Separating the Questioner

Jon and Jennifer H. have witnessed another kind of negative response to doubts. “We have seen teens who are struggling with their faith separated from those who are not,” says Jennifer. “In some churches, the ones who struggle are told that they cannot be a part of the group, and that they have to see a special counselor. But alienating a struggling teen is not the answer.” Being separated from peers can cause pain, anger, and feelings of rejection in the young person. Eventually, the teen is forced to seek understanding and acceptance elsewhere.

Some parents assume that a teen suffering from doubt must be an unbeliever, and they react accordingly. Jill and Brad W. have seen this pattern over and over. “I’ve had church parents pull their kids from youth group because we had too many non-Christian teens and they’re worried these unbelieving teens will rub off on their kids. This frustrates me as a youth worker. We need believing teens who aren’t ashamed of their beliefs to be examples to non-believers. Segregation is not the answer.”

“Often our teens don’t have a safe environment in which to ask honest questions,” Elissa M. points out. “It simply isn’t there. We may understand when the unchurched teens have questions, but our churched teens probably have just as many.” Young believers must be allowed to face tough questions about God and about the Bible. Only then can they learn to speak God’s truth in their own words to their generation.

Giving an Answer

Instead of shutting down or singling out the teens who ask questions in your family or church, heed the words of 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV): “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you—yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

As a parent or youth leader, you will need to be informed about the questions your teens are posing. You may feel inadequate. You may want to pass the teen along to a pastor or elder who is “better qualified” than you. Those qualified people may indeed be of help as you do some research, but that teen is yours to disciple. Remember that God used some of the most unlearned and unqualified men in Israel to preserve and disseminate his Gospel all over the known world. Listen to your teens’ questions with an open mind. Do some reading, get some knowledge, pray, and then come back with an answer and with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will put words in your mouth if you let him.

Jill W. has some additional advice for parents and youth workers. “Just keep on loving and supporting your teens,” she says. “Pray for them. Share the occasional Bible verse. But mostly be there, and be consistent. It’s hard. We’re all busy. But teens want to know that someone cares.”

Elissa M. agrees. “Pray for your teens and teach applicable lessons with an emphasis on the basics. If your teens truly understand the basics of the Bible, and who God is, the standards they will set in life will also be based on those principles. Always present God as personal, and be sure your own life shows his love. God’s love is contagious.”

Rebecca Kenney is a freelance writer living in sunny South Carolina with her husband and 1-year-old son. They love computers, books, and God's amazing creation!

© 2013 by Home Educating Family Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published in 2012 Issue 4 of Home Educating Family Magazine, the publication with the most meaningful discussions taking place in the homeschooling community today. Visit hedua.com to read back issues and for more articles, product reviews, and media.

Publication date: September 10, 2013