Today’s post is actually a guest post, called “Church Kids Need to Ask More Questions” and written by my good friend, Emily! She is the writer behind The Church Kid Blog and has also written a guest post for me about public school.
Why do young people leave the faith?
Is it because church isn’t “cool”? Is the music not modern enough? Do we need a gourmet coffee bar? Is it because the youth group games aren’t fun? Should we have more pizza parties? What will it take to keep young people at church?
None of that. It doesn’t matter to me.
I’m a young person. I cannot speak for everyone in my generation, but allow me to explain how I feel about church, and what I think church kids need.
Growing up a church kid
It’s a privilege to grow up in church and know the gospel from a young age, but there is one downside that I’m sure many other church kids can relate to. You feel like you know everything.
I know every hymn and song my church sings. I’m familiar with my pastor’s speaking style. I’ve memorized the Doxology and the Lord’s Prayer.
Since I know everything about church, sometimes I believe I know everything there is to know about God. That’s a dangerous assumption!
So what happens when you take a church kid who thinks they know everything about Christianity because they’ve been raised in their Christian circle and send them off to a secular school where they meet people who don’t share their convictions? What happens when these people find out they’re a Christian and ask them a question they can’t answer?
The church kid’s comfortable childhood faith begins to crumble.
Uh oh. What do we do?
When you’re an adult, you don’t have the luxury of saying, “My parents said so.” You’re expected to have personal beliefs and values of your own. This is true for our faith.
1 Peter 3:15 stresses the importance of having a testimony: “But 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.”
So how does one develop convictions of their own? Here’s what I believe the answer is: asking questions.
Questions are nothing to be ashamed of
My fellow church kids, let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we know it all, because we don’t. There are some qualities about God that are hard for us to wrap our tiny human heads around.
Have you heard the well-known verse in Hebrews 11:1? It’s “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Notice the word “assurance” there. There’s debate about the translation, and I’m no scholar, but I understand what “assurance” means in English. It means “a positive declaration to give one confidence.”
Faith is assurance. It’s admitting your doubts to other believers. It’s not looking up at the pastor on Sunday mornings and thinking, “I’ll take your word for it.” Faith takes more effort than that!
Questions aren’t anything to be ashamed of. In fact, here are some questions I had when I was younger:
- How do I know when my sins are forgiven?
- Do I have to keep the Old Testament Law?
- What am I supposed to say when I pray?
These are real questions I wrestled with and I think they were essential to building my faith. Why? Because I asked these questions to older Christians and read books. I got assurance. I didn’t leave them sitting in my mind—I wasn’t satisfied with an “I’ll take your word for it” faith.
You don’t have to be a kid or a new believer to have questions about Christianity. We all do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even Jesus’s disciples had questions! Lot’s of ‘em! But the problem with questions is that if they remain unasked, they’ll sow seeds of doubt.
Before we start the conversation, here are two important things to remember.
Questions need time and space
I was nine years old. It was my last year of Vacation Bible School and I had a very important question. I had been thinking and pondering this through: How do you know when you’re forgiven?
I had been praying for forgiveness of my sin but I wasn’t sure it had worked. So when my small group leader finished presenting the lesson and asked my group if we had any questions, I saw it was my chance to ask.
But I was a shy little girl. As I mustered up my courage not only to speak up in front of the group, but also to share a vulnerable part of my heart, the time ran out. Snack came and the unanswered question continued to weigh down my confidence in Christ.
Questions about faith need time and space. They need a designated time to be answered, because we can’t rush through important discussions like these. Faith is a crockpot meal, not microwaveable.
Intentional time and space made a huge difference in my faith. In middle school, we had a special night where we wrote questions on notecards and the leaders answered them. Right now, I’m in a small group where we do the same thing.
What these small groups did was start the discussion. All the leaders in my youth group were fantastic people, but they couldn’t tackle several theological questions in an hour! When the evening was over, they encouraged us to meet with them one on one, read the Bible or a book they recommended.
I’m forever grateful for the mentors that made time and space for my questions. If I ever write a book, these people will be in it.
Answers require honesty
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
My goal as a writer is to not write the words someone wants to hear but what they need to hear, because I believe that—like the verse above says—harsh words from people who love you are trustworthy, but liars and false prophets flatter and deceive you.
Don’t dress up your answers. Don’t talk like a greeting card. I didn’t become a Christian because of flowery Pinterest graphics and I don’t think anyone else will either. There is nothing wrong with appreciating good design, but we need to understand that the Bible isn’t always flowery.
Be blunt if you need to be. Don’t tiptoe around the truth or dance around the doctrine. The Bible has incredibly harsh words for people who add or take away from it. (Take for example, Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Proverbs 19:5 and 9, Proverbs 30:6, Ecclesiastes 12:12, Matthew 24, Mark 13, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 2 Peter 2, and Revelation 22:18-19.)
If someone asks you an honest question, the most appropriate response is an honest answer. Even if that answer is “It’s complicated” or “I don’t know.” Another verse in Proverbs says, “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” Proverbs 24:26
Remember how questions are nothing to be ashamed of? This is also true for the one answering. This could be an opportunity to look the person in the eye and say, “Let’s find out together.” Then you can pray, open your Bibles, read books, and listen to the counsel of mature Christians. The bottom line is honesty.
Questions are nothing to be ashamed of because our faith comes from assurance, not taking someone’s word for it. When we talk about our questions, we need to set aside time and space, and if we’re the one answering, remember that honesty is key.
So… any questions? 😉
To see more of Emily’s work, go check out churchkid.blog!