Our Youth Face the Hard Questions Head On
November 14, 2018
by Dorian Albert, Minister with Youth and Their Families
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NRSV)
“11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
I never cease to be amazed by the depth our young people possess.
As youth minister, I’ve spent the last several weeks with our youth co-creating what our time together could look like. And perhaps not surprisingly, our teens have inquiring minds – they have questions about this world, what they see and where God fits among all of it. “What are we supposed to think about that? What are we supposed to do about this?” – the number and variety of questions were definitely more than I could field, and to be frank, my responses aren’t enough. Part of the Christian walk is the search for answers, and that’s an individual journey for everyone.
So, we decided that in this time of retreat we had the weekend of Oct. 26, our theme would be “SEEKING: Leaning into the big questions of faith”. We’d talk about doubt and how it shapes our discipleship, and how we work through it as individuals and as a community of youth. We’d think together about where God is when we’re doubting, and how we find him in the search.
This retreat was not about getting answers to all of our doubts, but instead helping students feel comfortable expressing their doubts, and helping them understand that our community is a safe space for them to explore and journey through their questions. Thanks to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Reason,Tradition, Scripture and Experience), we had a powerful tool to guide our SEEKING throughout each lesson. (Yay Methodism!!)
Together, we learned over the weekend that sometimes even the most faithful of followers can get caught up in doubt. If we are having doubts and claiming them and facing them, when we ask questions, that means that we are actively living out our faith – we are SEEKING. It’s when we stop asking questions and stop seeking that our faith becomes inactive. Our youth community is a place where questions are WELCOMED and VALUED! We are on this journey of discipleship together and that means that we walk alongside each other through the times of understanding and the times of doubting – but best of all, we don’t have to face it alone.
I asked our students to give some feedback about what they learned about SEEKING as a result of our time together. I was moved by their responses, mainly because they now know that having faith IS having doubts, and even the toughest questions can be navigated if you have God in your heart and your community by your side.
Below are some of their verbatim responses – you’ll see that their faith journeys and realizations are often times just like ours. May the wisdom of our youth serve as an example, reminding us that we’re all seeking God in one way or another, and sometimes we have to take the journey one question at a time.
SOMETHING THAT I LEARNED ABOUT MY SEEKING ON OUR RETREAT WAS…
“When we build a strong foundation of faith, we believe that we will see the glory of God and that our foundation will not be destroyed.” – 7th grader
“I learned that you can be more trusting of people and God, and that you don’t need to look far for a friend in faith.” – 7th grader
“I learned that it is a good thing to ask questions about your faith.” –9th grader
“I learned that I need to take time and be more intentional with my connections with God.” – 10th grader
“That I don’t just have to pray in order to seek God, I discovered lots of other ways that I can seek him and make a connection.” –8th grader
“I learned that it is okay to have doubts and that our relationship with God is based on trust.” – 8th grader
“That I can seek things without being sure that I will find an absolute answer, the important part lies in the experience of seeking.” –10th grader
“That I don’t take enough time to connect with God in my school and after school life – so I should make time when I get home to ask questions and dig into my faith – kind of like a check-in with God.” –10th grader
“I learned that I should try new ways of working through my doubts/questions and not to get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time.” –7th grader
“It is okay to ask questions or ask for guidance in your faith.” –10th grader
“It’s okay do have doubts because doubt is a part of our faith journey.” –7th grader
“I learned that I should be more open with my questions and not feel like I have to suppress them.” – 10th grader
“I learned that everyone has doubts, the journey is not short.” –10th grader
“That it is okay to ask questions about my faith when I am feeling unsure.” – 9th grader
“I can always seek God and God will also seek me.” – 8th grader
“I learned that my seeking could take me down more paths and give me even more questions, and that’s not a bad thing.” – 9th grader
“That my youth community is a safe place for me to ask questions about my faith and they will help me work through them.” – 8th grader
“I learned that we are always seeking God, in our faith and in our life, and that what we find as we are seeking contributes to what we believe in and how we live.” – 10th grader
“Patience is key to seeking. Seeking may take time, but once you find it, it opens a whole new door.” – 10th grade
“That it is okay to have questions about your faith. And that it is okay to go to others and ask your questions and pray about these doubts with people in your life that you feel comfortable with.” – 9th grader