I came across this quote during a class on mediation I am taking this semester. The goal of mediation it to help two parties who are in conflict come to a decision or solution on their own terms as opposed to having a third party make the decision for them. In other words, a mediator is there to help them discover information rather the tell them what they need to know. This got me thinking about how youth ministers and parents can become more of trail guides for teens and less of indoctrinators?
Again, this is an integral part of the adolescent process where students need to know that their choices matter. Discovery for a teen gives them and their lives meaning. You have heard the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water . . . but you can’t make them drink.” As we work with teens we do need to give them tools and opportunities to discover for themselves. Truth be told, I much prefer to tell teens what I think they need to hear rather than give them the freedom to discover truth for themselves . . . after all aren’t I the expert?(sarcasm)
I think this concept has several applications in the way we might do ministry:
- Let students have substantive opportunities to learn Truth for themselves: ALL of the best research out there* that is asking why young adults leave church or what keeps teens in the faith point to the fact of whether or not they had a safe environment to express doubt. Do our ministries provide sanctuary where teens are allowed to express doubt and differing opinions on faith, God’s existence, sex, social justice, poverty, homosexuality, and other dangerous topics? Another way of asking this question is to answer, “What are the topics that are ‘off limits’ in our church?”–Let’s talk about those. . . not to be controversial, but to give voice to those issues that are probably on the hearts and minds of our young people.
- Do students leave our teaching with more Answers or more Questions? I believe a good education gives you the tools to ask more and better questions rather than simply delivering the answer. “The Bible says is, I believe it, That settles it.” Is an attitude we may need to depart from in order to give our students the space and ability to ask difficult questions of faith, religion, the Biblical text, and more. What kinds of tools are we giving our students that allow them to investigate and journey in their faith that will guide them to answers as opposed to spoon-feeding them with answers?
- Can we say “I don’t know”? Is our own faith as leaders big enough to have the confidence to appropriately express our own doubts and still allow God to reign? Do we have to have an answer for everyquestion that comes up or can we simply say, “I don’t know.” I am not professing allegiance to a blind, uninformed faith. Rather, I think being able to say, “I don’t have every answer, but I am still searching” is far more authentic and communicates Truth better than a weakly formed, proof-texted apologetic. Look at Paul’s own struggles with doubt in Romans 7. Surely, if Paul is wrestling with these issues at the end of his ministry, surely we have the freedom (or necessity) to have our own doubts?
Those are just a few ideas…any others? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section…