ammir: Yeah, not even to my parents. I wouldn’t–You know, it’s just something for me to–
Interviewer: So, it’s just some internal wrestlings there?
Ammir: Yeah, I wouldn’t really talk about it publicly or even privately, it’s just something for me to figure out, something for me to, you know, accomplish later.
Interviewer: Yeah, and do you ever talk to God about those things?
Ammir: Not really, again.
So, what does it look like to ask questions in a way that empowers young people?
Encourage young people to ask their own questions
If we want young people to grow in their faith, we need to actively encourage them to be asking their own questions and not be keeping them hidden to figure out later on, as Ammir pointed out in the extract above. Questions and curiosity are a vital part of growth both in young Christians and all of us!Learning to turn to God and the Bible for answers is how we grow. Jesus loved asking questions. Some of those questions were — Who do you think I am? Do you believe? Do you want to get well?
Model a lifestyle of asking questions in a real and vulnerable way
Parents, grandparents, mentors, youth leaders, whoever you are, modelling how to ask questions and find answers is so important. I remember once asking my dad a theological question and he answered me with “I don’t know, what do you think the Bible says?” I grew up watching my dad turn to the Bible for answers and express his own curiosity. His openness taught me to be the same.
When was the last time you openly shared the questions you have and your journey of finding answers? Where can you do this? Over the breakfast table with your family? When you’re hanging out with friends? If you’re helping out in Youth?
We need to be intentional to engage young people
We need to keep asking young people what their thoughts and questions are. In a culture that has taught them that questions are disrespectful, we need to display a culture that sees questions as good growth opportunities. Jesus asked questions, we should too. Let’s make sure that we do not become the fountain of knowledge for them, but that we keep pointing them to the Bible and God — the true fountain of knowledge. It’s also ok for us and for young people to not always know the answers. Tim Keller says, “a faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it.” Let that sink in! It’s healthy to wrestle with doubts and uncertainty when we ask questions.
If we want to make a difference in the lives of the young people around us, let’s start by asking questions. Simple, yet deeply impactful.
Lauren Wilthew and the eFocus Team