Our high school small groups have a confidentiality rule. So I can’t get into the specifics of what happened last night, but I want to share something that happened last night in general terms.
Brian, our high school pastor, kicked it off by asking one of our college-aged volunteers to come up and share a conversation they’d had. The gist was that Brian was celebrating that she had come to him with her questions… questions spurred on by her taking the initiative to read the Bible and write down her questions.
His point was to encourage students to keep reading this year’s framing content from the Simple Truth Bible. But when we got into our small group time the guys said something like, “Is that what we’re doing tonight? Asking questions?”
My co-leader and I did the exact same thing when they said that… folded up the nice little paper we were given as the nights lesson and put it away. “Yup, if you have questions… let’s go.”
A Leg to Stand On
Over the next hour or so a room full of high school sophomores asked us really, really hard questions. As I’ve said over and over again lately… we can’t forget that high school students are reading Shakespeare, Plato, Twain, Hemingway, and other classic literature. (Um, when was the last time you read the classics?) They are being challenged to think deeply, to unleash their intellectual minds, and to ask hard questions of the text.
But at church, [church at large, not Journey] we have a movement underway that assumes the audience knows nothing and regularly dumb things down to an irreducible minimum level of intellectual understanding. In short… we take things which really aren’t that simple and try to make them simple, for a head nod and an amen and a box checked.
Last night was a reminder that students, if given the space, have really good, important, and honest questions. I was asked questions last night about things that I’d never even thought of!
But I’ll tell you what: As these guys were asking and going from rabbit hole to rabbit hole of theological and biblical questions I was happy to have a leg to stand on.
See, I’ve done plenty of personal and group Bible study. I’ve taught the Bible for years. I’ve read way too many theology books. And I’ve heard approximately 2.5 million sermons.
But in that moment, when the questions were flying, I was relying on formal education and training.
I’m convinced that youth workers, paid and volunteer, need the rigors of formal education and training.
It’ll stretch you and deepen your own faith. And it’ll prepare you for the random (but very important) questions of students in your ministry.
- That means churches need to invest in formal education.
- That means they have to pay people right when they’ve been properly trained.
- That means they need to encourage (and expect) formal education for lay leaders.
- That means they need to stop dumbing down the Gospel or theology or Bible teaching to an irreducible “felt need.”
- That means they need to posture themselves as a place of exploration and discovery.
I didn’t write this post with this in mind, but it came to mind as I was writing. If you’re looking to get students asking questions and exploring deeper stuff… I highly recommend checking out Can I Ask That? from our friends at Fuller Youth Institute. We are selling a ton of it on our website.