One of our Christian readers shares a teen-centered idea. The same format could be adapted to any cultural or religious style.
Faith and Doubt Night
“We have a relatively small youth group… maybe 10 high school aged kids if everyone shows up. Faith and Doubt Night has gotten positive feedback from them. It’s not a typical ‘youth group’ thing. No games, no icebreakers, just a living room full of teens and the senior pastor (no parents), and any questions the kids want to ask. As a parent, I’m not allowed to attend, so my husband and I watch something in the basement while the kids meet in our living room.
“What about this?”
Because of the personality, education and demographics of our church, it tends to be rational, intellectual, debate-style, “What about this?’ kinds of questions. The unfairness of hell, the reliability of the Bible, the character of God, injustice in the world, etc.
We’ve had one so far and the kids really liked it. They thought it was interesting and relevant. After seeing how the first one went, some are now open to inviting friends who have expressed interest in spiritual things.
What parents say
I’ve talked with some of the parents and we mostly agree that most high school kids– whether raised in the church or outside of it– aren’t really sure yet about what they believe. They may give general assent, but they haven’t really kicked the tires and decided what they think for themselves.
How we advertised it
At [church name] we value all honest questions, doubts, and hesitations about the Christian faith. If you are in 9th-12th grade, the floor is wide open for you to bring ANY question you’re wrestling with about Christianity. Pastor Bill will lead conversation as we talk through each other’s questions, and help us think through issues together. Bring your questions. Dessert will be provided.
Got an idea to share with readers? See comment box below.
Tweetable: One of the happiest discoveries for teens can be that asking questions is far more interesting than making statements about their own views. Read about one church’s Faith and Doubt night. Click to Tweet
When I was about 11, I went to my mother in tears about my fear of dying. And my fear of my dad or mom dying. Her conversation on that warm summer afternoon stays with me to this day.
Indestructible until my work is finished
My mother’s sacred text of choice was the Bible. The wisdom flowing from that book informed her comforting words to me about dying. “God gives purpose to every life. When you read a book there’s a plot carried through the entire story. Your life has a plot that you and God are writing. You are indestructible until the story of your life is finished. Until that time, you are safe and secure.”
She continued, “When your work here on earth is done, the ending of this chapter of the book gets written. God calls you to come and live with him in the place where there’s no more sadness, pain or tears. It’s the same for your dad and me–and everyone who has made their peace with God.
Make peace with God
We choose what we believe about God. Why not choose to trust that we are writing our life’s plot line with Someone–God? That God knows each of us by name and provides the way and the truth for making peace with God? If you have questions about making your peace with God or just want a listening ear, leave a comment for me in the box below and I will reply.
Stop and pay attention
As an adult my understanding of my mom’s words grows. I look at life, as Frederick Buechner wrote, as “not just incident following incident without any particular direction or purpose, but things are happening in order to take you somewhere.” I’m gaining a way of living an abundant life in addition to receiving a rather fearless perspective on dying. This is what I share with the children in my life.
Tweetable: Is your child afraid of dying? Or afraid that you are going to die soon? Here’s one mother’s words that brought comfort to her daughter at the time, and continue into adulthood. Click to Tweet.
Today’s challenge is prompted by a reader’s feedback about my new book, Child-Centered Spirituality. He wrote, “While I was reading some of the pointers, affirmations and discussion questions for parents to use with their kids – I was struck by the fact that I really needed to ask forgiveness from a friend I had recently said some harsh things to. A passage in the book poked me in the eye. I did the deed of contrition – and got an instant reply of thanks and ‘reconciliation.’ All those questions we should be posing to children, we should be posing to ourselves too. So your book operated on another level for me – Thank you!”
Questions as a gateway into our own spiritual life
What questions does he mean? Questions that make kids think. Those uncovering our need for a searching and fearless moral inventory–questions that poke in the eye. Discovery questions for kids who know there’s a better way. Those leading to reflection. Regular self-reflection can become a key to talk more openly and naturally with the children in your life.
Start by journaling your responses to these questions, suggested by Larissa Marks
- In a few words or phrases, describe how you are presently doing.
- How have you experienced the divine lately?
- What has been life-giving? What has been life-draining?
- What things are presently occupying your mind and heart?
Then by all means, engage some people you trust in conversation around these matters. It can be a spiritual director, a trusted friend, or someone whose spiritual journey you respect. Being able to talk with others is critical. Engaging with others in a safe environment can be a surprisingly healing experience. After all, none of us is really in this alone. We all need others along the road with us as we travel.
Tweetable: Once in a while, sprinkle thought questions into your car conversations with kids. Questions about the bigger meaning of life or its big picture. Click to Tweet
To a culture increasingly entertained (or disgusted) by its own superficiality, the role of grandparents as spiritual guides seems like a good use of one’s later years. Who better to draw young family members into deeper life issues than their most credible, experienced elders?
Grandparents can find simple guidelines from Rabbi Edythe Mencher. I’m quoting her, but personalizing it for grandparents. She writes, “The earlier we facilitate [a child’s spirituality] the better prepared the child will be, now and in later life, to turn to God for assurance, comfort and understanding.”
Tip: Confront your own misgivings. You don’t have to resolve all your doubts in order to talk to your grandchildren about God.
Each of us can come to a unique knowledge of God just as our ancestors did. It’s the struggle to find God that counts and we should not shy from it.
God is the lover of the human race… our aim is to emphasize that the relationship between God and God’s creations is one of love. More important than the love of God is the child’s awareness of it.
Tip: Learn to interpret questions your grandchild asks about God before replying or changing the subject.
Don’t impose pat answers. Allow children to take their own journey of discovery by expressing their ideas freely. Make sure you are listening carefully to their questions– they may not be asking what you initially think they are asking, and it’s important not to answer what they’re not asking. They’ll feel missed in the conversation. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
Tip: Share your own wonderings about God and the universe.
Include God in everyday play activities. Acknowledge God’s place in our day by day reality. One way to do this is to notice when a person’s conduct resembles God’s action as it is manifested in the world and in life. Human beings are [created in God’s image]….They are godlike when they act with decency and compassion or when they… still forgive the flaws of humanity.
Tip: Help your grandchild develop trust through your loving care, supported by your faith.
The biblical term for faith designates an attitude of trust between humanity and God. To have faith… is to “entrust” oneself to God and to feel secure in this trust. The believer, as Shalom Ben Chorin put it, ‘does not believe in God; he or she believes God…’ expressing trust that the living God is near us….”
See Rabbi Mencher’s complete article here.
Tweetable: #Grandparents! Convincing a culture increasingly entertained (or disgusted) by its own superficiality that your grandchildren’s belief in God should matter to them seems like a good use of one’s later life. Interested doing this better? Click to Tweet