As children’s ministers, we seek to prepare our students to live out their faith for the entirety of their lives. That’s why we focus on valuable practices such as worship, Bible memory, learning from mentors, and listening to the Holy Spirit. All of these are important, but equipping students to follow Christ for a lifetime also means beginning to equip them to deal with periods of doubt.
Doubt comes in a variety of forms. It can mean doubting God’s very existence, doubting His nature, doubting the veracity of the Christian faith or simply the version of it that you’ve received. One way or another, there’s no escaping it, nor should there be. A faith seasoned with humility, strengthened by periods of questioning is the strongest faith available. Nonetheless, it’s nerve-wracking to envision the kids we love questioning the teaching they receive. Nerve-wracking, but inevitable.
So, what is there to do? How do we equip our students to walk faithfully through the seasons of doubt they will face?
Simply put, the best thing you can do to help your kids navigate doubt is encouraging them to embrace honesty, especially with God. Nothing kills faith like repressing valid questions, so allow kids to ask them. Even more important, encourage your kids to be honest with God about their questions. This is important for so many reasons. We should encourage our kids to have a prayer life with nothing held back. Not their failings, nor their joys, and certainly not their questions. A strong relationship with God is one in which everything is laid before Him.
Sadly, most of us treat our prayer lives like we treat heirloom china, very delicately. This is especially easy to model to our students, many of whom won’t want to offend God (or you) by displaying their doubts or fears. Many of your students want nothing more than to please you and God, and so they address God as if they were addressing their matronly, proper great-grandmother, which is to say very politely.
However, not only is this counterproductive, it’s not even Biblical! Think of how people such as David, Job, and Abraham prayed when they interacted with God. They spoke to God honestly and freely. We should encourage our students to do the same. Empower them to give voice to the questions, fears and disappointments they face. Not only that, be honest about the times when you as their leader don’t have all the answers, or have faced your doubts. Let your students know that following God won’t mean perfection, happiness, or having the answers all the time. By doing so, you give them freedom to honestly interact with God, no matter what they’re facing.
It’s intimidating to think of our students facing down their doubts. However, a lifelong faith is one that has faced the questions and persists through them. Giving our kids the freedom to speak honestly (to us and to God) is a key part of them building a faith that is strong enough for the entirety of life.
There’s more to say about helping kids walk through doubt, so my next post will continue on this topic. Until then, how do you help your kids process their questions?