For most, the busy school year has (or is) drawing to a close. In my town, summer activities have already begun. Which means a change in schedules, vacations, time outside, and memories made. But as life attempts to slow down for a few months, there is also a natural lull that begins to hang over churches. On the one hand, youth leaders all breath a collective sigh of relief that a much-needed break has arrived, but on the other hand, we can’t help but lament that any momentum built throughout the year is certainly going to lose its steam.
But what if there was a way to pass the baton on to the parents? What if the conversation were to continue at home? I know, I am a perpetual optimist, but most parents are desperate for ways to talk to their kids about their faith, politics, daily events, and news. And if they just had a way in, a conversation starter, imagine what might happen in the lives of those students. After all, the primary disciple maker in a child’s life was designed to be a parent. We should empower them where and when we can. And there is no better time to engage parents, than in the summer.
So if you are a parent of a middle school or high school student, look for ways to ask these questions (or a version of). If you are a youth leader, make these questions available to your families. It will not only help keep the conversation going but engage parents in their role as the primary disciple-makers of their students.
How have your beliefs changed over this year?
For better or worse, it is important to get a gauge on where your students are in their journey. But don’t leave the question there. Ask why they have changed (or not changed). What factors have impacted the change? Are there any questions that remain? Often our student’s beliefs are formed from emotions. Continue to help them form what they believe and why through reason rather than emotion.
In what ways have you struggled with your faith recently? What would your faith in Christ look like if you had all of your questions answered?
It is important to remember that we all have our doubts. However, it is more important that we learn to express those doubts. Be sure to foster the home as a safe place for students to express doubts without judgment or condemnation. Often the best way to make that happen is to express your doubt first.
How can you deal with the objections science raise in regards to religion?
Faith and science are not opposites, enemies, or even frienemies. Instead, science has the potential to give us greater faith. This volatile relationship is often perpetuated within students’ classrooms and can prove to be a constant sore spot. Ask your students to explore how they might look for evidence of God in the secular science books they use in school every day.
What would it take? How much evidence would be enough to either believe or solidify your current belief in God?
For the last ten years or so, a common way to assert belief in God without following Jesus has been coined, Moral Therapeutic Deism. Sort of using God (or the idea of God) as the means of affirming what a “good person” is or help during hard times—a genie in a bottle so to speak. What would it take to be all in?
How would explain or help a person struggling with pain, suffering, or the presence of evil in their lives?
The question of evil continues to be the number one question among students—in large part because the problem of evil affects all people on all kinds of fronts. Students are dealing with so much more than most of us ever did. Not only how are they handling pain, suffering, and evil; but how are they helping others, and how do they see God in that picture?
How would respond to those who argue that the Bible is nothing more than mythical tales with no historical value or credibility?
I continue to tell students that I think the evidence for the New Testament is one of the most compelling evidence for Christianity. Many continue to cast the Bible aside as irrelevant and useless in our modern world. Challenge them to consider the consequences of trusting the New Testament from it being a historically accurate document as well as spiritually authoritative.
How would you steer a conversation about Jesus as a great teacher to a conversation about Jesus as the divine Son of God?
Most people (although certainly not all) now accept Jesus as a historical figure that made a great impact on our world. To many, he is a great moral teacher or some kind of religious sage. What would it mean in their world to fully commit to the life Jesus has called them to?