Allowing Tweens to ask Tough Questions

junior high ministry, Millennial in Ministry

I’ve officially been at my church 2 years. Wow! As I turn 26 in just two weeks, I’m sure you can understand that I’ve never been in any position this long. It’s not my fault altogether; I mean, us Millennials are flakey. So I read.

I never thought I’d find myself in a progressive church. Women teaching? Heresy. Welcoming gay people? Blasphemy. Topical sermon series? Grandma is crying.

But the thing that terrified me the most: Creating an open space for people to ask tough questions.

And wouldn’t you know it: That’s the thing I love the most about my job in youth ministry.

We say we want students to ask the tough questions. We hope that students will come to us when they are stuck. But what are we doing to create that opportunity for them?

This year I took over our Confirmation class, and it’s been a pretty cool experience. One of the things Confirmation allows is for students to ask hard questions. So, I have three “panels” a year that gives students an opportunity to lay them on me.

And my, it’s terrifying. Every time I have one of these, I am anxious and have to lay down the coffee. In fact this last Sunday, I was so nervous I forgot my trusty pink Bible.

They ask me how I can know that the Bible hasn’t been mishandled by people over time (I read them the curse at the end of Revelation…smart move, Heather). They ask me who is going to Heaven, and what Hell is like. They ask me if God is going to allow the earth to get destroyed by the sun/ice caps/war/zombies, because, you know, there’s scientific proof for all that. And then we get to have a conversation that while science is true, God is bigger.

Then they ask me the things everyone is thinking: Did God get Mary pregnant the way that we get people pregnant? How do I break up with my girlfriend? Who should I pick for my football draft this week? Why exactly should I come to church? Will going to church help me play sports better? How do clams have babies?

(these are real questions)

And every time we do this, I walk away like I got slapped across the face 17.3 times. But every time they become more open to explaining their questions, laughing at my answers, and trying to figure it out on their own.

As a young adult, I have many of the same questions as them, and I tell them that. I don’t know who all goes to Heaven and what Hell is like. I can speculate. I can be gracious. I can even doubt it all together. But if I don’t have space to present my questions and my fears and my doubts, then I don’t have church.

So, here’s to two years here. I won’t be the flaky young adult that leaves when things get tough and scary. Nope, the toughness will define me and empower me.

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